USD 457 board candidates weigh in on issues ahead of election

3/27/2013

Lara Bors

Lara Bors

Age: 37

Occupation: Lawyer

Husband: Carl Bors IV

Children: Carl Bors V and Henry Bors

Jean Clifford

Age: 61

Occupation: Homemaker and retired Air Force officer

Husband: Dr. Bill Clifford

Children: Frances, 22; Mary, 21; Elizabeth, 21; Patrick, 16; Joy, 10; David, 9

Antonio Espino

Age: 52

Occupation: Finney County Sheriff jail deputy, machinist at Hydro Resources, mechanic, tax preparer for H&R block

Wife: Adelina

Children: Ivan, 17; Shelby, 12; Sergio, 10.

Gloria Hopkins

Age: 44

Occupation: Optometrist at Frye Eye

Husband: Darin Hopkins

Children: Connor, 16; Zachary, 14

The Telegram asked each of the board of education candidates the same five questions. The following are their submitted responses.

Tonight, the candidates will appear at a candidate forum where a moderator will ask additional questions about school issues. The forum is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the city commission chambers at the City Administrative Center, 301 N. Eighth St.

Question 1: Why are you running, or seeking re-election, for the USD 457 Board of Education?

Bors

Having served only two years, I believe there is still much to do. ¬ When I ran in 2011, I told my boys that I was running for school board to make sure they had the best possible education. That continues to be my goal — for every Garden City child to have the best education possible while being a good steward of the taxpayer's dollar.

Clifford

I would like to continue to serve on the USD 457 Board of Education for several reasons. I have enjoyed my time on the board and have learned a great deal about both our district and the issues impacting education at the state and federal level. As a board member, I have been involved with many issues these past four years, and I feel I both understand the issues involved and can effectively represent the concerns of our community on the board of education. I currently serve as the board president and have worked to ensure our board is strong and knowledgeable. I would be honored to have an opportunity to continue to serve as a member of the board.

Espino

I'm very concerned about the future of our young people. I feel like we can do a lot better preparing them to join the work force once they finish high school.¬ 

Hopkins

I have enjoyed the opportunity to serve on the BOE the past four years. I have found the experience rewarding.¬ 

Question 2: What personal skills or experiences qualify you to be a member of the Board of Education?

Bors

I served as an Assistant County Attorney for Finney County for almost nine years. During that time, I had a unique perspective of USD 457 as the lead prosecutor in child in need of care and juvenile offender cases. That perspective continues now as I work on the defense side of those same cases. As a parent, I understand the need for quality education. As a small business owner and property owner in Finney County and Garden City, I understand the need to be a good steward of tax dollars.

Clifford

My experience as a USD 457 Board of Education member allowed me to be involved in the many issues from facility construction and renovation to school transitions, technology initiatives and boundary realignment. These have provided me with an in-depth understanding of the district as a whole and how these decisions affect our students, staff and community.

I have also spent considerable time educating myself on the impact of federal and state legislation and working to improve legislators' understanding of the effect their decisions have on our local district.

I recently graduated from the Kansas Association of School Boards Leadership for Tomorrow Class of 2012-13 and earned a KASB Honor Roll Level II Certificate in the Kansas Boardsmanship Academy Training Program. I have been twice honored to serve as one of 10 Kansas representatives to go to Washington, D.C., to the National School Boards Association Federal Relations Network Annual Legislative Conference to discuss our K-12 education concerns with our federal legislators. I have also participated in several annual KASB Governmental Relations Seminars in Topeka, which enabled me to discuss our local concerns with our state legislators. ... I also hold a bachelor of arts in elementary education and a master's degree in special education and hold a current Kansas teaching certificate in elementary and special education.

I have six children, all of whom have been enrolled in the district at various times. My education and past experiences, as well as those involving my own children, uniquely qualify me to understand the issues and concerns of community members in our district, as well as the challenges and constraints faced by our district.

Espino

Personal skills I can mention a few — I am a machinist, welder, somewhat mechanic and a tax preparer. I have been working for the sheriff's office for the last nine years. I'm also a former substitute teacher. I did that for about nine to 10 years.

Hopkins

I have four years of experience. I am objective, and I feel I have a history of putting the needs of students first.¬ 

Question 3: What will be your top three priorities as a member of the board of education?

Bors

1) Budget — the issues at the national and state levels will soon be trickling down to us on a local level.

2) People, not programs, first — with the change to the Common Core, we must look to our teachers in assisting us with this transition. ¬ 

3) Students — all students — gifted, average, special education — need as many resources as possible to ensure a quality education.

Clifford

My top three priorities are to continue to promote excellence and high student achievement in all our schools as we transition to a Common Core Curriculum and to provide our staff with the level of support needed to successfully make this significant change.

It is also my priority to ensure that we utilize our resources wisely and that we continue to innovate to gain more from the resources we do have. This involves both promoting the value of K-12 education to legislators, as well as strict fiscal control over our own spending and program decisions.

Finally, I believe that it is important to continue to seek and listen to the community members of Garden City in our decision-making and initiatives so that our district truly reflects the concerns and interests of our community and that the district is responsive to community member's voices and concerns.

Espino

My three top priorities are to have parents more involved in school decisions, to create¬ and make mandatory some type of technical programs for all the students after they finish the sixth grade and to encourage school authorities to be more reasonable when dealing with student issues or problems.¬ 

Hopkins

Funding, supporting the transition to Common Core, student safety.¬ 

Question 4: What will your fiscal approach be as a member of the Board of Education?

Bors

I have attempted to have a pragmatic approach with regard to our fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers. I have and will continue to balance the needs of students with the needs of the taxpayers — to provide a quality education for our students while being fiscally responsible.

Clifford

My fiscal approach is to work to educate legislators to ensure they understand the fiscal impact of their decisions at the local level. Decisions that may appear to be economically beneficial in one area may have a devastating impact on school district funding, especially in our diverse and rural district in southwest Kansas. I believe we need to continue to promote policies and legislation which allow us to maintain quality services to all of our students and which equalize state funding to all school districts in the state so the quality of a student's education does not depend upon the student's zip code.

While USD 457 has not increased the Local Option Budget to the maximum allowed by law, I believe that increasing the LOB and asking local taxpayers to contribute more should not be used unless we cannot otherwise meet basic requirements and services we are mandated to provide by state and federal law. We should not increase the LOB for unnecessary programs and extravagant extras. I also believe we must continue to seek efficiency in every area so as to minimize costs whenever possible.

Espino

Try to be more fair when monies are needed and concentrate on people that are using the school system more, meaning if families have more children in school they should pay more or contribute with more money to the school budget.

Hopkins

My fiscal approach will be to maximize funding from the state and minimize the tax burden on local taxpayers. We have made deep cuts in all departments already. We are very responsible with every dollar we receive. We are to the point where cuts are directly impacting students. To keep class sizes from increasing we need more funding to just keep up with inflation.¬ 

Question 5: What do you think is the biggest challenge for USD 457?

Bors

The budget and possible cuts from federal and state funds. The board of education will need to work closely with Dr. Atha and our new chief financial officer to find unique ways to keep these cuts from hitting the classroom anymore than they already have.

Clifford

The biggest challenge facing USD 457 is maintaining a quality education for our diverse student population in an era of declining funding and increasing state and federal mandates. These mandates control much of what all school districts must do and provide little or no leeway to local districts in how they are implemented. That combined with lowered funding levels requires our local district to continually seek to provide the same or higher levels of service with less funding.

My goal is to continue to ensure a high quality education for all students in our district. This means keeping funding cuts away from the classroom and students. I believe that our staff is the most important part of our students' education and that it is critical to maintain our student-teacher ratios and programs and intensive interventions for those students who require them, if at all possible. In order to do this, we must continue to seek efficiencies in other areas, seek grants and sources of non-local funding and continue to educate legislators on the importance of education, not only to each of our students and our community as a whole but also to the economic vitality of our state.

Espino

Diversity --¬ we are a community of many races that all need and have the right to a good education.

Hopkins

Implementing Common Core without an interruption in the fluidity of instruction.¬ 

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