Archive for Thursday, March 20, 2003

Board actions affect classroom, candidates say

March 20, 2003

Editor's note: Last week and this week the Eudora News talked to USD 491 Board of Education candidates about dealing with the district's budget. This week, the News looks at how the six candidates -- Mark Chrislip, Marion Johnson, Kenny Massey, Greg Neis, Joe Pyle and Mark Salmans -- think the school board can affect what goes on in the classroom.

Although they may not grade papers or give lectures, USD 491 Board of Education members make an impact on the classroom through their policies and the agenda they set for the district's schools.

For Greg Neis, Marion Johnson and Mark Chrislip, making an impact means making sure classrooms have not only good teachers, but Neis said it also meant providing "everything the teacher needs to get the job done" and monitoring the classroom through tests and evaluations.

Johnson said the Board affected classrooms positively by providing an adequate student-to-teacher ratio, because he said the Board should foster the student-teacher relationship, especially at the younger grade levels. Chrislip agreed, adding that the Board should also make sure the classroom was challenging for all students.

Joe Pyle said the Board had a duty to provide good administrators who not only reported back to the Board but who also took care of what went on the buildings because Board members couldn't be there all of the time.

"I think the worst thing a Board member can do is micromanage," he said.

Mark Salmans said the Board's reach inlcuded how it allocated resources and setting high standards for the district's schools.

In addition to keeping the district's students first in mind, Kenny Massey said it was important for the Board to keep up to date on the day-to-day goings on in the classroom, suggesting the Board meet more frequently -- perhaps twice a month -- to accomplish that.

Classroom needs

Candidates may know the Board affects the classroom, but they must provide the means to make an impact. In addition to providing good programs and keeping class sizes down, Neis agreed with Massey and Salmans that providing technology in the proper way was an essential classroom element.

"I'm not one that says (just) put a computer in the classroom," he said. "Make sure they're getting the best use of it. It's a tool."

Massey said laptops and other technology were not to undermine the student-teacher relationship but to strengthen it.

Like Johnson, who said the Board should provide classrooms with good teachers and administrators -- which Pyle said came through competitive salaries -- Pyle also said the Board should keep itself educated about requirements and governmental changes coming down from Washington and Topeka as well as trends affecting the classroom.

As well as providing more hands-on time, Salmans said he wanted the Board to raise the bar in the classroom for all students. In addition to boosting reading and writing skills, Chrislip agreed, saying he'd like to see every Eudora student challenged, regardless of ability, possibly by providing higher-level classes.

"When we look at No Child Left Behind or QPA (Quality Performance Accreditation) a lot of times we focus on the at-risk kids...but at the same time we need to be able to challenge the kids in the middle and the higher achievers," he said.

Walking away

The five candidates said they wanted graduates to walk away from the Eudora school district with the skills necessary to succeed at whatever they intended to do after high school.

"If they're going to college, we should have them prepared for college," Johnson said. "If they're entering the workforce, we should have them prepared to enter the workforce."

Neis added that should include preparing students for family life, too, if that was their next step. Massey agreed it was important to remember that not all students were college-bound.

Getting students prepared for life, Chrislip said, not only involved vo-tech programs and cooperation with Johnson County Community College, but also making sure students were equipped with reading and writing skills that young workers sometimes lack, especially with the prevalence technology like e-mail and PDAs that use short message systems and slang.

Preparing students meant teaching them to love learning, which won't end at age 18 or 22, Pyle said. Likewise, Salmans said Eudora should provide foundations like math and reading skills.

"We're only scratching the surface of what they're going to learn in their whole lives," he said.

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