He said, she said
Sunday’s Willow Springs F.C.E candidate forum was more than two hours of a claims and counter claims. The De Soto Explorer looked into some of the points of contention and claims made at the forum.
- In one of the most heated exchanges of the day, candidate Kevin Straub said USD 232 board member Randy Johnson's motion to accept the lowest bid for playground equipment received no support from his fellow board members. Incumbents Sandy Thierer and Rick Walker disputed that account.
Minutes from the Feb. 5 board meeting indicate Thierer and Walker were correct. Walker moved to take the staff-recommended bid off the consent agenda and seconded Johnson's motion to accept the low bid. The motion carried 6-1, with board member Janine Gracy the only no vote.
- Straub said at the forum De Soto teachers are the lowest paid in Johnson County while administrative salaries continued to increase. A check of salary information for each of the six Johnson County school districts available on their Web sites, indicated Spring Hill has the lowest teachers' salaries in the county.
Teachers in De Soto schools make $34,350 in their first year. Shawnee Mission school district has the highest first-year school district salary in the county at $35,368, while Spring Hill has the lowest base salary at $33,700.
The Kansas Association of School Boards keeps administration salary information on record. While salaries for principals are based more on experience and tenure, overall, only Gardner pays less for principals than De Soto. At the superintendent level, the De Soto district pays significantly less than others in Johnson County.
- In discussion about the decision to use money from the 2002 bond to build a larger Mill Valley Middle School and forego a third elementary school because of inflation in the construction industry after Hurricane Katrina, Thierer said the elementary school was the only promised project not built while she had been on the board. One other project, a $650,000 technology learning center that was to be an addition to the USD 232 administrative building, was also removed after the referendum. In a story in The De Soto Explorer a week before the 2002 bond referendum, then district technology director Ben Crosier and curriculum director Doug Powers praised the education value of the proposed center.
- Candidate Rick Walker defended the effectiveness of the construction manager process by talking about the termination clause in the contract. He said the contract the district has with J.E. Dunn Construction allows either party to end the agreement at any time.
According to the contract between Dunn and the school district for the current bond project, the agreement may be terminated with seven days' written notice "should the other party fail substantially to perform in accordance with the terms of this agreement."
USD 232 attorney John Vratil said that means the contract is not hard to terminate. If the board was unhappy with the service received from J.E. Dunn Construction, they could end the agreement at any time. Vratil also noted that Dunn will not have a long-term contract with the district once the current bond measure expires.
- Shortly after the forum, candidate Sandra Thierer produced a press release claiming overcharging to the district by candidate Bill Fletcher. Fletcher's business, R&R/S&F Mowing, has held the contract to mow district lawns for five years.
"The contract calls for 28 mowings and if we have a wet year we could mow 32 times," Fletcher said. "The cost per mowing is always the same. There's nothing charged out of the ordinary."
Director of Facilities Denis Johnson said the district understands the cost will vary and has made the contract reflect that inconsistency.
"We include a break down per site so if we need an additional mowing we know how much that costs," Johnson said. "We might want an extra mowing at the high school before graduation."