School board forum answers: Slade Dillon
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?
USD #348 is in a unique position to seize the opportunity to measure the true costs of financing its educational value at the local level. I’ve met a number of interested parties in and around Baldwin City, Worden, and Vinland who find it quite interesting that the measurable savings are based mostly on projections, and that these savings are in fact preferences in our educational expenditures. I’ve never understood the “all or nothing” prerogative of the District and Board regarding the local elementary closings. Keeping one school open to measure true expense of the operation has not been entertained seriously as a transitional experiment.
USD 348 has been given wonderful benefits to the overall educational value through the years by maintaining the educational value where it pays the greatest long-term dividends: In an outstanding K-5 educational base.
I’m admittedly the most biased candidate one could possibly find towards Marion Springs. My folks married in the old Worden church. Having attended the school there, I know it used to be incredibly special. That wasn’t good enough for Charlene Potter, Gus Wegner and the folks out there. They decided to keep improving the place after I left, after my brother and sister passed through, and after countless other little people went through there.
Since the district still has a portion of the previous bond improvement on the books for each facility, (a fact I did not know until my tour of district schools) the per-student cost at each of these schools calculates not to zero, but to infinity until the year 2018. #348 will again begin paying principal on these 2001 obligations in September of 2013.
I believe the patrons of the district deserve a little better return on their investment over time, or at least a non-theoretical number representative of future scheduled milled costs. I’ve never seen infinity on a balance sheet, but most bankers and accountants probably wouldn’t much like it. In a business perspective, this treatment of assets is an entirely unacceptable practice, particularly since the entire bond repayment mechanism requires both schools to not only stay open, but to thrive.
If elected, what will be your top three objectives, and why?
a) Establishment of a transparent means of demonstrating all district revenues and expenditures. I have already spent an entirely inappropriate amount of time in the pursuit of answers that I consider very basic questions in a business-viability test.
b) Real and meaningful collaboration between #348, Baldwin City, Douglas County, and the Chambers of Commerce to determine the most responsible path to achieve the annually scheduled bond obligation valuation growth requirements without further gutting the people who currently live here. We must avoid any and all further debt deferrals until our obligation management practices again become favorable.
c) Ensure that the revenues generated by the district end up in the classroom to the greatest extent that is possible.
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?
To begin with, I’m going to win with semantics and turn all the district’s “problems” into situations. Problems imply one unique mathematical possibility of solution, and we’re going to have to start trying a lot of different things around here. There are thousands of shades of gray. I’m open to any plans that have a reasonable course of practice and a perceptible outcome for the benefit of the district. If we’re wrong about something, we can say we’ve at least tried out some creative and new ideas, and start to get rid of all this poisonous fear and anger around here.
I’m trying to just talk with people and to listen to what they have to say about our educational decision making process. The more I open my mouth in this process, the more I limit my opportunity to learn about the very real concerns of our patrons regarding the district operations. We do a great many things right in #348. Even one positive individual attitude can go a long way. It’s time to look past the things that we “can’t do” and re-focus our efforts towards the opportunities our district can provide for our patrons and students in the future.
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?
First of all, let’s figure out what the revenues and expenditures might be. It’s silly to talk about cutting funding when we don’t know the value of the cuts, although that hasn’t prevented any such actions in the past. I’m not saying this is a failure on any level, because I don’t think anyone has tried to accurately assess the cash flows of the athletic operations, extra-curricular activities, or many other functions of the district. Some people quite likely don’t want to know the measurable amount of these obligations, but it’s time we make an attempt to discern them.
In your opinion, what is the goal of public education (K-12)?
Give each and every kid a reasonable opportunity to pursue their passion, while offering a well-rounded educational experience. Don’t allow decisions that only pad parents’ self-esteem to diminish the educational opportunities of the community’s children.
Do you believe that the current board and administration is performing their duties at an acceptable level, why or why not?
Now, really—how am I supposed to answer this? In the past two elections of board members in 2009 and 2007, six of the seven seats were decided in uncontested elections. The electorate decided that passing an extravagant bond package was a good idea. Mr. Dorathy came into a situation where the previous administration was funneling money to Clark County, Nevada. We’re certainly doing better than a few years ago, but there is always room for improvement. Last time I checked, running for the school board doesn’t pay particularly well, and I sincerely believe that each and every candidate that puts their name in the hat has a commitment to preserving a high level of educational value. We may have differing points of view, but we’re even making progress on this front. We’re talking about the allocation decisions that affect the quality of education right now. At the very least, voters have a reasonable set of choices in this election, and they have every opportunity to be angry with their individual voting decisions in two years time.
What other issues, besides the budgetary concerns, do you feel need to be addressed? Please explain.
I’m sure the district patrons can and will answer this question on my behalf. My focus is in maximizing the percentage of dollars that get to the classroom.
Describe your personal and professional experiences that you feel make you the most qualified candidate for the USD #348 School Board?
I’m quite confident I’m NOT the most qualified candidate for the board. There are thousands of people that decided not to run for these positions. I just couldn’t in good conscience allow my opponent to run unopposed in this election. At a bare minimum, I have the ability to recognize the assets and liabilities of the district, a strong fundamental knowledge of financial documents and the analysis required thereof, and an increasing appreciation of fund accounting. I’m also very open to any and all feedback from the district patrons. I recognize the incoming board will need help from other concerned individuals in maximizing the educational opportunities of the district. The only promise I can make to the voters of #348 is that, if elected, I will do the best job I can to represent the interests of the students of our community.
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):
I’ve mentioned this before, but I feel we should accurately define what the associated revenues and expenditures relating to each of these items might be before making decisions that affect their allocation. Without knowing where each and every reserve contingency might be budgeted, this is kind of like playing darts blindfolded. That being said, I’m pretty sure the district has a perpetual need for high-quality teachers and a consistent curriculum.
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? %
I haven’t got any idea of current district suppliers nor the district’s requisition policies. If we have the opportunity to purchase locally for certain goods and services, we should certainly do so, but not to the extent that it is damaging to the educational value of our children in any way. I just can’t answer this question in a responsible manner at this time. If a supplier has the ability to provide goods and services to the district, they should bring the matter to the administration and board, and we could inspect the feasibility of these decisions on a case-by-case basis.