7 seek election to 2 seats on Kearney School Board – mycouriertribune.com


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KEARNEY — At the polls this April, voters in the Kearney School District will have seven names from which to choose two candidates to represent them on the school board for the next three years. The top two voter-getters will be elected.Candidates are incumbent John Kern and challengers Leonard Broughton, Rocky Brock, Aaron Bowers, Stacy Rule, Meredith Cole and Lydia Mack. Fellow incumbent Mark Kelly chose not to seek reelection.The Courier-Tribune asked each candidate biographical and issue questions related to the district that were submitted by voters. For fairness in length to all, candidates were asked limit answers on issues questions to 50 words each. Answers longer than 50 words have been cut off with an ellipsis marking where answers were stopped.In addition to coverage here, extended coverage including answers to more questions about issues facing the district and videos of candidates explaining why they think they should be elected is available in the online version of this story at MyCourierTribune.com. Rule and Bowers did not participate in videos.Kearney High School students are also hoping to aid in voter education efforts by hosting a candidate forum from 6 to 7: 30 p.m. at the high school on March 22. Learn more by calling 628-4585.Answers are published in alphabetical order of candidate last name.When it comes to masking children in school, do you believe this should be a parent’s choice or the board’s? Please explain your answer.Bowers: “Masks are a choice. If you feel safer wearing one, then you have every right to do that. I will not force anyone to wear a mask or get a vaccine, ever.”Brock: “Masking should be a parent’s choice. Parents know their children better than the school board can know 3,500-plus children. Masking might be best for some children and not for other children based on their own individual mental or physical health conditions. We should not apply a one-size-fits-all approach to masking.”Broughton: “I am for optional masking. I believe the parents should have the right to make the decision for their children. I am for freedom of choice. This country was founded on the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the freedoms these documents bring mean everything to me.”Cole: “Thankfully, the numbers in Clay County are on the decline, but I believe the board of education must always decide what’s best for all children and err on the side of caution.”Kern: “The policy of the board is to follow the guidance of the health department. When they mandated masks in the county, I voted ‘yes’ (as per policy) to follow their guidance. When they switched their guidance to recommended masks, I voted ‘no’ on mandating masks, keeping in line with policy.”Mack: “I believe masking decisions should be made by parents. Parents know what is best for their child when it comes to their health. I believe that mask mandates are an infringement of our personal liberties.”Rule: “I believe masking/vaccines should be the parents’ choice. I strongly believe in the freedom to choose and upholding our constitutional freedoms. It is not the responsibility of the public education system to determine the health care needs of each child; that is the sole responsibility of the parents.”How will you work to boost teacher morale and attract and retain the best educators for the district?Bowers: “Teachers in this district have been overlooked for the jobs they did the past two years. They deserve some type of reward for really keeping this district moving forward. Everyone who is hands on in these schools should be applauded for their efforts. We need to take a hard look at giving them the respect and benefits they deserve. …”Brock: “I think this should start with the superintendent. There are many small things that can be done to thank and appreciate teachers, staff and administration on a regular basis.”Broughton: “I want the teachers and staff to know they will see me in the buildings. I want to be available. I recognize that they as a staff need to be heard. They are the ones who are dealing with the education of our students. That is top priority, and I want to support them in the best way possible. ... ”Cole: “Attract, retain the best. Teachers appreciate being heard. Sometimes, those closest to the issue are the most efficient in terms of solving the issue. And secondly, I’d like to see what strategies are in place to raise teacher pay. Missouri ranks low when it comes to teacher compensation, and I’d like to see Kearney at least become more comparable to our surrounding districts.”Kern: “First, we need to implement a salary committee to find ways to increase pay. Secondly, at the State of the State address, there was bipartisan support to raise baseline salaries. The goal of the board is to be in the middle to upper third of our peer group.”Mack: “I will strive for an open dialog so teachers and administrators feel they can ask for the resources they need and desire then work with the school board to fill those requests to the best of our ability. I will work with the board to have competitive salaries.”Rule: “First and foremost by building relationships. I believe all educators need a safe space to air their cares, concerns and goals that will be supported by our administration. They want to be heard and need to be better compensated for the adversity thrown at them these last two years. They have persevered in these unprecedented times and we value them.”How can the district positively improve relations between all students and staff regardless of race, socioeconomic status, religion, gender or sexual orientation?Bowers: “Improving relations between students and staff is a great question. Obviously, finding educators that make learning fun and inclusive has got to be numero uno. We need a staff that can relate to our kids and also be a guide as they grow and mature in life.”Brock: “I think continuing the diversity, equality and inclusion committee is a step in the right direction.”Broughton: “We must work hard on understanding each other and our differences. We all come from different backgrounds. Respect needs to be practiced and shown from the top down. Our administration, staff and teachers need to show respect. Actions speak louder than words. We need to work hard on promoting respect and kindness throughout every grade level and come up with ways to promote unity and stop the division. …”Cole: “Teachers do this every day. Each school is its own microcosm with its own culture. Let the teachers teach. Parents, students, faculty and staff should work together to make all children feel safe at school. Respect and empathy for others who may look different, act different or worship differently from your own is essential.”Kern: “The goal for KSD is to have opportunities for all kids to be educated and not to be stereotyped into subcategories. The best interest of each student is to be educated equally regardless of race, socioeconomic status, etc.”Mack: “Kearney School District is currently working on a diversity program. As this is implemented, I believe that it has the potential to help with these relationships. The board needs to set the example in this and treat everyone with respect.”Rule: “Truth, transparency and accountability. The students and parents of this community do not feel heard and have not been allowed to partner with KSD in the classrooms, board meetings, etc. It is the responsibility of KSD to teach the fundamentals of education, not sexual orientation, gender, etc. Morality must return to KSD.”When making decisions, how will you navigate potential conflicts between your personal beliefs and regulations established by law and/or recommendations made by leading experts in their field?Bowers: “There’s a fine line when it comes to doing what’s right based on what you believe and what has been recommended, but I fully stand behind my belief that we all are free to make choices in our own best interest. I will never force anything upon our students or staff unless absolutely necessary. …”Do you think CRT or curriculum similar to it and the 1619 Project are and should be a part of teaching in schools?Bowers: “Critical Race Theory and the 1619 project were created for college-level law school programs. I don’t believe they have any place being implemented in a public school setting.”Brock: “No, I believe this curriculum does not unify, but rather further divides people. I am in favor of diversity, equality and inclusion, but through means that will unify our schools and community.”Broughton: “I have done a lot of research on both CRT and The 1619 Project. CRT, although promoted as ‘anti-racist’ civil rights education, actively encourages discrimination. At its core, CRT segregated people into two main categories: oppressors and the oppressed. The calculation is based solely on skin color. ...”Cole: “This topic has brought out the worst in people and has become a misunderstood political issue. Neither is a part of Missouri curriculum, and anyone can visit DESE.Mo.gov and see for themselves. I can name one positive to come from all the accusations and false information is that it’s created a dialogue and some thinking about our history.”Kern: “If you were to ask 10 different people, you would get 10 different definitions of CRT. Until we can define it, I don’t believe it has a place in our classroom.”Mack: “I do not think that CRT or similar curriculum should be in schools. We need to look for and encourage the best in everyone.”Rule: “I do not believe CRT/1619 Project should be taught as they are divisive at the very core. CRT is just another tentacle of SEL, which should not be the primary focus of our education system.”What is your stance on the banning and/or removal of books from school libraries and curriculum?Bowers: “I am against banning of educational books. However, there are some books that push past the boundary of education and into the field of pornography. Those books should be removed.”Brock: “We should continually evaluate all school library books for content and age appropriateness. I would agree with removing any books that are not appropriate for school libraries.”Broughton: “I agree with removing or banning any books where they are inappropriate for the student. The parent’s/guardian’s job is to teach their child about life matters. The school’s job is to educate, not indoctrinate. I look at it like an R-rated movie. If your child can’t get in an R-rated movie until a certain age, then why would we let them checkout inappropriate books from the library?”Cole: “I oppose banning of books 100%. The most recent call to do so is a reflection of what is going on in our culture. It’s up to the public school system to make sure books are available that include the actual voices of people impacted by racism or discrimination in our society, for example. ... If a parent is opposed, that’s a personal choice.”Kern: “It is hard to find a line between historically appropriate and inappropriate and who decides what stays and what goes. In today’s world, children have access to the internet to look up all kinds of literature.”Mack: “I believe that there are some books that should not be in our school libraries. Books that are pornographic or have oversexualization should not be there. We should not be removing books because we want to erase or change our history.Rule: “Any material that is pornographic, vile, violent or suggestive of these things have no place in our education system. Parents play a vital role in this and all curriculums/lesson plans should be made available to the parents.”What is your vision for our school district’s students and their successes?Bowers: “My vision for a successful student in KSD is one that can take the building blocks we provide and find who they are and where they want to be on their path through life. Athlete, singer, author, doctor, whatever it may be.”Brock: “We need to continue to provide students with individualized learning opportunities through programs like STEM, LENS and the Real World Learning initiative that helps students gain Market Value Asset skills. Students are individuals who all learn differently, so we need to continue to provide our students with individualized learning opportunities.”Are you if favor of extending bond debt for district taxpayers to pay for the $44 million funding issue on the April ballot? Why or why not?Bowers: “At this current time, I do not support an increase in bonds. I think there are better ways to create more room in the buildings we currently have for students. I do see some things that need addressed, but not $44 million worth of problems.”Brock: “Yes. I feel this is needed to provide the funds necessary to add a fifth elementary school and to update the other existing school facilities and buildings. Kearney’s housing growth is going to continue over the next several years and our schools will need to be ready to provide for this continued growth.”Broughton: “The community will decide on the $44 million dollar bond. If I am elected and the bond passes, it will by my job to make sure the money goes to the improvements of our current school facilities, possible fifth elementary building and all other needs for growth of our school district. …”Cole: “Yes. It’s not a tax increase, and its important to address the growth we have seen and the growth that is yet to arrive. We are expanding in all directions and new houses means new families. We are known as an excellent school district and a great place to live and to raise kids. …”Kern: “As Kearney continues to grow, capacity is not the issue, but space is. I am in favor of investing in our kids’ futures.”Mack: “I am in favor of the proposed school bond. We need to continue to make improvements to our schools so they last longer, provide a healthy learning environment and better opportunities for our students. This upkeep now will save us significantly in the future.”Rule: “I am neither in favor nor against at this point as I’m currently researching all of the logistics involved. I believe the community needs to see full transparency of the current budget, including all COVID relief funds, school vacancies, current student numbers, etc., to make educated decisions when voting.”In what ways will you connect with community partners to support schools?

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