Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2007

School Board Q&A (Part I)

March 29, 2007

The polls will open Tuesday for voters to decide who will fill four open seats on the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education for the next four years. There are six candidates including four incumbents. Each answered a set of questions, which appear below.

Mark Chrislip
Q: What do you see as the district's most positive aspects?
A: There are lots of them. I think number one is the academic progress that we have made. We've scored well on a number of state assessments, and I think that's directly attributed to how the teachers and administration have really worked hard at building strategies that are going to help our kids grow and improve.

Q: What sort of actions do you foresee yourself taking to maintain those aspects?
A: I think one of my prime strengths is that I ask good questions that cause us to look at things in a more thorough manner before we make decisions. I think that's one of the best things I do. I think I do a good job of staying informed on the issues.

Q: Do you believe Eudora has a competitive pay schedule for teachers compared to surrounding districts?
A: The goal of the district is to manage our funds in such a way that we can provide the best salaries possible for our teachers. My personal opinion is that teachers are worth a lot more than what they get paid. Unfortunately, the legislature determines how much money we have available to spend within the district. I think the district works hard at allocating the funds so we can remain competitive and offer salaries that are equal to or greater than the districts around us.

Q: Are there particular programs or initiatives you want to bring to the district in the next four years?
A: I don't have any real personal agenda. I think that the board has a responsibility to make sure that we have high academic standards in place. I think it's important that we look at long-range planning and take that seriously and I think it's very important we continue to manage the finances of the district in a very fiscally sound manner. Those would be the things that would be very important to me.

Mike Kelso
Q: What do you see as the district's most positive aspects?
A: A caring tax base, that wants to do the right thing, that wants to do what's necessary for its district to do a good thing. The community has historically shown that when the district has showed a need for major change for a bond issue the community has come through. Although two times ---- and neither of those were easy decisions ---- particularly when it involved the old middle school and the abandoning of the old middle school, it was a very tough decision but the community saw it was necessary and the direction it needed to go. We need to pull together our list of needs for this upcoming bond issue to rely on our community members once again.

Q: What sort of actions do you foresee yourself taking to maintain those aspects?
A: I would like to see whether it's me, whether I get elected, which I hope I do, to see whether they can't get more community involvement in the school district. Our community needs to relish the fact we have a wonderful school district and it will only get better the more they are involved in it.

Q: Do you believe Eudora has a competitive pay schedule for teachers compared to surrounding districts?
A: I can answer this simply by saying no, but it's not an easy answer. Their pay scale is not competitive. They have lost good teachers to competing districts. There are other towns in a 30-mile radius where they could go get several thousand dollars more.

Q: Are there particular programs or initiatives you want to bring to the district in the next four years?
A: Technology is going to be big. Mr. (Marty) Kobza said that when he was presenting the bond issue when he broke it down to the eight parts. With my background I wasn't even going to bring technology up. But when the board brought technology up, I think it would make sense to have a school board member who understands technology and I can easily say that I have that.

Kenny Massey
Q: What do you see as the district's most positive aspects?
A: I think our administrative team, meaning the superintendent down, quite honestly, is in my mind one of the strongest in the area. Marty (Kobza) in particular is excellent about charting the course or direction the district should go. He does a very good job of that. We have a very good set of building principals and staff with Kristin (Magette) and Don Grosdidier the current assistant superintendent. I feel we're very good administratively, which leads to a trickle down effect.

Q: What sort of actions do you foresee yourself taking to maintain those aspects?
A: As a board member it's our responsibility to develop good policy and procedures for administrative staff and students to follow. A part of any good policy is reasonable expectations of what is expected of anyone, whether they are paid staff or student. The board has to continue to strive to work with the policies we have. We need to strengthen those and develop new policies as the situation may arise.

Q: Do you believe Eudora has a competitive pay schedule for teachers compared to surrounding districts?
A: I think our teacher salaries are competitive. I know our base salaries are competitive with other school districts. Our top end salaries may not be what some others are within the area, but overall I feel as though our salaries are relatively competitive. There's always room for improvement. You always want to pay your staff what you can in your budget.

Q: Are there particular programs or initiatives you want to bring to the district in the next four years?
A: I don't have any initiatives per se. I've never come to the board with any personal agendas. I don't believe someone should run for the school board with personal agendas in mind. That's counterproductive to why a person should be a board member. I'm on the co-op special education board for Baldwin, Eudora and Wellsville. Special education is vital to all three of those districts and very expensive to operate. It's something I've been very interested in and something I want to continue.

Greg Neis
Q: What do you see as the district's most positive aspects?
A: I think the quality of education that (students) are getting and the high scores on the state assessment test show that the teachers are doing a good job of teaching what needs to be taught. I think the quality of meeting standards of excellence in most of the tests is the most positive thing going on.

Q: What sort of actions do you foresee yourself taking to maintain those aspects?
A: I think just making sure the administration and teachers and staff are heading down the right direction. That's the most important thing with No Child Left Behind here in a few years.

Q: Do you believe Eudora has a competitive pay schedule for teachers compared to surrounding districts?
A: We have competitive salaries compared to districts that are our size and somewhat in our area. We are never going to be able to compete with the Olathes, with the Blue Valleys or the De Sotos. They just have resources that are a lot greater than ours. We have to do with what we can. I think we do a good job of providing with what we have. Our starting salaries are very competitive and we're trying to do our best to maintain that.

Q: Are there particular programs or initiatives you want to bring to the district in the next four years?
A: I'm always looking at new programs and things that come along. I might see something I see works and I bring it up at a meeting. I don't sit back and wait for a time to bring it up. I think if there is anything I'm interested in I pretty much bring it up immediately and address it at that time.

Joe Pyle
Q: What do you see as the district's most positive aspects?
A: I think we're seeing test scores improve. We're seeing a true commitment to excellence in improving and trying to improve our outcomes. The district is committed to the success of our students academically, obviously athletically; it's fair to say. I think the district is really trying to make the educational experience in Eudora a really positive, meaningful experience that can help our students later on whether they're going to college, trade school or into the work force and be prepared.

Q: What sort of actions do you foresee yourself taking to maintain those aspects?
A: I will continue to ask questions and raise the bar and to continue to demand and expect to make this district a better district in every way possible. If we in any way say that we are perfect or great, we don't have to improve anymore ---- that's wrong. We definitely have to always challenge everybody within the district and ask how can we make this better? Including us as board members.

Q: Do you believe Eudora has a competitive pay schedule for teachers compared to surrounding districts?
A: I think we do. I think we are competitive, but can we improve? I think we can always try to improve. I felt personally disappointed, because I had been involved with two other negotiations that were fine, but what happened last year was a combination of things.
I think we are competitive, but I can recognize we can certainly find ways, that we definitely need to find ways to improve. I would simply say, for the record, I personally know a great many teachers in this district and they do an outstanding job.

Q: Are there particular programs or initiatives you want to bring to the district in the next four years?
A: I think what we're facing right now is our growing district and how we are going to handle the physical growth of the district. I would like to see us again look for ways to continue to raise the bar for our students academically.

Belinda Rehmer
Q: What do you see as the district's most positive aspects?
A: Actually, I see a lot of positive aspects with the district. I am very impressed with our commitment to a low student-teacher ratio. To me, it's exciting we have that commitment. Fifteen or 16 to one is a great, great opportunity. A lot of school districts don't have that.

Q: What sort of actions do you foresee yourself taking to maintain those aspects?
A: That's going to be a commitment. I want to continue that commitment. I hope that we can continue with no student fees, but I don't know without the state funding and all how long it's going to last. That's definitely a commitment for me. I think it's a wonderful asset for Eudora and I will do what I can to make sure we continue.

Q: Do you believe Eudora has a competitive pay schedule for teachers compared to surrounding districts?
A: From what I have seen, and I have looked into comparing them somewhat, I know there is discrepancy in our pay schedule between the teachers that have been teaching awhile. Comparing our pay scale to neighboring districts I believe we are competitive.
Are we the highest? No. You can go places to get more money, but you also have to look at those schools and the base they have and the base that we have. We just weigh and you have to compare.

Q: Are there particular programs or initiatives you want to bring to the district in the next four years?
A: I really believe that we have to have our children technologically savvy much more than we ever were. So, I think that number one, I would like our district to continue to keep up with technology, but also our teachers. That's a big thing in schools today.

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