Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
With the upcoming elections for City Commission and School Board, we wanted to take time to highlight each candidate in the race.
All candidates were sent a questionnaire to fill out and respond to and stated that their responses to those questions will be presented as sent to us with no editing.
Today, we feature School Board Candidate Kelly Holder.
Please tell about your background and qualifications for a position on the School Board.
I was born and raised in Hays, Kansas where I graduated from Hays High School. After high school, I attended Fort Hays State University where I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and later a Master’s degree in Business Administration. I have 5 years of teaching experience in post-secondary education. This includes serving as an Instructor of Business at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith as well as an Adjunct Instructor of Informatics at Fort Hays State University.
I’m employed at Children International (a nonprofit humanitarian organization that supports children and prepares youth to escape poverty traps) as a Senior Marketing Database Analyst. I also work part-time for the Kansas State Department of Education as a Data Analyst.
During my time at Fort Hays State University, I had the good fortune of meeting my wife Tara. Tara and I have two beautiful children. Rylee, 6, is in Kindergarten at Eudora Elementary School, and recently we’ve been blessed with a son Aiden, who is 4 months old. During my free time I enjoy playing with my children, reading, gardening, landscaping and wood working.
The most important issue facing the school board is funding. Tell us how you would decide on any budget cuts that may need to be made now and in the coming year.
The USD 491 school board will need a process to formulate where the potential cuts could occur. I would work to ensure that USD 491 makes wise use of the available funds by supporting initiatives that enable the maximum benefit of available funds while concurrently seeking increased support for public education, both financially and philosophically. I believe it’s sacrosanct that any proposed solution strives to be in the best interests of our students. When formulating a solution to what will assuredly be a complicated fiscal issue, I will seek community and teacher/staff input and leave all options on the table. Through collaborative efforts, I believe USD 491 will formulate a solution, which is mutually agreeable to the unfortunate situation we have found ourselves placed in.
Do you support raising the local mill rate to cover and underfunding by the state and why or why not?
With the state’s school funding formula in flux, while also noting that the courts are suggesting they may block the governor’s and legislature’s implementation of block grants, the solution to the underfunding by the state is not yet clear. The scope and breadth of budgetary impacts will first need defined. Until this is defined and at this time, I’m unable to definitely provide an answer to this question though I will say it is too early to take any available paths for resolution off of the table.
The State Board of Education has adopted and begun implementation of the Common Core Standards in school districts through the state. What is your position on the Common Core Standards and if they were to become optional, would you support keeping or removing them from the curriculum in the Eudora School District?
I am in favor of the implementation of the Common Core Standards. I believe the Common Core Standards were developed in an honest effort to produce academic goals for education that produce graduates who are equipped with the skills necessary to be college and career ready. USD 491 has already expended considerable resources to facilitate the implementation of these standards, as adopted by the Kansas Board of Education. At the same time, I also believe that these standards have been unduly “villanized” by those in politics as an example of the federal government’s overreach in each state’s educational affairs. I believe this is an unfortunate misperception. The implementation of Common Core Standards is not, nor were they ever, mandatory for states to adopt. USD 491 should implement the Common Core Standards for the aforementioned reasons, however if these standards were to become optional for Kansas districts, I would seek input from teachers and the community to decide whether or not this position should be reevaluated and if the standards are in the best interest of Eudora students.
What other issues do you see as important decisions the School Board will face in the near future?
Outside of funding, there are two other major issues I see as important for the School Board to address in the near future. The first of these issues stems from the recent flurry of legislation that seeks to severely diminish the rights of USD 491 teachers and staff, especially in the areas of tenure and collective bargaining. I believe the USD 491 school board must take a proactive stance to maintain and protect the rights of our educators. If elected as a member of the Eudora school board, I will advocate maintaining due process rights for all USD 491 teachers and staff. Due process rights provide teachers and staff increased job security by providing protections against unwarranted dismissal due to personal or political reasons. By having these rights in place, teacher efficiency and effectiveness is increased, which ultimately benefits all USD 491 stakeholders. In regards to collective bargaining I will support maintaining collective bargaining practices as they currently exist at the local level. By allowing this flexibility, we are best serving all interests in USD 491.
The second major issue I see important to address is a reevaluation of a past budget decision made by the USD 491 School Board. In years prior, when facing budgetary constraints, the USD 491 School Board cut programs including Art for our students in K – 5. This is a decision that I disagree with and feel is a disservice to our students. Currently K-5 students receive Art class once a month. This class is enabled by the volunteers of the Arts Coalition of Eudora. I am immensely thankful for the wonderful work that the Arts Coalition of Eudora puts in bringing Art to these students. Without these volunteers, our K-5 children would have a very limited or complete lack of exposure to Art. Although some may regard art education as a luxury, academic research has repeatedly shown that creative activities are an important building block of a child’s development. This has been well documented in academic research. If elected to the USD 491 School Board, I will strive to find a low-to-no cost solution to allow Art to be placed back into the regular curriculum of our students.
Why do you want to sit on the School Board?
Public education is crucial to our society and our children’s future. Eudora schools have long provided an exceptional education. With the changes in education policy, USD 491 will continue to face increased challenges in providing this level of excellence. The increasing challenges faced by USD 491 include: financial pressures due to reductions in state funding, the reductions of teacher rights, and the severe reduction or elimination of programs such as Art which are crucial to a child’s development. USD 491 students must continue to thrive, and the school board must be innovative in meeting the challenges of the future. I believe a balanced, pragmatic approach will be crucial in developing the solutions needed to address these challenges. I am committed to public service and believe that my educational and professional experience will serve as an additional asset for the school board to call upon when crafting the solutions to the challenges facing USD 491.
Lastly, I am an advocate of political transparency and accountability. I will strive to solicit as much input as possible from all USD 491 stakeholders in regards to issues this school board will face in the upcoming years. I hope to maintain and increase the public trust through responsible and informed decision making. In that effort, I will strive to make myself the most accessible school board member for whom you can count on to make the right decisions.
The City elections will be held on Tuesday, April 7. Polls will be open from 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. Voters can vote early by mail or by going to the Douglas County Courthouse. For more information on advance voting, you can visit the Douglas County Elections website: https://www.douglascountyks.org/depts/voting-and-elections/advance-voting
Three of the five candidates running for the City Commission will be selected. On the School Board, six candidates are vying for four seats.
We will have more in depth information about polling places as we near Election Day. The remaining candidates will be profiled over the next few days.