On Tuesday, voters will chose three new members of the Lawrence school board. Seven candidates are running and while current member John Mitchell’s name will appear on the ballot, he withdrew from the race after he knew there would be others running.
The school board candidates have participated in three forums and have filled out numerous surveys from groups in Lawrence.
Five issues kept presenting themselves to the candidates — the tighter budget, charter schools, taxes and the mill levy, teacher merit pay and crossing guards, especially since they might be cut from City Hall’s budget.
Here’s a summary of where each candidates stands on those topics.
Bradford, 49, is the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical chief.
• The budget: Bradford wants to use money wisely and efficiently. If cuts have to be made, he would look to scale back on teachers and staff first. He wants to represent the taxpayer and direct the district’s policy.
• Charter schools: Bradford does not see a charter school coming to town now, but does believe it could be a possibility down the road.
• Taxes and the mill levy: The district depends on property taxes and Bradford wants to make sure they aren’t dependent on only residential funds. “It’s a blend, but it’s got to be heavy on commercial and industrial,” he said at a candidate forum. As for the mill levy, he would support an increase.
• Teacher merit pay: Bradford would rather use other incentives.
• Crossing guards: Bradford believes the school district should pay for the guards.
Byers, 55, is an assistant program administrator for the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services
• The budget: Byers’ first cut would be in administration. He wants cuts to be strategic and not affect the quality of education. “I think it’s important to listen to those people who are more knowledgeable about the system that currently exists,” Byers said at a candidate forum.
• Charter schools: Byers thinks a charter school would be a good idea, but the district needs to take a step back and see whether it’s at all possible.
• Taxes and the mill levy: Byers thinks property taxes are the best way to fund the schools. He would not support an increased mill levy.
• Teacher merit pay: Byers would support teacher merit pay if teachers and kids developed the standards that had to be met in order to receive it.
• Crossing guards: Byers thinks crossing guards are important and would like to see the possibility of splitting costs with the city.
Hartley, 33, is a pharmaceutical representative and served as the Douglas County Democratic Party chairman.
• The budget: Hartley would look at cutting staff first, but is hopeful that money from the federal stimulus package will help. He wants input from the administration and the public if cuts have to be made.
• Charter schools: Hartley questions the accountability, administration and funding for a charter school in Lawrence.
• Taxes and the mill levy: Hartley said property taxes are the way to go to get funds. He would not support a mill levy increase.
• Teacher merit pay: Hartley thinks merit pay is problematic. “I’m not sure that the idea of that marries well with the idea of a public education system where we commit to educate every single child where they are,” he said at a candidate forum.
• Crossing guards: Hartley said the school district should fund them if the city does not.
Hepford, 43, is an accountant.
• The budget: Hepford would first look at administrative positions, capital expenditures and social services. He would want to cut nonacademic things first.
• Charter schools: Unless the school is privately funded, Hepford does not support a charter school in town because of the current budget situation.
• Taxes and the mill levy: Hepford believes that taxpayers should not always have to pick up the tab. He also is against raising the mill levy. “I’m not sure a mill levy is ever justified,” Hepford said at a candidate forum. “I’m pretty sure we’ve maxed that out over the last few years.
• Teacher merit pay: Hepford thinks a bonus system would be more sensible.
• Crossing guards: Hepford said the district should pay for guards if the city doesn’t, citing safety of students as a priority for the district.
Pomes, 46, is a geologist for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
• The budget: Pomes believes the best way to do cuts is to make across the board cuts. He wants to focus on not taking away from education.
• Charter schools: Pomes thinks a charter school would cause a competition for students and would divert kids from public schools.
• Taxes and the mill levy: Pomes thinks the property tax base is the best the district can do right now. He would not support a mill levy increase.
• Teacher merit pay: Pomes thinks incentives should be given for continuing education, and the district should operate on a bonus system. He would go along with merit pay if a teacher’s entire class improves throughout the school year.
• Crossing guards: Pomes wants to continue the program. “If there’s a funding problem, I suggest that teenagers volunteer,” he said at a candidate forum.
Riley, 59, is the children’s ministry director for the Salvation Army.
• The budget: Riley wants to begin cuts within the administration, but wants input from the district on what to cut if necessary. “I think any budget cuts need to be discussed and offered by the administration, the faculty and the staff,” he said at a candidate forum.
• Charter schools: Riley believes that the focus is too narrow for charter schools.
• Taxes and the mill levy: Riley thinks the property tax base is appropriate. He would want to test public opinion before increasing the mill levy.
• Teacher merit pay: Riley does not believe that teacher merit pay could be administered equally.
• Crossing guards: If funding is a problem, Riley would like to consider adult volunteers to help.
Sanburn, 27, is a graduate student in social work at Kansas University.
• The budget: Sanburn wants to make sure that federal stimulus money is used wisely. If cuts have to be made, she would cut programs that least affect students’ academic achievement.
• Charter schools: Sanburn says the budget would ultimately determine whether a charter school could be established, but is interested in bringing alternative forms of education to Lawrence kids.
• Taxes and the mill levy: Sanburn thinks the property tax base is the appropriate one. She hopes another solution could be reached before raising the mill levy, but if not, an increase would not be off the table.
• Teacher merit pay: Sanburn thinks a bonus system would work better than one based only on merit. “I think it’s vital we maintain competitive salaries for teachers. I am not opposed to a program for service when they go above and beyond,” she said at a candidate forum.
• Crossing guards: Sanburn believes the district should pick up the tab if the city does not.