Chat about the Lawrence School Board race with Rich Minder
March 19, 2007
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
Rich Minder is running for a second four-year term, saying he wants to continue effort the community has put into its schools. "We've made a lot of investments in our faculty and our students and our schools and in moving everybody in the direction of 'learning for all, whatever it takes," Minder said. "I want to maintain those investments and expand our accomplishments." Minder said he would like to implement all-day kindergarten at least in a limited way next year in Lawrence.
Welcome to our first school board candidate chat of many this week. I'm 6News Anchor/Reporter Deanna Richards. I'll be moderating this chat. Incumbent school board candidate Rich Minder joins us now. Rich, thanks for being here.
Thanks Deanna. It is good to be here. I look forward to discussing Board of Education business with Lawrencians. Thank you in advance to all those participating. I also want to take this opportunity right up front to thank the Lawrence Education Association and Kansas Families United For Public Education for their endorsement of my candidacy. But enough levity. Let's get on with it.
Why all-day kindergarten? I don't think all children are ready for all-day school at this age. I think we push them too hard, too soon, already.
No Child Left Behind has no fans among any of the teachers or parents that I know. Is there a chance Kansas will opt out of this deeply flawed program?
Most children spend full days in early learning programs from infancy on these days. This is especially true for children who have both parents working. When these early learning experiences are stable and have quality programing, not only do our children benefit, our current and future workforce benefits. When children of working families reach our public schools and face half day of programming, they are faced with economically disruption and children are faced with a drastic reduction in learning opportunities. Why should this be the case? I consider all day kindergarten as part of early childhood learning that begins at birth. It has nothing to do in my mind with No Child Left Behind but with sound education policy and with good local economic development strategy.
As for NCLB, I will be participating in an upcoming listening forum sponsored by Congressman Dennis Moore to gather input on modifications that can be made as NCLB legislation is up for reauthorization this year. Stay tuned, I expect many of the flaws in this legislation to be addressed.
Thanks for the questions.
As a current school board member, please discuss what you do to address concerns and complaints from parents of school agers, aside from the all-day kindergarten issue?
KLM, Thanks for the question. I try to be accessible to parents. Complaints and concerns tend to come more often than affirmations. Most of what I receive are related to how specific children are doing or how the system is not functioning properly to meet a specific child's educational needs. Occaisionally, a parent will address more systemic issues related to policies, programs and practices that pertain to a larger group of learners. I try to avoid micro-managing the district. The BoE hires a Superintendant who supervises people to oversee details. However, I do request our Administration to look into specific concerns as I receive them. I make sure that parents feel that their concerns have been listened to. I then follow up with staff to make sure that the concern has been dealt with. Sometimes parents have very legitimate complaints when the system does not meet their child's needs or we have had a failure to communicate.
How does the district plan to work with teachers at the two new neighborhood ELL sites? Do you feel, since these are neighborhood sites and not cluster sites, a different model could have been used? Do you believe in reflecting and evaluating the effectiveness of a program before requiring it at additional sites, or do you believe in Mr. Weseman's comment tha since it is already set up at two schools we must use the same model?
Multiagelearner: Thank you for the questions. I support the current plan to expand our capacity to meet the needs of each of our growing population of English Language Learners. I believe that distinctions between "Cluster" and "Neighborhood" sites only really serves to help us understand how we make these investments during a transitional period. Eventually, I believe that the distinction between these two types of sites will fade away.
With respect to the evaluation of educational programming, I believe that evaluation is an ongoing process. The district committee that determined how to go about developing a plan to respond to the growing need of ELLs reviewed available research and reflected on the implementation successes and challenges at Hillcrest and Cordley. We will continue to evaluate our educational programming. I would prefer to keep the same model as much as possible when replicating our successes but examine changes to all programs when we learn from our challenges and failures to accomplish our objectives. This is the approach the Mr. Weseman is taking and it make good sense to me.
The school bond issue has made much-needed improvements to the schools. However, ongoing maintenance is still an issue. What is your plan for funding this maintenance to some of the older facilities across the district?
Southernmiss: Great handle. My plan is to focus on maintenance and improvements that most impact learning. Some maintenance and improvement investments can be handled with "Performance Contracting". This involves spreading the cost of a project over a period time when energy savings result from the investment. The Kansas Legislature passed a law in 2002 that enables local government bodies to do "performance contracting". The Board is unclear at this point if this legislation enables us to include certain "programing cost savings" such as fewer staff hours and other non-energy related savings. The Board has asked Attorney General Morrison's office for an opinion regarding the length to which we can take performance contracting. To the extent that the Board can use performance contracting we will be able to accomplish needed maintenance improvements and spread the cost to tax payers over a future stream of tax revenue years.
What do you feel are the toughest issues the Lawrence school district faces right now?
Mandikc: Thank you for the question. Certainly No Child Left Behind needs to be re-named and re-framed as "Every Child Move Forward". I am concerned that our professional educators in both the faculty and administration are under enormous preassure to improve student scores and might lose sight of the joy that we can all take in learning together just as an end in itself. Related to this diversion from the joy of learning is the risk that we, as a community, will forget other important values that we bring to public education together. Here I am referring to values of community, citizenship, compassion...
Another major issue on the horizon is an impending transition of leadership at all levels - district, building, classroom. A generation of aging baby boomers will be replaced by a new generation of educational leaders. This new generation may have different values or at least a different take on the same values. These changes in leadership can have an invisible but nevertheless important long term impact on how we learn together. We just need to be mindful of this transition and tend to it with care.
Another issue coming down the pike has to do with how technology and globalization impacts learning. I read a joke in the December 18, 2006 issue of TIME. 'Rip Van Winkle awakens in the 21st century after a hundred year snooze and is, of course, utterly bewildered by what he sees. Men and Women dash about, talking to small devices pinned to their ears. Young pople sit at home on sofas, moving miniature athletes around on electronic screens. Older folk defy death and disability with metronomes in their chests and with hips made of metal and plastic. Airports, hospitals, shopping malls - every place Rip goes just baffles him. But when he finally walks into a schoolroom, the old man knows exactly where he is. "This is a school," he declares. "We used to have these back in 1906. Only now the blacboards are green."'
The coming transformation of primary and secondary education will be a great personal and collective challenge to the district.
Thank you for your questions. Please vote for me on April 3rd.
That just about wraps things up for us. Rich, thanks again for taking part in today's online chat.