Candidates for the Lansing School Board took the stage Tuesday in the first in a series of three forums sponsored this week by the League of Women Voters of Leavenworth County and the Leavenworth Times.
Five of the six candidates vying for the three open spots on the seven-member board in the April 2 election were present― incumbent Beth Stevenson, Lansing High School senior Taylor Wisneski, former board member Rich Hauver, former banker Sylvia Martens and military contractor Garrett Martin. Steve Buffo, a candidate who works as a millwright at nights, was not at the forum.
Several big issues loomed over the questions asked at the forum. Asked about school funding, candidates appeared to agree that more reductions from the state were at least likely.
“I think they're inevitable,” Martens said, adding that the district would have to further balance wants and needs to accommodate those cuts.
Martens also agreed with a point from Hauver that the district would be wise to leverage technology to help minimize costs.
After several previous rounds of cuts from the state, Stevenson said the district was getting close to a point where the district could not absorb reductions easily. Martin said he felt that means the district would need to look for other sources of revenue.
“Grants are out there from different companies and we can find grants for education to help cover some of those shortfalls,” he said, whether they be written by a district
employee or a volunteer from the community.
Candidates also mostly seemed to agree that lockers at the high school might be a thing of the past. For the most part, the candidates agreed that the district's crisis management plan could always be improved and is always evolving.
For the most part, the candidates indicated that they did not feel the current levels of out of district enrollment was hurting the schools. Martens said she supports the current policy, but would like to see an annual review if more students seek to enroll in the schools.
“It is something that will definitely need to be watched,” she said.
Stevenson said open enrollment is limited by space and nets the district additional state funds. But she said the policy has more benefits than that.
“It helps us keep our class sizes down, it helps us on test scores, it provides a greater opportunity for more kids to do more things,” she said.
The candidates brought up communication a number of times. Martin suggested bringing more parents into the fold to act as ambassadors could help get the district's news out.Wisneski said he believed that the district should reach out more using newer forms of communication like social media and by working to engage more with all of the district's stakeholders.
Page 2 of 2 - “I'm a student ― I know these teachers and I know these kids first-hand and it kind of baffles my mind why we don't ask them what they want, what they need,” he said.
Hauver agreed that the district should use new forms of communication to get well-timed, well-crafted message out, even to residents without students in the district.
But he said there's more to it than just pushing out messages on Channel 2 or Twitter.
“Maybe we have to get to where they are,” he said, suggesting that board members speak before civic clubs and other organizations.