STORY BY MICAH REINKE
PHOTOS BY CLARK CHEN
On Tuesday, October 15th, the USD 489 Board of Education held a candidate forum debate located in the Beach Schmidt Performing Arts Center on the FHSU campus. The event featured nine panelists all focused on improving the school district, the candidates are as follows, Paul Adams, Jessica Ann Berg Moffitt, Cole Engel, Alex Herman, Lori Ann Hertel, Luke Oborny, Craig Pallister, Allen Park, and Tammy Wellbrock.
These candidates are running for four open positions within Hays USD 489, the general election will be November 5th. Adams and Oborny are seeking re-election as they currently serve on the board.
When presented with a question regarding what the purpose of public school education is, Engel answered, “I think the purpose of public school education is to make sure that we educate our citizens to prepare them to take care of us much like those that came before us.”
Wellbrock also had an answer to the question
“Truly it is to prepare our young people to be able to go out into this world and be a fully contributing member of society,” she said.
The candidates discussed numerous topics in hope to prove their opinion and influence others around them in a positive manner concerning the school board and district 489.
Many specific questions were asked to the candidates, some originated from the moderators and some from the audience at the debate. One such question was the purpose of USD 489 having 13 Suburbans.
“I believe that we need to be fiscally responsible in that type of situation,” Hertel said. “I know that we need our youth participating in activities, and if that allows them to do so then I think that it’s a good fiscal decision.”
Moffitt also had an answer to the question
“The Suburbans provide us with an opportunity to drive students to events that do not have transportation, the impact the Suburbans have on the community helps us to be able to prosper and grow,” she said.
Another response came from Pallister
“From past knowledge of when I was at the middle school, there were a lot of days that we needed all 13 Suburbans throughout the district, a lot of our students need the transportation daily.”
Another question addressed the $3,500 deductible for health insurance for USD 489 employees.
“I’ve spoken with several teachers in the district and I’ve heard repeatedly that they are upset with this switch in the plan,” Herman said. “The whole base of the issue is that teachers are paying more out of pocket than they were, and I think this is a symptom of bigger problems”
Park also answered
“The increase of insurance rate is a strain on the family, and the unknown increase from year to year is another stress for teachers, I believe it is the board’s concern to figure out how to take care of those increases.”
One audience member asked about how people like herself who don’t have kids in the USD 489 system can still support the District.
“They are benefitting from the school district as well, it may not be your child, but it may be someone else’s child, and they are reaching out and providing services to everybody in the community,” Hertel said.
Oborny answered the question as well
“That person can decide how engaged they want to be, at the end of the day they can either choose to be very engaged or not engaged at all, however, we are always looking for help throughout the district.”
Adams also answered, “It is important to have a strong school district here in Hays because that is the climate of the community and we want a strong Hays, Kansas,” he said.
These questions required the candidates to think quickly and answer with their current knowledge, helping to differentiate each individual with their own personal strengths.
You can view the entire debate here.