Amy Cunningham
Two candidates will face off for a seat on the Gardner School Board on April 5 when incumbent Mary Herbert will face newcomer Clint Newell to retain her seat on the board.
The Gardner News asked five questions of each candidate, you will find their responses below.
Why are you running for a seat on the U.S.D. 231 School Board?
Mary Herbert: I’m running because I feel like I’ve done a good job serving on the board in the past. I think our schools are progressing forward and I enjoy being a part of that.  Right now I am the only female representation on the board and I believe there needs to be a good balance of representation.

Clint Newell: I’m running because I’ve wanted to get involved in the Gardner Edgerton school system.  I’ve got two kids that currently attend Moonlight Elementary in Gardner and one on the way – a two-year-old who will attend Moonlight one day.  I also had one child graduate from Gardner Edgerton High School in 2010.  I’ve lived in Gardner now for six years and we like the community and want to see it do well.

What background and experience do you have that will help you if you serve on the board of education?

Mary Herbert: I have been on the board for several years, I know the history of the school district and I know what’s going on in our school district.  I follow the state legislature, so I am aware of the decisions that they make and how those decisions will affect our schools.   I’m very committed to serving this district, I don’t miss meetings.

Clint Newell: I have a Bachelors of Science degree from Ft. Hayes University, I’m a concerned citizen, I feel like I stay abreast of current issues and I will take a sound approach in analyzing data and facts rather than making decisions upon emotional criteria.

How do you feel about the proposed bond issue that may potentially face voters in 2012?

Mary Herbert: I have mixed feelings about it for the mere fact that I know we need additional facilities, but I hate the fact that we have to ask the community for more money.  I hate that, my heart hates that, but what are we going to do?  We can’t bus kids all over the country, we can’t put modulars at every building because the facilities are not built to handle that (population) and it gets very expensive.
We’re at capacity – in the band rooms, in the cafeterias and the music rooms.  Because we’ve added the modulars at Moonlight Elementary, and the school’s population is so large now, we’re already feeding kids at that school by 10:50 a.m. The more kids you pack into a building, the earlier you have to have lunch and recesses.  I don’t believe we should be feeding kids that early, they’re barely getting there in the morning.  It costs us $90,000 to put one modular in and they don’t even belong to us.  When these apartments come in (at Gardner Road and 188th Street) it’s going to increase our school population.  Whether it’s me or someone else on the board, they’re still going to have to build a school.
Clint Newell: I don’t support it right now; I don’t have all the answers, maybe adding on to one of the other elementary schools is the answer. I just don’t know, but we need to come back to the drawing board and find a new approach that the school board and maybe the city council will support as well. I don’t feel like building another elementary and middle school so close to Moonlight is the answer and based on the city council forum that I attended last week, it doesn’t look like any of those candidates (running for city council) support that either – it looks like at least the three positions that are open will not support (building the infrastructure to support the new schools).  We need to take a hard look at our current resources and use those efficiently and effectively before building new schools.

If base state aid per pupil declines where can the school district make cuts to make up the difference?
Mary Herbert: We have done a very, very good job of cutting wherever we can without affecting our staff and students.  If those cuts take effect we have a staged plan in place to respond according to how those cuts happen.
Clint Newell: I think we need to take a look at the programs we’re spending money on and look at the statistics and the facts. I don’t have a specific approach at this time, but I want to (audit) our facilities – do we have auto lighting, infrared switches, etc.?  We need to look at everything from facilities to programs to staffing – I don’t think anything would be off the table.  We need to take a sound approach to making cuts.  Staffing would be on the bottom of the list right now, from my perspective.  I would look at facilities and programs before I would take a look at staff – for me that would still be on the table, but at the bottom on the list.

In what areas do you think the school district excels and in what areas do you think the district could improve?

Mary Herbert: I think our school district does an excellent job in all areas, I truly believe that, and our test scores prove that.  The only place I could see where we could improve, I believe we could be more communicative.
I believe we have a lot of communication resources, but I don’t think that everybody is aware of them.  We have a website where everyone could go, we send out a weekly newspaper, the Horizon, and when there are any changes in the district, such as when we have bond issues or boundary issues, we go to every building and we hold forums to inform the parents of that school,
Clint Newell: I think the district excels in preparing kids in general.  Our cirriculum is great, our teachers are fantastic, our facilities are great and overall the administration does a good job.
I think the board members agree too often and I would like to see more dissention and, from that would come more discussion.  I think discussion would (spawn more ideas).
I’m disappointed with the pods at Moonlight Elementary. Moonlight Elementary was the only school in the district that didn’t receive the Governor’s Award and I feel like the reason for that is because it’s overcrowded.
I think that is the big area where the school district missed the mark. We’re spending temporary dollars where we could’ve had a more permanent solution.
I think they do a good job of communicating with the community as well.  I don’t feel like I need to come in and change everything, Gardner Edgerton has one of the best (school districts in the whole state), so they’re doing something right, but there’s always room for improvement.