The five candidates running for the three McPherson USD 418 Board of Education positions participated in a public forum Thursday.
The candidates were Rob Bonham, Kim Janzen, Rhonda Wince and Nancy Young, and incumbent Bradley Berg.
They were given three minutes to give opening statements about themselves and voice why they should be elected. Each were then given a maximum of two minutes to answer additional questions, some of which were asked by audience members.
Their opening statements largely covered the questions addressed in Thursday’s edition of The Sentinel.
Strong support for the school’s upcoming $13.25 million bond issue was one topic every candidate could agree on.
This topic was brought up again in response to another question, which inquired which issues they thought were the top priority for the board and the McPherson community.
“That (bond) is more important to me than winning the school board election,” Young said. “That’s vital.”
Several also mentioned district finances as a top priority.
Berg said the district has to look at positioning itself in light of state legislation changes.
“I think the issues are, we have to visualize it and try to see what’s coming down the road at us, make the best plans for that, and prepare the best we can for whatever is headed our way so we can react and maintain the system we have,” he said.
Bonham said looking forward is important.
“We need to be able to react, and foresee what’s coming, and make adjustments that keep us on the path that we’re going to raise the bar and continue to be looked upon as one of the best districts in the state of Kansas,” he said.
Janzen noted her concern for the unknown financial stability of state funding of schools.
“It’s hard to know what’s going to happen with our current state of the state as far as whether or not, with all the proposed tax cuts, how that’s going to affect the revenue of the state and how that will affect their ability to fund schools,” she said. “While we don’t know for sure what’s going to be a problem there’s a fair chance that will be a fairly big problem.”
Wince focused on pre-kindergarten programs and said no child should be denied access if they desire it.
“That’s what I know,” she said. “I know the little kids, and there’s a shortage of care providers in day care and outside of schools and we’re working to create a place where, if you want your 3- or 4-year-old to go to a pre-kindergarten program and get them in their schools so they can transition into kindergarten…I think that’s really important.”
Page 2 of 3 - Universal preschool
The candidates were later asked to specifically address if they thought the district should provide universal preschool.
“I’m actually on a couple of those committees right now trying to decide that right now,” Wince said. “For 4-year-olds, yes, that should be first.”
Young said she supports it but does not think it should be required.
“As a former teacher of students I did notice those students who had gone to preschool preformed better,” she said after giving examples. “So yes, I think it’s a great thing to have.”
Bonham said it was a difficult question to answer, as he is going through that decision making process with his children now.
“I see where that can be a huge benefit in the growth of your kids,” he said. “That’s definitely something that needs to be considered and looked at because pretty much anymore our kids need to go to preschool to set them up for kindergarten.”
Berg said he is satisfied with what the district is currently doing.
“I’m thankful our district provides the services they do,” he said. “I don’t know if we can be an all-encompassing system and do that. I think there are many advantages to starting early and I don’t want to define that as just the school system doing that. There’s plenty of parents who are very involved with their children. Some are ready and some aren’t at that age.”
Janzen doesn’t think the district can afford it.
“I don’t think there’s any question about the importance of preschool,” she said. “I think that if money grew on trees it would be wonderful to offer preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and maybe at some point if the state starts funding that, we would be able to do that.”
As they discussed finance in these areas, they were also asked what skills they possess to help the district manager its multi-million dollar budget.
Bonham manages the grocery budget for 90 Dillons stores in three states. Young has managed McPherson College’s marketing budget for the last four years. Wince has been in accounting for 20 years. Janzen said she has looked over the district’s budget book and asks lots of questions. Berg said he has a knack for detail and is diligent about looking over the board’s mult-page minutes.
Page 3 of 3 - The topic that had the most diverse opinions regarded the district’s recently enacted drug testing policy. The district made a policy within the last year requiring new teachers to take drug tests, and students in Kansas State High School Activities Association activities to agree to random testing.
Janzen said the student testing was in response to a need voiced by students, and was needed, but including teachers was not, and was therefore not necessary. She also said there has been little reports on the testing that is so costly to the district.
“I think we still need a little more information to make a good decision on that (student testing),” she said.
Bonham said he supports teacher testing but is torn on the testing of students.
“I can see the benefits,” he said. “I can also see where it can be a little invasive because we’re talking about minors. I think what needs to happen is it needs to be looked at and see what impacts it has made and see if it’s something that should continue.”
Young said she supported drug testing for employees as it is standard in the workforce, but said testing students is invasive and a waste of resources.
“I think we need to be focused on better development of our schools and making a better education experience for students,” she said. “I think we’re taking it a little too far.”
Wince said she would want to know if her child or teacher is taking drugs.
“I don’t know why you really wouldn’t support it,” she said. “I don’t see the other side of it.”
Berg said he was in favor of the accountability.
“In life we’re held accountable for things,” Berg said. “We’re trying to make good citizens in (our Citizenship, College and Career initiative). It did come from hearing a need that spurred the start to see what other communities are doing to steer them away from that issue and try to monitor it.”
Elections to vote for these candidates as well as the school bond issue will be Tuesday.
Contact Jenae Pauls at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @PaulsSentinel