Tuesday, March 5, 2013

CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE: Janey Humphries, KCK Board of Education

NOTE: Today, we visit with Janey Humphries, who's running for the Kansas City, Kan., Board of Education. Thank you to Janey and all the candidates who have responded so far!

What in your background (or what experience) makes you believe you are qualified to serve on the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools’ Board of Education?

I’ve been engaged with raising and educating children for more than 40 years. I have been a member of site councils and parent groups for schools, committees on the district level and many neighborhood and community groups.  I served as a Regional Vice President for the Kansas PTA. Over the years, I’ve been in every school in our district. During the last year alone, I spent more than half a day in each high school and in most of the middle schools to see for myself what students are learning and how teachers are teaching. As a part of the Community Campaign to raise money for the new South Branch Library I met with business owners and community members, assisted with grant applications, and communicated the need for a modern, accessible library. I have been a regular attendee at the School Board meetings over the past four years. 

As a candidate, what would be your top three priorities as a member of the board of education?
  • Ensuring each child, at every school, has access to the education they need to be ready for college or a career when they graduate high school. We have students starting from different backgrounds and with different abilities but they all need to be prepared for the world of tomorrow.
  • Continuing the renovation and re-building of our schools because our students deserve modern, accessible, and comfortable buildings to learn in. Most of our buildings are more than 40 years old and need repair and upgrades to provide a good learning environment.
  • Encourage families and the community to be involved with our schools in a modern way. There are so many more options for communication and cooperation between families and schools today, such as SchoolLoop, email, phone calls, etc.
A two-part question - What distinguishes you as the top candidate for this position and what differences should voters in Wyandotte County look at before making their choice? 

Serving as a school board member involves more than attending two meetings a month.  Education is complex and a board member must be willing to invest the time required for phone calls and school visits; to attend board trainings and community meetings.  Members must be eager to learn and understand the details and needs of our children and schools today.   I have been regularly attending school board meetings and am aware of the many programs and strategies that are being put into place in our schools. I have the time and interest to visit schools and see what is happening. I have worked with many community and parent groups over the years and believe I would bring the perspective of a parent and community member to the board. I will work with community members, staff and other board members to make the best decisions possible for our students.

Another two-part question. School finance is obviously one of the most important issues in any school district, but especially one the size of KCK Public Schools. First question – would you be willing to increase property taxes if state funding doesn’t increase? And the second question – if you wouldn’t support a mill levy increase, what would you cut in the budget to help hold the line on taxes?

Our local community has been very supportive of our schools.  In 2001, voters approved the bond issue that funded the modernizing of our buildings - including new windows, heating and cooling systems.  If funding remains tight and the community would not support a tax increase then the school board will have to make hard decisions. The employees of the district will be asked for suggestions as to which cuts to make while still protecting student learning. Community meetings will have to be held to determine what are the priorities based on the amount of money available. These are not decisions made by one board member alone.

What in your opinion are the three biggest challenges facing USD 500? (If you feel there are more than three to list, feel free too.)
  • The funding of education is a major challenge for our school district. The base state aid per pupil this year is only $190 more than it was in 1997. To compare – gasoline averaged $1.36 a gallon in 1997 – it’s now regularly over $3.25. 
  • Aging facilities – the majority of our buildings were built before 1970. Quite a few of our buildings are nearing the century mark. We must make sure that teachers and students have the modern facilities and technology necessary for a 21st century learning environment. 
  • Ensuring our curriculum provides our students with the skills and information needed to be successful in life.