Voters Ask: School Board Candidates Answer

Bison Blinds
Sample ballot.
Sample ballot.

Luther Public School District voters will cast a ballot for a new school board member next Tuesday, February 9. As the days close in on campaigning for candidates Jennifer Edmunson and Steve Broudy, each took the time to answer some readers’ questions submitted in comments on an earlier article in The Luther Register.

Thank you to the readers who submitted questions, and thanks to Broudy and Edmunson for answering the ten selected questions sent to them. Each question is listed followed by the candidates’ answers, Broudy and Edmunson.

What are your specific plans to move LPS beyond current financial issues?

STEVE BROUDY: I don’t believe there is one solution that will solve the current short fall. A number of measures will have to be taken. I have proposed a committee of both members of the faculty and the community to do a line by line audit of the current budget. During that audit the following questions will be asked: do we need this, Is it a requirement of state or federal mandates, can we negotiate a better deal? The 4 day work week will save some money, I will address that in a later question. I would welcome suggestions from people with ideas based on their experiences, basically a brainstorming session. Fundraising and volunteerism will help. Many small cost saving measures will be necessary. The last option will be to let people go.

JENNIFER EDMUNSON: Before we know exactly how we will move forward financially, we need an accurate accounting of what we have, what bills have and have not been paid. We need to know exactly how much we have been overpaid these past 22 years. When our situation is clear, there may be hard temporary decisions that will need to be made. In order to weather this financial situation, we will need the entire community. There will need to be a concerted effort to reach those that do not currently have children in the schools and enlist their help in supporting teachers and children with specific needs.   That would alleviate some of the financial pressure on the district.

How will the Board plan to provide training to teachers following the new standards recently adopted by OSDE (and will be considered by the legislature)?

BROUDY: As the representation changes in the capitol, so will the requirements that are put on our teachers. The first priority should be certifying what we have now.

EDMUNSON: I need to read further and determine if these standards require formal additional training, and if so, when this training must be completed. A priority needs to be the teachers and the students.   But it may be a bit until it is fiscally feasible. I would also like to hear personally from the teachers to know what additional education they deem needed and appropriate.

What is your position on four day school week and year round school?

BROUDY: When I first heard of the 4 day work week (4dww) I was opposed. After talking to many of our educators in LPS and considering the savings in both substitutes and bus cost, I have changed my position. Students will not have to miss a day of instruction to attend to doctor or dentist visits. All options should be explored before anyone loses their job. As for the year around school year, I have been a supporter for a long time. One of the problems our students face now is the loss of retention over the long summer vacation. I have a niece enrolled in school that has a year round schedule. I have always wanted my children in school more not less. If we can implement the schedule and adjust the dates of school starting, as can save some money on utilities by having the school closed during the hottest time of the year.

EDMUNSON: I have always been for a 4-day week and believe the benefits are increased when it is married with a year round schedule. There is an increased current year curriculum study, refreshing previous year’s academics time is lessened.  68% of children are on subsidized school lunches. Some children may suffer from food instability at home. Children’s nutrition is increased as such a long summer break is broken up through the year. Child care costs are spread throughout the year without a large lump sum out of family budgets as it is with the long summer break. This schedule also allows the District to stand out among our surrounding districts and would aid in filling vacant teaching positions with the highest qualified candidates. You give families and employees the gift of time which does not cost the district anything, but is invaluable.

What is your position on each existing sport and new sports?

BROUDY: My athletic experiences and the experiences of my children have been positive. I have seen the life lessons that can’t be taught in a classroom. I would like to see other sports such as soccer be available to the children of Luther. I understand not all children are athletically inclined or have the same abilities. That is why I believe other extracurricular activities are as important as sports. Dance, band, art, among others deserve our support as well.

EDMUNSON: I would love to see Luther offer additional sports, soccer, wrestling, and lacrosse, whatever the student athletes would love to play.   At this time, offering additional sports is not possible unless the parents and community join to provide the initial start up costs and support.   When our financial situation improves, I would love to revisit this idea of sport expansion.

What is your position on improving test scores/school rankings?

BROUDY: Test should be used to gauge progress and comprehension of the concepts being taught. The curriculum at LPS middle and high school has been revamped to align with the ACTs. A consistent and challenging approach to teaching will give us the results we should strive for. Rankings are tools for the realtors.

EDMUNSON: I believe changing the school week/calendar would have an improvement on both test scores and school rankings. I believe you would see the most improvement from the second year on.   The reasons are stated above as teachers would have more days to teach over current year curriculum.   I also believe the day of rest will have an advantageous result on students regarding their studies.

What is your position on securing campus?

BROUDY: Our children are in those schools, I will do whatever I can to protect them. That is my job, role as a parent, responsibility or whatever you want to call it.

EDMUNSON: This is an important situation. It needs to involve personnel that are better equipped to determine the level of need and the best way prior to a potential bond to rectify the situation.

What is your position on healthiness of school lunch?

BROUDY: I want our children to eat a healthy lunch, not sure why we would accept anything less.

EDMUNSON: We are an agricultural community. I would love to see local farmers partnered with our District to offer fresh food to the students. I am not the only one who remembers walking into school on chicken fried steak day and smelling those homemade rolls. Those were the best days. I want our current students to have memories such as this. If possible, I would love to pull out old school recipes and go back to more homemade fares. I cook. You cook.Cooking from scratch is cheaper than buying prepackaged meals.It tastes better and is better for our students.

Could a school garden be part of curriculum at LPS?

Tell us about your knowledge and “homework” regarding the fiscal condition of LPS.

BROUDY: I have been attending the meetings for a year now. I have seen the reports on the school budget. I have access to the internet and am knowledgeable on how to obtain public records. I am aware of the cuts in state aid. The repayment of overpayments is a possibility.

EDMUNSON: I have requested and received the payment register on all accounts going back to fiscal year 2011-2012. I have actual bank statements from 1/2015 through 10/2015. I have poured through them with my calculator, my highlighters and my pencils, making notes, doing math, and following up when the need arises. I have poured through the current Transportation/Ag Barn bond. I have called vendors when it wasn’t apparent what their service entailed, I have googled, investigated and poured over School Finance Law to make sure expenditures are lawful and appropriate.  The auditor that spoke at the January meeting did not say anything that I had not already uncovered. The transportation expenditures where he stated “you cant do that” could have also been translated “its against the law.”  I knew this. Our Superintendent and Board should have known this as well. It was not hard to figure out.   It was a couple phone calls at most to the State Department of Education.

What I do not know is where we currently stand.   The District was allowed to write checks and have them covered with the understanding that the bank would be reimbursed when the District received their State funds in January.   How much do we owe?   How much do we have left?   How much do we have to work with until July, 2016?   These are immediate questions that must be answered and will be some of my first, if voters allow me the opportunity.

I do my own work. I do my own math, my own reasoning, my own research.

What is your level of education and experience in budgeting/financial management?

BROUDY:  My formal education ended in 1981 when I graduated from Bethel High School. Work experiences include but are not limited to: Leading 2 work centers in the Navy. Recovering from a 50% reduction in force that lead to becoming a benchmark for our sector. I live within my means with enough left over to enjoy life and help others.

EDMUNSON: I received a BA in History from Oklahoma Christian University in Edmond, in 1992. I was accepted to OU Law, had my section and was ready to go, when I decided to stay home with our first child.  I was hired out of college by a law firm and quickly was moved to a position where I was in charge of their billing, payables and receivable. I worked through their accounts and found over $50,000 of funds owed to the firm that had never been collected.  I have owned several businesses.   We have been self-employed for over 10 years. I am comfortable with a spread sheet, accounting, reconciling statements.   I also have taught two-year-olds, taught French to preschoolers and homeschoolers, tutored Latin, Logic, Science, Literature, Geography.  I understand what these teachers are required to do – magic – on a limited budget.  I only teach 2 at home – these teachers do a MUCH harder job than I do – they deserve my appreciation and my support.

How will you prepare for each meeting – will you have the time to read your board packets before meeting, and be prepared to ask questions in a public setting?

BROUDY:  If my appearance was a concern, I wouldn’t be pursuing this position. I will not be intimidated when seeking what is best for our children. I will review the packages when received and try to answer any questions I have by my own research. That way I won’t be wasting time at the meetings. Prepared and informed. If I need further clarification or can be an advocate for another person in the district I am not afraid to be heard. I want to be on the board to be heard and make the best decisions for our children.

EDMUNSON: I will have time. I do feel the administration should have the packets ready a week ahead, but that may not always be the case. Going through the financials and the agenda is a priority. It is one I do now prior to the board meetings. I am quick on my feet and being prepared should have a working knowledge of issues to be discussed. I am not embarrassed or hesitant to ask questions or ask for understanding from those who seem to grasp what is being discussed, if there happens to be something I do not.  However, in preparation for the meetings, I will make the time to do my own research to make sure I understand the issues discussed.

Thanks to the candidates. The winner of the school board election will take a vacant seat on the board formerly held by Aaron Bachhofer who resigned in November. The next school board meeting is February 15. 

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  1. Please note, a typical year round school calendar is NOT additional days taught — it is the same number of school days, just arranged differently throughout an academic year.

    If you are actually proposing, a true increase of school days, beyond currently contracted amounts, you will have an INCREASE in personnel costs (most district employees are contracted by the number of days taught + professional development days).

    Additionally, year round school will directly impact our students who attend the EOC Technology Center, as well as, students who take advanced coursework through Rose State distance learning opportunities (both of which are calculated into the A-F report card).

    Has either candidate spoken with the teachers/administrators who work daily w/these issues?

    1. I am not proposing additional days. It is an adjustment to the breaks, summer included, already taken by the LPS. Additional days would not alleviate some of the financial pressure the district faces. There are logistics the will need to be wrestled with, but I do believe this to be in the best interest of both the student and the district, as well as those that do the heavy lifting, our teachers. I have spoken with some teachers, and many more convos need to be had. Their opinions and insight are invaluable.

      1. I would really like to hear a solution for the LOGISTICS problem. In theory I think year round school may sound good to some people, but with EOCTC, concurrent enrollment/distance learning, and sports/band/FFA/FCCLA plus many more schedules at the high school, the proposed break schedule makes these issues much larger problems.

        When we talk about students attending the technology center, those students receive training/certifications that other wise would cost them a large sum of money. Most of the programs operate off of seat time (amount of time in the classroom) because some are counted for high school or even college credit. When EOCTC serves 3 other high schools, how do we expect to them to accommodate our students with the proposed break schedule.

        Our students who are receiving college credit at the high school rely on the access to the schools computers, internet, and distance learning capabilities. Are we going to ask Rose State College to excuse our students for a two week period while they are on fall break, because that answer is going no with a loud chuckle. Are we going to open up the school for those students to come and take those classes, because then we incur the electricity bill to open the school, staff to supervise them, transportation for these students, and much more.

        Do we expect to attract coaches worth anything when students might not be able to get to practice for 2 weeks at a time? This may be minor to some people, but it may be very important to others.

        As an adviser of a student organization, how will students get to school to practice for their competitive events that are coming up right after that two weeks off? Also, students with livestock may still miss just as much school in the spring or fall on top of the proposed breaks if they aren’t time properly.

        I would just like to hear a plan as to how to fix these issues.

        1. Great questions. Thanks. If we don’t get an answer “pre-campaign” – maybe the winner can address it along with the board if they move toward such a schedule. You offer some great insight – and remind us that there does not seem to be any easy answers (to anything!). Appreciate the comment. dawn

  2. Thanks to the candidates and to Dawn Shelton for this article. It give me food for thought. It will help me greatly when I go to cast my vote on Tuesday.

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