Bill Skepnek says his career as a trial lawyer has helped him develop communication skills and investigative skills that would make him an effective member of the Lawrence school board.
"I am always investigating claims," Skepnek said. "I spend my life listening to people tell stories and trying to determine whether they're telling the truth or whether they're just wrong. I'm asking people questions all the time, and I'm listening to the answers."
Skepnek said he would be doing much the same weighing issues as a Lawrence school board member.
"You've got to listen to the experts and know how to ask them questions, and on every issue there's going to be a divergence in opinion," Skepnek said. "How are you going to make decisions? I think that my training and my experience help me to understand how to ask questions and how to listen to the answers."
SKEPNEK SAID he thinks the school board needs to do a lot more listening in general and to communicate better with the public. He recalled a December meeting when the board felt it necessary to take action on a Woodlawn School matter even though members of the Woodlawn PTO had been told no action would be taken.
The action concerned transferring Woodlawn School graduates from South Junior High School to Central Junior High School.
"Why wasn't the president of the Woodlawn PTO called the night that the board determines this is an emergency and they've got to move forward?" Skepnek said. "Why wasn't the first phone call from one of those board members to the PTO president at Woodlawn saying, `Look, this came up tonight. Here's what we did. We want you to know about it. We want your input into it'?"
Skepnek suggested each school board member be assigned two or three schools for which he or she would be directly responsible for establishing a communication link. That way if PTO or PTA presidents had questions about a matter, they would have one board member to call.
Skepnek said he also would like to see educational opportunities expanded for students, especially in the area of vocational education, or what he prefers to call applied science and technology.
"THE FOCUS of the educational program here is college prep, with the assumption being that the best and the brightest of the kids will go on to college," Skepnek said.
But Skepnek said that's not always true. It's time to "dignify" what traditionally are referred to as vocational education courses, he said. A second high school in Lawrence might be one way to accomplish such a task, he added.
"Why not have a Lawrence high school of applied science and technology and make it state of the art, and make it shiny and pretty and desirable?" Skepnek said.
He said he thinks a second high school is needed regardless of what form it takes because there are just too many students at Lawrence High School.
"To me the only question about a second high school is where," Skepnek said. "There's not a question of when. When was five years ago."