Incumbent Shippy seeks third term on Gardner Edgerton school board

Education

GARDNER, Kan. — In the race to represent the 2nd District on the Gardner Edgerton school board, Thomas Reddin will compete against current board President Rob Shippy

With the general election less than a month away, FOX4 is working to help voters get a better idea where candidates stand on issues impacting residents in the metro.

FOX4 sent out a questionnaire to candidates in more than 50 races in Johnson County. FOX4 did not receive a response from Reddin. Here is a look at what Shippy had to say: 

Q: Do you feel the district’s COVID response has been adequate? If elected, what metric would you use in deciding district COVID precautions in the future?  

Shippy: I feel the district and Board of Education’s response to COVID-19 has been more than adequate. Everyone on the board, including me, has kept student and staff safety at the forefront of our decisions. Even when decisions were unpopular and excruciatingly difficult to make, we made them with safety in mind. I consistently supported the return to in-person learning and activities as soon as it was safe to do so.

If I am re-elected, I will continue to use the most appropriate metrics as determined by the experts in the health field. Data must continue to be used to drive our decisions; however, I recognize the importance of listening to the concerns of our students, staff, and families. While we may not always agree on the path forward, patrons can be assured that I listen to their concerns. We have had a trying past year for all involved, and no one solution will satisfy everyone involved. It is important to remember that the primary goal is to do what is in the best interest of the district, that allows for educational opportunities in a sustainable fashion. 

Q: How can the district address learning loss students may have experienced during the pandemic? What initiatives would you support to prevent students from falling behind? 

Shippy: I know the most effective form of education is in-person instruction. There is no doubt that students being in a remote environment did not fully replace the instruction they would have received in schools, classrooms, labs, gymnasiums, etc. I also know that our teachers are working diligently to evaluate student gaps in learning and, in response, adjusting instructional pacing and prioritizing content. Teachers are making these adjustments to ensure learning gaps are eliminated as students progress through this school year.

I continue to support the initiatives our staff are already implementing. Our Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) – established during my time on the board – is designed to do precisely this – address academic, behavioral, and social/emotional deficiencies. Through the use of formative assessments, collaboration with their colleagues, and a review of the available data. I have complete confidence that our teachers will address student learning loss with the systems we already have in place.

Q: What plans do you have to help the district attract and maintain qualified staff?  

Shippy: Thankfully, during my tenure as a board member in the Gardner Edgerton School District, we have been able to attract and retain high-quality educators for many reasons. I view the Gardner Edgerton School District as a “destination job” for employees, students, and families. I am proud of the following, which will serve as my plan to continue attracting and retaining qualified staff:

  •  Continued focus on teacher compensation and benefits. During my eight years as a board member, I have supported and helped accomplish the following:
    • The addition of over 125 new certified staff positions, increasing the number of certified teachers from 390 to 515. These additions have ensured that our class sizes remain appropriate;
    •  Third-highest starting teacher pay and third-best health insurance benefit in Johnson  County, despite being the fifth-largest district.
    • Best paying longevity plan in Johnson County;
    • Implementation of a quarterly attendance incentive plan for employees, the only district in the county with this type of program;
    • Introduction of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for all staff and family members.

Potential and new employees will quickly learn that I view and value teachers as professionals and teaching as a profession. Listening to what teachers say, showing appreciation for what they know, and responding to their needs has served me well and will continue if elected for a third term. I have had an active role in the negotiations with GENA every year since serving on the BOE. 

Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in the district budget?

Shippy: While there is always room for reflection and improvement, I am proud of our budgetary process, results, and transparency related to our district’s financial dealings. I am also humbled when reviewing what our district has accomplished while remaining financially conservative and responsible, including:

  •  The compensation and benefits improvements detailed in the previous answer; 
  •  A mill levy decrease each year since 2014, reduced from 82.4 to 64.7;
  •  Targeted building modifications to allow growth in existing facilities, thereby reducing debt to valuation ratio to lowest levels since 1999. 
  •  Turfing all athletic fields and building a new track throwers area at the high school, with no mill levy increase;
  •  The establishment of a 1-to-1 computer program, which now entails every K through 12th grade student being assigned a Chromebook;
  •  Approval of a $29.7 bond proposal to construct an Advanced Technical Center and high school addition. 

I look forward to continuing to add to a record of success as evidenced by the improvements listed in each of these questions, as well as countless others. More importantly, I look forward to continuing my working relationship with the stakeholders who make up the Gardner Edgerton School District, all in service to our students.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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