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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. Today, we feature School Board Incumbent Joe Hurla.
Please tell about your background.
The second of 10 children, I was born and raised outside of Topeka, where I attended a public school district with many similarities to our schools in Eudora. After high school, I attended Kansas State University, where I met my wife, Shanda, and later received a B.S. in Journalism and Mass Communications. We moved to Eudora shortly after graduation in 2000. While living and working in Eudora, I received a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of Kansas. My wife and I now have four sons – ages 3 months, 3, 5, and 7. I am an owner of an energy-engineering firm, 360 Energy Engineers, that provides energy-related facility improvements to municipal and commercial clients.
What qualifications do you feel you have for a seat on the School Board?
Since my election to the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education in 2012, I have gained tremendous experience in first-hand district leadership. Along with other members of the Board of Education, I have been a part of the deliberate consideration and evaluation of numerous important issues that affect our students, staff, and community. In addition to these experiences at the Board table, I have represented the Board of Education as a Committee member for the district’s Curriculum Coordinating Council. Participation on this committee has made me uniquely knowledgeable regarding the progress and challenges within our classrooms, most notably the ongoing transition to Common Core State Academic Standards.
In addition to my actual Board of Education experience, I have spent more than 10 years working with school districts across Kansas to better utilize limited budgets by reducing unnecessary utility and maintenance expenses and redirecting tax dollars to essential school functions. Locally, I served on the Eudora Schools Foundation for several years, seeking to provide additional resources to enhance the educational opportunities of students in the Eudora school district. I have also sought additional opportunities to improve Eudora’s schools, assisting the district (along with the City of Eudora) in applying for and receiving a grant that fully funded an energy manager to ensure the district’s efficient operation.
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?
While there are numerous challenges that the Board of Education will confront over the next four years, our ability to rise to meet those challenges will be largely dependent upon having the right administrative team in place to implement the strategic plan developed by our board over the past six months. With the upcoming retirement of our outstanding superintendent, Don Grosdidier, the board’s top priority must be the successful transition to our next superintendent. Simply hiring a new superintendent can be rather simple; however, continuing our high academic expectations and achievement, outstanding district culture, growing community engagement, and overall positive momentum of USD 491 is far more difficult. The board will be tasked with recruiting, identifying, and hiring a superintendent who will be capable of continuing to advance Eudora’s schools among the top tier of Kansas districts.
What other issues do you feel the School Board should review or remedy during the next term?
There are many exciting opportunities and challenges facing the Board of Education over the next four years. The successful implementation of the Common Core State Academic Standards and Multi-Tiered Systems of Support will require attention from our board, as well as diligent effort from our outstanding teachers and administrators. Working to implement USD 491’s Strategic Plan – which includes retaining and developing our staff; improving access to technology in our classrooms; providing a well-rounded yet individualized learning experience for each of our students; and expanded collaboration with the Eudora Community – will be the measuring stick of our success. In addition, the board must continue to confront the challenging and sometimes hostile relationship between Kansas schools and the Kansas legislature. With the future of education finance continuously hanging in the balance, the school board must make decisions the position not only our current students for success, but also those students we will educate a generation from now.
Why do you want to sit on the School Board?
As a father of four children living in the school district, I have a personal interest in ensuring that Eudora continues to place itself among the top school districts in Kansas. I want to bring my experience, knowledge, and passion for education to help move the district toward its goal of providing the best possible education to the children of Eudora.
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.