Published On: Thu, May 1st, 2014

School Board hopefuls lend thoughts on consolidation

WAUSA -— Incumbents and new candidates for Wausa Public School Board were contacted recently regarding their opinions on the five-school feasibility study and potential consolidation. This week incumbent Mark Dawson and candidates Michael D. Kumm and Derek Cunningham are featured.  Remaining candidates will be featured next week.

Mark Dawson: “School consolidation is a sensitive subject matter to contemplate, and it’s one that I don’t take lightly. I remain open-minded to the idea of consolidation because I believe it is our responsibility as a board and as a community not to have an apoplectic reaction, but rather engage in rational conversation.

The primary goal of any school district should be to protect the educational value that it provides for its students. Educational value encompasses all learning subsets derived from a challenging academic field of study and is complemented with competitive athletic, artistic and extracurricular programs. In creating a sustainable learning environment such as this and bolstering its diversity potential – avenues will continually need to be explored through increased co-oping, long distance learning programs or possible consolidation efforts to one degree or another. It is essential to prepare our kids for the future. It is an obligation to afford them comprehensive opportunities.

Challenging us in the next academic year is the loss of nearly $400,000 due to the restructuring of the state funding formula. For the foreseeable future, this loss not only affects day-to-day operations of the school, but also has the potential to place additional burdens on to the district taxpayers. When further examining the dynamics, our community must also consider the downward trend in class enrollments coupled with changing demographics and a sociological structure that continues to alter the landscape of rural Nebraska. All these factors present a long-term dilemma in determining the future of rural school districts and subsequently the feasibility to function as we once did.

As a current board member, I am a representative of the district in its entirety. Therefore, I am tasked to interpret varying points of view and determine how to put into action the greatest amount of good for the greatest amount of people. And although I value emotion – I hesitate to let emotion be the solitary factor in how I choose to render an educated decision for the district.  Put simply, without taking the time to at least explore all opportunities, then the possibilities may never be realized, no matter what the outcome.”

Michael D. Kumm: “I realize that the discussion of consolidation will be on the forefront of everyone’s mind this election. While I want to be clear that I believe that consolidation is not warranted by our current enrollment or financial situation, we do need to address the changing demands that are being put on our schools. There is a need to bring college credits to our academic curriculum and a greater diversity of courses, but consolidation is not necessarily the only way to achieve that goal. I also feel it is important to remember that the school administrators and the current school board are doing their due diligence to look down the road at addressing our future challenges, those challenges are real, and they wouldn’t be doing their job if they ignored them. Regardless of the outcome, I hope that we do not become a community divided, we’re stronger together, and I do believe that we all do want the best for our kids.”

Derek Cunningham: “I, Derek Cunningham am running for a position on the board of education for three key reasons:

• Keep the lines of communication open with our neighbors; no one knows what the future holds.

• Continue to emphasize use of the latest technology for our students.

• To help the school operate efficiently without sacrificing the quality of education offered in our district.

To start off, we cannot let our strong class sizes give us a chip on our shoulder when it comes to negotiating or discussing future cooperation with other districts or possible consolidation. In the blink of an eye, tax laws or funding formulas could change. Kids or no kids, our finances could be very different if this were to happen. We can’t ‘burn all the bridges around Wausa,’ because someday we may need to look for help outside of our district. If we choose to stand alone while others ‘buddy up’ we could also lose the partner that splits our superintendents’ salary; that’s approximately a $50K hit to our budget and the students wouldn’t see any benefit!

Secondly, technology in the classroom remains a key focus, as the world is adopting new forms of communication and advancing at an alarming rate. The core subjects are still the foundation for a quality education. However, the tools to convey and present the curriculum to the students must continue to stay on the cutting edge.

Finally, the toughest challenge of trying to provide those technologies to our students within the confines of our budget. We all want the best education for our students that you could ask for. We have also all heard the saying, ‘anything of quality comes at a price.’  I will strive to ensure that the dollars being spent are in the best interests of our students.”

A reminder from Knox County Clerk Joann Fischer, the last day to register to vote for the Primary Election is Monday, May 2, at 6 p.m. in the Knox County Clerk’s Office. Registrations this week must be done in person at the Clerk’s Office.

Changing your party affiliation needs to be done before you head to the polls. Poll workers will only issue the party ballot to you that is shown by your name in the Roster of Voters on Election Day, so if your intention is to change party affiliation, do it now.

As always, please feel free to call Knox County Clerk Joann Fischer at 402-288-5604 or email clerk@knox.nacone.org if you have any questions.

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