Archive for Thursday, March 31, 2005

Newcomers running for Board of Education seat

Meyer, Taylor on ballot for spot vacated by Plummer

March 31, 2005

De Soto USD 232 patrons are guaranteed at least one new face on the upcoming year's Board of Education.

Newcomers Larry Meyer and Denise Taylor, both of Shawnee, are vying for Position 6 on the De Soto Board. Jim Plummer, who chose not to run for re-election, currently occupies the seat.

Meyer is a retired school psychologist from Olathe USD 233. In a 30-year career in education, he has been a special education director and elementary school principal.

Meyer presently works for the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center as a program administrator for children with special needs and as an educational evaluator for 18- to 21-year-old prisoners.

Taylor is a mother of five and part-time teacher at Olathe Northwest High School, where she currently leads "Phase 5" English classes for at-risk students. She also has been a substitute teacher for the De Soto district.

Meyer said many people he met while campaigning -- both those with children in school and those without -- were concerned about the district's budget.

"Almost everyone wants a quality education," he said. "But the common denominator with almost everyone was 'Are we being able to afford what we're doing?' and 'Are we being responsible with how the money's spent?'"

Meyer said, as a Board member, he would work to be cognizant of spending and responsible to taxpayers while still ensuring a quality education for district students.

Taylor said boundary changes were a major concern of patrons she had talked to, especially those in the area she would represent as a Board member.

The issue is also one with which Taylor has first-hand experience. She lives in the part of Shawnee that falls within the De Soto High School attendance zone, and her high school-aged daughter goes to school there.

Taylor said the smaller school happened to be a great fit for her daughter, but she said that could not be the deciding factor for the Board when setting school boundaries.

"We need to do what's best for the education system," Taylor said. "Nobody would want their students going to an overcrowded school."

Taylor suggested that Board members be more outgoing in communicating to parents that boundary changes and other decisions are made to accommodate what's best for education.

For example, the educational value of smaller classes should outweigh location and short driving times, Taylor said.

Both candidates said they thought De Soto's technology program was heading in the right direction but that spending should be limited to what's most important for learning.

"I think the vision De Soto has is right on," Meyer said, adding that the district should continue embracing technology because it was crucial to prepare students for the working world.

Financially, Meyer said the Board should be certain technology dollars were used to promote academics by asking several questions.

"What we're doing in technology, is it increasing our students' academics?" he said. "Is it helping them to learn? Is it helping our teachers teach better?"

Taylor said De Soto's leading technology program was a unique asset and helped draw patrons to the district.

"I think that De Soto is already ahead in technology, leading in technology, and that's why a lot of people are moving into De Soto schools," she said. "I think technology is a real benefit for our schools and a real plus for the education system for the kids."

However, Taylor said, Board members must spend responsibly to keep its technology program within budget constraints.

"We're going to have to look really tight on what we're spending the money on and make sure that it's being used wisely," she said.

As a Board member, Meyer said he would follow district statutes: set policy to ensure children were getting a quality education and also to ensure taxpayers' money was used to reflect the needs of the community and schools.

Taylor said Board members should be part of a joint effort with the community and district superintendent.

"A school board member needs to be aware of what's going on in the school, what's going on in the community, and try to work as a liaison," Taylor said.

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