ELLINWOOD — At the upcoming April 5 election, six candidates are running for the USD 355 school board for four open at-large positions. They are: Gregory R. (Bob) Baker Jr., Patricia J. Berger, Becca Maxwell, Taunya M. Schlessiger, Dianna M. Smith, and Lori L. Thomas.
Current board members not running again are Kenny Sieker, Alan Schneweis and Mike McQuade. Thomas is a current member of the board.
The candidates participated in a question-and-answer forum on Monday evening, answering questions for a little over an hour. They all answered questions regarding the skills they would bring to the board, and the goals that they have for the future of USD 355. All of the candidates agreed that funding was the biggest issue facing the school district.
In previous years, she served on various other boards and is presently serving on the Kans for Kids board. With this past experience, she feels qualified to serve the community and our school in this area. Also, "I am familiar with farm operations pertaining to business, and I feel this can be applicable with school budgets and finances," Schlessiger said.
"With having four children of my own, and three of them in our school right now at different grade levels, I want to be involved in the decision making process and do what is best for the children in our schools," she said. "Plus, I want to encourage community involvement and positive communication between the school, the school board, and community. We have wonderful schools here in Ellinwood, and with being a graduate here myself, I want to participate and see this continued throughout the years."
Berger is a special education teacher. She worked as a para in special education and then got her bachelor’s degree. She is on the National Education Association board and stays in contact with what’s going on in Topeka, particularly funding for students in special services. She has had children in the school district since 1990.
The school board works for the community of Ellinwood, said Berger. "We need to prepare students for success in academics and life," she said. Ellinwood has outstanding teachers and she also wants to make sure the community has a say in the board’s decisions. "We need to find out what they(the community) want us to do," she said.
She would like to broaden her horizons with more knowledge.
Maxwell has a degree in business communications. She has worked with newspaper, television and public relations. She currently works at a bank and understands financial and accounting practices for public entities. She wants to get involved for the future of her daughters.
Maxwell would like to be sure the school is being financially responsible in today’s economic times. She would like to see a partnership between the Ellinwood Recreation and Athletic Department so the kids can learn at an early age how to win and get basic skills. She would also like to attract new people to the Ellinwood public schools.
Baker’s job is building efficiency on heat, air conditioning and power usage in the buildings to save money. He would like to work towards operating the school as efficiently as possible, and he would like to build all of the athletic programs.
Baker would like to build a strong district and promote school pride. He would like to provide the best opportunity for all kids to be successful.
In addition, he has three children in the school district.
She has a son in the school district and works with people in the medical field, requiring working within a budget. It is important to retain the best quality teachers the school can and does have, she said.
She would like the district to be the best it can be and to make a difference. She tries to be a role model for her son and wants to be a bridge between school board and teachers. "It is crucial to work together," Smith said. She said it is important to draw the community in and get more people involved.
Thomas said she has an open mind for decision-making and is a life-time member of the community. She would like to give back to the community what has been given to her. She has been on the school board and has children in the school district.
Thomas said that the relationship between school, community, city and chamber are very important. "I love this town and school. I want to make sure the students and staff have votes," she said.