Albert Rukwaro
Special to The Gardner News
Candidates for USD 231 Board attended a forum Oct 12. The event was sponsored by the Gardner Edgerton Chamber of Commerce and was held at the county fairgrounds.
Candidates answered questions about their plans for the community.
School board newcomers Benjamin Hudson, Jacque Hastert and Ementi Coary were joined by incumbents Kristen Schulz and Robin Strenz. Incumbent Tresa Boden was unable to attend.
The event was moderated by Jason Camis, chamber president.
Most candidates said they were motivated to run for office in order to serve the community and identified the rapid population growth in the city as a major concern.
Schulz said the board needs to be the voice of the community adding that the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” was true even for Gardner and Edgerton.
“We need to look ahead, decisions on new schools and boundaries will have to be made,” she said, adding that the board will have to face issues of diversity as the district grows.
“We need to make sure every child feels connected to the community,” she said.
She was echoed by Hastert who said that the community, including the business community in the area, needs to be involved in district matters.
Hudson said as the community grows and becomes more diverse, the district will need to address issues such as classroom disruptions and warned that unless such issues are seriously addressed parents could easily opt for private schools for their children.
Strenz said that the district was currently doing good but stressed on the importance of thinking ahead to make sure there are enough schools to accommodate the growing population.
“On diversity, we need to make sure we are advocates for all the kids, even the gifted ones,” she said.
Schulz said that there is a lot to learn about district matters, and she was still learning even after four years on the board.
“I feel like I’m just now hitting my stride after four years on the board,” she said.
Coary said that while the district needs to continue doing what they are doing now, there was a need to grow vocational studies and athletics. He also identified safety and security of students and staff as critical.
“It can happen here,” he said adding that his expertise as a former law enforcement officer gave him a vantage position to contribute in the area.
The candidates said that the district’s success should be measured against the success of the students in state evaluations, and the hiring and supervision of the schools superintendent was the primary responsibility of the board.
Hudson said besides hiring and evaluating district staff, the board should offer strategic vision to guide the district in the direction the community wants.
Schultz said the “Zero Reasons Why” suicide prevention program recently implemented in the district was one of her proudest accomplishments as a board member.
The candidates will face off in the Nov. 5 elections.