Raymore-Peculiar School Board candidates for April 8 ballot

March 7, 2014 

Name: Barbara Boucher

Age: 64

Residence: Peculiar

Occupation: Retired reading specialist.

Public office experience: Past member, Raymore-Peculiar School Board of Education; Present member, Cass County Library Board.

Community involvement: Vice president of a local unit, Missouri Retired Teacher’s Association; Cass County Historical Society; Harrisonville NETT; Heartland Baptist Fellowship; Peculiar Chamber of Commerce; Cass County Library Foundation.

Name: Mary DuBray

Age: 38

Residence: Raymore

Occupation: Aflac Agent

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: Local business owner; children’s sports.

Name: Melinda Houdyshell

Age: 43

Residence: Raymore

Occupation: Housewife

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: Past board member, Raymore-Peculiar Elite Soccer Board Member; PTA; Room Mother; Worked to revitalize the Learning Garden at Raymore Elementary; former Master Gardener of Greater Kansas City; Member, Muriel I. Kauffman Women's Heart Center Advisory Council; Local coordinator for the Kansas City area for Christian concerts; Raytown Community Choir.

Name: Ruth Johnson

Age: 43

Residence: Peculiar

Occupation: Office Assistant

Public office experience: Current member of Raymore-Peculiar School District Board of Education.

Community involvement: Active member of Rock Brook Church.

Name: Tonya Long

Age: 42

Residence: Peculiar

Occupation: Housewife

Public office experience: None

Community involvement: Coach, youth baseball and softball teams; actively involved with the Missouri Coalition against Common Core to bring local control back to education.

Name: Kim York

Age: 46

Residence: Raymore

Occupation: Accountant

Public office experience: Member, Raymore-Peculiar School District Board of Education, including two years as president.

Community involvement: Raymore Peculiar Public School Foundation; Sunrise Optimist.

1. The overall state budget continues to take big cuts. If education becomes a major piece of those cuts over the next several years, what changes would you be prepared to support in order to accommodate less funding for your district?

Boucher: I would be active as a citizen to prevent our state officials from cutting revenues from education and would continue to urge full funding of the state education formula. However, if less state funding for our district should occur, I would refer to a study already conducted by our district a few years ago regarding budget reduction. In this study, patrons and school officials worked together to determine budget priorities. Funding for academic programs, teachers, and facilities, for student learning will always be my spending priorities.

DuBray: The Ray-Pec School District has positioned itself quite well financially with a larger reserve than mandated. I think we will be able to weather this storm with very little impact to educational programs. If there are budget cuts that must be made, I would like to see them be for extra-curricular programs. I do not want educational programs or teachers to be affected.

Houdyshell: I believe if the district was affected by major cuts in the state budget that the board would have to look at everything the district does and prioritize things that could be reduced or eliminated. We would have to go through a budget reduction process, evaluate programs, and make really hard choices based on a decision that we feel as group is the best for the district. It would be hard and even unfair to randomly pick one area of the budget today for a scenario that could happen many years from now. Many things can change in that amount of time and hopefully we will never face that.

Johnson: I cannot predict what cuts could come, if any, or where we are as a district at that time. The district is in the beginning stage of implementing our five-year strategic plan. I believe this will lay the foundation and framework that will guide the budget. Through the work of many teachers, staff, administrators, parents and community patrons, this document has been created and will help direct the focus of our time, talents, and treasures.

Long: I would support a decrease in technology spending in the district. I am old-fashioned and believe somehow our children will still be able to learn without all the technological expenditures. Generations before us have done amazing things with much less. Thinking our children need technology to learn or to compete in a “global society” does not make sense to me. Our nation is full of innovators. Knowledge is what transforms, not technology. Technology is not vital to education. In fact, in many ways I wonder if it hasn’t distracted us from true learning and from teaching our children what it means to work for something.

York: As a mom and a CPA, I want to find that balance between effective learning and available resources. The district should start by doing all it can to tighten up spending without impacting classrooms. I would ask administration to give the board several options and then consider each of them in light of what the community values and supports.

2. What is your vision for public education in your community? What kind of relationship should a district/school board have with its community? With its parents and families?

Boucher: My vision of public education in our community supports our district’s mission of preparing each child for a successful and meaningful life. My goal for our students can be summarized by a quote from Martin Luther King Jr., “Intelligence plus character, that is the goal of true education.” The relationship of the schools, community and families in our district must be a partnership. This partnership can be compared to a chain, with the strength of the chain dependent on the strength and stability of each link. Effective communication, trustworthiness and dependability are important attributes of a strong partnership.

DuBray: As a parent of two children in the district, I want to see them have every opportunity to succeed in life. I know that the best way to position a child for success is through a quality education. I believe the RPSD provides that kind of education. I would love to be a part of that process. The school district and the board must be involved with the community, parents, and families. Without sufficient community and parental support, there is no way for a child to reach his/her full potential. We must all be fully-committed to providing our youth with opportunities to succeed.

Houdyshell: The vision I have for public education in my community is one that is highly sought after by families wanting the best education possible for their children. One that cares for its students, staff and administration. One that is willing to look at all possible solutions to deliver the best education possible. One that is not afraid of change whether it’s trying something new or releasing things that are not working. I believe in the “village mentality”, where it takes a village to raise the children. We need to get back to this type of thinking and join as a community to help our children succeed.

Johnson: My vision for our local community’s education system is the same as that of every other parent: To have productive members of society when they graduate. We want to be assured that our students have had access to a multitude of opportunities that will fit their future needs. We also want to consider what business will need of future employees. There are some great opportunities in the future of Cass County with the Cerner development and the new Honeywell plant. If they have dreams of owning their own business, have we given them the necessary tools to succeed? We are preparing our kids for unknown jobs of the future and the possibilities are endless.

Long: My vision starts with strong local control. I envision parents and citizens engaged in what our children are being taught and who is directing that teaching. I believe without community involvement, public education is turning into just another business. With each new regulation, not law but regulation, we are relinquishing local control. I envision a community standing up and fighting for our right to direct the teaching of our children. We send our most precious gifts to school each day hoping and expecting they will become educated. I believe citizens need to have a place at the public school table. School board members are responsible to those who elect them. A school board needs to have a strong relationship with the community they serve. There can’t be a sense that because no one is saying anything, things must be great. School boards need to actively seek the will of the people. Campaigning takes time and so does serving. I am concerned public school is becoming a business especially when I hear words like shareholders and marketing plan. I believe it is dangerous when education is turned into a business. Strong community involvement is a must to keep education about educating kids instead of the bottom line.

York: My vision for public education: Ray-Pec schools will prepare each child for their next step in life by providing them the education they need. The Board should reflect our community and our local priorities. The Board should stay informed, lead and not just maintain the status quo. I believe the school district, the board and the community are partners in the education of our children.

3. What are the current challenges within your school district? How do you feel you can help find solutions to these issues?

Boucher: Since our business is education, the primary challenges involve the most effective way to engage our students in meaningful learning each day, including the questions of what to do if students aren’t learning how to take on the task of inspiring students who learn quickly. I will bring my background of 28 years in the heart of the school, the classroom, to allow a balanced view of board issues. I will look at our $60 million budget with the eyes of a teacher and my knowledge of the priorities of parents, derived from many years of reporting directly to parents, will ensure competent and compassionate handling of student issues.

DuBray: The Ray-Pec School District and School Board are interested in hiring/retaining quality staff members. They are also concerned with the financial stability of the district. Last, they are consistently striving to improve the quality of educational opportunities being provided to the students. I want to help them by aiding in deciding where our educational dollars go. My only goal as a board member is to help the staff help the students. I am willing to make tough decisions to aid in achieving this goal.

Houdyshell: Currently I think our two biggest challenges revolve around our growing community & converting to the Standards-Reference Reporting. I believe the district is headed in the right direction as far as our current growth and building plans. We need to make sure that continues to be our focus considering the urban core is constantly pushing outward. The Standard-Reference Reporting is a significant change in the way the district grades it’s students. It will undoubtedly generate many questions from the community and the families of our district. I believe I would be beneficial in organizing educational forums for the communities and our families in our district.

Johnson: One of the challenges that I feel we face, along with all other districts, is the battle to keep local control. I always find it interesting when someone sitting in Jefferson City or Washington D.C. think they know best about what residents of Peculiar and Raymore want for their students. While serving the past three years on our school board, I have had the privileges going to Jefferson City and talking with legislators. They need to hear from their constituents as to how their vote affects their voters at home. I have even been able to take part in a discussion with a federal level congressperson about possible legislation they were considering. I was able to reinforce that we all want our control to stay local. What works in Ray-Pec is not always the same that works for Lee's Summit, Belton, or any other district in our surrounding area. We each need to allow our own local boards, whom we vote for, to decide, not politicians.

Long: Challenges for Ray-Pec are one high school in two buildings, overcrowded middle school, and a large reliance on federal/state funding. However the most crucial issue is the implementation of Common Core State Standards. I believe the standards are subpar and cheat Missouri kids out of an opportunity to excel. The data collection associated with CCSS is a serious threat to our children’s privacy. CCSS were brought to Missouri illegally. We must hold those we elect accountable to the law otherwise our republic begins to die. CCSS were developed by private organizations that also hold the copyrights to the standards. I work with a group called Missouri Coalition against Common Core and our purpose is to bring excellent education back into the hands of local communities. I currently support several bills in our current legislative session and travel to Jefferson City to testify on behalf of those bills. I engage citizens in our community to do their own research on Common Core. I offer opportunities for people to learn more through presentations. I help others who are not able to testify in person by delivering their written testimony. I am running for school board to shine the light on this issue.

York: Providing effective support for our teachers and staff is a challenge. The classroom of today is much more demanding than a classroom of 20 years ago. Teachers need support. I would consistently be a voice for that support, looking at budget allocations, training, number of new initiatives, and staffing options. Another challenge is effective communication. I would seek out examples of best practices from other districts, make this a key objective for administration, and focus on obtaining results.

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