By Teri L. Hansen
Eight of the nine candidates running in the upcoming USD 418 Board of Education elections, spoke last night on the issues the community felt were important. The forum was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Business and Membership Committee and was conducted at the Kansas Municipal Utilities Inc. building. Among those issues were SUMMIT learning, teacher compensation and retention, facility upgrades and repairs, the superintendent search and morale.
Alan L. Burghart was not in attendance due to a prior commitment, though the other eight candidates answered nine questions from the audience. The forum was not a debate, but structured as a question and answer session. Each candidate drew numbers to determine speaking order and a different candidate spoke first each time. Candidates were given three minutes to introduce themselves, one minute to answer each question and a final minute to conclude their thoughts.
The following is a transcript of the forum:
Good evening my name is Jeff Butler and I am running for school board for USD 418. I’d like to thank the McPherson Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas Municipal Utilities for sponsoring this forum this evening, as well as all of you here in attendance tonight, for coming and being informed and taking part in this forum.
I’ve been a resident of McPherson since 1979. I moved here with my parents and began in the USD 418 school system with Washington Elementary in fifth grade and moved on to Park School, McPherson Junior High School and eventually a graduate of McPherson High School. I went on to receive an associate’s degree in criminal justice administration at Hutchinson Community College and later received my bachelor’s degree from University of Phoenix online while working full-time.
I’m married to my amazing wife of 19 years, have three fantastic children, all of who attended McPherson schools and one I actually have is attending Mac college right now. I’m currently vice president an organization of city, county, and school district professionals from all over Kansas. I am also active and the MHS PTO and and former youth basketball and football coach. As part of my seven plus years of employment at the county, I am experienced with line-item budgets, capital outlay expenditures, as well as seven-grade salary salary process, which is much like what is used for USD 418. My priorities for USD 418 include the following a nationwide search for superintendent candidates. We need to make sure that we are not limiting the pool of candidates and that we are taking the steps necessary to hire the absolute best leadership for the district. We need a K-12 state standard aligned curriculum, which Ms. McWilliams is acting on and doing a great job, as curriculum director for USD 418. The district needs to address teacher and staff salaries retention and recruitment and make you USD 418 competitive with the surrounding districts, so that we can keep our teachers and recruit quality educators. The district needs a plan to address our immediate facility needs as well as potential bond proposal for the community, and making sure that the best interests of our community and the students are considered. I appreciate your time and I would appreciate your support in the upcoming election Nov. 5.
God evening. My name is Dale Patrick. I’m a born and raised in McPherson County. I’ve attended both Lindsborg and McPherson public schools. I’ve been married 13 years to my wife Erin we have four children together two girls and two boys; Addison, Ashton, Jackson and Jensen. They all attend McPherson public schools at the Lincoln campus and the middle school campus.
I’m a 1993 graduate of McPherson high School. I’m also a graduate of Barton county community college with an associate of arts degree. I’m a graduate of Washburn University with a business administration and business management degree and I’m also a graduate of the Kansas Highway Patrol Training Academy in Salina, Kansas. I spent 22 years as a state trooper with the Kansas Highway Patrol. I worked in both rural areas and metropolitan areas.
One of the highlights of my career is that I’ve served 10 years on the executive board of the Kansas State Troopers Association. We are recognized unit with the Kansas legislature and deal with a lot of pay issues employee benefits those type of situations as well as employee relations and disciplinary matters. I also sit on the McPherson Tree Board. I’m currently serving on the McPherson Board of Zoning Appeals. I serve as the vice chairman on that board. I recently served on a sub-advisory board selected by the USD 418 Redesign Committee and we overlooked the SUMMIT curriculum over the course of about six months last school year.
I have a desire to school serve on the school board. I’ve been thinking about doing this for six years now since the inception of my first child in school, but I wanted to wait until the time was right. And I feel like it’s important to have skin in the game. I think if you’re going to serve on this board of education that you should have actively kids in school that you have in your household. I have four of them and at some point I’m going to have three of them at three different campuses, so that gives me a pretty good aspect of what’s going on at those various campuses.
I think it’s important that the board of education has a diverse group of people that serve from a wide range of occupations. I professionally served in a law enforcement capacity and I think that brings a unique perspective to the board of education. I look at things a little bit differently. I have investigative training skills to read the fine print and look at things a little bit deeper and I’m willing to ask the tough questions that need to be asked. My goal is to provide transparency by sitting in this position. I have real kids in this is the real school that we want to make better.
First I’d like to thank the Chamber for this opportunity to address questions from the community.
My name is Lara Vanderhoof and I married with two high schoolers. We have resided in McPherson since 2006.
I am the assistant professor of social work and program director at Tabor College. I hold a doctorate of social work and a masters in social work. I am a licensed social worker for the state of Kansas. I have nearly 30 years of social work experience including working with mental health, child welfare, refugees, sexual abuse, failure to thrive, public education, restorative justice practices and juvenile justice.
As an educator I have 12 years teaching at the college level which gives me a particular insight to the requirements needed to prepare students for that level. Previously I served at USD 418 as the assistant director of community services for the Early Childhood Program. I am an active board member of the local United Way and I have served as a secretary of the high school PTO since the committee began last year.
I am running for USD 418 School Board of Education to further advocate for the highest quality public education for children. The most important issue I would like to see improved is that the school board is to adopt and implement a curriculum that is vertically and horizontally aligned; grades kindergarten through 12 and relies on measurable outcomes and reliable assessment structures in an ongoing training for the teaching staff.
In addition my other priorities as a school board member are as follows: Engage the board and community in a nationwide search for the best superintendent to lead the school district forward. Develop a structured compensation plan that allows the district to hire and retain the best teaching staff. Implement a long-term maintenance plan to address our critical infrastructure needs. I thank you and look forward to answering your questions.
Thank you for having me here my name is Brian Meek and I have three kids here in the school district. They are all at Washington Elementary. I am running in order to make this community a better place and in order to do that we need to have the right processes in the right culture and our school district in order for our kids to succeed.
My current position is the director of training and safety at the Kansas Municipal Utilities and my job everyday is to work with utility workers and train them. What we see and what we’ve seen even before I came to Kansas is that people leave high school and can’t do basic math or their reading skills are not up to par. Sadly, we’ve seen that here with the McPherson schools too. Only 22% of the kids that graduate are proficient in reading and math. So we are graduating kids and they are not being prepared as they need to be for the future.
So my background, I’m a Navy veteran. I was a nuclear chemist in the Navy. I have a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering technology and masters in business administration. Previous to moving to McPherson I lived in Minnesota. I managed power plants I had a $500 billion dollar assets that I managed. And my job was ensure that the culture of those power plants was so that they could succeed and provide power to people. And that is just how it is in the school district.
We need to create a culture that promotes our children success. It doesn’t doesn’t do enough to just say I graduated. You have to graduate with the skills necessary to prepare you for life. My goal is to make sure that happens and the school district.
So I have three real priorities that I’m looking at in order to raise that culture. One what as I think everyone is talking about, is making sure that the curriculum is the right curriculum and that it is aligned properly to make sure that the students succeed.
Two is to make sure everything is coordinated if a student doesn’t succeed and is having issues we need to find the right resources to allow that student to succeed. Don’t just push them to the next grade and push it onto the next teacher. We need to have the right resources and the right capabilities.
And thirdly is communication with the parents the community and the school district itself. And part of my mantra is that parents are responsible for their children along with the school district. And I expect the school district has policies that not just hold administrators, students and teachers accountable; but it also holds parents accountable to make sure that their children are at school and they are getting the education that they need.
Jeff L. Johnson
Good evening. Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this candidate for him for USD 418. I am Jeff Johnson. I am currently serving on the board of education and I have for many years. I currently have the privilege of serving as board president this year.
I wanted to start with just sharing a little bit of my background. I was born and raised in McPherson and attended schools here. After high school graduation I then went to Hutch Community College. I went to Kansas State University, and then received a degree in agriculture education. Upon graduation, I taught at McPherson High School for four years in the Educational Ag Department.
I’m also part of a multi-generational family farm located north of McPherson. And have that understanding from a business perspective of agriculture. I also own and operate an electrical contracting business in the community and have had a great privilege to serve many individuals, businesses, institutions, organizations within our community which is giving me great insight into our community thinks and thoughts that they have.
My wife is also from the McPherson community and we have three children who are grown and married. Our grandchildren are also part of our school district now and three of them are attending Eisenhower Elementary.
I also have over the years a background in a number of different organizations and boards that I served on both private, governmental as well as some like our church board. I think those are very important and growing experiences. I’m an active member of the McPherson Free Methodist Church and I’ve served there in various capacities over the years. My faith is very important to me and it is the foundation of who I am and the decision-making process that I go through. I’ve also been involved end various community events. I share these things so that you have a sense of understanding for me.
One of the things I believe I bring to the board as an understanding and connection to this community. I’ve grown up here and served in this community and had an opportunity to do that as a board member. I also I think that leader characteristics I bring to the board are that I have experience and understanding, I also treat others with respect and I believe I am a good listener, I’m calm and nonreactive and I try to collaborate in the way that I lead. I value our staff and all of our teachers, our classified staff as well as our administrators are all very important and vital to the district. Thank you for the opportunity to serve as I’ve done in the past and I hope to do in the future.
Hi, I am Emily Greer, I am also born and raised here in McPherson, my husband was as well. I graduated from high school in ’04 and went on to Kansas State University and got my bachelor’s in elementary education.
I got to have the privilege of teaching here for five years at Lincoln elementary, 3 years in kindergarten and two years in second grade. I feel that I really know the hard, hard, hard work that goes into teaching and leading and serving your community as a teacher.
I am currently a stay-at-home mom to our children. Our oldest is just now in first grade so we now are part of the school life which is really fun being in public schools. My husband here is in construction.
The main reasons that I would like to continue serving on the board. I’ve served on the board for about a year-and-a-half I was the replacement of a board member who had to end her term midterm. I just really know the value of the golden teachers that we have in our district. We have the most incredible teachers and I just want to do everything that I think that I can to support them and their solutions to educate our students, because they are the experts that we need to trust.
I am looking forward to all the facility upgrades that we are about to embark on exploring. I think that it’s going to be a great opportunity to involve our staff and our community to be engaged in that process and I think its going to be very exciting. I am also proud that our board of education has always tried to listen to the community and I want to continue to be a part of that, and be part of and inclusive and engaging relationship between our board and our school systems within our community. I think we are on the right track and we need to continue to support the ones who need the support.
Ann M.E. Parkins
Thank you, good evening everybody. I am Ann Parkins. I am from McPherson, not born here but just down the road in Great Bend. We moved here when I was in third grade. I attended Roosevelt Elementary School, then middle school and graduated from high school here.
I’ve had the opportunity to receive education from some great teachers, from elementary all the way up to Mrs. Carol Ferguson in high school. If you ever had her you know what I’m talking about. We have great teachers now and part of the reason I am running for school board is to continue to support those teachers and be involved in a very positive and impactful way in our community.
I have two young children my oldest will be four on Sunday so we are just starting the school life. My youngest is 16 months old, so we have a little ways to go in the district for a long time.
My husband is also from here. We are both attorneys. We went off to school and then came back. I am at attorney at a local law firm. I think my training, education and experience gives me key qualities to be an effective school board member. I can look at things objectively and analytically without involving emotion or being overcome by personal bias. I think that’s very important.
We have a lot of important issues to address some issues that I think are very important. The choosing of the new superintendent. Mr. Mohn is retiring. So the new board will get the opportunity to choose a superintendent, and I think that person can have a good impact on the district and the community and it’s important to choose wisely.
I also think that evaluating our facilities is very important. There is a very detailed facilities report that goes through all the needs that the district has. I think good school facilities helps not only the district but our community and our industry.
Finally, that we continue the curriculum work that the district has already begun through Ms. McWilliams and Mr. Benson and the teachers that we have implementing the curriculum and the curriculum changes. Thank you for attending it’s nice to see so many people involved in the event.
Robin K. Werth
Good evening, I’m Robin Werth. Thank you everybody for coming out tonight it is my pleasure to be here.
I am a McPherson native I was born and raised here. I attended Washington Elementary, Park School, McPherson Junior High. I was with the first freshman class of McPherson High School. I graduated from McPherson High School in 1989 and then I went on to McPherson College and graduated with a bachelor of arts in history. Later in life I decided that I really wanted to follow my dreams and went to Hesston College to get my RN.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 10 years. I have two boys. I teach part-time at the YMCA. My oldest son graduated from McPherson High School two years ago and is now attending Hutchinson Community College. My younger son is a freshman at McPherson High School. My husband runs a business here in our community. And so being on the school board is a community issue because if we have good schools we have a good community and a thriving community and that affects our businesses.
About a year-and-a-half ago I began attending school board meetings is there were concerns about some curriculum changes. And as I sat and watched for the last year-and-a-half I realized the curriculum was not the only issue at hand and that there were other things facing our district.
So some of my concerns were the superintendent search. Mr. Mohn is resigning in June and I think we do need to look at a nationwide search I would really like the best leadership possible for this district.
I believe in this district. I’m a product of it and now my boys are in it.
We have some facility needs. I have went and through it all of the elementary schools, the middle school and the high school. And there are a lot of needs at each of those buildings and we’re going to have some issues that we are going to have to deal with.
The curriculum that is why I started attending because of my concerns for it. I truly believe we need a vertically and horizontally aligned curriculum. It does need to be K-12-aligned and it does need to be aligned to our state standards.
I have also expressed concern about the teachers pay. and the advancement in pay for them. I would also like to see some type of scholarship program offered to the teachers that want to further their education right now that is at their own expense. And I believe that if we invest in our employees then they will invest back into us. And that makes us a better district. We have amazing teachers my son’s had some I’ve had some and I’m very proud to be a part of this community. Thank you.
What are the most important responsibilities of a school board member?
Butler – As a school board member I believe that your responsibilities are multifaceted. One you have a responsibility to the community to make sure that you are providing the needs necessary for for their children to have the best possible education they can have.
Also you have a responsibility to make sure that the superintendent and administration is held accountable and that they are making the best decisions for the district and for the students within the district.
Lastly, I think as a school board member you need to be able to communicate to the other school board members well, and to also work with them to provide the community and the teachers and the staff of the district the best opportunity they have to provide children with the best education possible.
Patrick – What makes a good school board number? Something I’ve spent a lot of time looking at and how I would answer that question tonight. The best way to sum that up is we should have a primary goal; serving the community. You’re serving your community and not only those who have kids in school, but you’re serving the community that are taxpayers here. You’re a steward to the community with the financial decisions that are made.
I think that you should represent that community and sometimes that means being a school board member that ask some of the harder questions about the more challenging things that are going on within the school board and not let it fall on deaf ears. There’s a sense of accountability that needs to be there both up the chain of command and down the chain of command. I would say we shouldn’t allow different standards for different people.
Vanderhoof – I think the most important responsibility have a board member is effective communication. With effective communication we can address most of the concerns that we have and solutions that we are working towards as a community and as a board. So if we have effective communication between the board members, between the staff members between the administration and the parents and the rest of the community members, that effective communication will allow for us to be the best districts that we can be. And meet the needs of not just our students but our staff are teachers and administration and the community.
Meek – So the job of the board is really to, if we were to use a ship analogy, we’d be the rudder of the ship. The school district itself is the ship the school board is there to steer them in the right direction and provide guidance to go in the right direction.
The board’s job is not to teach it’s not to provide day-to-day guidance on what happens day-to-day, but it’s to set the culture of the district. And to make sure that the administrators are held accountable for the goals they set forth, that they are holding the teachers accountable, that teachers are holding the students accountable for the right materials.
So that’s the the attributes that’s important for a school board member. Making sure that you’re providing that general oversight and guidance to the district and providing a path so that you set the right culture, the right framework to succeed and stick to what you’re good at, and don’t get down into the weeds. We’ve got plenty of great people that we hire to do that work that’s down in the weeds and that’s not a school board members job.
Johnson – I think if you would go to some of our training manuals on being a board member one of the first things that would say is that we set the vision based upon the community needs and desires. We then establish the policy that we implement and put forward.
We have one employee that is directly responsible to us that we evaluate and supervise and that’s the superintendent. We hold him accountable and he then provides the accountability to us for what the staff is doing. So I think that those are the primary things that I see as the role other board.
Greer – I think that I’m going to echo some of these thoughts, but I think that our primary job is to guide our superintendent, hence the staff and the administrators through important policy changes; and ensure that we are keeping in mind that at the end of the day everything is for the good of the students and our district. And that vision that we hold for them to thrive after graduation after school and we always want to keep them in mind.
Parkins – The role and most important responsibilities of a school board member is to be professional and supportive of our great teachers and our great staff from top to bottom. Like Mr. Meeks said, we have lots of people in charge of other things. To set good policy to implement that for help implement that policy and those procedures and make sure that those policies and procedures are being effectively handled throughout the district.
Werth – I think that a good school board member is one that is willing to listen to the community and teachers and their ideas and then bring them to the board and keep those ideas in their mind during their discussions on the board. I also think that they need to be willing to work with others on the board and in the administration to make our school district better and to implement policies that will make our district a better place and to make learning better for a kids. I also believe that school board members should have open conversation and dialogues with community so that they can know what needs are out there. The school board does oversee the superintendent and so that does come back to the superintendent search on why that is so important.
What are your thoughts about SUMMIT learning?
Patrick – That’s a loaded question. My thoughts on it are that I don’t like it. I’ve experienced it first-hand with my kids. We’ve had a couple issues regarding SUMMIT learning at the elementary school level.
I’m not against being innovative with our technology and advancing our students within the district to learn what they need. Technology is vital to learning but I don’t think it’s the end all catch all that we need to do.
SUMMIT learning has its faults. I was not against it initially, but seeing it firsthand and seeing how debilitating it’s been to some of my kids and stymied some of my kids and their process of learning was something I struggled with. I think that this process would have been better done if it had been implemented at a much slower fashion.
Venderhoof – My thoughts on SUMMIT learning are I wish I could change the question because I think it’s truly about our curriculum. SUMMIT learning was what brought my attention to what was going on and that I needed to pay more attention. So I’m not against SUMMIT learning, but I would like to see the aligned curriculum that’s being addressed. And we need to have going forward. And online platform I am supportive of because our students all learn differently so if that’s the direction our curriculum and our teachers go then we need to have the evidence of the best practices to follow. So we need to continue to work for word for a good solution and if summit is that we have the opt-out option also. So I think we can continue to have this dialogue as a community on how summit learning is working and how that should be allocated moving forward for our students.
Meek – So change is difficult everybody knows that really that’s what somebody is all about here. The difficulty of implementing a new program and the difficulty of sometimes accepting the good and the bad. Nothing that we do is going to be perfect. But there were some problems with the implementation of SUMMIT.
There are some things that should have been done differently. Even the current board members that say that if they had to do it over again they would do it a little differently. But that doesn’t mean the SUMMIT program is in itself bad. I’ve seen it I’ve worked with it some and it’s an implementation issue.
The other thing is and I’m data-driven you can’t judge the results of something based on a years worth of input. We don’t have the data to say whether our students are succeeding or failing. If your kid tried out for baseball or started practicing baseball and didn’t hit a home run on his first game would you tell him well never play baseball again and just give up? Know you’ve got to practice you’ve got to work through some of the issues and until we have three or four or five years of summit we don’t know if it’s good or not.
Johnson – I’m well aware of SUMMIT learning. I think that if we could go back in hindsight and look at the beginnings of this started with us in selecting free design schooling with the state. There two sides to innovative things that we wanted to do with SUMMIT learning. It came as one of the tools as part of the curriculum and an online platform. I think we’ve made some significant adjustments to make it better for this yea.r I think there’s very good aspects to it and probably our biggest challenge last year was implementation. It was such a large task, with so much so soon that in hindsight we probably should have implemented it slower. But I think there are very good things and for those that are not very good learners within that system we also have the more traditional option.
Greer – SUMMIT learning, you could call it any online platform, I think that a lot of different companies are coming out with platforms that personalized learning for their students. If I were to quote a bunch of teacher and that’s who I want to learn about SUMMIT from; is it helping you with your teaching because that is the ultimate person implementing it or any curriculum. I personally heard so many good things that they have never been able to challenge students the way that they have been able to challenge them through personalized learning. Every student can have rigorous lessons depending on where they were and what level and that they were able to produce results from their students that they hadn’t been able to produce before. So summit yes is personalized learning.
Parkins – SUMMIT learning ultimately is the tool for our teachers to use to teach our students. It is not replacing teachers hard work it is not replacing the teachers in the classroom it’s a tool. It’s a tool that is going to be used and is being used in the 21st century. McPherson schools were selected to be part of the Kansas redesign and part of the redesign was looking at how schools are teaching children, and implementing in other parts of children’s lives so there is emotional learning and going towards a more personalized learning platform. And a lot of that is online much like a lot of my job is on the computer and I’m sure a lot of your jobs are online or through the computer. So I think our teachers are working hard to make some changes as you would with any sort of curriculum or platform change and it will only get.
Werth – My feelings on SUMMIT is why I started going to school board meetings. My son has some learning disabilities and it did not do very well with SUMMIT, because SUMMIT didn’t support the disabilities that he had. But I do know of some kids who did well on it I think it is a very individual situation. My only issues with SUMMIT are that it is not an aligned curriculum with what we really need we need a K-12 aligned curriculum and aligned to state standards. And SUMMIT is not. I also think back to what the doctor said when her study was presented to the board. One of her comments was, you don’t ever adopt a curriculum that does not provide a special curriculum for those with special needs. And having a kid with special needs that really hits home. SUMMIT does not provide a special curriculum for those with special needs and that’s my thoughts on SUMMIT.
Butler – My seventh-grader, last year did not perform well with SUMMIT and that did spark me going to board meetings in the past year or so. But others do well with SUMMIT. I recently visited my daughter’s core classes with her in middle school in eight grade and they are using SUMMIT resources and opt-out classes to supplement. I feel that the traditional classroom has led to greater success for her and other students that are utilizing the opt-out program, but with the doctor’s study, I feel that as well, with Ms. McWilliams as the new curriculum director, I think she’s working to develop a plan and engage some strategies based on these findings of the study and I think we’re headed in the right direction. It won’t be an overnight process but I do like the steps that the district is taking so far.
If elected what would you hope the key accomplishments of the board would be?
Vanderhoof – Key accomplishments I believe that the board has several to start with. The first being the superintendent search and that is very important responsibility of the board going forward and that responsibility starts in January. And so that will be key as the district moves forward because all of the initiatives that are set forth already.
I also think that is the curriculum is studied and evaluated moving forward that we are going to see even greater solutions with our students and teachers, and to support the need for thriving students and our staff will be supported, and in the end we’ll see great output within that.
The other accomplishment is that we will have a facility study that we are able to adopt and implement are teachers and staff salary is important too.
Meek – In one year’s time you can’t see a lot of results and proficiency scores going up the program should take a significant amount of time in order to see those improvements. However you can see culture change and morale change. So what I would expect to see at the end of the first year is higher morale within the staffing of the school district. People that like to come to work everyday and feel a sense of accomplishment. That they have the tools necessary to get their jobs done and do it well and when they get their their students are also excited to learn. So by increasing the morale and the culture and creating some accountability for success, our students know that they have to succeed they have to reach certain levels of aptitude in order to move on to the next grade level and passed the next class. If we implement that we’ll see those results three or four years down the road and that’s what we need to do so get the morale and the standards up now, and we’ll see the tangible results in three or four years.
Johnson – When I think about an accomplishment that means more of a completion, so I had hoped to continue on the board to be able to see that we’ve made a good decision in the superintendent leadership change. That we are well on our path to getting this curriculum aligned and back to where we needed to be along with our assessments, and see improved student performance also to look at closely and deeper into our finances. It’s been a challenge for a number of years with budget and we would need to really invest and do more in that. We need to look at our facilities and if you’re following us we’re on the path to community groups and hopefully a year from now will really know a clear direction and what we’re needing to do with the facilities.
Greer – I think that one of the biggest accomplishments right out of the gate is going to be the superintendent search. We need to find the right person to fit our district needs who is going to continue are deep-rooted tradition of excellence. We all know that that is very important to our community and to all of us. We need to make sure that that superintendent is going to be on board with all of our curriculum work. We need to make sure that our facilities upgrade gets going and rolling and we get everybody engaged in that new adventure that we are going to embark on. And yes getting morale back up. I feel like last year it really took a hit with all the controversy and we need to get it back to where it needs to be high and exciting and everybody loving coming to work.
Parkins – I think that culture and morale is really important and the way that you do that is with an effective and dynamic leader in choosing a positive superintendent for our district and for our community. When you have a positive leader at the top that trickles down to be a motivator for the teachers staff everyone who works for the district. So I would hope we could do that within a year but sometimes change is hard and we have to continue working on that. That goes hand-in-hand with teachers support not just supporting them with pay but also with incentives telling them that they’re doing a good job telling them that they are working hard and that the students are doing a good job. If you look around the district we have done well and continue to do well. We want to continue that and also continuing on the path the current board has already started addressing our facilities needs there’s a significant need at the high school for a lot of work. Not just maintenance work so those would be the top things.
Werth – Again, I think that within a year of the superintendent search is going to be the thing we start with right off the bat. I think that we need to get a very effective leader one that has some experience in a district to this size that has had experience with bringing morale together in a district. I think that will be so crucial. I also feel like work will continue on the curriculum will continue to study each piece of our curriculum and that work will continue. Also hope that we will work on increasing our teachers pay and in retention and also the facility studies should be done and we can start working on the issues that we have there. The high school does have some major issues the middle school has some big issues all of the elementary schools need new flooring as well as the high school and middle school. So I think all of that will be coming up in the first year.
Butler – As far as achievements I think the board should have within a year’s time we should be able to choose a superintendent within that time, that meets all of the qualifications. We need experience with a bond issue because we’re going to be dealing with that. I think he should have a good working relationship with building staff and teachers. I think he should have their backs I think they should be supportive of them. I think the teacher salaries is something we really need to address after sitting through teacher negotiations. We talked about morale and how we can bring that up plus value our teachers and respect what they’re doing in giving our kids the education and everything that they do within this district.
Patrick – I will say a lot of the same things that these folks have said concerning key accomplishments. But I think we could really solidified that with creating a better culture and morale. In searching for the reasons why I chose to do this and the research and getting out there, I’ve spent some time talking to current teachers administrators former teachers and a lot of the things that they say is that they don’t have the backing from the people above them. That starts at the top. I think that in our search for a new superintendent we need to make sure that we hire a good manager and a good leader. Those are the two individual skills that don’t go together every time. They are non-synonymous. You can be a manager and not be a good leader, but if you’re a good leader that is the best thing to give us support. And I think that will bring back the culture and better pay will go.
In the development of the school district budget what goals and objectives would guide your decision making?
Meek – So in developing the budget, we will need to balance what is best for the students, and that’s not just one group of students that’s all students, and to meet the needs of the district itself and how the students are going to succeed.
So we need to make sure that our teachers pay, and I think we can all agree here that the average pay here, is I think $6,000 lower than every other district in the area on average. So we need to make sure that the teachers are getting paid. We need to make sure that lunches are being served That the needs of the students are met and that you’re balancing that with the facilities and everything else that needs done. It’s really and truly a balancing act and you have to make sure that you’re getting the most important needs first the ones that affect the students learning and the administration and the teacher’s ability to do their jobs. All the other services need to be dealt with too, but I think they come secondary.
Johnson – I think school district finance is one of the most challenging and complicated things that they go through. I’d love if we could just set our own budget but we have so many factors that way into and tell us how much money we have to work with. So our responsibility I believe is to come back in through a series of studies and establish priorities within what we have available and what we can move. I wish we could add more to our budget but it just doesn’t seem possible with the current funding.
Greer – Education I think is such a sad budget. It is just so complicated and so hard and so much of it is out of the leaders hands and the districts. I think we have to adjust that and decide what is priority. Do we have any extra money and where can we move it to and how and what does that decision-making look like? I think teacher salaries are definitely on the top of the list of many people in our community, as well as mine. I think our facilities coming up is going to be a big undertaking to figure out how that fits into the budget as well as all of our other operating costs and so it’s going to be a lot of work.
Parkins – When they say the budget is complicated they’re not joking. It’s a 115-page document that is the budget. It’s not just like my business is budget or your personal budget at home. There’s lots of different sources for funding and there’s lots of different ways you have to allocate, that are guided by the state and federal rules and statutes and guidelines, that tell you how and where you can spend your money. Obviously prioritizing where USD 418 spends their money is important. Teacher pay is important because McPherson has a high cost of living to be able to sustain that and have our teachers be able to reside in our community is important. So I think we have to look at our priorities and what the vision of USD 418 is and a line the budget as best as we can. With the rules and guidelines we’re allowed within that.
Werth – The budget is very complicated there are many things that go with it. I do I think the priority should be on teacher pay. Going into negotiations and listen to the frustration from the teachers and we do need to pay them more, especially for the amount of education that they put in to it. Between their time and out-of-pocket expenses that they put into classrooms. so I think that we need to make a priority within our district, the teachers pay. And again our facilities, that’s going to be a big issue we have a lot of needs within out schools that won’t necessarily fit into a bond issue and we need to look at those there are safety hazards for children that need to be dealt with.
Butler – As far as budgets go, I have had some experience with not near as large a budget as the school district has, but with a line item budget. I feel that the best way to break that down, is to break it down into sections and create work sessions so that you have priorities, as have been mentioned by some of the other candidates. We have a strong need within our facilities for improvements. We have a strong need for improving teachers salaries and classified staff salaries within the district. What you need to do in my opinion is develop a plan of action based on breaking down those sections in a rather large budget, setting priorities and putting plan into action.
Patrick – Again, a loaded question. Always is when you’re talking about budget and money. It comes down to managing your resources. You need to be able to manage our resources and in talking to a lot of the administration and teachers that I’ve listened to the past few days I’ve been preparing for this forum, it’s apparent that there is a lot of things that need to be fixed. There’s maintenance issues out there that have fallen on deaf ears because they weren’t forecasted properly. So that needs to be looked at. There’s some logistical things on how that can change. But I agree with some of the other candidates that teacher pay is one of the things that need to be looked at in regards to the budget. Money is what makes the world go round. It’s important to all of us and all of our lives so that is something we have got to get priority and balance over the school budget.
Vanderhoof – I think that updating the strategic plan would be helpful as we are looking at the budget. Line-by-line and set priorities and goals and target planning with outcomes. And that would include as we examine the budget to allocate funds appropriately to not only look at our staff and their salaries but to look at the curriculum the facility needs the safety needs. And so, as we move forward I would recommend we start looking at a strategic plan that will help us examine the budget and help us allocate the funds that will help us retain the staff adopt a curriculum. That is going to move us forward.
What would you suggest the district do to improve retention of teachers and support staff?
Johnson – Well obviously the last question addressed a lot of that. If we could address the financial needs and the pay I know we focus a lot on our teachers and we must improve that, but we are also behind significantly in our class five and support staff. It is very difficult in this community to find people who will work for us under those circumstances. And our administrative staff we are behind in that so it’s a significant thing that we need to address and and back to budgeting to help us address those issues.
Greer – Definitely salaries of course. That’s what really brings a lot of people to a profession or job it is a salary that they can live on. So we need to adjust their salaries with the high cost of living here here in McPherson that would hold more teachers here I think. Our morale is what makes this a cutting edge and exciting environment for a teachers. That would be a reason why people would want to come here and make graduates from the college want to stay and work for us. I think our culture is really what brings people in.
Parkins – I think we need to listen. It’s a hard job, but we need to listen to our teachers and our support staff and classified staff about what changes they would like to see. What changes do they believe need to be made. And that goes hand-in-hand with culture. That’s a leadership issue. Creating leadership within the central office and the buildings that is holding everyone accountable makes it a place you want to go to work every day. You want to tell your friends “hey I work in McPherson, it’s great.” You want to tell your kids that if they’re going to be a teacher, they need to come and work here. There was a time when McPherson received several hundred applicants for positions open. We want to get back to that place and always of course we want to pay more. So it’s looking at the budget to find ways to make that.
Werth – I agree with the others that we do need to increase our teacher pay especially those who have been with the district long-term. Sometimes they get forgotten and we need to increase our starting base. I think we also need to be better at providing our teachers with the training and support they need. We mentioned how SUMMIT was implemented pretty fast. Some of the teachers have expressed that they did not get the training that they felt they needed to properly implement SUMMIT. I think we also need to listen to our teachers. I visited with a lot of teachers and I think they have a lot of good ideas. The central office needs to open those lines up more and listen to our teachers and take what they have to say into account in their decision making.
Butler – I’ve recently visited with all the build buildings within the district and spoken with the building administration and principals. I feel like as far as relations between the administration and teachers and staff, I feel like that’s a part of the morale issue right now as well as teacher pay. I will be the one to say it, I guess I’m not understanding why administration received raises ahead of the teachers. I don’t understand that. To me it would it would have been me, I would have frozen administration pay and taken care of the teachers.
Patrick – The retention process has to revolve around money and pay. The teachers deserve to be compensated for the work they do again. I spent some time talking to a lot of these teachers, both current and former teachers and a lot of them spend their own money to do things that they don’t get support for from the staff. A lot of them just say they don’t even see their administrator from the central office or anybody that’s over them. There’s a need for that culture to be there and to support them and then there’s a work overload. There’s many teachers that say that they put in 60 hours a week. Who wants to do that? I sure don’t. So I think that’s the part of the retention process we need to get the pay up. We need to create a culture that they want to stay here and we need to find a way to get that support staff to want to stay. Some of that revolves around addressing some of the behavior issues that we have on our campuses.
Vanderhoof – Well since the state has provided a 6.5% increase to all the districts across the state, I think we need to examine the budget and work to allocate those funds so that we can retain staff. And through that we can establish an equitable salary and wage scale for our teachers and staff, and that will impact and retain the best quality teachers provide the highest quality professional development and ongoing support. I think there’s some other important aspects that we should consider and that is to develop more effective transparent and open communication across the district. Provided ongoing support to the teachers and the staff. So we look at the budget that’s been given to us from the state, look at our budget line, look at communication, and look at support, then we will retain our teachers.
Meek – So teachers become teachers because they love to teach. It’s the sense of satisfaction that they get from teaching and getting those students to accomplish their goals. But what happens when you don’t give them the right tools to teach? They have those impediments they can’t teach what they want to teach and they want to be successful, but if you don’t provide them with the right tools. You’re not giving them the shovel, you’re not giving them the pencil, whatever they need to get the job done. That’s what we need to do to increase retention. We need to change the culture to include a clear expectation of what’s expected from the teachers, clear results of what they need to do and what’s expected of them and give them the tools to do the job that they were hired to do. We also need to raise the salaries. That’s quite frankly the easy part. The hard part is changing the culture. You chose this profession because it’s a job that you love and all we’re doing is making something that you love something that you dread to do every single day. If we don’t change, we can pay someone $100,000 a year and it doesn’t matter because they’re still going to dread coming.
What qualities are important to a new superintendent?
Greer – I think communication is high on my list for many reasons; communicating their expectations to the board, to the staff, to the teachers and the community. I think their ability to rally everyone together because whether we like it or not the superintendent kind of is the face of the district. They need to believe in us and go out there and fight for us and make sure we are getting the best resources and making sure that all of our experiences within our schools are positive for our students. I think somebody who is forward-thinking and looks down the line five years to see what we will need to handle in five years; what’s creeping along that we need to take care of now, so that it’s not an issue five years from now. Somebody who understands the community that we live in somebody who can come and visit with us.
Parkins – I think the new superintendent should be an effective communicator, but also someone who is present and respected within the community; engaged with our community and engaged with our schools not only at the brick building with our administrators but also with our teachers and staff and our students. Someone who has a curriculum and instruction background, to help with that forward-thinking of the redesign that will be moving across the state. To continue to be innovative and supportive of what the district has ongoing; to be a good listener not only to the teachers, but to the community, board, the other staff that work for the district and our students most importantly,
Werth – I would like to see someone who has experience with a district are size and a successful district. I also want to see one that’s had experience with bond issues and successful Bond issues in the past, because the facility studies show we will more than likely be having a bond issue. We need good leadership to get that passed it within the community. I also would like see a superintendent that would love to go visit a classroom. Several teachers have visited with me about superintendents in the past who have pulled up a chair and sat there in class with the kids. I think that is so important because good leaders are the ones that aren’t afraid to to get down in the trenches with the workers. And be involved and I think that’s so important to open up those lines of communication and I think also we need a leader that can be transparent with the teachers and can be transparent with the public.
Butler – I think our new superintendent needs to be have experience much like what Robin said with a bond issue and have a successful experience with that. They need to be proactive and an exceptional listener they also should have a good understanding of the community needs and be directly engaged.
Patrick – I think the qualities of the superintendent need to be for this area, a unique set, because we have a unique culture. Most of us have been here for a very long time. I think some of that culture is starting to drift out of here and we need to get that back. This is a good place to live. This is a good place to raise a family. We have good people here and we need to get that back. So we need somebody who’s going to be an exceptional leader. I’ll reiterate what I said before, we don’t need a manager we need a leader. You can be a manager without being a leader, but you need both for this. We need, like Robin said, to be out there on the front lines. They need to be able to do the same things. They need to be able to roll up their sleeves and get down and dirty in the classroom, be willing to teach with us, be willing to back up someone who is gone and do those kinds of things that gains the respect from the people.
Vanderhoof – I think there are several qualities that being a superintendent should possess. One to articulate a vision. That vision that will be held by all of the staff and the community that live here. A superintendent quality would be innovative someone who will lead us, drive us to the next step. A leader with effective communication successful in managing a bond issue if that’s what’s to come forward. A good manager, just to name a few of the important aspects.
Meek – I think we can all agree that the status quo of what we have right now is something that we want to change. So the most important thing we want to find in a superintendent is somebody who can facilitate that change. It’s easy to come into a district and just maintain everything you see. That’s the easy thing to do. We need to find a superintendent that has the ability, that has the education to facilitate that change and change the district for the better. They also have to be able to hold people accountable, set clear goals to be aided and driven by the board, and then become accountable for those goals. It’s that person’s job to make sure the district achieve the goals the board sets for them, and then be supportive of the staff. Part of being accountable and holding people accountable is also being supportive and showing them that you were going to provide them with what they need in order to achieve those goals. So those to me are the three most important.
Johnson – I agree with all the candidates here. I think one of the key things to it is that the superintendent really needs to work well with the board. Sense what is the board need and what is the community need; what is the community sense for new educational initiatives; and what is the superintendent sensing within the staff. We’ve talked about morale and the need for support. We need to work with the superintendent to do that. I do hope that our superintendent is energetic and would have a vibrant personality, one that we can connect with easily and that will be a good promoter. A member of the team and an encourage all the work we’re doing here.
Will you support a bond issue to build a new stadium?
Parkins – I don’t think that’s a yes or no question. I think the bond issue has to address multifaceted issues one is the high school. If you walk through the high school there’s a particular classroom on one side near one of the exits, if you can find it because it’s not labeled according to the numbers, that has a gap where air is coming in and out, and you can see outside. That’s just one of the issues in one classroom at the high school there are other issues. We use the facility at McPherson College and that use will be expiring, so athletic facilities is something we will have to look at and address, but we don’t have enough space for our students at the high school and middle school to participate. McPherson College is growing itself, so I think that is an issue that will have to be addressed in the bond issue.
Werth – Our lease is ending with the college, I do know there will be some limited use. As far as building a brand new stadium, I think we really need to focus on academics first. I believe academics are more important than athletics. The high school does have some serious issues. I walked through it with Mr. McFarland. There’s several areas in the hallways that there are cracks in the walls you can feel air coming through. The one classroom you could stand there and watch the lines blow. This is where our kids are trying to learn. The middle school has some issues as well classrooms down in the old football locker room. The elementary schools have carpet that’s buckled, that can cause our kids to trip. So I think those are our priorities over as stadium although that will have to be looked at.
Butler – I do agree with Robin after a tour of all the schools in the district. I did ask the principals to share their concerns as far as facilities go. The problem in the high school to look up and see a crack in the ceiling in the structural problems at the high school, as well as safety concerns in the middle school and the gymnasium, ripped carpet. A teacher actually stated that they saved a student from going over the rail at one time. I think that there’s definitely needs at all the buildings. Carpet is something I think that can be addressed without a bond issue. I think that’s something we can look at capital outlay and see if some of these more simple things can be addressed especially if their safety concerns.
Patrick – The short answer to what I support a bond issue for a new stadium is, absolutely yes. It would be amazing. It would be something to be proud of and something that others want to come in a see. So absolutely I want to see that happen, but again there’s a lot that goes into making that decision because you can’t just write a check and have that happen. There’s a lot of other things too that some of these folks up here have mentioned, but one of the things that is important to me as security. It’s almost 2020, this is the real world in real things happen. Some of the campuses, I talked to the administrators, there’s some security issues that need to be addressed. Unfortunately it’s sad but true and we need to be thinking about it keeping our building safe, so I want to prioritize safety over building a football stadium.
Vanderhoof – This is really a complicated question and I’m not sure I can say either way without more information. I think the strategic plan would help inform me so I wouldn’t say yes or no at this time, if I would support a bond because there are more than just a stadium at play. I think we have many fiscal issues to consider when moving forward with a bond issue and what that would be included. So without having enough information I cannot give you are you an answer on how I would vote on that and respond on that, without a good strategic plan in place to be able to understand the on intensive unintended consequences whether positive or negative for our community. So I can’t answer that directly.
Meek – I think that there are a lot of other priorities before we have a bond issue for stadium. Just like everyone else has talked about some of the improvements although we do have that somewhat hard deadline coming up that something has to be done. I think we need to find ways to make that happen. Maybe we look into the private sector maybe it’s a Pfizer stadium or something like that, but they’re other ways that we can have a private investment in a facility. It doesn’t have to be a bond issue if it’s done right through the school. So we need to think outside the box and do things differently than we’ve done it before and that’s how we can make these align with our budget and get the facilities that we need and get everything done to the specs that we need to have.
Johnson – As we start this process with our actual firm, one of the things that will be significant is the community involvement. So for me, to answer the question do I support a stadium, it would be yes if our community supports the stadium, but in our studies and community involvement there’s not support for a stadium. Then we need to look at other options and things that we can do. So I think that this is a key part of what we are going to be doing now for the next number of months. Community involvement and reviewing all the facilities hearing about our needs and and at some point there maybe the presentation to our community for a bond that could have a stadium in it.
Greer – The issue of a bond is a very serious issue with many layers and there’s not just the stadium at stake. There are so many needs throughout our district that need to be addressed before a stadium. So I agree with Jeff that it’s really up to our community what’s important. There will be lots of engagements with the community on how we would want to structure a bond and what would be the most important. What would be some other innovative ways to solve some issues to allow us to maybe focus on academic areas.
What are some actions you hope to take to reduce current class sizes.
Werth – I walked through all the buildings. There’s not room to make more classrooms. We don’t have the money to pay more teachers. Our buildings already need more teachers and that’s not making the class size smaller. I don’t think there’s a clear and easy answer to that, other than to figure out ways to get creative in our buildings layouts, to figure out how to make more classroom space and we’re going to have to provide more money to teacher funds to hire more teachers. I know this is a huge issue. I’ve heard from several teachers and watching the kids in the classrooms. It is a big issue, but I think there’s so many different ways that you can handle that.
Butler – I think there’s two challenges in being able to shrink those class sizes and that’s really what the facilities as far as the space of being able to do. That and as far as being able to have qualified teachers available that want to come to the district and to pick up those possible spaces that we may create. I think it is a challenge and I’m not exactly sure how we will solve it, but I think as a board member you would really want to lean on the teachers in the building administrators to look at ways to potentially solve those issues.
Patrick – The classroom size is the issue in a nutshell, would be nice to be able to hire more teachers but the thing is, where are we going to put them? We’re splitting at the seams, we’ve already talked about that. Which leads us down a path of potential another bond issue and we don’t know exactly where we need to go. The classroom size is paramount, because they’re busting at the seams and that reduces the one-on-one learning time. So it’s tough to give you a correct answer on that. On what’s the best thing to do, but ultimately I would try to be resourceful and maybe look at securing a grant or look outside the box. Maybe there’s some sort of federal funding that we could procure for our district to allow some of these things and go from there.
Vanderhoof – There’s several things I can take of that would be actions steps to reduce the class size. I would ask the building principals to come up with a plan of what they anticipate for projected class sizes going forward over the next several years. Then we can look at the census data. The census data will drive our decision-making and that’s important information that we can consider. We can talk to our industries and see what they’re hiring expectations are and that will help inform us going forward as we anticipate more students coming into the district. Then we can also look at what the best practice standards are out there. There is evidence-based practices. I’m sure that we can find the research that tells us what the best classroom ratio student-teacher size should be to have the most effective teaching in the classroom, and then I would look at a facility study and see what that tells us.
Meek – I think understanding what the right class size is really the first thing that has to happen. How do we know that we’re not where we need to be? How do we know what that is? Or what the goal is? I’ll take a shotgun approach and just say that if we’re going to reduce class size it needs to be part of our long-term goal. Planning which coincidentally hasn’t been updated since 2015. If you go to the school board website ,I think the last time we had school board goals and a mission for the school year was 2013 for 2015 and here we are almost 2020 and we haven’t updated those goals. Those kind of items need to be in that vision for the future so that we can plan for these sorts of things. So we can make the adjustments in the facility. What we don’t want to do is build a new high school and have the wrong size high school building and then within a year or two, people are teaching in modular classrooms again. So we need to make sure that our vision is correct before we look at making any big decisions.
Johnson – In a short sentence it is a significant increase and financial commitment if we’re simply going to reduce numbers and hire more staff. I think it’s part of our facility study, it’s a part of our curriculum study, as some of the work that we’re doing there is looking forward, we’re going to make some projections on sizes and course offerings and different things that were willing to do and then we can tie that back to staffing. We can look at some of the ideal sizes for the age levels and the different classrooms being taught. I know it’s something we plan to do and some future retreats and preparation is moving.
Greer – I know that class size is a huge deal as a teacher. I know the difference between getting 18 kindergartners ready for recess, versus 27. That’s a big difference when there’s more shoes to tie and zippers to zip. Especially if you’re the only adult in the room. So it is a big deal when the class space feels too small and too tight for students. It’s not comfortable for them so it is a big issue and I think it’s not something we can solve overnight. We need more of a step approach, where over the years we are able to reduce the class sizes, maybe on the primary level and the smaller age ranges. Then keep working at that goal as it’s not something we can solve completely in the next school year.
Parkins – I think over time we can look at the different buildings and be creative in our spaces. Which is why the district has engaged in an architect firm to help not only address whether we need more spaces, but how do we best use the spaces we already have to make those effective for our learning. Personalized and project-based learning may not need traditional desks that take up this much space. So how do we utilize the space we already have to make more classroom space to decrease sizes if that’s necessary. Also be creative with scheduling. Can we adjust scheduling at the elementary school to looping or something else that might be more effective that can decrease at least some of the classroom sizes? And of course always hiring more teachers and support staff is how you deal with it, but you have to have the space and other resources there to do that as well.
What can be done to increase school safety
Butler – I think in my visit to the all the buildings, the majority of the building administration and principals echo the same, at least at the elementary schools. They need to have a safe area for students to arrive in the building, like Washington School does. That would be one step I totally agree with I.t I think that in this day and age, that is an important thing to have to know that students, when you’re dropping them off at school have a sense of security. I think there’s also other issues that have been mentioned earlier regarding facilities like carpet in the hallways. That’s a safety issue that probably isn’t a large expense, but might be able to be handled by capital outlay. Replacing carpet that is trip hazards for the students, just items like that that don’t require a bond issue or a large capital expense that can be improved we need to look at that.
Patrick – I’ve already touched on school safety, but I’ll reiterate what I said before. I also had this conversation with some of the building administrators and that’s doing what I do for a living. That’s the last thing I want to do is go to an active shooter situation at a school that someone was able to be compromising in that building. This is 2019. Real things happen so that is a paramount thing that we need to look at to make sure that our schools are safe and our teachers are safe within those buildings and protecting those kids. There’s another side of the school safety that we haven’t touched on yet and that revolves around. There’s a lot of behavior problems in today’s society. A lot of these teachers, a lot of these parents and educators in the classrooms; are being spit on, kicked, used profanity to, and there’s no repercussions for that. We need to think about some of the behaviors and address those things and perhaps have a separate campus to address those issues.
Vanderhoof – I think that within the strategic plan that will be updated that we can look at a proactive and preventive strategy to address safety on multiple levels. Those levels not only and of all the violence, but also the trauma that our students and staff are exposed to. So we need to include that when we’re looking at safety on all levels, because there’s a reaction when something happens and so we need to continue those training pieces that are in place and have effective communication across all the levels of our community. I recognize there are times where we as a community don’t have the opportunity to know the details, and so we have to communicate that clearly, so that we understand there are times when we won’t know what’s going on in a particular situation, but a strategic plan will help with how to move forward.
Meek – We need to address both external and internal security issues when it comes to safety. So threats from a random person coming into the school, we need to make sure that our comprehensive plans for an active shooter in those types of intrusions are up-to-date and trained on and that everyone knows what to do. From the administrators to the teachers and it goes beyond just that internal and external security. It also goes with the fire and tornadoes. I’ve seen issues where we had fire drills that nobody knows where to go, because it’s not practice enough and it’s not enforced enough. We need to make sure all those processes and procedures are there so that we are providing a safe atmosphere for our kids and security threats and natural disasters for those sorts of things also.
Johnson – Currently at the board we did go through a safety and security audit, so we do have an awareness that’s some of those things. The nature of what was discussed is hard to say publicly, but the things that we’ve addressed such as security cameras and things like that we are working hard on. It’s going to be a priority in the facility not only from the safe entry of the building to storm shelters and those kind of things. We know those are things we need to address. Staff training we need to continue to train, so that in all types of situations staff knows how to handle those issues.
Greer – Safe schools, I kind of think right off the bat secure entry where people can’t enter the building without going through the office. I think that’s something that’s kind of low-hanging fruit. We can of think of that with the bond issue, but we need to make sure that every building at least has a secured entrance. Also I think of safety I think of students who have gone through all sorts of trauma, are dealing with things emotionally that they are not equipped to handle themselves, and we need to support them in that healing process, with trained teachers and professionals that can get to them in the schools versus them having to go outside their resources.
Parkins – There was earlier this year a grant that allowed security cameras to be placed in the middle school. I think reaching out and receiving grants like that, coupled with security measures externally not only outside the building but inside the building are helpful. Secure entry, it’s one thing to say secured entrances, but to actually make that happen in most of our buildings is very difficult and expensive. Which is why it’s probably a part of the next bond issue that may come up. Also identifying and working with counselors and other professionals within the school, that can provide information on where there might be an issue, why they may be issues and to resolve them before they become all-school issues.
Werth – Well the first thing that came to my mind with safety was earlier in the school year. My son was at the high school. There was a threat made toward the high school and I found out later that none of the intercoms in the world building worked. As a parent that was very heartbreaking for me to hear that my child was in a building where no intercom system worked. I visited with all the buildings and they all said there are portions of their intercom system that don’t work. So I think the first and foremost issue that we need to address is to get those intercom systems working. I think at the high school they have it working a little bit but it is intermittent so that needs to be the first priority right there. I also I think we need to be like Washington it has an awesome entrance; but again the buckles in the carpet, the cracks in the floor these are big safety issues for children. I think every school should have tornado shelters. I know there are grants available for that.
Werth – Thank you everyone for coming out tonight. If you have any questions or concerns I would love to sit down with you over a cup of coffee, tea or a Coke. I really want to hear what your concerns and issues are within our district. I truly believe in our district. I am a product of it, one son has already graduated and the other one is in it. I believe it is a vital part of our community. We have good schools that makes us have a good community and we have a business here so I believe we need a successful community and a successful school system.
Parkins – Thank you all for attending tonight and asking good questions. I hope you were provided with some good answers to those questions. I think again finding a dynamic superintendent will help fix a lot of the issues in our district and make our district better and build on what we have in providing good support for our teachers. Not only with pay but in getting creative with how we can support them from the top down is important. I am happy to meet with any of you tonight or at any time I would encourage you to go vote on Nov. 5.
Greer – Thank you for coming and being an informed voter. I think that at this point in our district, this moment in time is very crucial. We are going to have a change in leadership. We are looking at facility changes. The curriculum is changing and we need to make sure that the people that are supporting our students and staff and our central office administrators are there to guide and support this and help with these policy changes. I’m invested in this district and we have an incredible staff and our students are so lucky to be here, because of our staff and we just need to make sure we make the right choices.
Johnson – Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this forum tonight. I appreciate the attendance and many of you who are listening on the radio. I hope they were able to hear from us some of our thoughts and our concerns I hope it will help in the decision for the upcoming elections. Our district has got a lot of change and challenges ahead and we need your support no matter the outcome of this election. Ongoing we really need your community to be involved in our schools and we appreciate those of you that are and if you haven’t really joined in with us, we would appreciate if you do that. Anything that you would like to visit or share with me do so. Thank you again for the opportunity.
Meek – So I know I’ve said this a lot tonight, but I think really the crux of the issue is the culture, and the culture that we set. If we create the right culture in this district all of these policies we’ve talked about, all of the input from the community, from the teachers, from students will all come together to make a better district. We will reach the goals that we want to reach. We have to have the right culture and have that motivation to do well. The motivation of the teachers, to the administrators to support and be supportive. Just one last thing about me that we haven’t really talked about, but I’m the only one here that’s not from McPherson and many of you were like “who’s the guy in the middle?” I’m not originally from here but that gives me a different. I don’t have the “this is how it’s been done before mentality.” I’ve seen different things in different places, so just keep that in mind. I have a different perspective. Maybe that’s good to some of you and that’s great and maybe for some of you it’s not and that’s great too.
Vanderhoof – I want to say thank you to all of you for coming out tonight. Some of the things that I think we need to address and I’ve already spoken to but, I want to remind you that we will strengthen our district and we need your help doing that. So I want to partner with you and listen. I’m happy to meet with you, even if it seems like something that you think I don’t want to hear. I do want to hear it. I think that’s important that we have all sides of the concerns, issues, suggestions and solutions moving forward. We need to hire the next superintendent. We need to align or curriculum. We need to address facilities. We need to look at our budget. We need to allocate funds to support our teachers and staff. We need to look at our communication strategies and structures that are in place. When we do all of this, we will be able to show to our community and our staff that we are the best.
Patrick – Thank you all for coming out tonight. This is a unique experience for me and a rewarding experience. I see a shift here. I think we’re on the road to changing some things. Looking at the board of education having these four positions with maybe some new blood in them maybe not. I want to be a part of that I would appreciate your vote. This particular community is rich for its culture and sports. No one’s going to contest that we are known for basketball and ironically were not known for football. There’s been a paradigm shift within our football program. It was pretty terrible and now it’s pretty top-notch and I’d like to see the same thing happen with our education system and that needs to happen with the community support and being able to listen we can make that happen.
Butler – I’d like to again thank you along with the rest of the candidates for the opportunity to answer some questions. I’m not the best public speaker, but I can promise you one thing. I do have a passion for what I’m doing or else I wouldn’t be running for school board. I really, after getting more involved with the board of education meetings and sitting through teacher negotiations and visiting all the schools in the district, my passion is even greater. I’m a lifetime resident. I really want to see the district succeed and improve; and see the level of academics match that of athletics and really see the leadership as far as the new superintendent coming in have the same passion. I want to bring the community back into the school district and bring a level of pride back into it as far as academics being able to match the athletics.