Pleasant Hill School Board Candidates for April 8 ballot

March 7, 2014 

Name: David Adamczyk

Age: 63

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Retired.

Public office experience: Current member of the Pleasant Hill School Board of Education.

Community involvement: Past member, Pleasant Hill Park Board; Past member, Pleasant Hill Optimist Club; and past member, State of Missouri Child Care Accreditation.

Name: Cathy Babylon-Gilbert

Age: 46

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Office manager at Reece and Nichols Shewmaker.

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: Secretary, Pleasant Hill Booster Club.

Name: Mike Gray

Age: 41

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Manager, Plastic Packaging Concepts in Garden City.

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: Elder, Our Savior Lutheran Church; Sponsor for sports teams and Cass County Fair.

Name: Ron Henley

Age: 54

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Surveyor

Public office experience: Pleasant Hill School Board of Education member for nine years.

Community involvement: Big Creek Baptist Church.

Name: Deenia Hocker

Age: 41

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Special education coordinator for the Raytown School District.

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: Member, Alpha Zeta Omicron of Beta Sigma Phi, participating in community betterment activities including Meals on Wheels, Angel Tree, ABC Backpack program, supplying winter coats to students, and providing backpacks with school supplies; Member, Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church.

Name: Lori Lancaster-Redwine

Age: 40

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Sonographer

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: Pleasant Hill United Methodist Church; Pleasant Hill PTO; Pleasant Hill Booster Club; and Beta Sigma Phi.

Name: Jeremy Newman

Age: 39

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Investigator

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: Pleasant Hill Extreme Volleyball Club coach; Matt Young Foundation executive board member.

Name: Ryan Vescovi

Age: 41

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Owner, Guido’s Pizza; Co-Owner, Kidz Inc. Child Development Center.

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: National Federation of Independent Businesses; Pleasant Hill Chamber of Commerce; Sponsorship/donations to schools and athletic teams, as well as local organizations and charities.

Name: Jim Wilson

Age: 46

Residence: Pleasant Hill

Occupation: Agriculture industry standards director.

Public office experience: None.

Community involvement: Two years of service on the Board of the Pleasant Hill Youth Sports Association; One year of service as the Pleasant Hill Town Representative to the West Central Youth Football League; Four years as a basketball coach; one season as a soccer coach; Member, Pleasant Hill Booster Club.

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?

Adamczyk: In the past five years, our district has made many reductions in the funding of supplies, equipment and building updates. Salaries for staff members were held at a minimum and reduction in staff was done in certain areas where it was not harmful to our student’s academic challenges. With all of this, our district still maintained a safe reserve. We feel we have made appropriate changes in the past, which we can make again, if necessary.

Babylon-Gilbert: If less funding is an issue for our district, I would reevaluate positions as staff retire, to make sure that position is truly needed. I would not support cuts that would hinder in the classroom or a student’s learning.

Gray: Education should always be the utmost priority in our school district. When and if there are cuts, we should always keep in mind our extra curricular activities come second.

Henley: If education funding does decrease, I believe we should follow the same course that we have in the past. Teacher retirements and attrition allowed for some budget savings. In the past Pleasant Hill School District did not have to eliminate any positions due to budget cuts and we still managed to raise salaries year over year. We did have some cuts to extracurricular activity budgets and operating expenses but these were restored when revenue increased.

Hocker: First, I will continue to lobby against state budget cuts to education by contacting local and state representatives as I currently do. I would only support changes that have been thoroughly researched and believed to be the best for the vision of Pleasant Hill Schools and its students.

Lancaster-Redwine: I would try to support changes that maximized student achievement and maintained quality educational staff.

Newman: Drastic cuts in funding will only exacerbate the problems of overcrowded classrooms and fewer staff to educate and provide critical services to students. All discretionary expenditures must be eliminated before this happens. Our teachers and other educational staff cannot continue to do more with less. I will work to make gains in K-12 educational funding that supports student learning, provides the resources of a quality staff (teachers and other educational personnel), so Pleasant Hill can become the world class public education system we want for all of our children.

Vescovi: It is inevitable that we will face more budget cuts in the future. It will be detrimental to our school district to cut anymore in our classrooms, special education program, early childhood development, or any programs that support at risk students. There are areas in our district where we are spending too much money and then there are areas where we aren’t spending enough. All are as will need to be reevaluated and decisions made based on what is best for our students and the support of our teachers.

Wilson: I would support more creative implementations of technology to enable cuts in technology. This answer may come as a surprise coming from a technology expert. However, the proliferation of personal devices and the availability of low-cost technologies can still support learning. That said, I would still prefer that technology be a well-funded resource category.

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?

Adamczyk: The visions for our district are providing technology for every student, expanding early childhood education, and having an ever-changing curriculum so our graduates can be prepared for their next stage of their life.

Babylon-Gilbert: My vision for public education in our community is to prepare each student for their individual success for life after high school. The BOE should be involved and available to their patrons. This is accomplished by attending events and being available by either phone or email.

Gray: There should be an open and working relationship between our school district and city administrators. Also, keep the constituency posted on meeting times, minutes and agenda.

Henley: I believe that public education is the foundation and cornerstone of our society. Our educational system does need some reorganizing. Reorganizing meaning that the federal government should not have any role in education whatsoever. Local control should take priority with state control subservient to the local school board. As for the relationship with community, parents, and families, they should have an understanding of how the public education system works and we as the school board should supply them with all the information that they require to achieve this.

Hocker: My vision for public education in Pleasant Hill is for all stakeholders (school board, administration, teachers, students, parents and businesses) to work collaboratively and purposely to ensure our students are prepared to be productive citizens. A school district’s administration and its BOE must have a collaborative working relationship with the businesses of the community focusing on the vision of the school. Parents and families need to feel welcomed to communicate concerns and district administration and the board must actively listen to those concerns.

Lancaster-Redwine: Public education should be seen positively and top priority in the community. The relationship of school board with all should be open, understanding, and respectful. Decisions made are to benefit the students which are the top priority.

Newman: If I could wave a magic wand today and create the perfect public school, it would have a rich, engaging, and culturally relevant curriculum for every student with full art, music, library, science, history, physical education and world language programs in addition to reading and math with safe, orderly, respectful and nurturing learning environments in smaller class sizes. Schooling requires a partnership between schools and their families and community members. It is unlikely that sustained student achievement will happen without it. It is my hope that the school board will facilitate the growing necessity for the school-family-community partnership.

Vescovi: In an ideal scenario education should be student centered and support teachers so that they can prepare our students for the world in which we live. This would mean having appropriate class sizes and providing necessary support to any and all at risk students. In order to obtain these goals we would need an open door policy or open forum so that all voices can be heard, all concerns can be addressed and all ideas can be shared.. Good relationships are built on trust and being able to openly communicate across the board will only benefit the reason for education: our children.

Wilson: I want my sons and their classmates to share my passion for learning. Teachers can teach more effectively and with more personal and professional fulfillment when students are eager to learn. As a board member I would work with district administrators and teachers to determine the best use of our resources to promote curiosity and a desire to learn among our children, and to provide the tools our teachers need to be effective. The school board should engage the community (including parents/families) to keep the community informed of the board’s activities and encourage community input.

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

Adamczyk: There are several major challenges facing our district. Some are that we provide the best resources to our staff to educate our students, maintain and upgrade our facilities, keep and challenge our teachers, and upgrade our technology. Staying in touch with our legislators is one way we can support and voice our concerns. However, the main thing we can do is to stay in tune with our patrons, and for our board to make sound decisions in what is best for our district.

Babylon-Gilbert: The current challenge with the Pleasant Hill School District is hiring and retaining high-quality staff. The BOE can assist in this process by continuing to support professional development, hiring and retaining quality staff, and providing them with a salary and benefits that are comparable to surrounding districts.

Gray: A current challenge is the continued cuts in funding. I want to move the district in a debt-free direction, so we can assure our students receive the best education and programs possible, giving us the opportunity and ability to hire the most qualified educators.

Henley: One of the current challenges to our district, I believe, is the ever changing curriculum requirements from the state and federal authorities. Second to this are the mandates that are passed on to the district from these authorities without any thought of how to implement or fund them. Solutions can be found if the district and its patrons will exercise their rights to educate our own children as we see fit. We still need to maintain certain standards as well as meet and exceed educational goals that are necessary for our students to succeed in their chosen career after graduation. I believe that with my previous 9 years of experience on the school board I can help to achieve this.

Hocker: Current challenges of the Pleasant Hill School District include maintaining high standards for all students, consistency in discipline and academic rigor between buildings, and remaining fiscally responsible, yet competitive with teacher salaries to retain highly qualified educators. I do not feel that I have insight and knowledge to the history of how these challenges have come about and can guide the school board in better understanding the challenges and refocus our efforts.

Lancaster-Redwine: Current challenges are operating with decreased revenue and implementing new common core curriculum. I have/am working for companies that have had to find creative ways to budget and maintain staff. Perhaps not the most satisfying for all, but manageable. Supporting the staff during transitional stage in curriculum.

Newman: Is Pleasant Hill producing individuals who are ready to live in and make contributions to the complex society of today or are they producing individuals who excel at taking a test? High test scores appear to have become a primary criterion against which an educational system's worth is judged. I want to ensure curriculums are aligned with state tests, but with no de-emphasis of non-tested materials, thereby exposing students to challenging curricula and instructional methods.

Vescovi: Some challenges we are facing, like any other school district, is the ability to embrace necessary change in order to better serve and educate our children and prepare them for what lies ahead after graduating from our district. We need to focus more on preparing the students for college or career readiness and encourage innovative ideas; don’t settle for “good enough” or “this will work” mentality.

Wilson: I am not aware of any major issues, which is a testament to the effectiveness of the current board, district administrators, staff and teachers. However, there are always opportunities for improvement and I really look forward to examining processes, resource allocations, and educational outcomes to identify those opportunities.

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