Six candidates are running for three at-large positions on the Lansing School Board in the April 2 election.
Occupation: Beef producer, millright
Previous elected experience: None
Occupation: Technogym regional sales manager Previous elected experience: Lansing BOE 2007-2011
Occupation: Retired banker
Previous elected experience: None
Occupation: Military contractor at Fort Leavenworth
Previous elected experience: None
Occupation: Health Care Social Worker
Previous elected experience: Lansing Board of Education since 2005
Occupation: Lansing High School student
Previous elected experience: None
1) Why did you decide to run for the Lansing School Board?
Buffo: I just felt that my experience in construction and with the construction that's taking place of this new high school, I might be able to lend a hand. And, at the same time being a former teacher, with the issues with state funding, I might be able to help.
Hauver: Previous experience positive and functioned well in that role; good listener, fair, open-minded, do what is best for the children of our district; will work well with existing BOE, together we can be a small part of a great school district; and to help the superintendent make better choices.
Martens: Since I have retired form the banking field after 38 years, I now have the time to devote my whole heart and effort into such a duty. I believe that when choosing a job or being elected to a position you need to dedicate yourself. I have always been involved in my children's education and well-being and am now involved with my three grandchildren in the district.
Martin: To become more involved with the school that my children are attending. I am on the middle school site council and I want to take the next step toward ensuring the quality of education for my children.
Stevenson: Every student deserves the best possible education to prepare them for their future, whether that is college, vocational school or the workforce. It is my sincere desire to make certain that Lansing’s tradition of excellence in education continues through continuous quality improvement and good stewardship of the taxpayer’s dollars.
Wisneski: As a student, I thought the younger perspective that I have to offer would help tie student’s wants and needs together with upcoming decisions. I think I could help make students and teachers happier and more efficient.
2) What are the preeminent issues you see facing the schools in the next four years?
Buffo: State funding is probably the biggest. Growth – look how much the community has grown over the last 20 years. And then making sure that our curriculum is matching our kids for their futures.
Hauver: Besides the building projects, school finance is the preeminent issue with all Kansas schools. Public education has been the focus of attack from Topeka recently, forcing us to scale down programs and services for students and creating full classrooms. Also, a recent demographics study from an independent source supports the notion that Lansing is growing. We will need long-range strategic planning beyond facilities to prepare for this growth.
Martens: First, funding to our schools. It is inevitable that recent government cutbacks will affect our schools and the district should set in place priorities before that. Another is making sure that the school board and educators review policies and procedures so that every student has the opportunity for the best education. Finally, we need to make involve safety and law officials to make sure the new high school and renovated building have updated security.
Martin: The biggest issue is fiscal shortfalls, finding new ways of doing things that might be less expensive, consolidation of projects, finding new income streams to the schools budget through grants. Secondly would be the building of the new high school and renovations of the current schools.
Stevenson: In addition to Lansing’s building projects, school finance will continue to be a preeminent issue. We have experienced cuts in funding over the last few years and are likely to experience more. This will force us to make difficult decisions about programs and student services while working to continually improve curriculum to prepare students for careers and advanced learning.
Wisneski: We have to make sure teachers are in an environment that makes them more effective as educators. Ask teachers and students what they didn't like about our current schools and build schools that better suits their needs. We have to communicate those needs back to administrators and the community. We've already approved the bond; let’s make sure it’s built right.
3) Voters in November approved a $73 million bond project that will be used to fund a new high school and associated athletic facilities and renovate the current high school for its future use as a middle school. Did you support the bond? Why or why not?
Buffo: I wasn't in favor of the bond issue. I felt that it was a little extravagant for the time, but it is for the future of our kids and our community. I want to make sure that we thought all the angles out and make sure that it is big enough for the next 20 to 30 years.
Hauver: Yes. Student growth and more opportunities are the main reasons here. Part of my thinking is addressed in question No. 2.
Martens: Yes, I support the bond. I know this is a huge financial undertaking for the community but Lansing is continually growing and this project should meet that growth for years. It would provide a safe and secure learning environment for the students and educators to develop academically and professionally. The bond would ensure the proper technology and update learning techniques.
Martin: I did support the bond. I looked at the issue from both sides and determined our current buildings would not support new growth. Even if the current high school was renovated to include the old intermediate school, safety, parking and traffic would still be an issue. By moving the high school and splitting the elementary school, you allow more classes with fewer students.
Stevenson: Lansing is growing. A recent third party demographic study supports the notion that Lansing will continue to grow. Our buildings are at/near capacity now and this bond issue is part of a long range strategic plan developed over two years with district stakeholders. Strategic planning must continue beyond the facilities to include all aspects of the school system.
Wisneski: Of course I support the bond. We can’t expect the next generation of students to prosper if we don’t provide them with better learning facilities. I love the current high school, but I agree it’s time for a new one. The plans that are in store for both schools are absolutely remarkable and will be untouchable by any other district.
4) Over the last several years the district has taken steps to accommodate funding cuts handed down from the state, including refinancing older bonds and taking over busing duties. Now, as more reductions from the state are contemplated and mediated, what does the district do?
Buffo: I guess, to put it in the simplest terms, what is in the best interest of our students? Where is our money going to give us the biggest bang for our buck for our kids?
Hauver: We will have to continue to streamline in areas such as administration and non-essential personnel. Lansing currently has fewer administrators and support personnel than our counterparts and although this is a strain on operations, it is necessary to maintain quality teachers and programs for our students.
Martens: The school board must adopt an annual budget comprised of a general fund budget set by the state and a supplemental general fund budget made up of property tax proceeds. The district may issue general obligation bonds with the approval of voters, adopt a capital outlay mill levy or establish a contingency fund for unforeseen emergencies. So there are other alternatives should more funding be needed.
Martin: As I stated previously, we must look for new income streams through grants and other private sources. We need to seriously look at expenditures and see what we are spending money on and see if it’s really necessary. When we do purchase things like computers we need to ensure that we are getting the most out of our dollars spent.
Stevenson: Good stewardship of taxpayer dollars is an essential part of leadership. We will continue to streamline in areas such as administration and non-essential personnel and seek out innovative opportunities to save money or locate alternate funding sources. It is important that we maintain quality teachers and programs for our students.
Wisneski: Even with these cuts, students still learn, it might more difficult, but they do. As more cuts come to the district, the board would have to make those decisions when they come up. Based on what cuts came up, appropriations would be made, according to what was called for at the time.
5) NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre argued after the deadly shooting in Newtown, Conn., that every school in the country should post an armed guard. Do you believe this is an answer to the threat of violence in schools? If not, what do you think the district could do?
Buffo: I'm sure that the district has some sort of crisis plan, I just don't feel that guns, whether it be an armed guard or anything else, is the total solution. Is there too much information being put out there and giving others ideas? I really think that you got to trust what's taking place in terms of the administration and crisis plans.
Hauver: Having security guards in our schools may be one method to help, but it doesn’t ensure student and staff safety. Another strategy would be educating employees and students with proven prevention and intervention strategies. Education is the best form of prevention, from having quality crisis plans and practice drills for intruders in the buildings to developing knowledgeable citizens for things to watch, listen and report.
Martens: I believe having armed guards in schools would be a deterrent but it's not always effective. The best defense is having a plan in place for the worst case scenario. Work with local agencies and implement protocols like stop, look and listen. It's imperative that administrators communicate with students and school resource officers. If you bring in armed guards you need to consider where to draw the line – do you have them for before- and after-school activities?
Martin: It's not the complete answer. Manhattan Kan., has a uniformed and armed officer in the school. He often had to respond to across the school, taking five minutes or more depending on his location. It helped, but spontaneous fights with or without weapons can happen and cause damage quickly. We have to improve security of our schools and our crisis plan. Trained and practiced staff and administration who know the crisis plans also help.
Stevenson: The Newtown shooting was a horrible tragedy. Having an armed guard in the school may be beneficial, but does not guarantee student safety. It is important to have quality updated crisis plans in place. Educating employees, students and community members in proven prevention and intervention strategies can help reduce the risk of an event of this nature from happening.
Wisneski: I’ve been to schools that did have security guards and they were pretty effective. It’s certainly one option. We just have to make sure they wouldn't be misused. I don’t know if that’s the only answer, but it’s at least a thought for now.