Archive for Thursday, March 29, 2007

School board candidates full of ideas

March 29, 2007

Editor's Note: The Current asked candidates for the Lansing School Board to respond to questions of interest prior to next week's April 3 election. Here are their answers, which in some cases were edited because the candidate exceeded word limitations. The seven candidates are running for four open seats on the board.

Brian Duncan

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

Long-term planning for facilities and 21st Century programming for students are the most pressing issues facing Lansing. We must be prepared to grow with the city of Lansing and not behind them. Also the type of education we provide to our students must be cutting edge and in line with 21st Century teaching methods.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I graduated from Lansing High School in 1990 and worked as the D.A.R.E. officer for the Lansing School system for three years. I also assisted in teaching the high school criminal justice program. I have spoken to students, parents and staff to obtain everyone's point of view.

If elected to the school board, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

My number one priority will be the student's safety. We are trusted by the parents to provide a safe, comfortable and accredited educational experience for our future citizens. I will continue ensure that we provide all services to the students first that best assist them in their educational goals.

What challenges do you see facing the Lansing School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

With the City of Lansing's growth the next decade we need to look forward to the growth of our district and what we can do to lessen the burden to the taxpayer while still maintaining property for our future needs. We all wish for lower taxes, and in doing so we must stay one step ahead of the growth as far as land acquisition and facility usage, so that when we do need to build it can be done at a reasonable amount of funding for the taxpayer.

What should be done with the Lansing Elementary School (including Sallie Zoll and Lansing Intermediate School) when the new elementary school opens on West Mary Street?

During the bond issue it was brought up that one of the problems with the old buildings is safety. I think the board should look at alternative usages for those buildings, such as putting the board of education there, or something that will not jeopardize students' and staff welfare.

John Gable

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

I believe the most pressing issue right now is the new elementary school. I want to make sure that the school is done on time and budget, and that there are no "surprises" during the construction.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I'm a life long resident of the city of Lansing. I went through the school district from K-12. I've been in the schools as a D.A.R.E, G.R.E.A.T Officer. I have also been in the high school and taught a basic Law Enforcement class. I'm active in the community and accessible.

If elected to the school board, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

My number one priority will be to make the USD 469 one of the top schools in the KC Metro area. Lansing is growing rapidly and our schools need to grow. Making them one of the best will not only make our schools great but also make our community great.

What challenges do you see facing the Lansing School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

Future challenges I see are bringing in new teachers. We will need to make Lansing a competitive district, make it appealing to new teachers to come and stay here. With the growth of the community and students, we need to look at possibly a new high school or, with the new elementary school, adding to the high school by using the vacant buildings or demolishing unused buildings. The board needs to start taking into consideration a comprehensive plan for future growth of the district, not waiting 20 years to add an auditorium to the high school when it was originally proposed.

What should be done with the Lansing Elementary School (including Sallie Zoll and Lansing Intermediate School) when the new elementary school opens on West Mary Street?

I think that Sallie Zoll should become the new district office building, or possibly the elementary school could become the district office and school board office building. The district could also meet with the city or the private sector to work on possible solutions.

Shelly Gowdy

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

Aligning long-term goals with the city's plans for growth and development.

Without this alignment, we will end up a fractured system always reacting to issues instead of being an integral part of the progressive development of our community.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

Four years experience on the board of education where there has been improvement and forward progress on test scores, faculty/staff morale, stabilizing the mill levy, and other important issues facing the district and the community. I was on the Middle School Site Council for two years prior to being elected to the school board in 2003. I am self-employed.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

I see four priorities: Faculty/staff morale, building the pieces to insure positive recruitment and retention of our best faculty and staff; completion of the building projects; Keeping the mill levy stable; planning long-term goals in concert with the city.

What challenges do you see facing the Lansing School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

We will continue to see growth and need to plan for accommodating our students with quality facilities, faculty, and the best programs.

What should be done with the Lansing Elementary School (including Sallie Zoll) and Lansing Intermediate School when the new elementary school opens on West Mary Street?

Move the District Office and provide a high-tech, community-accommodating board meeting room. Other possibilities include pre-school programs, special education programs, a distribution center, expansion of the high school and adult education opportunities. The buildings should remain the property of the school district.

Rich Hauver

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

We need to attract the best possible candidates for all of the employment opportunities throughout the school district. Some of the ways that we can attract quality employees:

¢ Create a positive work environment and an atmosphere that will foster the integration of new ideas and teaching techniques

¢ Offer incentives to current employees for referrals of quality candidates /new hires.

¢ Offer competitive compensation packages

¢ Continuing Education

¢ Reward High Achievement / Excellence

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

Ability to work well with others and think outside of the box; have repeatedly brought new concepts and equipment to the market often times at a higher cost than the customer is initially willing to pay; ability to respect other viewpoints while finding the "best overall solution"

If elected to the school board, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

To provide the best teachers with the best tools, providing the highest level of achievement, thus providing our next generation the foundation of excellence. Great schools bring more population, which brings more business development, which brings a wider, deeper tax base, which will ultimately result in having the best schools and the best community.

What challenges do you see facing the Lansing School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

The main areas I see facing the Lansing School District in the future would be:

Managing student population growth: Diversity - meeting the needs of all students, keeping Teacher moral at a high level

Facilities and technology: Develop new and rewarding programs to continue to stretch all aspects of the educational process; use technology to further enhance educational techniques and outcomes; utilize our resources to their fullest capacity; explore partnerships with local /regional business

What should be done with the Lansing Elementary School (including Sallie Zoll and Lansing Intermediate School) when the new elementary school opens on West Mary Street?

A possible utilization of the existing Lansing Elementary School and Lansing Intermediate School when they become available would be: Board office/administration function; executive conference area with the needed supporting technology; storage; additional classrooms to offer expanded high school courses, early childhood development, adult education; business leases / revenue opportunities

Rich O'Donnell

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

Getting the new school built so the kids can get into it as quickly as possible. There's not anything we can do to hurry up construction. We just have to dot the I's and cross the T's and hope there are no setbacks.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I work for the federal government and we have to stay within budget all the time. On the Lansing Parks and Recreation Board, we follow a budget. Volunteering, I know pretty much everyone in school, from the junior class down, and I have a child high school, middle school and elementary school.

If elected to the school board, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

I'd say the kids - extending the programs, getting more community involvement and support for the programs, so that the kids stay in school and continue on. Those of us who are older realize that going to school was best part of our lives, and it should be fun and enjoyable.

What challenges do you see facing the Lansing School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

As long as we've prepared with the facilities - the upkeep and maintenance and the busing - just the growth of our community is going to be the biggest challenge. And the number of children attending is going to be an issue. Are we going to need more facilities? Hopefully we won't become a closed school district and will be prepared. We'll need to try to stay within budger so it doesn't become a burden for people in the Lansing community whose children have come and gone. We have to do the right thing for the children - now and not later.

What should be done with the Lansing Elementary School (including Sallie Zoll) and Lansing Intermediate School when the new elementary school opens on West Mary Street?

There's a whole bunch that can be done. The city and school board should join hands on this. The school district office can be moved into a building. The city's talking about a new library; part of a building could be utilized for that, The small gymnasium could be utilized for city programs

Joe Walden

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

The most pressing issue is the growth in the area and the need to keep the quality of the schools up while expanding the faculty. Before recommending any actions, I need to talk with the current board members about plans in place and then evaluate ways to improve or implement the plans.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I have had the opportunity to see operations in school districts around the world some good and some not so good - and will use those observations to help the Lansing Schools. Plus I spent over 26 years teaching and training soldiers and seeing the products of good and bad school districts.

If elected to the school, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

Sit in on classes and talk with the administrations to get input on how the board can help them reach their goals.

What challenges do you see facing the Lansing School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

I think the biggest challenge is going to be the growth of the school district as more people move into the area and more people apply for out of district admissions. The key is to start planning now for future growth so we do not get behind the power curve and to start plans to attract more faculty and retain the quality faculty that we have now. If we start planning now, we can have facilities and additional faculty ready when needed.

What should be done with the Lansing Elementary School (including Sallie Zoll) and Lansing Intermediate School when the new elementary school opens on West Mary Street?

The Intermediate School has facilities that the entire district benefits from even after the new auditorium comes on line and will make a great School District Office facility. The Elementary School and Sallie Zoll should be leveled and used for high school parking and earmarked for future facility expansion areas.

Richard Whitlow

What is the most pressing issue facing the school district? How do you propose taking care of it?

The growth of our community. With growth comes the economic support (state money) to deliver the educational product we strive for, but also comes the burden of space, which our citizens will pay for. Forward thinking, creative planning, and educating the consumers as to needs and requirements will provide solutions.

What experiences have you had that qualify you for this position?

I have been on the BOE twice, for three total years. I've held leadership positions at a local hospital and can effectively lead and contribute to group decision-making, policy development and vision. I am a product of public education. I believe strongly that every child should be afforded the best opportunity to attain their potential.

If elected to the school board, what will be your No. 1 priority and why?

To keep ever vigilant that our administrators and superintendent operate our schools. My role, as all BOE members, is to establish policy, shepherd and prioritize money, and plan for the district's future. To that end, I will be an effective BOE group member in establishing policy, shepherding the economics, and planning for our future.

What challenges do you see facing the Lansing School District in the next decade, and how would you approach those challenges?

Facilities will be an issue with our growing population!

Retiring teachers and the need to replace them with the high quality we currently enjoy.

Maintaining administrative leadership at the highest level, which will promote and encourage teacher creativity, productivity, quality, professionalism, recruitment and retention.

Keeping our expectations high! Our children need and deserve more than excuses in this century of technology, science and mathematical skills. Discipline is eroding in families and severely affects schools and the learning environment. There are simply too many excuses! Recapturing discipline and respect, expecting success and giving children a strong foundation of morals, work-ethic and self-conscience, without excuses, will drive success in educating children far beyond any BOE plan or policy.

What should be done with the Lansing Elementary School (including Sallie Zoll and Lansing Intermediate School) when the new elementary school opens on West Mary Street?

I can imagine many options are available such as community or city service, daycare facilities, district offices, high school expansion, razing, selling the property to acquire different locations, etc, but the correct use is really not clear to me, nor decided yet.

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