School board position 1 candidate: Nick Harris
Name: Nick Harris
Date of birth: Feb. 7, 1957
Family: Wife: Martha Harris, professor at Baker University; children, Kristin Harris Peterson, nurse in Blue Valley School District, Brian Harris, senior at Baker University; and two grandchildren
Current employment: Teacher/coach/mentor coordinator – Shawnee Heights High School
Past employment history: This is my 29th year as an educator. I have taught every grade level including undergraduate and graduate level students. I was a teacher in the Baldwin School District and was the first coach for the Baldwin Middle School football program. I am also an honorably discharged United States Marine.
Education: Baker University 1979 – BS in education, 1979; University of Kansas University, MS in education, 1988; and MS in management from Baker University, 1999.
Number of years lived in community: Almost 15 years
Previous public offices held: Currently on the Board of Zoning Appeals
Community involvement: Member Baldwin First United Methodist Church and Palmyra Lodge No. 23; also involved with a group that is trying to coordinate services for people in need in the Baldwin Community.
What made you decide to run for office? I was approached by a current board member and after a discussion realized that I have valuable experience as a teacher and parent in the education of our youth. I have spent my whole adult life in the teaching and training of others.
I would like to provide my experiences and background as resources to the board as it continues to address difficult questions and decisions facing us at this time.
What special qualifications would you bring to this office? Besides my educational background and teaching career, I have been involved with several groups that have developed curriculum, discussed financial options, and the mentoring of at-risk students.
How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the issues that come before the board? I want to look at each issue from both the inside and outside. I want the issues to be transparent to the public. Anyone with a determined voice and plan for any issue should be listened to. I would spend time and effort reading and considering reports coming before the board as well as staying in touch with neighbors and patrons to remain aware of concerns.
What leadership qualities do you possess? I think the most important quality a leader can have is the ability to listen. They need to hear the concerns and be able to come up with options for addressing them. I think I do that consistently and fairly. I am very organized and do not mind playing devil’s advocate to make sure that all aspects of a decision are considered before implementation.
How do you plan stay in touch with constituents if you are elected? With the technology we have today, there are many ways to stay in touch. Face-to-face communication is still vitally important. I truly believe it is the only way in which you can determine how sincere someone is speaking from the heart. I will make myself available to those that have concerns.
Describe what you see as the main role of a school board member. The main role is to bring the school environment into the public environment. We all help to mold the young people within our community. I see education as a triangle – students, teachers, and the environment (consisting of parents, grandparents, friends, etc). In order for students to be successful and the community to thrive all three parts of the triangle have to work together. A school board member has the role of helping to manage the functions of the school district. This includes a variety of tasks. Some of which include ensuring the education of our youth at the highest possible level; budgeting and being a steward of the district’s financial resources; and maintaining and operating our facilities efficiently.
What is the best attribute of our school district and why? The school district has developed great pride for the citizens of Baldwin. As a parent of two children who graduated from USD 348, I was constantly amazed at how high the community interest was in our public education system. There is a tremendous amount of parent involvement and plethora of activities for our youth to become involved in, all of which are very well supported by our patrons. Another unique attribute is how our schools have partnered with Baker University to develop some outstanding partnerships.
What are the three most important issues facing the school district and how would you confront them?
Healing the wounds that have occurred because of the closing of two schools. Everyone needs to be assured that the decision a board makes is the best for all involved.
The economy. The governor has already made cuts to the money the state is going to give each district per pupil. The federal government is also going to stop putting money in the till. I believe that as a member of the board, the cost of educating a student in our district needs to be transparent to the public. I would try and make this happen.
Are we preparing ourselves in the core curricular areas for core standards? Currently, each state has its own standards that a child must meet in order to be considered educated. In the near future there is going to be set of core national standards that will be the same for all states. I want to make sure that we are starting to address this issue proactively.
Do you think public schools are adequately funded? Why or why not? With what the state and federal government say a school must offer for its students, I do not believe our schools are funded adequately. The days of a school just teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic are gone. Our society demands that a student graduating has more than that, and the demands keep coming.
What areas of the budget would you target for spending cuts if necessary? As a teacher, I know that many times resources are purchased and never used. I think that we can look at how much we spend on new textbooks. With most publishers now allowing students to access their text online, could we get by with a classroom set Personnel costs are one of the biggest budget items for any school district, so we need to make sure that our personnel dollars are being used as efficiently as possible.
Are the district's teachers being compensated fairly? Why or why not? I personally do not feel teachers are compensated fairly for the job that they hold. They wear many hats during a school day besides the role of teacher. Many of them spend a lot of their non-school time preparing for the next day, and most do it without ever thinking about it. Most teachers spend some of their own money for activities and resources in their classroom without being reimbursed.
Under what circumstances would you favor increasing property taxes? When the district cannot educate the students of our district as required, when the district has a hard time keeping and attracting good educators, when our facilities cannot be kept up and running efficiently, then it is time for an increase. The type and quality of education our students receive is in the hands of the taxpaying public. When the state and federal governments are cutting back it is left up to the cities and school districts to close the gap.