School board forum answers: Ed Kite
Position #2 candidate
Knowing the current budget position and potential future reductions, would you support or oppose reopening the Vinland and/or Marion Springs schools at this time, and why?
I do not support reopening the Vinland and/or Marion Springs schools. I understand what an integral part of the community those schools have been. It is simply not economically feasible or efficient for our school district to support four facilities for K through 5th grade. I know all four buildings provide an excellent education, each having their own unique benefits, but it is not a prudent or efficient way to spend the taxpayer’s money. The same quality of education can be provided to all children with the consolidation of the schools.
Concerns have been expressed that consolidation will result in overcrowding our classrooms. We are looking at class sizes of 18 for the younger grades and up to 24-25 for the upper grades, which is a very acceptable level in today’s educational and economic environment. With consolidation, the IC and PC buildings will only be at a combined 80% capacity. With a 2% growth rate, which is more than double the annual growth rate of our K-5 in the last 20 years, we would not exceed the capacity of those buildings until 2023. This information is based on an independent demographer’s report and facilities review by the Board of Education and Administration. The data simply does not support a scenario of overcrowding of our classrooms.
If elected, what will be your top three objectives, and why?
1) We need to define and implement a more detailed long-term plan with specific focus on our financial strategy. This would guide many of the day-to-day financial decisions to ensure they align with our long-term goals. Our financial decisions then become more pro-active than reactive. This strategy should include specific programs and priorities, and what do we anticipate these programs to look like in the future – 3 years from now, 5 years from now, etc.
2) I think it is important that in the near future we staff our district with a Curriculum Director. This position establishes the standards and tone for what and how we teach in the classroom for the entire district. I understand this is an additional administrative staff, but one that is critical to the overall education of our children. Staffing from other areas may need to be re-allocated in order to provide resources to fill this position.
3) We need to provide better methods of communicating to the patrons about issues, policies and decisions the board makes. Currently, there is a lot of information available to the patrons, but awareness and understanding of that information needs to be communicated better.
In a time with so many negatives within our school district, (job losses, budget cuts, closing of schools, etc.), how can you promote a more positive climate as a board member?
This district has many things to be proud of from every school. We need to communicate those successes, and celebrate them as a community. When issues arise, we need to engage a fair representation of those impacted, the general public, and appropriate experts in that area to find and implement proper solutions. When everyone is involved and part of the decision, the solutions are much more palatable to all.
There is a large amount of information made available to the public at both the Board of Education meetings and on the website, but making information available is different than delivering the information to the public. That information needs to be better communicated through district newsletters, principal updates, building updates, local newspaper, and business organizations throughout USD 348.
Sports and extracurricular activities are viewed by many as part of a well rounded educational experience. With the strain on the districts budget, at what point would you consider cutting the funding on these activities?
Sports and extracurricular activities are an extremely important part of a child’s overall education. These activities not only provide opportunities (social, educational, physical, musical) for the students, but athletic events, arts, and theatre provide activities the entire community can enjoy and be part of. They can also be a primary reason for families to move to, or continue to stay in the Baldwin community. Many times these activities can lead to scholarships for higher education that some students may not be able to otherwise afford.
When the extracurricular activity funding prevents us from providing and meeting our core educational goals, and prevents us from providing proper facilities and instructional staff, then it is time to consider cutting funding for these activities.
In your opinion, what is the goal of public education (K-12)?
The goal of public education is to provide our children a proficiency in the basic educational skills. Our goals for public education in USD 348 need to be much higher. At a minimum, we need to ensure our children are prepared for and capable of excelling in their career paths, whether it be job preparedness, additional vocational training, or higher education. Our children are competing on a local, state, national and, as the speaker at the recent Education Foundation luncheon stated, “a world basis”. We need to make sure they are prepared for such competition.
Do you believe that the current board and administration is performing their duties at an acceptable level, why or why not?
Until you “walk” in someone else’s shoes and know the intricacies of what they have to deal with, and under what parameters they have to make those decisions, it is difficult to fairly evaluate their performance. At times, I have disagreed with decisions they have made, and have struggled with how long it takes for some decisions to be made. Disagreeing with their decisions does not mean they are not performing at an acceptable level. I would also prefer to sacrifice expediency for thoroughness in decision-making. Based on what the Administration and Board of Education has dealt with over the last few years, from discovered budget deficits to budget cuts to the recession to significant staffing changes, I think they have performed well. I believe that any performance can be improved upon, and I hope to be part of that improvement.
What other issues, besides the budgetary concerns, do you feel need to be addressed? Please explain.
1) We need to address how are we going to maintain our facilities. I know maintenance is significantly impacted by budget constraints, but our facilities aren’t being maintained to an acceptable standard. We need a strategy in place to insure our children and teachers have a proper educational environment. Properly maintained facilities can be a significant draw to our community, and demonstrate we are a premiere school district.
2) I would like to see a more detailed long- term plan with associated goals put in place. I know a long-term strategy exists, but we need to go further and make it more specific. For example we need to address now, in 3 years, in 5 years, in 10 years “What do we want our technology curriculum to look like? What do we want our math program to look like? What will our facilities needs be?” These would guide future financial decisions to best meet our educational needs.
3) I believe we need to develop a more coordinated and cohesive working arrangement with the city, the Baldwin Recreation Commission and Baker University. Many of our needs and goals are the same, and instead of duplicating efforts and taxing each entity’s resources, if we pool our resources together we can accomplish more with less.
Describe your personal and professional experiences that you feel make you the most qualified candidate for the USD #348 School Board?
We have an 11-year-old son who has attended both the Primary and Intermediate Centers. I have been very involved in his education: volunteering in the classroom, the WatchDog program, and many school activities. I, too, was raised in a smaller community in Kansas, with my family placing a priority on education - my mother and two brothers are educators. I’m familiar with the educational challenges and benefits that come with living in a smaller community.
I have been engaged in the community on multiple levels for some time. I have been a coach or assistant coach for many youth sports: baseball, soccer, football, and basketball. I have been a regular attendee of Board of Education meetings since our son has been in school, to better understand the challenges and educational needs of our district. I have served on two different USD 348 committees. This service has provided a familiarity with the roles and responsibilities of Board of Education members.
My wife and I own and operate a small business in Baldwin. We are active members of the Chamber of Commerce, participate in and donate to community events, sponsor food drives, and feel we contribute in a positive way to the day to day activity of our community.
On a professional level, I have experience in working in a large corporate environment for over 20 years. My corporate experience has provided skills in leadership, teamwork, cooperation, business analysis, budgeting, and maximizing resources to accomplish more with less.
Owning and operating a small business has added to my skills of maintaining an operating budget, cost control, public communication, and making difficult and fact-based decisions after viewing them from multiple perspectives.
Assume that you have been elected to the school board and the district is faced with needing to make an additional cut to its budget. The school board is given the following 6 categories to make those cuts, list the categories in the order in which you would look to make those cuts (1 – the 1st category you would cut, 6 – the last category you would cut):
_4 Sports/Extra-curricular Activities
2 Support Staff
Budget cuts have already been made to many if not all of these areas, so additional cuts to a specific category may be disproportionate to what has already been done. Each future cut has to be evaluated individually to determine what has the least impact to our children’s overall long-term educational experience, while still maintaining the core responsibility of providing a safe, efficient, and quality environment to learn in.
What are your thoughts on the district adopting a “shop local” policy, in which the district would look locally for goods and services whenever possible? If adopted, what percent advantage would you give an in district merchant over an out of district merchant? %
Local businesses are faced with unique economic and community factors when operating their business in Baldwin City. My wife and I own and operate a small business here. I feel it is important and our responsibility to be competitive by offering products and services that differentiate us from other non-local businesses.
Local businesses are often called upon to support and donate to community, social, and educational needs. Keeping local sales taxes and revenues in our own community will certainly benefit the entire community – from businesses to the city to Baker University to USD 348. Based on the benefit the entire community would receive, I would support a “shop local” policy. I think indicating a ‘percentage advantage’ without understanding what service or product is involved or the dollar value is extremely challenging. A percentage of 3-5% may be an initial baseline to start with. At a minimum, we should adopt a policy to look locally for goods and services whenever possible, and not simply accept the lowest cost provider.