Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Field of 7 to compete for four spots on school board

Two incumbents, two police officers, sports commissioner, retired Army officer, salesman on ballot

February 1, 2007

Lansing School District voters will have seven candidates to choose from when they head to the polls April 3.

Two incumbents - Richard Whitlow and Shelly Gowdy - and two Lansing police officers - Brian Duncan and John "Tony" Gable - are vying for the spots, along with Richard O'Donnell, Lansing Parks and Recreation basketball commissioner; Joe Walden, a retired Army colonel; and Rich Hauver, a health and wellness equipment territory sales representative.

All seven candidates have children who attend Lansing schools.

Hauver was the last candidate to file for office, and he met the deadline on Jan. 23 by just a couple of hours.

He said community members and teachers urged him to run, but his dad's advice over the phone Tuesday morning was the clincher.

"I want to continue to do good work. Lansing has a good district now," he said. "Certainly I think I can bring some fresh ideas. I don't think anybody that's a rookie can change it all."

Hauver said the budget, adequate facilities and retaining good teachers topped his list of priorities, at least for now.

He said he believes success in the schools depends on "a real blend of schools, businesses and the community" working together.

Hauver, a sales representative for Technogym wellness and exercise equipment, moved his family back to Lansing in January 2005 after living a year and a half in Phoenix.

He credited the schools and community for bringing the Hauvers back to Lansing, where they had lived for nine years before.

Hauver and his wife, Mona, have five children - all of whom are LHS students or graduates. They are: daughters Megan, 23; Jessica, 19; Abby, a senior; and Elle, a freshman; and son, Bobby, a junior.

This is Walden's second shot at a seat on the school board. Board members bypassed him and two others - including fellow candidate Brian Duncan - in July 2006 when they selected Richard Whitlow to replace former school board member Karalin Alsdurf after her resignation.

That decision didn't sway him, said Walden, who teaches a graduate course at Webster University and also is a part-time military training contractor at Fort Leavenworth and a logistics and leadership training consultant.

"I think there is some long-range planning that they could do better," he said. "With my military training, I think I could help."

Walden said his service in the Army had led him to witness school systems operations in two countries and four states. He served on the planning commission in Hopewell, Va.

"I've seen the good and the bad, and I've seen some of the things Lansing could do to make things better," he said.

One change Walden would like to see is more advanced placement courses at LHS.

The Lansing schools, Walden said, lured him back to Leavenworth County three years ago after military service in California and Kuwait.

He and his wife, Kay, have two daughters with LHS ties: Bobbi, a sophomore, and Amber, a 2006 graduate.

Gable, a Lansing police officer for 10 years and a lifelong Lansing resident, graduated from LHS in 1987. He said he was proud to graduate from a school where one-third of the 99 students in the Class of '87 attended classes together from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Attending Lansing's public schools and working with students as an officer in the D.A.R.E. and Gang Resistance Education and Training programs in those schools gave him "a really good feel" for what the district can do to help students succeed, he said.

"I know it's a good school district, and I want to keep it that way," Gable said. "I want to make sure all the kids have a chance to shine here."

He said that means offering a variety of programs that pique students' interests in areas beyond academics, such as band, choir and other extracurricular activities.

"My biggest thing is that I'm really wanting to make sure our kids are able to succeed," he said.

Gable's daughter, Ashely, attends fourth grade at Lansing Intermediate School. His fiancee, Angela Demencius, has two children who attend Lansing schools.

A veteran of Desert Storm, Gable served five years active duty in the Army. He is a former member of Veterans of Foreign Wars.

O'Donnell began work in the facilities department at the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth in 1993, when he returned to Leavenworth County after his service ended in the Marines.

A member of the city's Tree and Parks and Recreation boards, he was appointed Lansing's basketball commissioner four years ago and is a former city football commissioner.

He has coached city league youth football and/or basketball for seven years and operates Northeast Kansas Game Time Basketball, a nonprofit organization that sponsors summertime youth basketball clinics.

O'Donnell said building the new elementary school on West Mary Street was "a step in the right direction," and the district needed to continue offering extracurricular activities to reach students who might not receive adequate emotional support at home.

"They have No Child Left Behind for academics, but some kids need more," he said. "As our community grows, I think some of our programs need to grow with it. Just looking out for the kids is what my best interest is."

O'Donnell said he wanted to create a positive educational experience for youngsters so it might encourage them to pursue further education after high school.

O'Donnell and his wife, Christine, have three children attending Lansing schools: sons Richard, a freshman at LHS, and Ryan, an eighth-grader at Lansing Middle School; and daughter Reilly, a kindergartner at Lansing Elementary School.

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