Special to The Gardner News
USD 231 chose new board members last April, and now the wait is over. Brad Chandler, Shelta Collins and Rob Shippy take office this month. These newly-elected board members will have the opportunity to work towards meeting their campaign promises of building consensus, establishing accountability, introducing transparency and reinforcing the goals and values of the district, all while ensuring the continued success of the USD 231.
Chandler, Collins and Shippy will be attending their first work session followed by a meeting on July 15 at the district board office. At press time, it is unclear if a formal swearing in ceremony will take place at the meeting. (Pursuant to KSA 25-2023, each board member has already qualified by filing an oath of office with the Johnson County election office within the required 10 day timeframe after the election.)
GARDNER NEWS: Do you have any words for the USD 231 patrons who cast their vote for you?
BRAD CHANDLER: First, I want to thank everyone for their support. I am proud to have been elected to serve you and promote the best interests of the students, teachers, and patrons of USD 231. I could not have been successful in my campaign without the support and vote of each person who voted for me. I am excited to get started and work with everyone to make USD 231 the best that it can be.
SHELTA COLLINS: First of all, I recognize the fact that voting is a right and a privilege. Therefore, I would like to thank the citizens for their vote. I’m looking forward to serving the citizens of Gardner/Edgerton and intend on representing their interests. Furthermore, I am committed to do what is best for USD231.
ROB SHIPPY: I want to tell them all thanks for support and that I look forward to the opportunity to serve as school board member.
GARDNER NEWS: You attended the New Board Member Workshop facilitated by the Kansas Association of School Boards. What did you take away from this training and how will you apply what you learned?
CHANDLER: The workshop was a great tool that explained the fundamental operations of a public school district. I was able to learn many aspects of how the district receives tax dollars to fund the day-to-day operations, how important every dollar is, and how it needs to be spent wisely to benefit both the students and staff. This knowledge will be instrumental in identifying and implementing ways USD 231 can maximize and most efficiently use each dollar it receives.
COLLINS: Indeed, we were presented with a lot of information. The thing that impressed me the most was the amount of resources that are available to board members. Additionally, there is a team of people at our disposal to provide support. Together, these resources will be very helpful as we navigate through the next four years. Please know that I intend on utilizing all the resources available to me so I can do the best job possible.
SHIPPY: One of the things I took away from the workshop was how important it was to have a good working relationship with administration and the teachers and support staff members that make it all happen.
GARDNER NEWS: Could you please tell readers little about your goals as a USD 231 board member.
CHANDLER: My goals are as I stated in my campaign – to bring accountability to the district, to build consensus with the patrons of USD 231, and to continue the success of USD 231. One way we can bring accountability to the district is by requesting a legislative audit. We must identify the best ways to utilize our limited dollars to provide the maximum level of service in the classroom. We must also build consensus with our stakeholders by first being transparent and available. I will be proposing ways to maximize patron participation in board meetings, such as utilizing technology to make meeting content available to those who cannot attend in person. Finally, we have to take steps to continue the current success of USD 231 by finding ways to recruit and keep the best teachers and to give them the tools they need to be successful in the classroom.
COLLINS: My goal for USD231 would be to operate above reproach. When the district is financially responsible, then we can attract and provide for the best teachers and support staff. From there quality programs become the natural outcome. Operating above reproach would also include the act of writing and implementing policies and procedures which provide the framework for success within the district.
SHIPPY: My goal for USD 231 as a board member is to continue supporting the initiatives that have proved successful for students, staff, and employees of the school district. This will have to be balanced while sustaining the financial goals of USD 231 and being fiscally responsible. The school district must maintain competitive salaries for teachers while continuing to provide basic services to meet the educational needs for all students.
GARDNER NEWS: What two items/issues/areas for improvement are at the top of your list to address?
CHANDLER: One of our top priorities has to be the budget. We must thoroughly examine district spending and identify ways to better maximize the limited dollars the district has to provide services to students. We need to find ways to get more dollars into the classroom and to give teachers the resources and tools they need. A legislative audit is just one tool that can help us accomplish this. Another top priority for me is to build consensus through the engagement and involvement of USD 231’s stakeholders. This includes making district meetings and business more accessible and inclusive. I will be proposing ways to improve the transparency of USD 231 business.
COLLINS: I have two issues with USD231. Transparency is missing. When patrons request an opportunity to review a policy before it is voted on, they are given a policy number with no explanation, charged unrealistic fees to get copies, or simply ignored. This is unacceptable.
Teacher turnover. Recently, I received word that 30-plus teachers resigned just this year alone. Turnover is a clear indicator that we are not taking care of our teachers. Having witnessed teacher negotiations this spring, I am very concerned that we have placed our teacher’s salary and benefits on the back row in comparison to our district staff. In fact, statewide statistics will show that USD231 has some of the highest paid administrators, but our teacher’s pay is close to the bottom of the rankings. Again this is unacceptable.
SHIPPY: One area for improvement is to assure that patrons can find information and access on the school web page. Items such as committee reports and meetings are referenced at the board meeting and need to available for the community to review and read.
GARDNER NEWS: Please explain your biggest concern as you step into your position of newly-elected board member?
CHANDLER: There are truly many concerns that seem to be a priority to me and the community. But, the concern that is brought to me most often by the patrons of USD 231 is the transparency of the board and the superintendent. Too many times, I hear from citizens, teachers, and staff that they are “kept in the dark” or told to “mind their own business.” This seems to be counterproductive. We must embrace the fact that we have so many parents and teachers interested in the welfare of the children/students and turn this into a healthy relationship to improve the district and the overall education system.
COLLINS: Together with our superintendent and remaining board, policies have been passed that I feel will limit the ability of board members to be effective. Nor do these policies promote transparency. This last election brought with it significant change on the USD231 board. It is imperative that the board work together, be open-minded when exploring issues, and remain committed to serving the patrons of USD231.
SHIPPY: My biggest concern as a new board member is how as a school board we make sure that we continue to have the support of the community, to provide for the continued success of the school district.
GARDNER NEWS: Is it in your plan to be accessible to USD 231 patrons? How will patrons be able to contact you?
CHANDLER: Absolutely, I welcome any and all input and feedback from USD 231 patrons. As I stated before, I believe transparency and availability is critical and I have established a dedicated phone line for this purpose. I can be reached by text or phone at (913)313-0458. I also have a dedicated Facebook page at Brad Chandler for School Board. Also, I can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to working with everyone.
COLLINS: Effective July 1, I will have a designated phone line where patrons can contact me. My phone number will be (913) 940-8586. As of date, we have not been given a district email address, so until then, citizens may email me at email@example.com. I am committed to respond to you within one business day.
SHIPPY: My plan is to be accessible to the patrons of the school district. Their support is invaluable and being accessible to is one of the largest responsibilities of any elected position. Patrons will be able to contact me by email or by phone as listed on school district website.
There will be no cost to USD 231 for the phone line Collins and Chandler are dedicating to their position as a school board members. They will be paying this expense personally.
Chandler has indicated that he requested his official USD 231 email address from the district office, but was told he would get it sometime after his term started. The Gardner News will publish the USD 231 email addresses when issued to Chandler, Collins and Shippy.