School board candidates share views in forum

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Following the forum for the city council candidates Thursday night the candidates for the Nevada R-5 School District were presented in another forum.

Three of the candidates were present but the fourth, Sam Delaney, was unable to attend because she was out of town on a prearranged trip to tour a college with one of her children. Moderator Melinda Rhodes read a statement from Delaney after all the candidates that were present gave their opening statements.

In the statement, Delaney apologized for not being present but said the trip was arranged before the details of the candidate forum were known and couldn't be changed. She said she wanted to be a voice for those who couldn't speak for themselves.

In his opening statement Chris Ellis, current board member, said he has been a member of the board for six years and that those years provide him with the experience needed to be effective on the board.

"The first three years were really a learning experience," Ellis said.

Ellis said he believes in a "students first" school district and in a policy-making school board directing the school's administration.

Norlene Hillier said she came to Nevada in 1973 to go to Cottey College and ended up staying and marrying a local man. Hillier said she didn't have any particular expertise but she believes, "Involved parents can bring a needed energy to the board."

Dr. Warren Lovinger said his 15 years on the board gives him the experience needed to make the necessary decisions a board member had to make and that his involvement went back to his birth on a college campus.

"From the day I was born I was immersed in education," Lovinger said.

Asked about funding concerns, Ellis said that the majority of the schools' funding comes from the state-based on a foundation formula. "It's all based on assessed valuation, which declined for some years, but now it's headed up."

Hillier said that the new formula the state developed has some positives. "The new formula opens up how boards can fund their projects," Hillier said.

Lovinger said he was on the board when the first foundation formula was introduced.

"I was on the board when the first foundation formula was put on the books. It was a great thing but it became dysfunctional," Lovinger said.

On the issue of school activities on Sunday and Wednesday, Hillier said she thinks there should be a time free from the intrusion of school.

"I led a group of parents that requested a special time," Hillier said. "There should be a special block of time when school does not intrude."

Both Ellis and Lovinger agreed but both pointed out that despite the best efforts of the district to make Wednesday and Sunday off-limits, there are occasions when scheduling changes could conflict with the policy.

"With all of the opportunities students have, there will be times when some will fall on those nights," Lovinger said.

On the issue of teacher pay, Lovinger said that "preachers and teachers are the poorest paid professions" and that increasing pay was a way to retain employees.

"In order to keep good folks you have to pay them well and make them feel appreciated," Lovinger said.

Ellis and Hillier agreed with Hillier said the district needed to listen to the teachers.

"Teachers are the foundations of our school," Hillier said. "Teachers need to be listened to. Really encouraging discussion would show them their views are important."

On the Missouri Assessment Program test, Hillier said the program is a mandated testing program at certain levels. "The best the students can do is prepare and the teachers can help them," Hillier said.

Ellis said the tests were important in another way.

"The MAPs are the district's report card for the year," Ellis said. "They're not the only a measure of success but they're very important to our district."

On the issue of school uniforms, Ellis and Lovinger weren't in favor of them but Hillier didn't rule out their use.

"How dress would affect learning, I'm not sure," Hillier said. "But members of the public have mentioned it and I think we should do what the public wants."

Lovinger said some districts used uniforms successfully but they were not as academically proficient as the Nevada district.

"Some schools have had success with it in dysfunctional districts," Lovinger said. "But Nevada is accredited with distinction."

After the questioning was over Rhodes thanked the candidates and the panel of Cottey students who presented the questions the public had submitted.

The audience gave the candidates a warm round of applause as they left the stage.

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