Ahead of the general election on Nov. 2, 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 Chapman. Here is a look at what Coleman and Kramer 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?
Coleman: Honestly, I was pleasantly shocked by the district’s great response to Covid. From the beginning, the district trusted the science and made socially unpopular decisions to keep kids and staff safe. The district requires masking K-12 and maintains social distancing–to the extent that it’s possible with children–and working in cohort groups whenever possible.
If elected, I’ll follow the science and guidance offered by the medical professionals and experts in public health. It’s literally the easiest calculus I’d face as a member of the school board. I’m not a doctor or an epidemiologist, therefore I will always defer to the experts charged with keeping our communities safe and healthy.
Kramer: No, I think they went completely overboard with their covid response. Since Gardner is a smaller school district, I would look at the local covid numbers and make decisions based on those, instead of the numbers for all of Johnson County. I would also look into remote options again and not force anyone who wants to be in-person to be remote.
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?
Coleman: I take exception to the term “learning loss”. I wouldn’t call it a loss. What I would say is that kids were learning the material, just not as quickly as they would have in an in-person environment. Every student in the world went through a similar experience. The kids are going to be okay.
Our teachers undertook a Herculean task, teaching during a pandemic, and they did an amazing job. Curriculum adjustments have been made, and school staff have already begun to identify areas of difficulty for students who are struggling with specific subjects. They’ve already begun to offer supplemental teaching times within the confines of the school day. I would love to see our district apply for the opportunity to offer virtual learning to our student population–not as a response to Covid, but as an additional opportunity for students to learn, post-Covid. I’d also like to explore the possibility of offering supplemental tutoring, offered through the school district, offering supplemental pay to teachers, which also answers a piece of the next question.
Kramer: Honestly, I think that year long school would be highly beneficial for all students. Kids lose so much over the summer. Same with the 6 months or so we were out for covid. Some of these kids are very behind and are just being push to the next grade level. We are failing our kids. Do I have an immediate solution? No, but I’m more than willing to figure one out. [what initiatives would you support?] Being in school!!!
Q: What plans do you have to help the district attract and maintain qualified staff?
Coleman: To keep our existing incredible teachers, and to attract new, talented teachers to USD 231, it’s imperative that we offer competitive pay, not just as a base salary level, but as they move up the salary schedule. Again, supplemental tutoring offered by the district would provide an extra earning opportunity for volunteer teachers.
Beyond pay, however, because Gardner is already fairly competitive, and we still lost a ton of outstanding teachers–we have to support our teachers. I have teacher friends, and I’ve talked to lots of teachers preparing to run for school board. Beyond anything else, teachers want support from the administration, and they want to have some creative freedom in how they teach. Our teachers are the experts. They’re the experts in the subject matter, they’re the experts in their own classroom dynamics. We need to allow teachers to have control over their own classrooms and allow them to do their work without interference from administration into the minutiae of day-to-day classroom operations.
Our administrators need to support teachers who have high expectations for students instead of pacifying parents. These teachers know what their students are capable of. They are bound by curriculum and testing, but they don’t need anyone looking over their shoulders at classwork, lesson plans, or expectation setting. Let teachers teach. Demonstrate support for the teachers. It’s easy to say, harder to do. To accomplish it, we need to make sure our administrators have the necessary experience to take a stand for teachers when it’s necessary.
Kramer: Higher pay if possible. Less micromanaging. Allowing the teachers to teach. More support from upper management. More transparency from upper management.
Q: What changes, if any, would you like to see in the district budget?
Coleman: Having not been privy to budget discussions in the past, I’m only going to be able to give a general answer to this question, but what I’d focus on is looking for areas the district might be potentially losing money and working toward resolving those issues so that those wasted dollars can be reallocated in ways that best serve our students and our teachers.
Kramer: More allotted money to our sped [Special Education] department. We have a failing sped department and I have a feeling more money for support positions salaries, and for the department itself would help put things back on track.
We also need to put some money into the arts department, especially in our elementary schools. I realize sports are important, but they are not as important as our children’s education. Let’s focus our money on that instead of so much into sports.