New USD 232 board member to focus on classrooms
The De Soto USD 232 has experienced many changes since Tammy Thomas was elected to the Board of Education in April. However, Thomas’ focus as a new board member has not changed.
Thomas joins the board July 6, taking over for Larry Meyer as position 6 representative.
The district has hired three new administrators, including Ron Wimmer as interim superintendent, but Thomas’ focus remains in the classroom with the teachers and students.
“My focus is the same,” she said. “The issues to me are the same. Our focus needs to be teachers and students. They are in the center of the page and everything needs to happen for them.”
Two other issues would have priority, Thomas said.
“For me the most important decision we make is who we select and retain as a superintendent. A big issue after choosing a superintendent is the transparency of the district. We need to be transparent and build a foundation of trust in our district,” she said. “I think a good step is putting out checkbook online and see where the district is spending the money. When you have a group spending someone else’s money, it needs to be transparent for those people. You need to be accountable to the people you are representing. I’ve been asked many times ‘what’s your agenda?’ I don’t have one. I’m merely a voice for this district.”
Thomas’ preparations for joining the board included a Kansas Association of School Boards workshop and meeting with Wimmer.
The KASB workshop for new board members at Olathe Northwest High School was a bit overwhelming, Thomas said. Thomas was the only member from USD 232 present.
“Notebooks and papers and information was overwhelming, but I really enjoyed it,” she said.
While, Thomas wasn’t surprised with what she learned at the workshop, she enjoyed meeting members from other districts.
The most beneficial aspect of the workshop was meeting with new and current board members from other Kansas school districts to discuss the on-going budget difficulties.
“We talked about ways that we could cut,” she said. “We talked about what areas people are looking to cut and seeing what other districts are looking to cut. There is such a large spread in school district size. It’s good to get their take in what they are doing in their districts. You get wrapped up in yours, and it’s nice to remember there are so many more.”
While, talking with other district about budget issues was helpful for Thomas, she hasn’t had the chance to discuss potential cuts with the board.
“I wasn’t privy to a lot of the discussion, so I can’t impact what has already been set. I can impact the point that I enter the freeway. I’ll find that out when I sit in and am part of the discussion,” she said.
As her seating on the board grows closer, Thomas has heard from district patrons.
“I’ve heard from some, more generalized questions like, ‘when are we going to look for a new superintendent and what process is that going to take,’” she said. “A few folks say they just want to be included. They said ‘We have an idea, how do we get it to the board?’ I’m someone they can ask.”
After working hard on her campaign, Thomas is ready to officially join the board.
“To look at the people that I’m representing and let them know. I’m here for them, I’m honored to be representing them,” she said. “It’s an honor. I’m really humbled by it. I look back at the Web site and look at the votes and that’s humbling to me. The vote is a gift.”