Gardner Edgerton school officials are asking the eight candidates for school board to submit complete questionnaires and submit head shots to the district.
Leann Northway, director of community relations for the school district, said the purpose of the questionnaires is to “introduce the candidates running for school board to the entire community and share their views.”
“With numerous candidates in the 2013 election, … we’re excited to provide our patrons with the opportunity to learn about their prospective board representatives, as well as provide the candidates with the opportunity to share their views and ideas with the community at-large,” Northway said.
According to a letter to candidates, each of the several questions should be answered in no more than five-typed lines in 11-point Tahoma font. The answers will be published in the spring edition of the district’s Horizon newsletter.
Traditionally, such questionnaires are sent by political action committees, newspapers and governmental arms of groups like the Chamber of Commerce. However, this isn’t the first time the school district has sent such a questionnaire to candidates. The district newsletter introduced candidates to school patrons during the 2003 election but hasn’t since then.
The questionnaire isn’t sitting well with some patrons.
Walter Hermreck, Gardner, recently sent a letter to superintendent Bill Gilhaus voicing his displeasure.
“I feel like that some of the questions posed to the candidates are weighted to favor a candidate that has sat on a committee or worked with the district in some manner,” Hermreck wrote.
For example one question reads: “What are your leadership qualifications and what leadership roles have you assumed in USD 231?”
Legally, the district can provide information and education about election issues and candidates, but they can not endorse candidates or questions.
Hermreck said ethically, the district should go out of its way to appear impartial and unbiased.
“It’s a good practice, in my opinion, to just stay out of it,” Hermreck told The Gardner News.
Another question reads: “USD 231 is one of the fastest growing school districts in the state of Kansas. What experiences and background do you have in managing growth in a progressive environment?”
Hermreck said the district’s questionnaire is “very unique.”
“Most districts and public entities work diligently to avoid even the appearance of favoring one candidate over another,” Hermreck wrote. “To do anything less is a disservice to not only the candidates and voters but to our election system itself.”
He proposed that instead of the questionnaire, the district should ask the candidates for a short bio and what they believe are the overarching issues within the district.
“The thing is even if there is a perception of involvement, it’s wrong,” Hermreck said. “Our district is better than that. In order to maintain our high standards we just want to stay above board.”