Board candidates vie for three seats
Candidates vying for seats on the Basehor-Linwood School Board met with a handful of potential voters Wednesday, March 23, and answered questions ranging in topics from soda machines in schools to a potential bond issue for new school construction.
Voters will select April 5 a representative for three school board seats. Two of the three school board seats are contested: Linwood residents Paul Smith and Gary Johnson are vying for Position 6, and incumbent Position 5 representative Patrick Jeannin is attempting to stave off a late write-in candidacy from former board member Don Kleoppel.
Randy Cunningham, a past school board vice-president, is seeking a new tenure on the school board for Position 4. He is unopposed.
Jeannin, Smith and Johnson attended the Wednesday night candidate forum, sponsored by the Basehor Chamber of Commerce. Cunningham's schedule conflicted with the forum date and Kleoppel, who, unbeknownst to chamber members, announced his candidacy early last week, was not invited. Kleoppel's name was mentioned to the crowd as a write-in candidate.
Each of the candidates were asked to rate the school district on a 1 (worst) to 10 (best) scale.
Smith gave the district a seven rating. "Our facilities need to be improved to sustain growth," he said, adding that if curriculum improves, so would the school district.
Jeannin said he thought the district was a five -- sort of. "I'm not sure we're a 5, 6 or a 7, but we're somewhere in the neighborhood," he said. "Very clearly I'm wanting to continue to get better and there's a number of ways to do that," he said, citing improved facilities and curriculum as the most apparent.
Johnson, who chose to run so he could help implement policies that improve test scores, indicated he believed the school district to be a 6 rating. "If we could improve core classes, we'd be a lot better off," Johnson said.
Candidates Wednesday night addressed perhaps the most pressing issue facing the school district today: area growth and how best to accommodate an influx of new students. Each of the candidates attending the forum said they were actively involved with the District Advisory Council, a group of school district patrons that meet with district officials periodically to discuss educational issues.
And while all the candidates seemed to support the advisory council's potential plan to propose an approximate $23.3 million bond issue question to voters, they differed on whether a question regarding new athletic facilities at Basehor-Linwood High School should be added to the bond proposal.
Johnson said given the district's turbulent past in approving bond issues, it would be better to propose the new school facilities question only.
"It's silly to put both together given the history on voting -- I think classrooms should come first," he said.
"I don't think we're there yet and I certainly don't think we need everything on that menu list," Jeannin said.
Smith said a separate ballot questions would be appropriate for voters -- one regarding new schools, the other athletic facilities.
"I would personally like to see two separate questions because I wouldn't want to see the athletic facilities kill the academic question," Smith said.
Candidates at a glance:
Vying for Position 6 are:
¢ Paul Smith, 36, a technical analyst for Sprint and a part-time real estate agent.
¢ Gary Johnson, 59, a water service foreman for Union Pacific Railroad.
Position 6 representative Chris Claflin is not seeking re-election.
Vying for Position 5 are:
¢ Patrick Jeannin, 43, a vice president and commercial loan officer at Commercial State Bank, and the incumbent board member.
¢ Don Kleoppel, 40, a systems manager for DST Systems in Kansas City, Mo., a former school board member.
¢ Randy Cunningham, a former school board vice-president, is seeking a new term on the school board as Position 4 representative. Mike Laffere, the current occupant of Position 4, is not seeking re-election.
Cunningham, 54, is the owner and broker of Re/Max All American Real Estate in Basehor.