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With the coming School Board and City Commission election in April, we asked each candidate for both School Board and City Commission to answer a few questions to help give voters an insight into who is running. Each candidate was given the same list of questions to answer and their responses are being printed exactly as received. We began our feature on Monday and we continue today with School Board Incumbent Eric Votaw.
Please tell about your background.
I was born and raised in Eudora, attended K-12th grade in our district, and have spent most of my adult life in this community. I attended the University of Kansas graduating with my degree from the School of Business. I have been married for 14 years to my wife, Ashli, who is a grade school teacher in a neighboring school district. We have one daughter and two sons who now represent the 4th generation of Votaw’s to attend schools in Eudora. I have been employed the last 13 years with a freight brokerage firm in the Kansas City metro area. I am a Senior-level Manager in our Finance Department responsible for overseeing numerous financial operation functions and employees within our organization. I was first elected to the School Board in 2009 and stay active by serving on numerous committees, boards of directors, and volunteering my time for my children’s extra-curricular activities. I can be spotted frequently in the drive-thru at Dairy Queen attending to my wife’s daily cravings.
What qualifications do you feel you have for a seat on the School Board?
First off, I feel I am qualified for another term based off the commitment, contributions, and effort I have devoted to this role during my current term, combined with my continued passion for our schools and the educational opportunities and experience our children will receive in Eudora. My role in the community includes being a parent, an alumnus, a spectator, a consumer, a business administrator, a spouse to a professional educator, and a taxpayer. I feel each of these attributes allows me to bring experience and perspective to the table that allows for a well-informed and thoughtful take on the situations our district face. I have broad experience managing people, driving policy and work flow that is financially prudent, a strong sense around effective communication that is needed in a smaller town, a penchant for feedback from parents, and an understanding around experiences of those in our community. Lastly, the challenges and issues we have faced over the last four years in our district and understanding how we have arrived at the point we are currently at is maybe the strongest qualifier I possess this election. I strongly believe that having had a front row seat these last four years has me fully equipped for the challenging times ahead.
What do you think is the most important issue that faces the School Board and what do you plan to do in regards to that issue?
We have a number of very important issues that we’ll need to continue to work through over the next few years, but I believe two stand out the most at this point. The instability around state funding and the formula used for K-12 Education continues to be a real threat to our district. These last four years have been unlike any other in terms of funding challenges for our schools. We have been creative and flexible in finding efficiencies and dealing with these budget cuts without overly impacting the opportunities and educational experience of our students. This has been accomplished without any material impact to our taxpayers and the heavy burden they already haul. I am committed to the continued high placement of priority around seeking these same types of creative solutions that address our needs for years to come, without encumbering our community with additional taxes, and limiting the volatility that comes with not knowing what the state will fund from year to year. We can accomplish this by continuing the push for the marketing and sale of excess property, recruiting out-of-district students to our EdTech programs, seeking alternative revenue sources from organizations utilizing our facilities, seeking longer term contracts with vendors and staff that allow us to fix costs for multiple years, among other initiatives. Secondly, we will be experiencing a change in leadership next year with the impending retirement of Superintendent Grosdidier. One of the most important tasks charged to a School Board is demonstrating and instilling effective leadership for the district. It is vital that we get the right person in place that will help our district continue our momentum towards excellence. We have already begun this process which will take a great deal of time and teamwork amongst the Board to accomplish in the year ahead. I plan to dedicate the significant time and energy needed to effectively research and recruit this new person into place and ensure a successful transition between Superintendents.
What other issues do you feel the School Board should review or remedy during the next term?
With the help of staff, parents, and the community we just recently finished a 3-year strategic plan that has identified key areas of emphasis that we have tasked ourselves with. Our environment is entirely structured around technology and the demands that come from the ever improving and increasing use of it. We must keep that issue at the forefront of our planning and educational curriculum – both for students and our staff. Strategically and adequately funding our technology needs is vital to our future growth and successes. We must also continue to place priority on the land and facilities within our town. The vision of the Nottingham/Laws Field property and the future of programs and usage of West must continue to be a priority. The move to new curriculum standards involving the Common Core will also serve the entire district a challenge in the years to come. I also feel the community can only be as strong as its schools, and it is important to continue our focus on the partners we have and the level of communication that occurs between our school and those in our community, whether they be parents, seniors, businesses, etc.
Why do you want to sit on the School Board?
My children have many years left in our school district and any impact I can have on their education is the very first reason that motivates me to sit on the Board. A call to the service of my community is second. I greatly appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the ever-evolving needs and challenges of the district, as laid out above. Just as importantly, I find great reward in the accomplishments and successes in our district. We are seeing incredible achievements from our students and are building a track-record and reputation as a top-tier public school system creating successful and prepared students for today’s career and college landscape. The opportunities and experiences our students have in Eudora is unlike any other time in our town’s history. It is exciting to see successes at every level, kids engaged in their studies, teachers engaged in their work, test scores above state averages, mandates being met, varied activity options available, graduation rates near 100%, and the community finding uses for our facilities. These successes are what keep me motivated, drives my attendance at every meeting the last four years, and have me excited for the future my kids and all other children have in our district.
We will continue to bring you Candidate profiles for the School Board and City Commission over the course of the next two weeks. Candidates will also have the opportunity to answer more in depth questions during the Meet The Candidates Forum on Tuesday, March 12 at 7:00 PM. The Forum will be held at Eudora City Hall, 4 East 7th Street and the public is invited to attend.