Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Gracy, Thomas on Position 5 ticket

March 31, 2005

After advancing past a primary election with four candidates, Shawnee residents Janine Gracy and Jim Thomas are on the final ballot to determine the winner of the De Soto USD 232 Board of Education Position 5 seat.

Thomas, vice president of research for Fleishman-Hillard Inc., is in his sixth year on the Board. For about 15 years, Thomas has been an adjunct professor for Baker University, teaching courses in marketing, research, advertising and strategic planning.

Thomas said the Board's No. 1 priority should always be advocating education for children. He said all other decisions and responsibilities should fall underneath that umbrella.

In making decisions, Thomas said Board members must never lose sight of the district's long-term best interests.

Gracy directs Johnson County's Regional Prevention Center, a resource to help schools implement strategies to prevent problem behaviors like violence, substance abuse, delinquency and teen pregnancy.

As a Board member, Gracy said she, too, would put children first.

"I kind of like to think of it as a team approach," she said. "We're all on the same team; we all care about kids."

Gracy said she saw the importance of taking recommendations from administration but thought Board members should consider more sides when making decisions.

"I don't necessarily think a Board member needs to be a yes-man," she said. "I think a Board member needs to be able to express their views and opinions, and the views and opinions of their constituents."

Thomas touted the De Soto's nationally recognized technology program as one of the district's greatest assets.

He said the district had a good plan and significant resources in place for technology and that Board members should continue taking steps to execute the process.

"If I could change one thing about it, I would accelerate it," he said.

Gracy said she liked seeing technology in action in schools, like when her fifth-grade daughter and classmates led power-point presentations during parent-teacher conferences at Riverview Elementary School.

Howev-er, Gracy said she wondered why laptop distribution had been prioritized at several elementary and middle schools before high schools, where many students would soon need to apply those skills in college.

"It seems a little backwards to me," she said. "It's very important to understand about the developmentally appropriate stages for when this technology should be used."

When building for growth, Thomas said Board members must meet students' academic needs and make facilities accessible to patrons, all in a cost-efficient manner. That means building neither too soon nor too late, he said.

When planning, Thomas said Board members should take advantage of the district's facilities focus group but be ready when predictions end up a little off.

"I think we need to be flexible," he said. "I think setting dates too far in advance will lead to confusion and disappointment."

The district should also take steps to help patrons understand what's going on with building and growth, Thomas said, as well as explaining how the district works with city and county entities to reach decisions.

"I think we need to engage with the community on those issues," Thomas said.

Gracy said she thought the Board did a good job of looking ahead.

She said she didn't want to see new buildings before they were needed but that she didn't want the district to be "behind the curve" either by building too late.

But Gracy said she thought De Soto needed more community dialogue on the subject of growth and facilities.

"I do know there are citizens, particularly our senior citizens, that are overwhelmed," she said. "There's just a lot of education that needs to be done ... because they're the citizens that are helping pay for these schools."

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