Candidates for the McPherson USD 418 board of education made their pitch for support during Thursday night’s candidate forum at the McPherson Community Building auditorium.
The questions answered by the candidates focused on spending and creating a successful future not only for the school district, but for the community.
Incumbents Donna Viola and Terry Krier are being challenged by Leighton Kaloupek, Brad Berg and Pamela Lawson. The five candidates are vying for three open seats. During the forum, all five candidates emphasized their desire to help the school not only deal with the anticipated budget cuts, but also continue the success of the students and the district.
The candidates responded to four prepared questions and one question submitted by a member of the audience. Each also gave an opening, introductory statement and a closing statement.
Kaloupek, a former Inman High School teacher and current substitute, said he believes his 40 years of teaching experience can provide insights “that only a teacher can provide.” 
Berg, who has one child in the school district, said he sees the school board as a platform to not only serve his community, but to give back to and help guide the future of the district and its students.
Lawson, the third challenger and a former USD 418 employee, said that during her time working in the district she developed a love for the school system, but believes there is room for improvement. Lawson said she wanted to see the board ran more like a traditional business and spending better monitored.
Krier said he believes the public education system is the cornerstone of democracy and making the push technology and 21st century skills in the education system must remain an emphasis for the board and the district.
Viola said she hopes to continue the district’s strong tradition and continue to provide the same opportunities to today’s students that she experienced while a student in the school district.
Both incumbents said they have enjoyed the time on the school board and want to continue their service to the district.
When asked about technology in the classroom all five candidates said it is an a must-have for all students.
Viola said funding new technology will be the district’s main hurdle but the board will have to “come up with some ingenious funding methods before long.” But, Viola said, it is essential that the district continue to find the funds because “this is their time and I think they need it.”
Lawson said she believes that in addition to providing technology for students that it need to be integrated into the curriculum. She also suggested providing a laptop computer check-out program so students can have access to a computer and the Internet after school hours.
Berg said that the amount and variety of technology used in the work place makes it essential that get an opportunity to work with and learn a variety of technologies. He stressed that technology should not be a teacher’s main focus but should supplement and support a student’s learning.
Kaloupek said that technology should extend outside of computers and include technologies in the trades and technical education field. Like Berg, Kaloupek said technology should be balanced with other forms of learning but noted that with the current economy and anticipated declined in state funding, it will be difficult for the district to continue to finance every new form of technology.
Krier said he has always supported technology in the classroom and believes technology is essential for students to remain competitive in today’s work force. Krier emphasized that funding for technology must be maintained in order for students and teachers to continue to have access to the newest forms of technology.
The candidates also voiced their opinions on standardized testing and its usefulness.
All candidates agreed that the standardized tests, created by the state and used for grade-level subject assessment, are flawed and do not measure a child’s true ability and knowledge of a subject. But changing the test, all said, would take support not only from the board but from the district and many across the state.
When asked about training students for the local workforce Leighton suggesting completing a survey to better understand the number and type of jobs available to better understand the type of training local companies are looking for. Kaloupek also said keeping the senior work-study program would be beneficial to the district.
Krier said the district should not only provide training for students but should reach out to employers to let them know what skills students today have. Viola echoed Krier in involving the local businesses and suggested brining the employers to the schools to talk to students about the skills needed for various professions.
Lawson and Berg both spoke to the need to keep students in town and ways the community can create an environment that is both welcoming and enjoyable for young people. Lawson suggested brining in more entertainment industries, such as skating rinks and a miniature golf course. Berg said the district needs to focus on how its schools are represented and continue to ensure that our students are trained for the available jobs.
All five candidates are at-large representatives to the district. During the April 7 general election McPherson voters will vote for three of the five candidates on the ballot. on voters will vote for three of the five candidates on the ballot.