Archive for Friday, March 25, 2011

School board forum answers: Nick Harris

March 25, 2011

Position #1 Candidate

Nick Harris

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?

It is a moot point. The decision has been made to close these two schools by the current BOE. Everyone has an opinion as to whether or not this was a correct decision. I did not have the opportunity to look at all of the data concerning this issue. By the time the new board sits, staffing decisions, by continuing contract law, will have been made.

If elected, what will be your top three objectives, and why?

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.

Dealing with 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. For example, a $1.00 cut in state aid in the Wichita Public School System actually costs them a $1.51. In the Shawnee Heights School District a dollar cut is equal to $1.41. I would like to be able to tell the people of Baldwin what a dollar cut is equal to and what effect that is going to have.

Preparing ourselves in the core curricular areas for core standards. Currently, each state has their 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.

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?

I find it hard not to feel positive about dealing with children and their education. Watching young people learn and grow is an exciting arena in which to work. I think that my experiences as a teacher will allow me to help others see how many positive things are taking place within our school district.

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?

I am against cutting any program that helps students during their educational career. Many districts have found ways to keep these programs alive and flourishing. The question that needs to be asked is “What are the patrons of USD 348 willing to pay to keep these programs alive?” Currently state aid can be used by a district as is seen fit. If the state, under the new governor, decides that funding should be based on a suitable education, many districts including ours will have to look at alternative ways for funding (raising participation fees, raising taxes, etc). I feel that cutting these programs should be a last resort.

In your opinion, what is the goal of public education (K-12)?

To give every student a chance to be a valuable and contributing part of society. It is to ensure that we give them the opportunities and tools to be successful as citizens. Realizing that success will not be the same for everyone.

Do you believe that the current board and administration is performing their duties at an acceptable level, why or why not?

I believe that with the information I have seen and read, the majority of the decisions have been made in the best interest of all concerned. No one is going to agree with everything. I do however think that everyone has had an opportunity to voice their opinion.

What other issues, besides the budgetary concerns, do you feel need to be addressed? Please explain.

Hiring, retaining, and developing excellent teachers.

Keeping the patrons informed of all the positives of our district.

Ensuring we have a curriculum that excites our students and leads them to have a productive future.

Describe your personal and professional experiences that you feel make you the most qualified candidate for the USD #348 School Board?

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 State Marine. I have spent my whole adult life in the teaching and training of others. I think this experience could be used as a tool as we shape and mold our future leaders. I have been involved in every aspect of a school district except building administration. The committees I have served on have helped establish curriculum, district insight, and public awareness of what is happening in education.

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):

6 Teachers

6 Sports/Extra-curricular Activities

6 Support Staff

6 Curriculum

6 Administration

6 Maintenance/Repairs

I understand that my response does not answer the question. But I do not see how you can put one above the other.

We need good teachers and good teacher/student ratios.

We all understand the value of extra-curricular activities and can find ways to fund them if we truly want them.

What else is there to cut with support staff? We do not have enough custodial staff per building and have cut our librarians.

Under curriculum, are we talking about resources for the curriculum we have or eliminating non-essential classes?

With the decisions made by the current board, how can we leave a building without a principal? At the district level, we only have one.

We have to maintain the facilities we have. It is necessary for the students to feel safe and necessary that when we walk into a building we have a sense of pride.

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?

Such a policy would definitely promote a positive relationship between businesses and the schools. I would support it whole-heartedly as long as the goods and services meet the standards of what the district needs, and as long as our budgetary constraint allow. The district needs to look at every purchase for the best value. This does not always mean the cheapest, and quality of both product and support service must be considered. I find it difficult, however, to reconcile the questions of what must be cut in order to work within our budget with this question of how much extra we would be willing to work with in-district merchants. No matter how much I value doing business with local merchants, I can’t say that I would support spending a specific percentage more of the district’s funds in order to do so.

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