Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

De Soto resident sets sights on Allenbrand’s school board seat

Johnson challenges incumbent for Position 4

March 31, 2005

Randy Johnson, the sole De Soto resident running for a USD 232 Board of Education seat in the upcoming election, will face veteran Board member Curtis Allenbrand of Olathe on Tuesday.

The two candidates are vying for Position 4 on the Board.

Allenbrand, a licensed land surveyor and De Soto High School graduate, has served on the Board of Education for 14 years.

Johnson owns RJ's Family Lawncare and several De Soto rental properties, including River Bend and Oak Tree apartments.

When building facilities, Allenbrand said school board members should stick with the district's long-term plan, which they implemented at least 10 years ago to address rapid growth. As long as enrollment keeps growing, the district must build facilities to stay one step ahead.

"All we can do is just stay on top of it," he said. "When we get done with this bond issue, if the growth keeps coming, we're just going to have to have a new bond issue somewhere down the road."

However, Allenbrand has consistently opposed stepping too far ahead of growth. For one, it isn't responsible to taxpayers, the longtime Board member said.

"There's no reason to build a building unless we really need it," Allendbrand said. "Our mill levy is always a concern to any patron. That's the whole reason we don't build any buildings until we actually need them."

Johnson said planning was key for the district to meet rapid growth.

He said planning should be applied to school attendance boundaries and facility building.

Johnson said he favored finding a way to allow students affected by a boundary change to stay for their final year at a school. However, he said boundaries must be used to keep school capacities balanced.

He also said he feared the district would go into debt by continuing to build "Shangri-La" schools instead of paring down luxury.

"You've got to have nice buildings, but I think we've gone beyond what we can afford," he said.

Johnson applied a similar penny-pinching philosophy to technology.

"I feel like we're above and beyond most districts in technology, and I think that's probably a good thing," he said. "I'm not sure our tax base can afford that, though."

He said it was important to keep up with technology but that the Board should balance that with more financial responsibility.

"As a Board member, obviously, you have to think of education first," Johnson said. "But financial responsibility ... I think that's very important, and if your tax base can't afford something, then you need to shift some money from somewhere else."

Allenbrand said it was important for the district to offer students the latest technology but that Board members would have to figure out a permanent funding source for the program.

Nearly all of the district's technology plan, which includes laptops with remote Internet access and a district-wide thin client program for every school, is being installed with money from its current bond issue.

"We have to stay on top of the new stuff as far as technology is concerned," Allenbrand said. "As far as funding it, something is going to have to work into yearly funding to afford to be able to upgrade when we need to, and replace the older models."

Allenbrand said he thought the role of a Board member was to set policy and direct the superintendent in matters of the district, including eyeing a long-term directional goal and following it.

Johnson said Board members' choices should educate children in a way that is responsible to taxpayers. He said the district had allowed administration to outweigh education and that, if elected, he would push to change that.

"I absolutely would do everything I could to cut administration costs," he said.

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