Non-primary candidates now in spotlight
Those candidates for De Soto USD 232 seats not involved in last week's primary are gearing up their campaigns for the April 3 general election.
Challengers are facing off against long-time incumbents for Positions 1 and 3, which both include a portion of De Soto. Candidates from the seats must live within the boundaries of the position but all district residents may vote in the election.
Incumbent Rick Walker will compete against Tim Blankenship for Position 1, while William Fletcher will challenge Sandra Thierer in Position 3.
"A quality education is probably the most important goal for the board, along with efficient use of tax dollars," Thierer said.
Fletcher said he wants to make sure funds are spent appropriately to get children the best education. He said the way to be more fiscally responsible would include increasing teacher salaries and more competitive bidding on building projects. He would also propose a possible property tax break for seniors, who he feels have already paid enough taxes for schools.
"I want to have a positive campaign, but I couldn't stand for all these changes I don't think are right," Fletcher said. "I'll probably lose my contract to mow lawns for the district, but that's not the most important thing right now."
While several candidates have said the current board has not been as fiscally responsible as they need to be, Thierer said the board performed well considering the state's recent school budget crisis.
"Our district was one of the very few that did not have to cut any programs for students," Thierer said. "Not sports, not art, not music, not band was cut when the state was under-funded. That's fiscal responsibility."
Two-term incumbent Rick Walker said one of the biggest challenges to the district would continue to be growth. He said that affected every aspect of the schools, down to attracting and keeping highly qualified teachers.
"During my time on the board, I have tried to approach issues with an open mind, listening to all views, and render a decision based on what is best for the students of this district," Walker said.
The community is an important issue as well for Tim Blankenship. Blankenship said education is the best way to serve the community. He said it might be time for a change in the board since so many members, including his opponent, have served for so long.
"People want to see change," Blankenship said. "They want something new brought to the board, not entrenched. It appears to me the current board doesn't scrutinize the administration's proposals."
Primary races last week will have first-term incumbent Don Clark facing Kevin Straub in the district Position 7 at-large seat and former board member Jim Thomas vying against Bob Dyche for Position 2.
Occupation: Software consultant
Biggest issue: Serving the community
Other info: Two children who attended De Soto schools
"If we look at the math and science achievement scores, I think we're down. We need a strong curriculum and highly qualified, well-paid teachers."
Occupation: Small business owner
Biggest issue: Appropriate spending
Other info: Three children who attended De Soto schools
"We have good test scores, but not good enough for the amount of money we're spending. Money should be spent to increase teachers' salaries. I think there is a big discrepancy between the salaries for teachers and administration."
Occupation: Computer systems analyst
Biggest issue: Experience
Other info: Fourteen years on the board; two children who attended De Soto schools
"There are so many complex issues in education today it makes it difficult to become an integral part of the board quickly because the learning curve is so high."
Occupation: Transportation engineer
Biggest issue: Growth challenges
Other info: Two children who attended De Soto schools; USD 232 board member 1999 to present.
"We have been dealing with growth in the district for a number of years and based on current trends, growth will continue to be a challenge for a number of years to come. Because we are a growing district, competitive pay is essential in recruiting the best new teachers.