April Election: Republic School Board Candidates
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Missourians will head to the polls on Tuesday, April 4, to decide municipal and countywide issues.
We reached out to the four candidates running to fill seats on the Republic School Board and sent them the questions below, and their responses had to be within 200 words.
What do you see is the biggest issue facing your school district and why?
Denny Lawson: It’s no secret Republic has experienced tremendous growth over the past five years in multiple sectors. The commercial and residential markets continue to grow at an accelerated pace with no end in sight. Our district leaders past and present have done an exceptional job at long range planning for the accelerated student growth we have experienced. Our community has continued to believe in and support the school district in passing several no tax increase bond issues. This has allowed the district to stay diligent in maintaining smaller class sizes, strategically planning for new facilities, and continuing to provide a safe and secure learning environment for our students.
John Parker: This would be the growth needs for our district. Due to the building boom in our area, we will soon be at the capacity of our current buildings.
Terry McConnell: I believe the biggest issue with the school district is keeping up with the growth of the city. This impacts the staff loads, building accommodations, along with bus routes/drivers etc.
Adam Poulson: With the community growing at a rapid pace it is becoming difficult to meet the growing school population with the resources required. The school district will require the plan, as well as, the resources to recruit more staff and retain the current staff. Building space is rapidly becoming an issue also.
What would you do about it?
Denny Lawson: Ongoing open and honest dialogue with parents and community stakeholders about current and future challenges is imperative to long term and continued success. Allowing those same individuals, the opportunity to ask questions, provide feedback, and to be part of a solution moving forward is always the best policy. Sustaining and further developing an aligned working relationship with the City of Republic and Greene County limits the possibility of major surprises in the growth we are experiencing now and in future.
John Parker: Some may think that if you get more students all you need to do is hire more teachers; but this is not all you have to do. The process begins years before with anticipating the growth and then making plans for it. At times, the growth will exceed what the current system will support and that is when you have to develop a plan to add the needed capacity. The district has been doing a great job in preparing and executing this plan.
Terry McConnell: There is already a no-tax levy increase bond issue on the ballot for April 4th that will help address the aforementioned issue in regards to building accommodations, along with staffing when it passes.
Adam Poulson: The current pay structure and benefits package needs to be reevaluated yearly and adjustments need to be made. The staffing allocation also needs to be utilized properly. The school district will have to change with the population and the needs of the children. I will listen to the community and take ideas from everyone who wishes to offer them.
If you were asked about 2 specific things, you would do as a school board member on top of that issue – what would they be and why?
Denny Lawson: My priority during my tenure on the school board has always been to strive for a positive, safe and secure learning environment for all students. Parents minimum expectation is to transport their children to and from school safely, and to provide a positive and secure learning environment while they’re in district care. Secondly, we possess the best educators, support staff, and administrators in SW Missouri. Recruiting, retaining, and providing a positive work environment for our team is a top priority. Those are the individuals who need all the credit and accolades for the continued academic successes throughout the district. Being scored in the top 9% of all Missouri Schools was driven by every employee and student. To maintain that level of talent, it’s a priority to continually assess and monitor salaries in comparison to other districts in SW Missouri, with a continual goal of being in the top one-third for salary/benefits.
John Parker: As a current member of the board, I will comment on what we have already done and what we are currently doing: Since the district has been anticipating this coming need for capacity; we executed a plan to purchase a large tract of land that would provide not only for our next single building, but a potential campus of three to four future buildings for the next generation of growth. I believe the investment we made will be of massive importance in future years as land of suitable size will become harder to find and will be more expensive. I support our existing plan of building a 5-6 building on that land that will free up room in our middle school and in all of our elementary schools.
Terry McConnell: 1) Staffing is a huge issue and retention is key. The district is already supportive; having additional support in place would help exponentially. The teacher to student ratios could be improved as well with the passing of the no-tax levy increase bond issue.
2) Building accommodations as well, which are already being addressed.
Adam Poulson: I would continually evaluate the way the staff is performing in all aspects and work with the administration to correct deficiencies and make sure all are held accountable for their performance. I also believe it is important to move the school district’s thinking into that of a larger district. It is no longer a small district and needs to be treated as such.
Do you think the taxes going for schools need to be raised or lowered.. and why... if raised – what would the money go for?
Denny Lawson: I can only speak to the circumstances and funding associated with the Republic School District. During my tenure on the board the community has passed four “no tax” bond measures for new facilities and upgrades to existing structures. From 2014 to 2022, the district’s tax levy has decreased from $4.38 to $4.125, all while completing multiple projects to stay ahead of continued increases to enrollment. Our current and past Superintendents have been instrumental in the fiscal responsibility shown by the district in completing projects on time and on budget, being aggressive when refinancing district debt, and maintaining an adequate district reserve of revenue. With the strong fiscal processes in place, continued long term planning and contingency planning for the unforeseen obstacles, I don’t feel the need to increase taxes for our district.
John Parker: Our community has trusted us to build an educational system that will keep our students safe and to achieve high levels of academic excellence. I believe that we have done this. I am very thankful for all the support the community has given the district to reach those goals. I think the current tax rates are sufficient to allow us to continue to grow and to excel. Included in this April’s Election is the proposal for a No Tax levy increase bond issue for $47 million. This bond issue is required to allow us to continue with our plan to build the much needed 5-6 building.
Terry McConnell: Taxes need to be adequate to support the school system. With the current no-tax levy increase bond issue, I am hoping that will be enough to support this issue. I would support what is needed to further the education of all students, along with seeing that teachers are paid accordingly to our demographic region.
Adam Poulson: The tax rate appears to be sufficient for the school district. The district has utilized the tax money efficiently for the needs presented. As long as the money allocation is constantly reevaluated and is going where it is most needed then I see no reason to alter the tax rate at this time.
Why should people vote for you?
Denny Lawson: An effective school board governs as one body, with each member bringing a different set of life experiences and skills to add to discussions and decisions. I feel confident that throughout my tenure those life experiences and skill set have been impactful to the discussions and decisions. I’ve tried living a life of service to others while maintaining the highest level of integrity and professionalism in any situation. It’s rewarding to be a very small part of something so big as we graduate each senior class. I have a big heart for my community and the school district and being a passionate voice for parents, students, and employees is why I would ask voters to place their vote for me. I feel confident that any of the other three candidates are just as capable of bringing value to our school system.
John Parker: For the past six years that I have been on the school board, I have been part of a great team that have worked together to achieve the District’s goal of preparing our students for a successful future. I would like to continue to help this District as we move forward in the future.
Terry McConnell: I believe I am a great asset in the community, by being very routed in the community and volunteer, while fundraise/sponsor for things needed within the school district. I have two children in the school system; thus, I plan to be very involved in the school district for years to come. I am a Republic graduate and I would love to continue to see Republic School District as a heavily sought out district for their children.
Adam Poulson: I have been in public service for over 20 years as a Missouri State Trooper and I am accustomed to working with the public in many different situations. I have had a child in the district for 11 years and have seen the district grow and change over that time. I do not have any business ties or interests that would alter my decision making for the school district or future construction projects. I have also been a substitute teacher for the school district and have seen first hand some of the issues facing the schools.
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