Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
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.
Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
A capacity crowd converged on City Hall Wednesday evening to hear from the candidates running for The Eudora School Board.
Four of the six candidates were able to attend the event where the audience had the the opportunity to hear the candidates in an hour long question and answer session. The candidates had the opportunity to let the audience know their feelings on the issues facing the District Administration and what their ideas are for leading the Eudora School District into the future.
All of the candidates in their opening remarks commented on how good the District is performing and wanted to help in continuing that level of performance. Two of the candidates, Joe Hurla and Daniel Dickerson each made the comment that they moved to Eudora specifically because of the quality of the schools.
The line of questions then presented to the candidates were focused on the most important issue that will face the District in the coming months: The District budget.
The Eudora School District is facing a loss of revenue of 1.3 million in the coming school year, due to the loss of new facilities money and cutbacks by the state of Kansas in education funding. We specifically asked what area would the candidates look at, with the likelihood of having to cut a large amount of money from the budget.
Joe Pyle did not name any specific areas to cut because he wanted to see the information that will be brought to the board at next months School Board meeting.
Dickerson stated “The easy cuts have been made already” and went on to talk about how “we need to look at the nitty gritty and look at things like how our buses run their route and see if we can cut fuel costs by taking more efficient routes”.
Belinda Rehmer, talked about how tough the situation will be. “I don’t want to cut anything and I don’t how we do that and keep growing, which is mandated by the government. We have to grow and do better on our scores to keep our accreditation. How do you do that and at the same time make the necessary cuts.”
Hurla said reiterated the fact mentioned earlier that the “painless” cuts have already been made. He wanted to look at all the efficiencies of operations to help offset “some of the painful cuts that are likely going to have to be made.”
Taxes were also discussed since the School District levies one of the larger mill rates in the area. The State Legislator has discussed, as a way to solve the state’s budget crisis and fill the gap in school financing, about raising the ceiling on the mill levies districts can charge. The current mill levy for the Eudora School District sits at 71.721, approximately 0.8 mills from the current maximum allowed.
Dickerson stated the fact that Superintendent Don Grosdidier has said on multiple occasions before, that raising the levy the final 0.8 will bring in very little extra revenue to the District. Dickerson talked about focused cuts in the budget, looking for “the needle in the haystack” as an alternative.
Rehmer’s response was “Raising the mill levy any further would be horribly damaging to Eudora. Do I want to raise the mill levy? No. Do I see that as an option? Yea. I see that coming but I don’t want to do it.”
Hurla said that should be the last option we have. “We don’t have the tax base to support raising the mill levy. We should work at making sure the legislature doesn’t push those tax burdens on us.”
Pyle talked about how tough it currently is under the current economic situation to pay the taxes and how he is not a “big tax guy”.
Other topics covered through the hour long discussion included looking at other specific areas including extracurricular activities and disposition of school district properties such as Nottingham, West Elementary and and the Old Middle school at 10th & Main.
All the candidates agreed that extracurricular activities are an important part of the curriculum, though the district may have to start looking at fees to keep these programs in place.
As to ancillary properties, those of value like the Nottingham/Laws field should not necessarily be sold right now with a down real estate market. The consensus was to hold on to this piece of property until the economy turns in a better direction and more value could be obtained. As to the 10th & Main property, the feelings were that since the building is in such poor shape and the city has an interest in that portion of land for a new Public Safety building, the best course of action would be to look towards that direction and explore that possibility.
This was an excellent opportunity for the citizens and patrons of the Eudora area to see the participating candidates in action and gauge from their responses on who to chose in the upcoming election.
Editor’s note: We will have a full report Friday morning on the City Council Candidate forum that followed the School board session. Make sure to check eudorareporter.com to keep up to date as we bring you full coverage of your choices in action heading into the April 5th election.