Today we begin running responses to the questionnaire we developed with reader input for the candidates running for Shawnee Mission School Board. Our first question is as follows:
What is the area that most urgently needs to be addressed by the school district and why? What action would you encourage as a board member?
SM North Area Seat Candidates
With the loss of close to 200 long-time administrators, certified teachers and staff members due to the early retirement incentive that was offered by the district this year, I believe that recruiting and hiring staff members to replace retirees is the most urgent issue to be addressed by the district this spring. There is competition between area districts to recruit the very best and brightest talent for open positions so the board has been very supportive and encouraging that district officials start the hiring process as early as possible.
Fewer than 65% of Kansas education dollars reach the classroom. As a board member I would encourage an evaluation of the tremendous amount of money being spent on “high tech” security as well as the SMSD Police Force.
At-Large Seat Candidates
I feel that the area that is at the top of everyone’s list that needs to be addressed is funding. As I have stated before, I am no financial guru, but I would like to encourage the district to be grounded in its financial decision making. The leaders in Topeka seem to be determined to continue to make cuts in education. Until the state legislature changes, this will be something we must continue to monitor. With that being said, we need to be diligent decision makers when it comes to spending. It is important to be able to survive on what we know we have and not what we hope to receive. As a board member I would insist that when decisions are made to spend money that the thought process is complete and there is a plan in place that answers all the questions not just the obvious. As a district we cannot continue to spend money fixing problems we have created by not having thoroughly vetted previous decisions.
I see the number one area to address in the SMSD is how we fund public education, both today and in the future. Since the days of my involvement on the SMSD Advisory Board in 2002, I have been a “perpetual student” of public school finance and the complexities of the state funding formula. Public school financing is ultimately a partnership investment made by the tax payers. As is evidenced by the bond and LOB election results in January, the patrons of the SMSD see great value in their investment in public education. As an elected school district leader, I see my role has to engage, facilitate, negotiate and in some cases fight for those funding resources. The role of public school funding from the State has clearly diminished in relation to the level we feel is necessary in SMSD. Although we have several local legislators advocating strongly for the importance of public education funding, we as the elected board need to take an even more engaged level of participation in the state public school funding debate in order to defend our place at the table as the third largest district in the state.
Tomorrow the candidates respond to our second questionnaire item:
The school district recently filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit that challenges the level of education funding provided by the state, suggesting that the interests of Shawnee Mission aren’t represented by the smaller districts that filed the initial suit. Do you agree with the intervention and the approach the district is taking in the motion?