School board forum turnout isn’t much
While attendance was light at Tuesday night's forum for Baldwin School Board candidates, each of the seven candidates on hand still gave the pitch for why they should be voted in to one of the four positions on the April 5 ballot.
The forum featured candidates squared off for three positions -- No. 2, where incumbent Lonnie Broers faces David Norris; No. 4, where incumbent Chip Hornberger is challenged by Ruth Barkley; and No. 6, where incumbent Ande Parks is up against Jay Hundley. In the No. 5 position, Bill Busby runs unopposed, but still offered his thoughts on why he ran for the position vacated by incumbent Ed Schulte, who chose not to seek re-election.
The forum was conducted by the Baker University political science department and the moderator was Baker student Jason Krebs. There were about 30 people in attendance in the audiovisual room at Baker's Owens Musical Arts building.
Each of the candidates gave an opening statement before Krebs started asking questions. Of course, the biggest item out of those questions concerned the ongoing budget cuts the district has had to make over the past four years because of no increases in state aid.
"I think this is the most important challenge the board has had to face and will continue to face because of the legislative failure to fund education," said Busby. "The easy decisions have already been made on where to cut. One thing I would prefer not to do is not cut arts, music and other areas because they are not considered core subjects.
"I would wonder if we could cut from the administrative area," said Busby. "I find it's a really tough issue and will study it carefully."
Incumbent Hornberger offered a possible answer for tight budgets.
"The state has given us no choice on what we can cut," said Hornberger. "Believe me, we're at the bare-bones. I hate to say it, but I think taxes will have to be raised. I really don't see any other option. There are some cuts that can be made, but they would have a drastic effect on education."
Hundley, a shop teacher in the Lawrence school district, also broached another budget-cut topic.
"I guess you would have to keep the classroom intact first," said Hundley. "I think we have to look at everything outside of the classroom. As far as closing schools, if we don't get more funding, that's going to have to be looked at. If we don't get more money, those decisions are going to have to be made."
Norris said it was a matter of doing best with what's there.
"With the current budget situation, it's the board's duty to find out how to best use the money," said Norris. "The biggest thing is getting the dollars in the right spot. There are a lot of places to cut. I believe with the money we have, there is enough to provide a quality education."
Parks, who has been in on the budget matters, pointed out the work done last year by a budget committee that still needs to be considered.
"We've had four years of now new revenue in an area where costs always go up," said Parks. "Everything is on the table. We've looked at administration and buildings. I think as a board we have to look at everything. I don't think we've communicated well enough on what we're trying to do. In the end, it's what puts the best education in the classroom."
Barkley suggested that new areas for cuts should be looked at.
"I don't think the communication is there, either," Barkley said in agreeing with Parks. "We do have to think outside the box, look at things that haven't been looked at before. I know the present board members have looked at everything hard. I would look at the classroom first and work back from there."
Broers, who has served on the board for eight years, holds out hope that there will be additional funding.
"I'm somewhat optimistic that the Supreme Court has put a stay on the order that would have closed the schools," said Broers. "State funding for schools was determined to be unconstitutional and gave it back to the legislature to correct. I feel very optimistic that the proposal they have brought forward is not going to fly. The additional $115 onto the base is very marginal based on a study they asked for years ago. It's up to them and the courts."
Other questions asked included banning books and supporting local businesses. Most candidates had similar feelings on both items, being against book banning and for supporting local businesses. The final question asked concerned the single most important reason why the candidates were running for office. They were also allowed to make closing comments.
"Since I've been a teacher for 19 years, I'd like to see what it's like on the other side," said Hundley. "I've been on the other end of school board decisions and I would like to see how the decisions are made."
Norris cited his family and serving the community.
"I've had kids in the school district for years and will have for several more years," said Norris. "I'd like to see the quality of education continue to get better."
For Parks, it's a job he's qualified for and wants to do.
"I love this community," said Parks. "My family enjoys it here. I feel like I'm qualified and it's where my passion is. My dad was a superintendent of schools, so I've been around it. I am passionate about our children. We need to always keep our eye on the ball."
A new point of view is what Barkley feels is her strength.
"I think I can bring a valuable perspective and I have experience to give," said Barkley. "I have the time now. My baby is 14. I have experienced a quality educational experience here and I want to be a part of that. Our children deserve it."
Board veteran Broers wants to continue what he's started.
"The main reason is the simple fact that there are still improvements to be made," said Broers. "I feel like we've accomplished a lot, especially with facilities. We developed a committee to study facilities, we developed a plan and brought a bond issue to the voters and it passed. There are other things going on. I am optimistic that there will be additional funding and I want to be on the board when that happens. First and foremost are the teachers, who I think have suffered. I'd also like to reinstate art."
Busby cited community service and the importance of education.
"I come from a family that has always held education highly," said Busby. "We've experienced good education for our kids in the Baldwin district. I'm doing this primarily as giving something back in community service. I dread coming in during the budget cuts. I hope to be able to recover when the budget is improved. I would like to look at increasing teachers' salaries, as well."
Community service was Norris' main reason, too.
"In a nutshell, I'd like an opportunity to serve the community," said Norris. "Lonnie's done a very admirable job in the last eight years and I would strive to make that continue."
Parks wants to the Baldwin district to among the best in the state.
"It's a challenge," Parks said of serving on the board. "The pay is lousy, but I enjoy it. I think we can have the best district in the county and state and I think we can do that. As long as I'm on the board, I will strive to make that happen."
Hornberger said he enjoys hearing from patrons.
"I really enjoy the phone calls," said Hornberger. "I enjoy hearing what's going on. I live out west of town and I may not know what's going on. I represent four generations of Baldwin education. I've seen education improve. I've seen what's happened from my parents to my son."