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School board candidate Vanessa Sanburn to chat

March 26, 2009

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Vying for one of three open seats, school board candidate Vanessa Sanburn will chat with Lawrence Journal-World readers on Thursday, March 26 at 11 a.m.

Moderator:

Hello and welcome to this LJWorld.com Election 2009 chat. I'm online editor Jonathan Kealing. We'll be getting underway shortly. Vanessa, welcome, and thanks for joining us.

Vanessa Sanburn:

Thank you, Jonathan, for this opportunity. I'm glad to be here.

Vanessa Sanburn:

Thank you, Jonathan, for this opportunity. I'm glad to be here.

Moderator:

We're a few minutes before the hour, but let's go ahead and get started. I understand you're new to Lawrence. What brought you here, and what prompted you to run for school board?

Vanessa Sanburn:

The main reason that my husband and I decided to move to Lawrence was for the excellent public school system. Our daughter had previously attended private preschools in Wichita. We looked at test scores across the state and decided that Lawrence, with it's great schools and great community, would be the perfect place for us. After making that decision, I decided to apply to graduate school to obtain a Master's of Social Work. Things fell into place very well and we are very happy to live here.

Moderator:

What's the most important issue for you, if you become a member of the school board?

Vanessa Sanburn:

I chose to run for school board because I want to do my part in ensuring the continued success of Lawrence schools.

Vanessa Sanburn:

My primary goal is that we continue our commitment to quality education, keeping a constant eye on academic achievement. This is especially important during difficult economic times.

Moderator:

How would your background being a peer health educator prepare you for being on the school board?

Vanessa Sanburn:

I believe that an important issue that the school board should address is creating clear guidelines for human sexuality and AIDS education. The current USD 497 policy states that "The district shall offer human sexuality and AIDS education as part of the district curriculum. At a minimum, these parts of the curriculum shall comply with state and federal regulations." I do not believe that this policy goes far enough to ensure that all students receive the information they deserve. I have lead hundreds of discussions to thousands of adolescents while employed as a health educator. This background will certainly assist in helping develop clear, comprehensive, age-appropriate guidelines that allow our district to offer the best sexuality education possible. Young people deserve information that will help guide healthy decisions about sexuality.

Moderator:

What budget cuts would you make if they have to be made?

Vanessa Sanburn:

I’m hopeful that sound state budgeting combined with the Federal Stimulus funds will save the board from having to make substantial cuts in programs. Should education cuts become necessary, I believe the board should take the following steps:

Look for areas to increase efficiency and save money, as our Superintendent did recently through administrative restructuring. Any administrative restructuring that can be done without causing undue stress on personnel would be an excellent first step.

Next, we should conduct an evaluation based on academic achievement, giving equal consideration to classroom and non-classroom programs. Then, we should rank programs to determine the contribution each makes to the academic achievement of students. Programs with a weaker correlation would be cut first.

As a school board member, I will be a strong advocate for fulling funding public schools, as I believe that investing in education is one of the smartest investments we can make.

And finally, I think it is important that we design a budget cut process that allows for maximum community and stakeholder input.

Moderator:

How do you feel about charter schools? Or more specifically, the Lawrence Environmental Charter School proposed to the school board this year?

Vanessa Sanburn:

I was very excited to learn about The Lawrence Environmental Charter School when I attended last year's little green festival in South Park. The idea of educating students with an environmental focus greatly appeals to me, especially with growing awareness of issues and problems related to climate change that certainly fall on our generation and the next to solve. It is clear to me, especially after our forum last night, that there is confusion on what charter schools are. Many people erroneously see charter schools as private schools funded by public tax dollars and this simply isn't the case. I am anxious to learn more about this issue and am hopeful that we can find a way to make it a reality.

Moderator:

Here's our last question and it certainly has been an issue in our community for some time. Do you support the district picking up costs for crossing guards?

Vanessa Sanburn:

I would definitely support the district paying for crossing guards. Student safety is a top priority for me. In my neighborhood, many students leave Woodlawn Elementary each day and cross the train tracks to get home. I'm know that examples like this exist throughout Lawrence and believe the cost of a crossing guard is much less than the cost of a potential tragedy that could occur if we do not have professionals assisting students in this way.

Moderator:

That's all we have today Vanessa. Thanks so much for joining us. Is there any closing comments you'd like to make?

Vanessa Sanburn:

Thanks again for this opportunity. I want to invite everyone to visit my website, VanessaSanburn.com, for more information or to reach me with your feedback or comments. If elected on April 7th, I will work hard to ensure that all of our children receive the best possible education and that we continue to build on what is great about Lawrence public schools.

Moderator:

Check back later for a chat with school board candidate Lance Johnson. Previous chats and future chats can be seen by visiting LJWorld.com/chats.

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