School board forum answers: Sandy Chapman
Position #2 Candidates
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?
In both my upbringing as well as in my business experiences, I was taught you can research, analyze, present and debate all you want before the decision, but once a decision is made and an issue is resolved, you are expected to support and implement the decision. Likewise, at this time, the decision has been made to consolidate our elementary schools. It is the duty of the board and newly elected members to implement this decision and move forward into the 2011-2012 academic year. At some point in the future, these results need to be reviewed so the board and the administration can understand the academic and financial impact of the decision and provide transparency to the patrons. A review of the impact of the decision also offers an opportunity to learn what worked well or what didn’t and adjust future decision making for any lessons learned.
Some patrons want to make this a one issue election. They would like to infer upon candidates positions and views based on where they live, work, etc. I can’t stop a person from doing so, but I am not about one issue. I am about moving forward and striving for academic achievement and educational opportunities for all our students. Won’t you join me in moving forward?
If elected, what will be your top three objectives, and why?
When newly elected board members are seated, they join a board with an established operating rhythm, timelines and priorities. It will be essential to be become firmly grounded in the 2011-12 budget and understand the assumptions underlying it as well as any contingencies or opportunities in the funding landscape from the State. From this base, I would like to work with administration and fellow board members in the immediate short-term on:
Understanding the academic priorities or goals for the year. If these are not in place to guide us, then we need to establish them so that we are moving forward and there is transparency to the patrons of what is trying to be achieved.
Undertaking a thorough review of operations. I believe the administration has already started this process in its review of transportation. It needs to be extended to other areas of the budget like technology, food service, extracurricular activities, etc. The purpose of such a review is to understand what this area is doing versus what it needs to be doing; reviewing its policies and procedures, and identifying ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Building a collaborative environment. Over the past 12 months, I have heard patrons and teachers talk of ideas for efficiencies within our district. We need to develop a mechanism to gather and evaluate these ideas without undulying burdening the administration.
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?
Promoting a more positive climate as a board member is both a personal trait as well as a responsibility of a board member. From a personal perspective, I like to view challenges as opportunities and normally see the glass as half full. It is also important to practice respect and listen to everyone’s opinion even if it differs from yours. As a board member responsible for the integration of community and the educational process, it means building a rapport with the community by providing information, transparency and ensuring that, as a district, we are celebrating our successes as much as we are publicizing the challenges. Overall, board members and administration need to be more active marketers of the district activities. This is easy to do, if academic achievement is in the forefront of every decision.
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 wish this question held a simple answer. To every action there is a reaction. With the lack of community bonding or community spirit prevalent in today’s seamless society coupled with the multitude of educational opportunities available such as home school, virtual school, private school, or simply a different public school, education is turning into a commodity. If a student or parent does not like the education or opportunities available, they can simply select a different educational option that suits them better. And when they move, their funding dollars no longer come to our district. This reaction can happen and does happen for every decision made by USD 348. It needs to be heavily considered and weighed in any and all decisions. Furthermore in consideration of extracurricular activities, one cannot ignore the developmental, socio-economical, and even community building impact extra-curricular activities embody especially in the latter years in the K-12 education cycle. Having an additional outlet for development or expression can be a life saver to some youth, it can actually inspire them academically, put them on a career path, and assist in the transition to being an adult.
So it sounds good to say cut all extracurricular activities because education is our mission. It sounds equally as good to state don’t cut extracurricular activities because students will leave. Either solution is wrought with financial impact, diminishment of community and decreasing satisfaction with USD 348. So before, we get there, why don’t we broaden our horizon and look for a different solution? Does it have to be all or nothing? Why don’t we collaborate on ways to keep these opportunities for our students, but at reduced costs? Maybe look at funding through grants, boosters, or some other idea? It is on this point and others similar to it, where the community needs to come together with ideas, models and suggestions.
In your opinion, what is the goal of public education (K-12)?
Public education is to provide students with a foundation from which they can embark on a vocation or further education. Broadly, this foundation includes establishing knowledge in core academic areas, developing critical thinking and problem solving skills, understanding civil processes, the development of social skills and work ethic, along with a good dose of community service.
Do you believe that the current board and administration is performing their duties at an acceptable level, why or why not?
As to the current board, I am not in a position to pass judgment. I am confident that each believe they are performing their duties to the best of their abilities, but only they can sit in judgment on their performance. Would I do things differently? Yes, but that is more because I am a different individual with different experiences and a different background which impacts the way I approach issues, seek solutions and communicate.
As to the current administration, again, it is hard to judge from just a patron perspective based on the limited information available. I do not have access to all the information by which the administration is evaluated. With that said, do I believe from the community perspective that there is room for improvement? Yes. Every organization and business can always improve. The time that an organization stops striving to improve means that it is in decline. Specifically, in discussions with patrons of the district there seems to be a feeling of a lack of communication, lack of a willingness to educate the patrons on what is felt to be “difficult” topics, as well as an unwillingness to solicit or consider ideas and solutions outside of the administrative offices. This appearance is understandable in challenging times when every decision feels negative and wrought with confrontation, but I believe taking the time to listen, educate and promote understanding of facts allows a community to support decisions and direction, even if they don’t necessarily agree 100% with a particular position.
What other issues, besides the budgetary concerns, do you feel need to be addressed? Please explain.
It is easy in times of financial challenges to get caught up in solving for the short-term financial needs and to lose track of priorities and long-term vision. Ironically, it is more critical in these times to keep an eye on goals, priorities and the long-term impact of decisions. We should ensure that we have transparent short-term and long-term priorities in place by assessing where we are academically, what we need to do and outline action steps. Setting priorities and long-term visions will ensure our funding decisions are well directed to our needs, not our wants as well as put academic achievement at the forefront of every decision.
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. We need our energy to be working together to confront upcoming challenges, not consumed with pointing fingers.
Describe your personal and professional experiences that you feel make you the most qualified candidate for the USD #348 School Board?
Professionally, I have 19 years of experience in accounting and finance, in big companies to small, from public companies to higher education. These experiences have brought me the ability to see problems from various view points, understand both the big picture as well as the smaller details of issues; and to look at decisions both from a cost-benefit perspective as well as balancing short-term and long-term impacts. I don’t hesitate to solicit input or seek solutions and ideas from others. In fact, being open to new ideas and ways to deliver education efficiently and effectively is key to a successful future in our district. When combined with my experiences as a parent with three children in the education process, I feel I am a well rounded candidate equipped to handle the challenges of the next 4 years.
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
3 Support Staff
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? %
A shop local policy would be one way to strengthen relationships between the community and the district. Furthermore, from an economic perspective, supporting local businesses puts money in the local economy which in turn supports the larger community and helps retain families and businesses. An appropriate shop local policy contemplates not only percentage price advantage for local merchants, but often states the advantage in dollar limits as well as scopes the products and services under the policy. Overall, advantages of 1 to 3% seem to be the norm capped by some dollar value (i.e. $10,000).