Archive for Wednesday, March 21, 2001

There’s a school board race, too

March 21, 2001

With so much attention on the race for Baldwin City's mayor and city council, it's easy to overlook the other names on the ballot those people running for school board positions.

Lonnie Broers is running unopposed for the open Baldwin City seat on the board. Ed Schulte also is running unopposed for the open Vinland seat.

Voters will find their names on the April ballot along with two names running for the open board seat for Marion Springs Blaine Cone and Chip Hornberger Jr. Cone and Hornberger ran against Jay Pratt in the primary where only Marion Springs voters chose between the three. But, in the general election, voters in the entire school district will be voting on all three positions for the school board.

Hornberger, a 47-year-old dairy farmer, says he's always been interested in running for the school board as a result of witnessing his own son's (Clint, a senior at Baldwin High School) experience in the school district, but hasn't felt he's had the time and energy to devote to it. He's also been influenced to run by friends and neighbors, in and out of the school district, for more than five years.

Cone, a 42-year-old accounting manager who has two children (Brandon and Amanda) attending Baldwin Junior High School, has been interested in school issues since her high school days in Washington state.

"Washington funded schools through levies," Cone said, "which had not passed for five years. I attended a school in the 1970s that had been built in the 1930s. There was no money for construction, school had been cut to five periods a day, there were 28 to 30 students per class, and overflow classes were in portable classrooms. I was high involved as a student speaking out to parents about these issues and what to do about them."

Thus the qualities that Cone will bring to the school board have been many years in the making. Traveling around the country with her military husband and family, she always found time to attend school meetings. But she didn't have the time to engage in school board membership. Since moving to the Baldwin school district, however, that has changed.

"Moving around has exposed me to many more issues than most people," Cone said. "I believe this, along with my background and experience in accounting in various fields, makes me an attractive candidate. Plus I grew up with parents who not only had careers in education but also were involved in the accrediting process."

Hornberger says he is also aware of the taxing issues in the district.

"I'm fairly open minded," Hornberger said about the qualities he would bring to the school board if elected, "very community conscious, tax money conscious. I run a farm and pay fairly high taxes, so I know where people are coming from on many issues important to the district."

His strategy for winning the election is based on getting out and meeting as many people as possible to gain their support.

"I think I can implement a common sense atmosphere to tax spending issues," he said. "Bigger is not always better."

Cone's strategy for winning, she said, "probably started when I moved here and got involved and people learned who I was."

She has served as president of the Marion Springs Community Service Organization.

"That has helped me more than advertising," she said. "The support I've received from the people has been great. It's nice to know that others agree with me and that they know I can make decisions for them."

Hornberger promises to offer a simpler outlook on the ways things could be done, a more back-to-earth atmosphere. He began his direct involvement in the school district by serving on the facilities and curriculum committees. Those experiences have helped him to realize he doesn't know as much as he thought about how the system runs.

Cone has been attending school board meetings for many years and believes she has a good handle on district issues.

"I attended the special work session of the school board recently," she said, "and was glad to see they've finally got a plan, a starting place for determining the future of the district."

Hornberger also thinks awareness is important.

"I've learned to appreciate that the community needs to be involved in the schools," Hornberger said. "Taxpayers need to be aware where their tax dollars are going."

He believes the best way to achieve that knowledge is to become involved in all issues within the school district. For example, he explained, "I think the facilities discussion needs a lot more community involvement before decisions are made. There are lots more ideas out there to look at."

Cone agrees.

"I thought I knew what the solution was to solve current overcrowding in the district," she said. "But the more I talk with school administrators the more I realize the underlying issues for each position. For example, having a K-2 facility makes it easier to teach and administer, while splitting the elementary into two schools opens up rivalry between schools rather than creating community."

Lack of books for classes has been a subject Hornberger's been disturbed about.

"It's pathetic not to have enough books," he said. "How do you expect students to learn? There's not enough time in the class period to learn every thing. Students need some sort of study guide to take home."

Hornberger also has seen some students lost in the shuffle at school.

"They haven't made an effort in school, and no one's made them," he said. He doesn't know if that's simply a school issue or a family and community issue, but it's a concern of his.

He would like to see more classroom preparation to meet the Board of Regents' requirements, more classes available for college credit, and more vocational-type classes.

"Students need to be prepared for life no matter which direction they take after high school," he said.

Hornberger and Cone both agreed that attending school functions and taking an active part in the school district community will continue regardless of the election's outcome. That's always been a part of their lives, and it will continue, they said.

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