Seven candidates are vying for three seats on the Smithton R-VI Board of Education — incumbents Sara Moore and John Frazee, who are both in their first term, and challengers Jon Alan Burdick, James Haislip, who has run for the board previously, Dennis Steele, Todd Letourneau and Allison Asbury. Terms are for three years. Each candidate was asked to fill out a questionnaire about their candidacy; Burdick did not submit any responses.
Why are you running for office?
Dennis Steele: I would like to have a part in helping Smithton School District continue to grow and give our children the best education possible.
James (Jim) Haislip: I have a personal interest in preserving and improving the school that my daughter is attending and I graduated from. I believe in a quality education in a safe, well-structured and fun environment for all of the children of our district. I want to make sure we continue to provide that for years to come. I’m very passionate about seeing our school stay the exceptional learning experience for all of our students and a great place for our faculty to work.
Allison Asbury: I am running for office because as a parent with a young child that is just now getting started with his school career, I believe being on the school board would be a great place for me to be involved and help ensure he has the best education available.
Todd Letourneau: I want to be an active member in the decisions made for the Smithton School District. I hope to learn the process involved and the steps necessary in making those decisions. I hope to be a voice for all people of our community and welcome open discussion.
John Frazee: Those of us living in this community know what a blessing it is. Being the blessed person I am, I feel compelled to give back to the community where I can and hopefully I can pay it forward to the next generation by helping make our school the best it can be.
Sara Moore: I am running for re-election for Smithton School Board because I want to aid in continuing our district in the awesome direction it is going right now. I want our children to have the best learning environment possible to be successful in their post-secondary education as well as their everyday lives.
What are your qualifications?
Steele: I have an extensive construction background. I am able to prepare estimates, budgets and oversee projects. I work well with others. I have a common sense approach.
Haislip: For the last 15 years I’ve worked with multiple people from my employer’s industrial maintenance department, other associates, contractors and vendors to accomplish goals as a team. I’ve dealt with getting bids for parts and labor as well as keeping accurate records. I worked in the home construction field doing all aspects of home construction and remodeling. I also spent 12 years in construction on heavy highway projects. This involved building of bridges, box culverts, and dirt work. I’ve worked building water tanks, towers and structural steel work for six years. We also formed and poured concrete as well as all of the piping in and out of the structures. I have had many leadership roles in these various careers over the years. In these roles I’ve dealt with many different situations and challenges that should give the board a resource in some different areas to draw on. I’ve also raised cattle for many years and definitely learned and used accurate record keeping in many aspects of my business.
Letourneau: I am a parent with a child currently enrolled and have two children graduate from the Smithton School District. I’d like to give something back and I think by being elected to the board is one way to do so.
Frazee: For those really wanting more detail on my qualifications, I invite you to read the post on my Facebook page devoted to my tenure as a School Board Member, posted on April 4, 2014, when I ran for my first term. Here are some of the highlights: deep interest in the happenings at the school, willingness to devote time to research and evaluate upcoming decisions, honesty and integrity, rich family history in education. In addition, my first three years serving on the Smithton R-VI Board of Education has given me a wealth of insight and understanding that I believe will allow me to be a more effective board member in a second term.
Sara Moore: One should be a parent that has a child in the district, one should be involved in the happenings of the district and the community, one should want the best possible learning environment for our children, one should have pride for our district, one should be honest, and have integrity. I feel that possess all of these qualities and that makes me a great candidate for Smithton School Board.
What do you think are some top issues facing the Smithton School District that need to be addressed soon?
Steele: We need to increase the student population. Families coming into the area should see the district as a great place for their children to learn. Families should ask to live in the Smithton School District.
Haislip: As with some of the other schools in our conference, declining attendance is right at the top. This is a direct loss of revenue and a trend we need to monitor in the future. We need to keep ahead of any possible funding shortfalls from all sources and keep a cushion built into the budget for this. We have already seen this in the loss of some transportation funding dollars. I think maintaining our high standard of education as well as retaining and attracting great educators for our students is very important as well.
Asbury: There isn’t anything I feel needs to be addressed immediately. But I am eager to learn what I can do to help make the school system better.
Letourneau: In the 2015-16, the board developed a strategic plan with the desire to see the district become the “Best of the Best.” They developed a Mission and a Vision for the School District and I feel that some of the issues that were started need to be seen to completion. We are fortunate to have a very good and competent board in place. Completion of this plan and implementation of new ideas and visions will only make our children/community stronger.
Frazee: The BOE supervises one employee, the superintendent. That employee is changing July 1. So one of our key factors for our success in educating our students is ensuring our new superintendent, Mr. David Bray, is highly effective in leading our district and has the tools and resources to do so. Another top issue I would key on is making sure we stay on task with following through on the goals and objectives set forth in the CSIP, which was developed by a great collaboration of the school and community, and specifically focus area 2: recruiting and retaining quality staff. Again I will refer to my previous Facebook post which I think holds true today where I stated: ‘Beyond the parents, our teachers are our greatest asset in educating our kids. We must work to attract and retain high quality teachers to carry out the tremendous task of educating the next generation.’ We have laid a good foundation for this, and we must continue to enhance our ability to get the best possible staff we can into our school. The final top issue I believe we are facing is declining enrollment. This translates into reduced state funding. We have been trending downwards, but I’m not convinced that trend has to continue. I think we need to continue to monitor and prepare for this, but also look for opportunities to do what we can to reverse that trend. Smithton is a great place to raise a family and the schools are a great place to have our kids educated. Let’s shout it from the rooftops!
Moore: The one thing that I feel is an issue facing our district is the decline in our enrollment. I feel this is not the fault of the district, but it is due to the lack of housing in the Smithton School District. We really need a developer to come in and build more homes. Another issue, which I don’t really feel is an issue per say, is to just continue involving our community in the district to keep promoting that Smithton pride. I feel our district is headed in a great direction. We have a lot of good things happening.
What goals do you have for office if you are elected?
Steele: Presently my only goals are to give my best efforts, opinions and knowledge to the school district.
Haislip: I would like to see that we have and will continue to have all of the books, supplies, computers, software and whatever else our students, faculty and staff need to succeed. They deserve our support in this! There are a lot of schools implementing laptops in place of books. Is this the next technology we need to look at? We need to stay on top of any possible grants, rebates or any other sources of funding we might be able to secure. What ideas or new technology are out there that will make us more efficient and save us money in the long run as we upgrade and improve our school? I would like to see our school and community grow and expand for years to come.
Asbury: To become more involved in school activities so I can meet people and understand what they feel needs to changed. I know a lot of times people can be intimidated by going to a school board meeting to bring up those concerns. The school board won’t be able to make changes if they don’t know something they set up isn’t working how they envisioned it.
Letourneau: I don’t feel that I have any personal goals if elected. I would look forward to working with the present board in continuing the mission and goals that have currently been set by the board and by being a part of any new goals that may arise within the School District.
Frazee: Smooth transition to new superintendent, continued financial stability amidst uncertain state funding, fully implement the CSIP, complete review of all policies over next year.
Moore: I personally do not have any individual goals. I feel that we as a board need to make sure that there is continued movement forward to complete our sports complex. We also will continue to see that, we as a district, are adhering to the goals set in our strategic plan. For example, recruiting and retaining quality staff, vertically aligning our curriculum, and to continue to promote school and community pride.
Why should people vote for you?
Steele: I am honest, sincere, detail-oriented, patient, willing to listen to all sides of the issue. I will do whatever I can as a school board member to make Smithton School District continue to grow and be a great place for our children to learn.
Haislip: I want to see a quality education for all present and future students in our district. I’m willing to listen to all parents, staff, students and members of the community and then be their voice to bring those ideas to the board where we can work together as a team to make Smithton R-VI the best school we can possibly have for our community. I’m excited and willing to use my time and experience to make this happen for all of the students of the Smithton School District.
Asbury: People should vote for me because I want to make sure not only my child but every child in the school system gets the best education they can. Along with every student having the same opportunities. I am a good listener and believe I would be able to bring parent concerns to the board.
Letourneau: You can expect me to work hard. You can expect honesty, common sense, openness and transparency. I would like to encourage a dialog between parents and board members. I would like to have parents and the community be more involved in decision-making.
Frazee: My first three years on the board have been three years of positive change in the Smithton R-VI School District. I feel good about the place where we are. But we are not where we want to be. We can get our school to the next level. Our kids deserve that and I want to help give that to our kids. I’ve shown the ability to foster improvements and I think the experience I have attained over the last three years will make me a more capable board member. It’s a great day to be a Tiger and I want to help keep it that way!
Moore: People should vote for me for another term on Smithton School Board because I am honest and I do have integrity. I am not afraid to do what is right, to speak my mind, or to have those difficult conversations to ensure we as a board, as a district and as a community are doing what is the absolute best for our children’s education.