Age: 33 Address: 1309 Kasold Drive Family: wife, Jeri; three children who attend Sunset Hill, fourth-grader Pierce, 10; second-grader Alexys, 8; and kindergartner Jocelyn, 6. Occupation: territorial representative for Forest Pharmaceuticals
Tom Hartley has a few friends in the Kansas state legislature thanks to his two years as the Douglas County Democratic Party chairman. He thinks those connections are an advantage in his run for Lawrence school board.
“I’ve got very solid relationships with the legislators here in Lawrence,” Hartley said. “It’s going to be important to already have relationships with the people that we’re going to be asking for the money.”
Hartley also has a huge investment in the success Lawrence public schools — his three children enrolled at Sunset Hill School, where is the chairman of the site council. But that’s not the only reason he wants to be a part of the school board.
“I take a lot of fulfillment out of civic and public service,” he said. “I’ve really felt over the last several years, just the way things are going in our nation that we’re in an all hands on deck situation with regard to government and especially local government and the school board is part of that entity.”
Hartley, a territorial representative for Forest Pharmaceuticals, moved his family to Lawrence in 2005 so his wife, Jeri, could go to Kansas University’s School of Law. He plans on staying in town to see his children graduate from Lawrence public schools and invests his extra time in community service.
“It’s something that I’ve always held very near and dear to my heart and I enjoy doing,” Hartley said.
The budget crunch
Hartley believes the district is in a decent position after the state budget cuts for this school year.
“Anyone who operates any type of organization or business knows that you need to have a little bit of money set aside and we have a little bit of money set aside,” he said. “Also, we can save some dollars by not filling currently vacant positions.”
And while that gets the district through this year, the concern is for the future and the potential for more cuts.
Hartley wants to look at how the district manages human resources since staff is the largest part of the general fund.
“Perhaps there are mechanisms to which we can better utilize skills and find some economies,” Hartley said.
And Hartley was hoping for help from the federal dollars before word came from the state that funding would be held flat for the next two years.
“I just don’t think the cuts are going to be as deep as we once thought they might be, as well as the potential influx of federal dollars,” Hartley said. “I think we may be in a better position we thought we were 30 or 60 days ago.”
Portables not annexes
Another big issue for Hartley is the use of portable classrooms outside some Lawrence elementary schools.
“We’ve got these temporary portable classrooms set up basically now as annexes at elementary schools across our district,” Hartley said. “They’re not sustainable. They pose a decreased security risk and increased hazard to our students.”
Hartley wants to rethink the master facility plan for the district to see what can be done.
“These classrooms have been used for 10 or 15 years full time,” Hartley said. “To me, that’s an example of over the course of time, urgent issues crowding out important issues.”
While he’s noticed improvements at both the high school and junior high level, he thinks it’s time to look at the schools with the youngest populations.
“One of the things that needs to be focused in on are facilities at the elementary level,” Hartley said.
And tackling these issues is exactly why Hartley wants to be a part of the Lawrence school board.
“I want to be part of the solutions and part of building a better Lawrence school system,” he said. “We’ve got a good one now and I want to be part of making it even better.”