School board position at-large candidate: Tony Wedel
Name: Tony Wedel
Date of birth: December 20, 1977
Family: Wife (Jenni), Daughter (Emma), and one child due April 6th
Current employment: Field Research Assistant at the Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas
Past employment history: Cronemeyer Construction Company, United States Geological Survey (USGS), CDS Engineering Company
Education: 1996 Tonganoxie High, 2000 B.S in Geology Kansas State University
Number of years lived in community: 4
Previous public offices held: None
Community involvement: Member of Baldwin Golf Association (if that counts)
What made you decide to run for office? I didn’t like the direction the district was headed, especially as it related to elementary education. A students’ most critical and informative time of learning was being sacrificed, and that bothered me greatly.
What special qualifications would you bring to this office? I have been around education all my life. My mother taught for 30+ years, and my wife is a teacher. I am currently working at the University of Kansas. I have a unique understanding on what it takes to make a successful student.
How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the issues that come before the board? It is imperative that I take the time to research the issues as well as talk to the people that the issues affect. I will call on the school administration to provide as much information as they have and then search around other districts both in and out of state to look for creative ideas we might be able to expand on or adapt to our situations.
What leadership qualities do you possess? Thinking outside the box and the ability to apply common sense and reasoning to decisions that need to be made. I like to build consensus through exchange of information and open discussions.
How do you plan stay in touch with constituents if you are elected? I believe that it is important to visit the all schools and with the administration regularly to gather information from the people that my decisions would affect the most, the students, parents, and teachers. I would always have an open phone line, an open door, and e-mail address to the general public for questions or concerns.
Describe what you see as the main role of a school board member. A school board member’s main role is to make sure that every child in the school district receives the best education possible. In addition, a board member should make sure that teachers have the right tools available to them to properly educate the children.
What is the best attribute of our school district and why? USD 348 has always had some of the best teachers, and that must remain that way for the foreseeable future. The teachers are the foundation that everything the district is built upon.
What are the three most important issues facing the school district and how would you confront them? The easy answer here is the budget. I cannot address this issue without open access to the entire budget. Instead I will offer three other issues.
First is one of space/class sizes at the elementary level. Projections show that the elementary schools will be at or over capacity in three to five years. A plan must be developed to deal with this inevitable problem that does NOT include another bond issue or temporary classrooms (i.e. trailers). The public is already paying on too many bonds and bonds for buildings that will not be used.
The second issue would be a lack of planning. It appeared that decisions were being made without much thought to the consequences of those decisions. Who and what gets affected by the board’s decisions must be thought out thoroughly. To make a decision without fully understanding the ramifications of that decision is unconscionable. Time must be taken to discuss every issue that is voted upon. All options must be considered when making decisions, not only a select few.
Finally, I would suggest that the relationship between the school district and the city needs to be addressed. This strained relationship causes hardship for both entities. Baldwin City needs a good school system to attract residents to grow and prosper. The school district needs the City’s support to accomplish not only core objectives but to provide the environment critical for learning. This strained relationship has cost both financially and in the quality of service they provide the taxpayers.
Do you think public schools are adequately funded? Why or why not? In a general sense no. It would be fantastic for public schools to be able to do everything that they want. However, that is not the reality that we live in. Public schools must make do with what they have and stop spending beyond their means. In addition, there does not appear to be a link between funding and student performance. Funding for public schools has been consistently increasing for at least 40 years, yet student performance has remained stable at best.
What areas of the budget would you target for spending cuts if necessary? The first area would be administration. By making just two cuts (only one position eliminated) to administration, the district could save $99,000 or more guaranteed. After that, every option for saving money should be considered and fully discussed. Non-conventional ideas should be considered, as well as traditional cost saving measures. This district should be an example to others on how to succeed with less.
Are the district's teachers being compensated fairly? Why or why not? There are two ways to answer this question. Much like asking are public schools being adequately funded, in the general sense no. I would love to pay teachers what they are actually worth, because I know how underpaid and underappreciated they truly are. If by asking this question one means are teachers being compensated fairly in comparison to area teachers, then yes they are. However, should this district strive to have the best educators in the state and compensate them as such? The answer is a resounding yes.
Under what circumstances would you favor increasing property taxes? Property taxes should not be increased in the current financial environment under any circumstances. This district is already highly taxed. We have three buildings that will basically sit empty in the next school year, and we are still paying on one of them. I cannot in good conscience ask that the public pay more, when poor management has led the district into its current financial state. The district must find a way to make due with what funds they have.