Shawnee Mission School Board candidates on the issues: Were tech rollout, security upgrades and bond issue right moves for district?

Approximately 1,600 SM East students received MacBook Airs as part of the first deployment in district history.
Approximately 1,600 SM East students received MacBook Airs as part of the first deployment in district history.

Today we continue with responses to the questionnaire we developed with reader input for the candidates running for Shawnee Mission School Board. Today’s item is:

The district has undergone significant changes in the last 18 months including a massive technology rollout, security upgrades, a large bond issue and a significant number of retirements and administrative changes. Are these changes in line with solving the most critical issues facing the district and do you support each of them?

SM North Area Seat Candidates

Mark Ellis

I did not support the technology initiative as I don’t understand how giving the children iPads and MacBooks could possibly help them prepare for life after high school. Granted, technology plays a huge part in our society, but most children are already disconnected from one another and this initiative disconnects them from their instructors too. Do High School aged children need access to the Internet? Sure.

Do they need it to the tune of twenty million dollars? I think not.

What about the dangers of giving unrestricted Internet access to children? Year after year we hear of the tragedies that result from children having unsupervised access to the Internet. I believe more thought could have gone into the issue of safety before handing these devices to our children.

I did not support the security initiative either.

It seems as though the district wants to turn our schools into prisons. Spending the amount of money on security that the SMSD wants to spend is unwarranted. Having a SMSD Police Force is unwarranted. Wanting to scan a visitors Drivers License to do a “limited” background check and print a sticker with a photo does nothing against the person who really wishes to harm our children or the school.

If a would be predator were planning an attack I don’t believe he’d come into the school and have his license scanned. As I have been going door to door campaigning, parents and constituents have voiced their opinions about these security “enhancements” and so far none have been positive.

As far as the administration changes I really don’t understand why the district needs so many superintendents. I also don’t understand why each high school needs a principal and three assistant principals. I will however continue to try and get answers to the last two questions.

sara_goodburn_2015Sara Goodburn (incumbent)

Yes. When Dr. Hinson arrived in Shawnee Mission almost two years ago, he met with an exhaustive list of interested parties including, but not limited to teachers, parents, School Board members, staff members, students, legislators, key community members, and business owners – all patrons of the district. He also held a number of open house meetings to listen to anyone who wanted to share their views. This group gave him input on the status of the district from each unique perspective and helped him and the Board chart a course based on current and future needs for the next decade. Among the most common themes were safety, security, technology and a wide variety of facility needs. Capital outlay funds and additional funding supplied by the district’s recent bond issue (overwhelmingly approved by 80% of votes cast) will address many of these key issues. On the operational side, cost saving measures, such as the recent administrative restructuring and early retirement incentive, have been implemented to help funding needs at all levels of the district. A decade is a very long time to “crystal ball” the future, but the Board in conjunction with teachers, students, parents, the surrounding community and the Superintendent will adjust as times require.

At-Large Seat Candidates

Libby_rulo-2015Libby Rulo

I believe that the safety up grades and technology roll out are both necessary for the district. I feel that the technology roll out came too quickly and as a result the district is having to spend more money at this time to fix it. However, with any luck at all we will be ready for the 2015-2016 school year. The safety upgrades are also something that should be at the forefront of this list with many upgrades being long overdue. The new team of administrators that have been hired to help Dr. Hinson continue his 10 year plan will hopefully help restore our district to the level it once was. My community feels that with all the change put in place in such a short period of time that the education of our student body was not at the front as it should be. Sure, change is a good thing, but too much too soon can be costly not only in dollar and cents but the level of education our students receive during these changes. To expect these rapid changes not to have an adverse affect on the students is unrealistic.

Brad_Strattpn-2015Brad Stratton

I characterize the significant changes over the past 18 months in the SMSD as a combination of proactive and reactive initiatives. The security upgrades are certainly a reaction or response to the ever changing world we live in where the personal safety of our students is paramount. The early retirement offer for teachers and administrators along with the technology roll out are two proactive decisions that I see as an important decision in planning for the future. While we have benefited greatly from the dedicated teachers in the district, this is an opportunity to reward some of them for their service while at the same time reducing overall administrative expense by over $1 million per year. And the technology initiative now puts the SMSD back in line with where top public education districts are across the country. Our patrons clearly see public education as a top priority by overwhelmingly passing the bond project in the January mail-in ballot. I see all of these initiatives to be in line and necessary with the goal to keep the SMSD in the top tiers of public education.

Tomorrow the candidates respond to our third questionnaire item:

The current school board frequently takes actions with little or no discussion during board meetings and usually by unanimous vote. Over recent years, people who have appeared in person to address the board complained of not receiving a reaction or followup from the board. What is the board’s responsibility to the public? How can the board be more effective?