School Board hopefuls keeping eyes on growth
School Board candidates agree that the growth facing Eudora USD 491 is a major concern that will have to be monitored and continually planned for.
Candidates in the April 5 School Board election are Branden Boyd, Marion Johnson, Jim Martin and incumbents Bob Rice and Brenda Clark.
"I believe the School Board should assess the needs of the school district and the ability of the current facilities to meet those needs," Martin said of the constant growth to Eudora's school system. "Using the city's projected residential growth estimate, the School Board can estimate the increase in student population and determine the best direction for dealing with the growth."
Martin said such an estimate would help the school board prepare for the possibilities of upgrading existing facilities or building new ones.
The sentiment is in line with some of the preparations the School Board is already making.
Clark said the Board had been busy with long-range planning for an ever-increasing student population, and the candidates generally agreed small class sizes were important in meeting the government's education standards.
"It's just continual," Clark said of growth to the district. "It's just never going to end."
Johnson said the best way to handle growth was long-range planning that also dealt with facility and staffing needs.
"Once the plan is developed, then the Board needs to revisit the plan on a regular basis to account for changes that have taken place since the development of the plan," Johnson said. "Planning is an ongoing process that the Board must be engaged in."
Clark said Nottingham Elementary was almost at capacity and in order to keep class sizes at or below 20 students, it would likely be necessary to build an additional facility. She said having too many students in one class was not fair to kids or teachers, and she made it a priority to be a proponent of small class sizes.
Boyd said besides maintaining small, manageable classrooms, it would also be important to pay teachers well so the district would continue to attract and retain quality teachers.
Rice also agreed that keeping teachers well paid was a priority. He said the biggest issue facing this and other school districts was a lack of state funding.
"Funding is the biggest issue," he said. "Couple that with the growth we've experienced, and it's made it pretty tough."
Rice said most of the funding was needed to support teachers.
Each of the candidates voiced a desire to serve the community and to be a part of the planning that would be beneficial to Eudora students.
"When making any decisions, School Board members should ask themselves three questions," Martin said. "Is it good for the children? Is it good for the school district? Is it good for the community? Knowing the answers to these questions could certainly affect the decisions made by the School Board members, and also provide a basis for those decisions."
Clark said it was important to be aware of the wants and needs of the community in planning for the future of the school district.
"You need to keep an open mind and listen to the concerns of the community residents and
parents, the patrons of your district, and make decisions that are best founded for everyone concerned," she said.
Boyd said Board members would not always have the same opinions, but it was important to elect people who would work together well in making decisions for the district.
Rice said it was important, as a school board member, to be a good listener. He said learning the interests of the community and understanding the school system were key in making educated decisions for the district.
"We do make tough decisions," he said.
Johnson also highlighted the importance of being a good listener in his comments.
"I think a board member has to be a strong listener and someone who is willing to make decisions," he said. "It is also the board's responsibility is to establish district policy and leave administration to the district administrators."
A candidate forum was held Wednesday night for further comments from those running for a spot on the School Board. Coverage of the forum will be included in next week's Eudora News.