Luther School District voters will choose a new school board member on February 11, 2020. The annual election is to fill the seat currently held by outgoing board member Ray Stanfield. Three candidates filed for the position – Kevin Boydston, Clint Rayburn and Jon Sanchez. According to school district officials, if one of the three candidates earns 50% plus one vote, he will win the seat. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters will have a run off on April 7.
In addition, at the April election, school district voters will also pick between Brandon Rogers and Gerald McCauley, Sr., running to fill the unexpired term of a board member who resigned. Rogers was appointed to the seat by the four remaining school board last September to serve until the next election.
The Luther Register thanks Boydston, Rayburn and Sanchez, candidates for the Feb. 11 election, for answering a candidate questionnaire and sharing photographs for readers for this first round of the 2020 Election Season.
Meet Clint Rayburn
Luther Register: Tell us about yourself including your education, occupation, family, children or grandchildren if you have them, and life in Luther. (Share as much as you like).
Clint Rayburn: I grew up in the small town of Weleetka, Oklahoma.My dad was a high school math teacher for over 30 years and mom taught elementary more than 20 years. I received my bachelor’s degree at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah and my Master of Business Administration from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater (Go Pokes).Over the years I have worked in recruiting and sales. My wife and I decided to move to Luther in the fall of 2017 to get back to our roots in a small community, this is our forever home.
LR: Here’s the BIG question. Why are you running for the Luther Board of Education?
Clint Rayburn:I hope my ideas can useful to the district and the people who fund LPS.I have learned over the years that the community benefits when its residents engage the governing process.Rather than hope some one would run that would represent the values of myself, my friends and my neighbors I decided to run and see if my ideas might be viewed as valuable by the community.
LR: What experience do you have for the position?
Clint Rayburn:My career has afforded me a great deal of experience that may be valuable in serving the Luther Public School district and the community.I have run teams over a large geographic area, managed large budgets and prioritized needs with limited resources in a way that achieves the greatest results for the organization I serve.I have experience in business finance, accounting value engineering, large commercial construction and project management.
LR: What are the biggest challenges facing the school district?
Clint Rayburn: Luther is a growing community; the district and its community are changing as people are moving in and out. The district is forced to do the best it can to predict changes growth will bring and proactively prepare for them; unfortunately, the future is hard to predict. What we can do is look at data and draw conclusions. We are fortunate that the 2020 census will begin in a short time and at its end we will have data that are both current and relevant to our decision-making process.
LR: What are challenges facing public education?
Clint Rayburn: I think the biggest challenge facing public education overall is government overreach at the state and federal level. Unfunded mandates and universal, one size fits all, standards are a danger to any local school board trying to run its operations in the way that best serve its local community. As the state and federal government become increasingly interested and involved in local schools, having a board with a clear vision and firm resolve become increasingly important.
LR: What are the bright spots you see in the district?
Clint Rayburn: Luther has an engaged and growing community that is interested in the success of LPS. Mr. Gunn is a great advocate for the school and his passion is clear.
LR: What is your impression of Luther Public Schools in terms of the following?
- Enrollment: Enrollment at LPS is now lower than it has been in over 10 years. Enrollment is now 11.3% lower than it was in the 2009-2010 school year and down 21.5% from its high in the 2014-2015 school year. – CR
- Academics: The data suggest that LPS is on par or a little under the state academic average. Recently the state report card grade for LPS was moved up to a C. Luther graduates about 82% of its students, which in on par with the state. – CR
- Athletics: Athletics are a great way for communities to find common ground and common interest. – CR
- Community involvement: The student organizations are often involved in the community. The school creates a venue for the community to engage around athletic events and creates a sense of identity that we can all rally around. – CR
- Faculty: The faculty at LPS appear to be committed and dedicated to their work and their students. – CR
- Leadership: I have not met the principals at LPS but I have Spoken with Mr. Gunn and his dedication to the advancement of LPS is clear. – CR
- Board governance: The board has been one sided, lacking accurate representation of the community in recent years and, perhaps, overly focused on passing bonds. – CR
LR: The elephant in the room. The district has not been able to pass a bond package in the last three tries beginning in 2015, and then again twice in 2019. What are your thoughts about the school bond issue – why it has failed?
Clint Rayburn: The recent bond packages have failed because they have been poorly timed and poorly prioritized. LPS is not a cash strapped district. We spend about $12,000 (the number is $11,991) per student, per year which is more than our neighbors in Edmond, Wellston, Jones, Harrah and Choctaw.
Perhaps most importantly we have not paid off the last bond we passed. We still owe about 6 million dollars on it ($980,000 per year until June of 2025) the board attempted to roll that bond into both packages of 2019. Doing this would have cost the people far more than paying off the current bond as scheduled in July of 2025.
Of the 26 million dollar bond packages in 2019 only about 14 million dollars would have been spent on the purchase of construction materials and labor. This means 47 cents of every dollar would have been paid to interest, fees and existing debt. 47% of the money the board wanted to spend would have had no impact on the school or the students. I think a lot of people are uncomfortable with that kind of value proposition.
Finally, the 10% tax increase proposed in the 2019 bonds would have represented a 16% increase in LPS funding. We presently spend more per student per year than our neighbors, I think a lot of people have a hard time increasing funding 16% when we are already at the top.
LR: Do you have an opinion about the condition of the school buildings in relation to what the bond issues have been proposing – safe rooms, library, cafeteria, basketball gym?
Saferooms: The middle school presently has an underground basement that serves the purpose of a safe room. I understand it may need some repair but in its current state it serves its functional purpose of keeping people safe in the event of sever weather. Repairs can be made with existing funds and in 5 years, when our outstanding bond is retired, we can build a new, modern saferoom as part of a no tax increase bond.
The elementary school does not presently have a safe room. With safety as a top priority a safe room can be built at the elementary school relatively inexpensively. The bonds of 2019 proposed safe rooms that doubled as media centers, dramatically increasing the cost. If we want a safe room for the elementary school, we can build one with existing funds that will serve the functional purpose of keeping children and teachers safe in the event of severe weather. In 5 years, when our current debt is paid off, we can add additional functionality to the elementary safe room as a part of a no tax increase bond.
Library: Again, some updates and improvements can be made with current money and a new library can be built, or the current one can be completely remodeled in 5 years. With enrollment numbers declining the burden on the library should also be declining.
Middle School cafeteria. There are several options that could address the middle school cafeteria. In a circumstance where limited resources are a reality, we should consider solutions that involve maximizing what we have. The middle school is comprised of 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grades. The cafeteria cannot support the number of students produced by four grades. One option would be to stagger lunch breaks. Another option would be to move 8th grade to the high school and 5th grade to elementary. This reduces the burden on the cafeteria by 50%. A third option would be to move 7th and 8th to the high school and 5th and 6th to the elementary school and shutter the middle school for the next five years or until enrollment warranted its reopening.
Gym: I accept the gym is old. I accept that our athletic facilities are often the only thing visitors from other communities see of our school. I understand the restroom facilities at the basketball gym are undeniably inadequate and I understand there is no air conditioning. These problems are not new, they did not suddenly become problems in 2019. There is a line item on your property tax bill called “building fund.” This is the kind if thing that money is designed to handle. We can immediately air condition the gym, it would not cost much, and we have the money now. We can also address the restroom facilities right now, with existing funds. It is my understanding that after a new gym is built, we will retain this one for use as a JV and practice facility. When this occurs, we would want air conditioning and improved restrooms, so improving these facilities now would continue to provide value well into the future. I propose making the improvements now and in 5 years, after our current debt is paid, pass a no tax increase bond that includes a new, modern gym.
LR: If you support a bond issue, what are your thoughts on what can be done to get a super majority vote passage?
Clint Rayburn: I could support a bond issue in 5 years, and it could be passed as a no tax increase bond, this strategy would provide voters a better value.Instead of using 47% of our money for interest, fees and existing debt we could spend much more of our funds on materials and labor providing greater outcomes to the people paying for the improvements.
LR: If you do not support increased bond indebtedness for property tax owners to fund a school bond package, can you explain why? And also, do you have an alternative idea – either via other funding mechanisms than ad valorem/bond debt or another way or timing. Are there any solutions or ideas to combat some of the stated challenges with need for more cafeteria space, safe rooms, gym and library?
Clint Rayburn: Our facilities did not get old overnight. They cannot be made new overnight. These are large projects with long lasting and wide-reaching implications. A measured, patient approach that keeps taxes at their current rate will attract new investments in our community. LPS is in a unique position right now. Many of the people building homes in the district do not have children that attend the district, as evidenced by the increasing number of homes and decreasing enrollment numbers. These property owners are paying taxes into the district, while not consuming any of the district’s resources.
When the census is out later this year, we will have more data and may be able to predict trends that help us be more intentional about the way we create future bond packages to improve facilities. I do not think LPS is need of more funding. LPS may benefit from re-evaluating its priorities, facilities and expenditures.
As far ideas or solutions to combat some of the stated challenges with need for increased cafeteria space, safe rooms, gym and library, yes, I have ideas. As I stated in a previous question, enrollment numbers do not require a middle school at this time and the trends do not suggest enrollment will require a middle school anytime soon. Close the middle school, move 5th and 6th to elementary and move 7th and 8th to the high school, which is currently at less than half of its capacity. Taking these steps would eliminate the need for a cafeteria or saferoom at the middle school. This will also free up additional funds as a facility not in use cost less to operate. The gym can be addressed with improvements from current funds for air conditioning and additional restroom facilities until a new bond is passed in 2025. Same answer for the library.
LR: Should the district try again on a bond issue and if so, what projects should be emphasized?
Clint Rayburn: No, the district should not try to pass another bond until the current bond is retired.
LR: What should voters know about you?
Clint Rayburn: I am person that solves problems with information. I understand the need for public education, and I believe in the value it brings to our community.I understand educators and administrators are being asked (required) to do more than ever and I understand the frustration that comes with ever increasing demands. I believe good policy and long-term planning can help our school and community prosper in the long term, allowing us to provide better opportunities and development for current and future students. I also believe that frequent change in public service positions is a good thing, if elected I will serve only one term.
LR: In your interpretation, what is the role of a local school board?
Clint Rayburn: It is my belief that the school board has a primary responsibility of advocating for the faculty and staff of the school. When the state pushes too far the board should push back, when parents are unreasonable (yes, they can be) the board should look out for its teachers and afford them the benefit of the doubt. Secondly, the board is responsible to the community that funds its operation. The board should be a body that listens and then acts on what it is told. Mr. Gunn does a wonderful job of advocating for the school’s needs. The board should balance that need against the community’s burden.
LR: As you have been campaigning, what are you hearing from other voters in the school district? And what are you telling them about your ideas?
Clint Rayburn: My friends and neighbors tell me one of the things that caused them to be interested in investing their money to build in Luther was the ability to escape the higher tax burden of metropolitan areas. My friends and neighbors no longer have school aged children and while they accept public education is necessary and good for the community, they believe the recent bond packages are asking too much.
LR: Any parting thoughts?
Clint Rayburn: I do not believe the school board has had an advocate for the community as a part of its membership in recent years and I think a balanced approach is needed. The community carries the burden of the board’s decisions and there should be a voice on the board to balance the needs of the school against the needs and capabilities of the community. I believe Luther is changing and it is time for a set of fresh ideas to help our community and our school equip itself for the future. Thank you for taking time to read my thoughts and ideas.
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