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Friday, July 31, 2015

School board candidates share views heading into election

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

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Dan Smith
Dan Smith

Dist. 5 (incumbent)

1. Why are you running for this seat on the LCS Board of Education?

A school district has to do its best to serve students who present educators with a wide ranging set of abilities. While perfection in educating these kids is the District's goal, it seems that goal is always being moved by governments. I have a passion for aiming at and hitting that goal for as many students as possible, and then sending them off to become success oriented adults

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Joe Cain
2. What background experience would you bring to this position?

As a frustrating puzzle for my parents and school teachers during childhood, I understand that school is difficult or boring for some of our students. When I graduated from UNI as an art teacher, it was obvious that the successful classroom was for organized teachers, not me. This hasn't hindered my desire to help out in classrooms though. I have done quite a bit of substitute teaching at all levels (K-12 & Special Ed.), and volunteer to help students who are also finding school "difficult or boring".

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Mark Hemmingson
3. What should be the school's priorities for the next three years?

*Bring our spending more in line with our certified enrollment without negatively affecting the education of students no matter what the skill level.

*Stop assuming what the Administration and Board of Education is intending to say will be understood by all. We need plain English in our planning, descriptions, and explanations.

*Entice more attendance at School Board meetings.

4. Along with the school board election, voters will also decide whether to support the Instructional Support Levy Sept. 9. What advice do you have for them as they make their decision?

Please join me in voting YES. The ISL is the only way of raising revenue which can be spent on General Fund items that is not based solely on property valuations. Otherwise, funds needed may come via property taxes alone through a Cash Reserve Levy (which is not a voter approved vehicle). Property taxes collected under the ISL would be less than half as much as property taxes collected with a Cash Reserve Levy.

5. With declining enrollment, LCS faces a smaller pool of state money to pay for teachers, textbooks and programs. How should the board continue to address this issue?

The reason ISL help is needed is because a balanced budget, done properly, is the only possible way to heal our problem. Swings in certified enrollment and cost increases without some kind of shock absorber can cause an overreaction that may cost more to fix in the long run than leaving the original problem untouched. My intent is to use the ISL to pay a portion of projected budget deficits. The rest of the deficit would have to be erased with spending adjustments. I feel this should be done until our budget balances without ISL taxes or budget cuts.

6. The LCS middle school addition is nearly complete. Another phase of expansion, with a competitive gym, music rooms and classroom space, has been discussed by the board. SILO money, which by law can't be used for general fund items like teacher pay and textbooks, is available. Should the board proceed with that addition and, if so, when?

Not at this time.

The State of Iowa SILO tax would be the funding source for construction of Phase II. The District General Fund would be the funding source for operating costs once the project is finished. Those operating costs would most likely compete with current and ongoing General Fund obligations. I would hope the public would feel the most prudent decision on commencing with Phase II would be when we can afford to operate the building without jeopardizing classrooms, books, and remedial programs.

7. How will you work to keep the school board's proceedings in line with Iowa's freedom of information laws?

The District could post our upcoming Board meeting agendas on the school web site at the same time they are mailed out to Board members. The District could also make available audio of regular meetings on the school web site (KLEM does post parts but reports very limited interest). Neither of these things would be required by law though. The nut of the law is…" records must be available for inspection unless the case for closure is specified in law." I feel we follow the law presently.

8. Is there anything you would like to add?

We have to be very careful about bringing back programs already cut if the ISL passes this Sept. 9. In making those decisions the Board changed lives, upset many, and made a statement that we were serious about continuing to provide a quality education while balancing the budget. I voted to cut those services because left alone they broke the budget and would have compounded our funding problems in the future.

Joe Cain

Dist. 5

1. Why are you running for this seat on the LCS Board of Education?

At this point in time, the direction needs to be changed. We need to have new input, new ideas. The city is in an uproar. We need to focus on the situation at hand, why we're here today doing what we're doing?

I want to become that person who the local community can come to. We need to continue to move forward in a positive direction.

2. What background experience would you bring to this position?

Some is common sense, knowing the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, wants and needs of others. That comes by working with people.

I am a high school graduate and have a college degree. I've had 10 years of military service, been in business management all my life and currently manage Hole N' the Wall Lodge.

I have two stepsons that went to Merrill K-5. What that school does is great. Extra one-on-one is important. I see Merrill as a stepping stone to LCS. Repercussions of losing Merrill would be negative on enrollment of LCS.

3. What should be the school's priorities for the next three years?

Some of these depend on the ISL vote. If it goes through the thought process will be different. The vote will make a difference in which priorities we'll dictate.

One of my major goals is to take a look at the internal structure of the current school system as it is today.

My priorities are to maintain strong public input and rectify some of the current situations that are at hand.

We've got to regain community support.

4. Along with the school board election, voters will also decide whether to support the Instructional Support Levy Sept. 9. What advice do you have for them as they make their decision?

There are pros and cons to both.

The biggest con with the ISL is that most people feel uncomfortable with the longevity of the plan, the uncertainty of the long term commitment.

The pro of the levy is we need to get out of this mess we're in and get the situation under hand. We need not have kids suffer through this with more programs cut.

We need to move forward for the benefit of our community, for our kids, and for our selves.

5. With declining enrollment, LCS faces a smaller pool of state money to pay for teachers, textbooks and programs. How should the board continue to address this issue?

It's hard to separate this question from the ISL vote. If it goes through, a lot of questions will be answered. We would need to redefine the way we use money -- maintaining and enhancing our schools and bringing back some of the programs cut.

If it doesn't go through, we'll have to look deep within the community to find a way to maintain strong, consistent teachers, textbooks and programs. We would have a whole different set of priorities because of our lack of funds. It would take the involvement of the community as a whole to redefine cuts.

6. The LCS middle school addition is nearly complete. Another phase of expansion, with a competitive gym, music rooms and classroom space, has been discussed by the board. SILO money, which by law can't be used for general fund items like teacher pay and textbooks, is available. Should the board proceed with that addition and, if so, when?

I'm not opposed to any new expansions, only if the funds are there to pay for the operating costs, what it takes to maintain it. The more buildings, the more staff we have, the more it costs for heating and cooling. It all adds to the bottom line for the school budget.

I'm not opposed if overall, the expansion is good for the community, overall it draws new people and businesses.

It's hard to put a date on it until the immediate circumstances are under control.

7. How will you work to keep the school board's proceedings in line with Iowa's freedom of information laws?

I want to work hard to re-energize the local community as a whole, partnering in these decisions making processes. I would like to get the support of the community again, get them involved. We have a lot of smart people in the community. I'd like to involve the students and teachers. I'd make it my personal goal to talk to teachers, students and community members to keep moving forward in a positive direction.

8. Is there anything you would like to add?

Currently we've got some damage control to do. I'm not saying I have all the answers, but I'd work hard at finding out the answers. I want to make sure the direction we're moving is always forward. I want to hold people accountable. This isn't so much about us as it is about our kids. They are the future of our world. I want our community to be leaders in giving our students all the options to learn.

Mark Hemmingson

Dist. 3

1. Why are you running for this seat on the LCS Board of Education?

I am concerned about maintaining the tradition of excellence at Le Mars Community Schools. What is now at stake is much greater than merely voting on the single issue of the Instructional Support Levy proposal. I don't want to see the ongoing excellence of our schools threatened by a vote taken in an emotionally charged atmosphere of uninformed self-interest, false accusations and suspicions. That goes for both the "yes' and "no" vote proponents.

2. What background experience would you bring to this position?

I represented the board here for many years as local counsel. For several years I also served as local counsel for Webster City schools when we lived there. As local counsel, I've worked with administration and the local board, representing them in proceedings requiring tough decisions. These matters ranged from property acquisitions and sales to disciplinary matters. I've also worked directly with labor counsel and bond counsel on various matters for the schools.

On a personal note, my family includes a number or teachers, including my wife and daughter. My mother taught for 30 years at Franklin Elementary.

3. What should be the school's priorities for the next three years?

The question specifically asks what "should" be the priorities.

That is a fairly easy question to answer in an ideal world - to provide a world-class education preparing students for known and yet unknown future demands in higher education, the workplace and beyond to the extent that they will become both effective leaders and productive citizens.

Facing the more sobering aspects of the budget is the reality. The board must continue seeking workable solutions. Lobbying the legislature to change the state aid formula and the patchwork of special support levies

to allow local boards more flexibility is essential .

4. Along with the school board election, voters will also decide whether to support the Instructional Support Levy Sept. 9. What advice do you have for them as they make their decision?

There are many personal agendas and concerns at work with all the changes the community is experiencing. On the ISL, do yourself, your neighbors, and the students a favor - get the facts. That doesn't include getting caught up in misleading campaign rhetoric put forth by either side of the issue. Then vote your conscience.

I urge a "yes" vote on the ISL. It is appropriate for a district like LCS and will give the board an important tool that can be used as sparingly as possible to see us through a difficult budget situation the next

few years.

5. With declining enrollment, LCS faces a smaller pool of state money to pay for teachers, textbooks and programs. How should the board continue to address this issue?

The legislature hasn't adequately provided for declining enrollment situations through the state aid formula. Instead, the legislature has provided several specialized levies, complete with inflexible limitations that don't always seem to make much sense. The board should continue lobbying legislators to push for changes in the state aid formula to help with declining enrollment situations and eliminate seemingly ridiculous restrictions on the use of monies from various specialized levies. Should the ISL fail, the board needs to consider all alternatives that will maintain programs and a workable cash reserve. Beyond that, the answer is only more cuts.

6. The LCS middle school addition is nearly complete. Another phase of expansion, with a competitive gym, music rooms and classroom space, has been discussed by the board. SILO money, which by law can't be used for general fund items like teacher pay and textbooks, is available. Should the board proceed with that addition and, if so, when?

The so-called "competition gym" project includes badly needed music rooms and classroom space. These should have the highest priority, but it is not possible to separately build these rooms and with the current plans.

SILO money accumulates year-to-year if not used. It can ONLY be used for infrastructure and NOT instruction. It is not responsible to accumulate SILO money for an extended period of time. However, maintenance of major school additions is a legitimate concern. Without a clear showing of sufficient resources to pay for maintenance the board should defer the Phase II project until the budget situation has improved.

7. How will you work to keep the school board's proceedings in line with Iowa's freedom of information laws?

I am a firm believer in the "daylight" provisions of the Iowa Open Meetings Law and the Iowa Public Records Law. Closing a meeting or keeping a document from public view is only justifiable if specifically authorized by statute for a specific and limited purpose. My advice to public bodies has always been and will continue to be, "even when there is doubt under the law, it is always better to err on the side of openness when conducting the people's business". I will continue to follow that philosophy.

8. Is there anything you would like to add?

The Le Mars Community School District has been a leader in

effective and innovative education for as far back as I can remember, and even before. Yet, the quality education here has been consistently and efficiently delivered to district students from the budget standpoint. For

that reason, we can also be proud and appreciative of our school board leadership through the years. This has helped the district achieve one of the lowest per pupil costs for education while still delivering top quality programs. The board members deserve a little trust and a big thank you for their service.



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