Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2001

Candidates face the public

Education and growth are top issues among school board candidates

February 15, 2001

Candidates for the Basehor-Linwood school board agreed on two issues: educational programs are a top priority for the school district and the district needs to prepare for impending growth.

However, the candidates had different ideas on how to manage those issues.

The candidates answered questions and gave their positions on several issues at a public forum Tuesday at the Board of Education meeting room. Some candidates did not attend.

Position 4 candidate Ronald Owen was in attendance, but Michael Mustain and Mark Davis could not attend due to prior commitments.

Position 5 candidates Ron Grover, Patrick Jeannin and Douglas Bittel were at the meeting, but the fourth candidate, Warren Kennedy, was out of town on business.

The two candidates for Position 6, Claude Guidry and Chris Claflin, did not participate in the open forum. Since there are only two candidates for Position 6, the race won't require a primary.

One of the questions posed to the candidates was how they would handle the movement of new students into the district.

Owen said that he has experienced student growth in a short time through his job in the Kansas City, Kan., School District.

"To handle a rapid influx of students, there are only a couple of ways you can handle it," Owen said. "You can do hard construction to improve the existing building or you could build modular classrooms."

Mustain said in a written statement that the school board should be prepared ahead of time for the growth of the district.

"Regardless where new housing occurs within our school district, the board members and the senior management team should have in place, as part of the school district's strategic plan, periodic reviews of the community's growth patterns, demographics and updated forecasts," Mustain said.

Grover said before building new schools the citizens of the district need to answer a few questions.

"I think there needs to be some philosophical questions answered by the parents and patrons of this district," Grover said. "Do we want to keep the smaller school concept?

In the last bond issue people said they liked the idea of smaller schools, what we need to do is reinforce that idea."

Jeannin said that the school board should look at other schools in the area and see how they dealt with rapid growth.

"We need to put together a strategic plan that will lead us to where we want to be in five or ten years from now," Jeannin said. " We need to look at some of our peer schools like DeSoto and see how they handled growth. What did they do to facilitate growth that is not centralized, but scattered over a large area?"

Bittel agreed that the board does have to come up with a long-term strategic plan and said that he would prefer the district keep class sizes small.

"Basehor is a great place to live, and we can expect that people are going to find that out in the next few years," Bittel said. "Through my own personal experience as a teacher, I would be in favor of smaller class sizes in the 18-20 per class range. Larger classes than that just don't do as well."

Kennedy said in a written statement that his approach to the growth of the district would cover five areas that the board must address.

Kennedy said the board should look at the existing facilities, faculty and staff, technology, curriculum and funding.

"I think the first thing the school board, administration, and patrons must do is accept that Basehor-Linwood will experience tremendous growth over the next decade," Kennedy said. "The recent announcement of plans for developing the area around the new speedway drives home this fact. As such, the board must take a proactive approach for dealing with growth."

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