School board position 2 candidate: Sandy Chapman
Name: Sandy Chapman
Date of birth: July 28, 1970
Family: Husband, Daryl, Senior Systems Adminstrator at Waddell & Reed; and our sons Clint, 17, Austin, 14, and Blayne, 11.
Current employment: I work part-time as a finance and accounting manager for Employers Reassurance Corporation, a subsidiary of General Electric. My job includes working on budgets, projections, day-to-day accounting, analysis of business results, as well as research on implications of new accounting guidance.
Past employment history: Over the past 19 years, I have held various positions within accounting and finance. I spent my first 7 years after college performing audits with the public accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche LLP. Upon starting a family, I looked to the private sector for more family friendly options which included holding positions as controller for Nations Holding Company; and financial analyst for Vianello & Leonard LLP. I went to General Electric in 2002 as their global external financial reporting manager and in 2005 transitioned into the part-time role I hold today.
Over the past 5 years of working part-time, I have also held a few dual roles such as Controller and Treasurer for Advantage Components and Advantage Framing Companies (companies are majority owned by immediate family members) as well as financial analyst for the Washburn University School of Law.
Bachelor of Science in accounting, 1992, Kansas University
High School – Garnett High School
Primary Education – Holy Angels Catholic School, Garnett, KS
Number of years lived in community: 17
Previous public offices held: None
Community involvement: Most of my local volunteerism has taken place within the school system through holding various offices within Parent-Teacher Associations and as a volunteer for school events, programs, and classroom activities. I have been very active in soccer associations and tournaments in which my sons have participated in the Lawrence and Olathe areas as well as served on boards in the Greater Kansas City area.
What made you decide to run for office?
My decision to run was based on the desire to serve the Baldwin community. Additionally, with the nature of the challenges facing the USD 348, it seemed that my background and experiences might serve the community well at this point.
What special qualifications would you bring to this office?
My background in business, finance and accounting in small businesses to large businesses from not-for-profits to higher education coupled with the experience of serving on boards in various capacities provide a board base of experiences which can be used to view issues from different perspectives. My varied experiences has also provided me with an appreciation for differing viewpoints; an understanding of how to frame up issues and analyze issues to form consensus in a group; and the ability to see the large picture as well as the myriad of details which support a decision. Besides my professional experience, I also have a parental perspective of the educational process. Having three very different boys traveling through USD 348, has given me a view to all levels of education – from the 4-year-old program to High School; from individual education plans to honor programs.
How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the issues that come before the board?
When approaching issues, the auditor in me tends to come out. All joking aside, I tend to be very inquisitive and seek to understand the facts and consider different views of the issue. While some of the process is pure fact finding, it is also collaborative with fellow board members, the community, and other subject matter experts whether they be within or external to the district.
What leadership qualities do you possess?
Some of the best leaders I have had the pleasure of working with have been open-minded, diverse, and presented excellent listening skills. They sought the best solution regardless of its origin or of personal gain. I like to think that over time, I have started to embody some of these characteristics mixed with a bit of passion and determination.
How do you plan stay in touch with constituents if you are elected?
USD 348 School Board meetings are open to the public; however, in light of the many demands on the community, the timing of the meetings is not always ideal for personal attendance. I would like to build a feeling of more collaboration and transparency with the patrons through coffee chats or other casual forums within the community; build opportunities to listen and learn. Technology also provides many ways for contacts through e-mails, websites, webchats, etc., but face-to-face discussion is critical.
Describe what you see as the main role of a school board member.
As part of a board responsible for the oversight of student achievement, each member needs to uphold his or her duties as a board member – which is primarily to be the check and balance on the overall management of the district; to be a liaison to the patrons of the district and integrate the community; and champion academic achievement in each decision.
What is the best attribute of our school district and why?
It is difficult to narrow down to just one, but at the heart of every school is its community. USD 348 is blessed to have a diverse community with business insights, creativity, common sense and passion which provides great teachers, students and volunteers. It provides a rich history and solid foundation for the future. We need to stay connected to it, embrace it and cultivate relationships. If the school thrives, the community normally thrives as well.
What are the three most important issues facing the school district and how would you confront them?
Funding. While we can’t impact the economy and overall funding level, we can impact and manage our corner of the world. We need to embrace change and invite creative solutions in the delivery of educational services, look for efficiencies, and make sound funding decisions based on educational needs. Our decisions need to be sound both in the short-term and in the long-term and be transparent in terms of any trade-offs made between the two time periods. This is done by the way decisions are analyzed; by having leaders open to accepting and soliciting input from others; and staying diligent in good economic times as well as bad.
Priorities. We need to assess our educational needs, make priorities and align our funding decisions with the priorities. The priorities should support the vision of USD 348 and balance educational needs at all levels. It is essential that we sort between needs and wants, and ensure funding is flowing to what we need to do for academic achievement.
Community. Our community has experienced turmoil in the past year, faced hard decisions in the closing of two elementary schools and engaged in various disagreements within the city. We need to work repairing and rebuilding trust with the community by providing transparency into decisions, building a factual understanding of the challenges facing the school district, and by listening. This can be done in many ways – one-on-one with patrons, or through the formation of “think tank” groups to formulate ideas around certain issues of the school district.
While there are certainly challenges ahead, this is also a time of opportunity - an opportunity to move our district in a new direction and define a prosperous relationship between the community and its schools. While the world may look and feel complex, it sometimes just needs to be looked at simply.
Do you think public schools are adequately funded? Why or why not?
To simply state public schools are adequately funded or not, invites consideration of the educational standards of the state of Kansas as well as the methods to determine appropriate funding levels for educational services. It is clear what we are doing isn’t sustainable based on today’s economy. It is also clear that federal and state standards and mandates for education, while perhaps good in sound bits, are also not sustainable. Nor are such standards and mandates pushing education to the levels necessary. Changes must be made locally, regionally and nationally.
However, whether one concludes if education is adequately funded or not, the reality is the state of Kansas only has a finite pool of money to fund state programs. So, in the short term for any school district to receive a bigger portion of the budget requires a) raising state taxes, or b) cutting funding from other state programs and allocating to education, or c) enacting changes to the education funding formula which may or may not increase an individual school district’s share of the funding. All three of these changes have huge positives and negatives. So, until changes occur, we need to not get caught up in systemic issues, but stay focused on providing the best education with the funds received. We need to be proactive and find solutions within our community; be accountable for the decisions being made; be transparent in the spending of the taxpayer funds; and not undermine the priority of education.
What areas of the budget would you target for spending cuts if necessary?
I would not specifically target any one area. All areas are open for review for efficiency and effectiveness. We have to stay focused on what needs to be done to promote academic achievement and then deliver such in the most effectively and efficient manor. We start this by first, assessing where we are academically not only by the federal and state academic mandates, but also by considering how our graduates are doing post-graduation. Do we have students leaving our district and why? Do we have good student-citizens?
Second, we prioritize what needs to be done at each level of education by separating the needs from the wants. The “wants” or desires go on a list to be prioritized and addressed as funding allows. Finally, we determine the best course of action to implement the needs. We need to be creative and find action that best fits USD 348 which may or may not be, the action other communities around us are taking.
Are the district's teachers being compensated fairly? Why or why not?
Teachers, like firemen, policemen and other civil servants, can probably never be fairly compensated based on the importance of the task they are asked to complete. With that said, we have to act judiciously with our available funding.
Under what circumstances would you favor increasing property taxes?
Overall, I am not in favor of increasing property taxes, but I have learned to “never say never”. An increase in property tax might deserve consideration in response to very drastic changes in the school finance and funding formula at the state level; in response to issues of student safety; and of course, if the patrons of USD 348 voice support of an increase for another cause.