Archive for Thursday, March 26, 2009

USD 491 board hopefuls differ on few topics

March 26, 2009

The four candidates who attended the Eudora Chamber of Commerce-sponsored forum for USD 491 Board of Education candidates showed themselves to be like-minded in most cases.

In the view of Superintendent of Schools Don Grosdidier, that’s not a bad thing.

“Any time you can bring the candidates together and get their honest views on things, it’s a win for everybody,” Grosdidier said. “What I see is the candidates want the same thing, which is what’s best for the students of Eudora and that’s what’s important.”

Eudora High School science instructor and member of the Eudora National Education Association Eric Magette also was impressed by the preparation of each of the candidates.

“The amount of homework that each of the candidates apparently did coming into tonight was really impressive,” Magette said. “They know what they’re doing and know what they’re getting into. As someone who is going to be affected by the decision they could be making, I thought that was very reassuring, too.”

A field that initially consisted of seven candidates for three open seats on the board now has been decreased to five after Mike Warner and current board member Brenda Clark dropped out of the race.

Of the five remaining candidates, Dr. Dan Dickerson, Michael Kelso, Keith Nowland and Eric Votaw were present at the forum. Candidate Mike Howard was out of town and unable to attend.

Grosdidier said all four candidates appeared to be prepared, but also said Clark’s calming influence on the board would be missed.

Michael Kelso, 44, is a systems manager with DST and has lived in Eudora for about 16 years.

Dr. Dan Dickerson, 44, is a family physician and clinical instructor at KU medical Center. He has lived in Eudora for about six years and said students would be his top priority.

Eric Votaw, 32, is a senior corporate credit manager for Freightquote.com. He was born and raised in Eudora and said he has a passion for the educational system from which he graduated.

Keith Nowland, 44, and runs State Farm Insurance in Eudora. He has lived in Eudora for about four years. He has experience as a teacher and a principal in Missouri.

Mike Howard, 38, is a vice president of lighting manufacturing company Mercer Zimmerman. He has lived in Eudora for about three years. Howard was not present at the forum.

Chamber president Amy Durkin moderated the forum and candidates were allowed a maximum of two minutes to respond to questions. Her first questioned was in regards to the four core values — teacher collaboration, class size, personalized education and early childhood programs — identified by the board in January. She asked if the candidates agreed with these values or if they would identify other values, instead.

All of the candidates agreed with the values, though Dickerson said the board has given “lip service” to some of the values. He was referring to a recent cut of the Jump Start program for the 2009-2010 school year.

The program allows a- risk students in the primary grades to start school early. Grosdider had previously said the cut was as much because of the budget as the fact that the district will be moving into new facilities during the time when Jump Start would meet.

The next question dealt with school finance and at what point candidates would advocate for the implementation of local school fees or increasing local tax rates.

All of the candidates were against implementing fees or increasing taxes.

Votaw said atypical revenue sources should be researched. Kelso suggested each program be investigated as to whether the funding it was getting was appropriate at a given time. Dickerson said he preferred doing fundraisers and requesting help from local businesses, though he also stressed that citizens should contact their legislators who are handing down the financial cuts.

Nowland said that if fees were implemented, he would like to see those who were financially unable to participate would be able to do so.

The third question asked which educational accountability standard — international, national, college readiness or workforce readiness — was the most important to the community and our school district.

Kelso said preparing students for post-secondary education, whether it be college or a trade school was most important. Dickerson said the measure of a high school was how well it prepared students for colleges and the workforce.

Nowland said it was important to have students perform at national standards because that was how a school district acquired funding, but he also said the standards needed to prepare students to be productive members of society.

Votaw said he believed if the first two standards were met, then students would be prepared to go to college or enter the workforce.

The last question asked what was the most valuable way to provide a personalize education for each student.

Dickerson, Kelso and Votaw said it was important to bring a student’s strengths to the surface through a solid core curriculum as well as the availability of clubs, sports, fine arts and technical education.

Nowland agreed that the more variety the better, but that a solid core curriculum was most important during times when finances could cause the unavailability of some programs.

There will be a forum for city office candidates at 7 p.m. Thursday at City Hall. Election day is April 7.

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