Archive for Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bond big for board race

March 15, 2007

An upcoming 2008 bond referendum continues to be the top issue for six candidates vying for four seats on the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education.

Current board members Mark Chrislip, Greg Neis, Joe Pyle and Board President Kenny Massey will run against Mike Kelso and Belinda Rehmer for the open seats in the April 4 election.

Advance voting for the election began Wednesday. Citizens have the opportunity to send in an advanced ballot from now until April 2.

The final day to register to vote is Monday.

While the issues remain constant, the campaigning styles have varied.

Kelso crafted a Web log to keep the public up-to-date on his campaign.

"As I put more and more signs down, it's become more and more known to the public the blog is there and hopefully I'll get more comments," he said.

In the blog, he writes about his opinions on the development of the district's bond referendum and his views on the state of the district. He also includes his biographical information.

In November, the district plans to put a $40 to $50 million referendum before voters. In the district's current vision, the bond will consist of an eight-tier improvement plan including the construction of a new first- through fifth-grade elementary school, a kindergarten and preschool center at Eudora West Elementary School as well as improvements to Eudora Middle School and Eudora High School.

"My biggest concern is how we go about paying for it," Kelso said.

After reading new descriptions of the various aspects of the bond on the district's Web site, Kelso agreed there is a need for each of them. In particular, he's not a fan of a proposed new stadium, but he still sees the need, he said.

It's important the public stay in tune with the tax implications of the bond, he said.

"I think the biggest thing the board can do is educate the public on the bond issue in every possible way," he said.

In addition to lawn signs and the blog, Kelso launched a small letter-writing campaign and is considering going door-to-door and posting fliers in the coming weeks, he said. He's also considering a meet-and-greet for the public.

Rehmer also established a digital presence for the election.

"It has been important. I've spent a lot of time on the Web site, because I wanted to get out in front of people," Rehmer said. "I think there's a lot of people out there who go to the Web to find out information."

She said she had also ordered signs and is preparing a brochure to hand out when she goes door-to-door, she said.

"It's not my forte. It's not something I really feel excited about doing, but I know I need to get my name out there for people to know who I am," she said.

Rehmer will continue to inform voters about the bond issue, she said.

"I believe the direction it's wanting to go looks like a good direction. I think it's a very workable model, and I'm excited about that," Rehmer said. "I'm not a proponent for two separate elementary schools. I like the way we have worked our elementary buildings so that we don't have competing schools."

Massey hasn't stepped up to a full campaign yet, he said.

"I'm hopeful that if the voters will see the direction the district is headed and all the positive things we have going on, they won't feel a big need to make drastic changes on the school board," Massey said. "That's not to say I won't do some campaigning, but you won't see any signs in yards, I guarantee you."

Massey said he was pleased with the development of the bond thus far.

He said he wanted to continue the district's goal of having small class sizes, a low student-to-teacher ratio and to continue the work the board started.

A goal is to continually put better educational opportunities before the students, Massey said.

Neis doesn't plan on campaigning much between now and Election Day, he said.

People know his name and what he can accomplish after 20 years on the board, he said.

He's also focusing on the bond.

"I think the bond issue is proceeding along nicely," he said.

Chrislip's efforts for re-election are picking up steam.

He plans to talk with patrons and gauge their concerns, but hasn't gotten out much yet, he said.

He also pointed to the bond issue as the biggest responsibility on the horizon for the district.

"The most pressing issue is the development of the bond issue and making sure we're putting it together in a meaningful way that's going to meet all the needs of the community."

Chrislip said he would like to see more dialogue between the candidates.

"What I really wish was if there were some kind of public forum where all the candidates can meet and discuss the issues, unfortunately I don't know if anything like that is happening," he said. "It seems like it would be a very beneficial thing to the community."

Pyle is taking a social approach to his bid for re-election.

"I make it a point to talk to people," Pyle said. "That's my campaign really; just to kind of talk to voters out there and ask if they have any issues or really to become as accessible as I can be that way," Pyle said.

Other than attending district events like ballgames or school plays, Pyle also hasn't focused much effort yet on his campaign, he said.

"I'm not planning anything dramatic at this point," he said.

The community members gave Pyle positive feedback for the most part, he said.

"As a board collectively, I feel strongly we always ask how we can make things better, how we can improve ---- that's the sign of a dynamic engaged board that's trying to make things better for the community and the schools," Pyle said.

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