Butler County Times Gazette
  • Candidates discuss administrator residency, other issues

  • Voters had another chance Wednesday night to hear from the candidates for the Leavenworth Board of Education.
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  • Voters had another chance Wednesday night to hear from the candidates for the Leavenworth Board of Education.
    All five of the candidates participated in a forum hosted by Ernest Evans, political science professor for Kansas City Kansas Community College.
    Current board members Verna Raines and Mike Robinson and former board members Mike Carney, Doug Darling and Danny Zeck spoke to an audience of less than 10 people. Each candidate was given the opportunity to make an opening statement. Candidates then answered questions.
    One of the questions that caused contention between candidates concerned whether the superintendent and other school officials in the district should be required to live in Leavenworth.
    Raines said it would be great if all of them lived in Leavenworth. But Raines said she imagines there are employees of the local VA hospital and Fort Leavenworth who commute to work from outside of the city.
    "We cannot control where people live," she said.
    She acknowledged that some administrators in the district don't live in the community.
    She said if the district wants quality people, they have to be able to find and hire them.
    Robinson said the school board has looked at the issue a couple of times in the last six months. He said the first priority is to have the most qualified people the district can get regardless of where they live.
    He said the second issue is one of enforcement. He said once people have been hired, it may be difficult to fire them because they didn't move into the district or no longer live here.
    He said the third issue is one of community involvement by school officials. He said if the board and the superintendent make this a priority, officials will be involved in the community even if they don't live in the district.
    Robinson said when the superintendent recruits new building administrators, she will emphasize living in the community.
    Page 2 of 4 - Darling said he doesn't have a problem with making residency in the community "a condition of employment."
    But he said this should only be made a requirement for new hires. He doesn't believe it's fair to make it a requirement for people who already are working for the district.
    Zeck said he doesn't believe all upper level administrators need to live in the community.
    "We want to find the best administrators," he said.
    He said there probably are some key administrators who should live in the community. He said the superintendent probably is one.
    Zeck said the principal of the high school probably is seen by more people in the district than other administrators. He said the high school principal probably needs to live here.
    Zeck said a little more than 50 percent of district's teachers live in the district. He questioned why it would be important to have administrators live here and not teachers who have contact with students and parents.
    Carney, who had raised the issue during his opening statement, said a previous superintendent who was hired when he was on the board was asked to live in the community as a condition of his contract.
    Carney said the superintendent is the No. 1 person in the district. He said it's important to show a commitment to the district by being here and paying taxes here.
    He suggested key people should live in the community.
    "There has to be that presence here," he said.
    Zeck said in the corporate world companies bring people to an area by purchasing houses and paying moving expenses.
    "Does that make sense to spend taxpayer money on that?" he asked.
    Page 3 of 4 - Robinson said he's not opposed to offering incentives or making moving to the district a matter of negotiation. He said he's opposed to making a residency requirement a matter of policy because it leaves no flexibility.
    Darling said the issue is a discriminator for voters.
    "It's kind of obvious which way we feel," he said.
    Robinson acknowledged the current superintendent does not live in the district. He said she used to live in the district but for a variety of reasons that didn't work out.
    Another question asked the candidates what changes they would support when it comes to school safety. Evans said this is something that's on the minds of parents.
    Carney said the district is not going to prevent something when someone really wants to do something. But the district has to take some action to show force.
    Zeck said the district has a crisis plan and each building has a plan. He called this an ongoing process.
    Zeck said he doesn't think teachers should carry guns in school because it takes away from their job.
    Darling said the district shouldn't broadcast details of its crisis plan.
    "The district has plans," he said. "They will continue to update them."
    Robinson said the district's plan takes threats seriously.
    "It's a living document," he said, and it's adjusted.
    Raines said the individual building and district crisis management teams prepare for not only violent events but other types of emergencies as well.
    "This is something you have to stay in front of," she said.
    Page 4 of 4 - An audience member asked the candidates about their feelings of sex education particularly at the grade school level. He also asked about the candidates' feelings regarding classroom lectures by pro-choice or pro-life supporters.
    Raines said parents have to allow their children to participate in sex education at the elementary level. She said the curriculum is intended to be appropriate to the developmental levels of the students.
    Robinson said parents have to opt in at the high school level as well. He said the curriculum is based on science.
    Speaking to the question about pro-choice and pro-life supporters, Robinson said advocacy is not the purpose of a sex education class.
    Darling recalled that when he was on the school board, parents could view the curriculum before opting in or out for the children. He said the curriculum was based on children's developmental levels.
    Zeck said board members have to watch the curriculum that's being taught. He said a curriculum can be very liberal or very conservative.
    Carney said some children only have one parent or no parents.
    "Who's teaching these kids sex education?" he said.
    He said the family is the central structure for this type of education. He said this is great when children have great families. But he said there are a lot of children who don't have that.
    Darling later said schools are being required to act as parents in many cases, and this is one of the areas.
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