Archive for Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lawrence school board candidate Bill Roth envisions emphasis on science education, environmental awareness

Bill Roth is seeking a seat on the Lawrence school board. In this video, the retired military officer, engineer and farmer answers three questions about his campaign.

February 27, 2011


Bill Roth, pictured Friday, is one of nine people campaigning for Lawrence school board. Part of Roth’s vision for Lawrence schools calls for an emphasis on science education and environmental awareness.

Bill Roth, pictured Friday, is one of nine people campaigning for Lawrence school board. Part of Roth’s vision for Lawrence schools calls for an emphasis on science education and environmental awareness.

Bill Roth and his wife bought a motorhome and traveled the country for a year, searching — from California to Key West, Fla. — for a place with a comfortable lifestyle, educated populace and, perhaps most importantly, solid schools for their two young children.

Six years after they settled on a 20-acre homesite near Lone Star, the 77-year-old retired engineer is looking to help make the Lawrence school district even better.

“Lawrence should have the best schools in the state,” Roth said. “I have that as a vision for what I’d like to see: I want other people coming to Lawrence to see how we do so well.”

Roth is one of nine candidates campaigning for four available seats on the Lawrence school board. The general election is April 5, with winners scheduled to start their four-year terms in July.

Roth’s vision calls for an emphasis on science education and environmental awareness, while tapping into volunteer advice from Kansas University faculty and steering future projects, goals and directions into a single, cohesive path.

“I’d develop a long-range plan with a vision, measurable goals and a timeline,” he said. “It’s for the entire district: What’s our vision for our schools, and what are the goals that fit into that vision?”

Roth’s views have been built through a career that has valued expertise, discipline, research-driven outcomes and patience.

As an officer in the U.S. Air Force for 24 years, Roth spent time flying combat missions in southeast Asia, designing components for the F-15 fighter and overseeing operations and infrastructure issues at a military base in Panama. He went on to work for 10 years at Lockheed Martin, working on “launch vehicles” — aka rockets — that included programs associated with the Space Shuttle program.

Then he retired and launched his own business: Saber Air, providing flight training and air charter service while he and his wife, Peggy, farmed — 465 acres with 80 cows, three bulls and plenty of sheep, goats and chickens — in Breckenridge and Gallatin, Mo.

Roth figures he’s taught 200 people how to fly single-engine planes, how to make instrument landings and how to otherwise manage in multiengine aircraft.

“I’ve got to be able to sit in the airplane and tell you what to do and explain it to you, and if you can’t do it right I have to show it to you,” he said. “It takes a lot of patience.”

Roth is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., and received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Southern California. His father was in the Air Force, meaning he moved around a bit as a kid, attending public and private schools in Ohio, Los Angeles and the Washington, D.C., metro area.

“It makes you very open-minded and accepting and flexible,” Roth said. “You hope you’re flexible in your thinking.”

He’s a member of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Committee at Wakarusa Valley School, where his son, Omar, is in fourth grade. A daughter, Mya, is in seventh grade at South Junior High School. He has four other children and a grandchild from a previous marriage.

At Wakarusa Valley, Roth helped lead a project to donate a system that uses the sun’s rays to boost the temperature of water for the kitchen. The system’s benefits are twofold, he said: both saving the district money on its utilities and, more importantly, providing an example for students to learn about the importance of technology and environmental awareness.

By the time Wakarusa Valley’s students leave school, he said, half of the country’s workforce will be involved in alternative energy.

“They need to be tuned in,” Roth said. “It’s absolutely critical that we emphasize science. Other countries are getting ahead of us in areas of scientific innovation. You’ve got to have people going into that area, and who are interested in it. And you can’t make kids aware of that until you tell them and start demonstrating it.”


rubberband 7 years, 1 month ago

What? Wait...did he say "science"? Science? Somebody is concerned about math and science? No, really, I'm just sure that's what I heard!

Dan Thalmann 7 years, 1 month ago

Nice ideas, but in this day and age, the only thing schools can do is what the state assessments tell them to.

xclusive85 7 years, 1 month ago

He's 77 and has a four year old child? Kudos Mr. Roth!

xclusive85 7 years, 1 month ago

sorry, should have been 4th grade, not four years old as pointed out by GMom. Stand by what I say. I have had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Roth and everyword he spoke was truth.

momof2ku 7 years, 1 month ago

Worked with him. He's the best. He's got my vote.

GMom05 7 years, 1 month ago

xclusive, the article said, his youngest was a fourth grader. Not that it matters anyway.

Mr. Roth is right of course. Science and Math are critically important to being able to compete in a global economy. To respond to RuralWanderer, I would just say, that the STEM committee at Wakarusa Valley was a pilot project to help bring more science, technology, engineering, and math to students in the our schools. It is a completely parent driven program which requires many volunteer hours, fundraising, and grant writing. Much was done to add to the curriculum of the Wakarusa students this year. It can be done without the help of the state or the district. It just takes parent dedication. This could have been a great program to start working into the district but with Wakarusa's potential closure and the students and parents being divided up between Broken Arrow and Sunflower, I would think it would be difficult to keep it going.

Dan Thalmann 7 years, 1 month ago

Sounds fantastic! I don't doubt it was a worthy effort and I wish more similar efforts would take place in our schools. I guess I've just become jaded that unique, progressive strategies will ever be successful in an era where the only thing school administrators seem to care about is what is on the state assessment tests so they can get their SOEs and AYPs.

Synjyn Smythe 7 years, 1 month ago

A long-range plan? A vision? Measurable goals and a timeline? For the entire district? I thought the present school board members had proven that was all impossible. What a breath of fresh air Mr. Roth would be for 497USD!!!!!!

EarthaKitt 7 years, 1 month ago

I would think that elementary school consolidation would be an extremely pertinent question to pose to each of the school board candidates. How does Mr. Roth feel about warehousing hundreds of at-risk kids in one giant elementary school on the city's east side? I'm guessing science will be the least of our worries if we're hung up trying to get 300 kids through Title 1 reading.

verity 7 years, 1 month ago

"because I'm sure he thinks . . ."

You have no idea what he thinks---but you're sure? That statement reflects on you, not on Mr. Roth.

9070811 7 years, 1 month ago

I have personally worked with Mr. Roth and I have nothing but positive things to say about him. He is so smart and kind! He understands realistic goals. He is very involved in his the education of his children, who mimic his ambition and desire to learn. His wide variety of life experiences has given him wisdom that many will never attain. He is the type of person who sees something that is wrong or needs adjusting, develops a plan to fix it and does not back down. I honestly cannot imagine a better person to be part of the USD 497 school board.

Kontum1972 7 years, 1 month ago

hmmm..well he has to go up against the new governor...GL amigo

fan4kufootball 7 years, 1 month ago

what a novel idea - teaching math and science! You know the kind where 2+2=4 - and the answer is either right or wrong.....and none of that warm and fuzzy stuff!

notajayhawk 7 years, 1 month ago

So they traveled around the country for a year while their daughter would have been in kindergarten or 1st grade?

verity 7 years, 1 month ago


Judging from the experience Mr. Roth has had and from the experiences one gets while traveling, she probably got an excellent education.

jayhawklawrence 7 years, 1 month ago

Mr. Roth certainly has impressive professional qualifications and he is right about the importance of math and science.

All my children performed extremely well in the Lawrence school system, however, public schools are burdened by the fact that it is difficult to teach exceptional students in a class environment that must spend a lot of attention on students who are not exceptional, for whatever reason.

I am concerned about the direction the Republican Party wants to take education because they seem to emphasize cost cutting and private school vouchers. I get the impression that our options are going to tend toward a mediocre cookie cutter system or (if you have a lot of money) expensive private schools. The ability of the average American to improve their quality of life will become more and more difficult.

In the Lawrence school system, we have a gifted program that is a very important option for gifted children and we have very motivated and wonderful teachers, some of which have amazed me with their talent and character.

We need to appreciate what we have and continue to support our teachers as best we can. We also need to resist political efforts to try to turn our school system into a cookie cutting assembly line of mediocrity.

On this foundation, you can apply quality standards based on continuous improvement. We will need long range goals that point us toward higher standards in math and sciences and we have to adapt to a rapidly changing world economy. We cannot teach our children how to complain. We have to teach them how to compete.

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