2014 Clarence School Board Candidate Forum

Screenshot 2014-05-14 06-56-43 2014-05-14 06-57-13On May 13th, the Clarence PTOs and SEPSTA hosted a forum for school board candidates currently running, Maryellen Kloss, Tricia Andrews, Matt Stock, and Richard Worling.

Please remember on May 20th to Vote YES on the School Budget (Proposition 1) and the Bus Proposition (2). 

Keep Clarence Schools Great has endorsed – and urges you to vote for – the “ASK” Slate: Andrews, Stock, and Kloss. 

Each candidate was given time to make an opening statement.

Kloss: She stands for mutual respect with all interested parties, and seeks to work collaboratively. She recognizes that the district has no blank check, we should do everything we can agree on affordably. The district needs safe buses, needs to support teachers, and provide a foundation for students to succeed.

Andrews : A former teacher, she recognizes that the quality of the schools affect property values and civic pride. She recognizes the need to balance educational needs with viable and sustainable budgets.

Stock: A computer networking professional, he is a problem solver. He brings skills to the table including communication, diplomacy and ability to marshal resources.

Worling: A real estate broker who has lived in Clarence continuously since 2002, with a Williamsville address in the Clarence district. He knows there are two sides to the issues. Clarence needs excellent schools and teachers, but we need to be conscious to budget issues. Community has been built by a lot of people. Retired seniors need to be respected to solve budget issues with “creative solutions”.

1. What is your 1st priority if elected?

Kloss: There is no one priority. Nothing can be done by itself. We need to collaborate to find other funding to make up lost Albany aid.

Andrews: Everything revolves around money. We should lobby the legislature, use CSEF when necessary, and seek creative solutions.

Stock: Maintaining the reputation of the district. That covers both finances and academics. If we don’t preserve the district’s reputation, everything else falls as well. People won’t come, budget issues tighten more.

Worling: Would hash out ideas with board members. Have all board members be on the same page. He has a list of creative ideas. Create “clean revenue” rather than rely on the taxpayers.

2. Would you have supported 9.8% Budget?

Andrews: Yes. Even with taxes going up, they would still be lower than before. Even this year, the tax rate is lower than 5-6 yrs ago.

Stock: Yes. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. There is a value proposition here: School rankings vs. the cost to achieve them. Even if the budget had passed, the district still would have been the most cost effective.

Worling : Opposed it because it was “too far reaching”. Somebody should have come up with “creative solutions”. Clarence enrollment is stagnant, and the budget not transparent about teacher health care and pensions.

Kloss: Supported it. It was defeated through a PR manipulation, which took an investment in students, programs, and teachers, and the whole district structure and made it seem awful. Now we live with the repercussions of not making those investments, with a loss of teachers, programs, social workers.

3. What did you learn from last year?

Stock: That it is challenging to engage a broad set of people on issues that are important, because they are busy. As a positive, he met a lot of passionate people who care.

Worling: There are a lot of passionate people.  Everyone wants what’s best for students. We want excellent schools for the students, and need to seek “creative solutions”.

Kloss: We need to get correct information out to people that isn’t susceptible to PR spin. We should improve accessibility of all the school website information. We want people to get involved, and last year’s budget met students’ needs and was responsible. But now we have to find other funding souces.

Andrews: Passion. People believe they were right, and on the board you need to listen and be creative.

4. Should the Board protect the needs of taxpayers or students?

Worling: You can’t separate the two. They are both equally involved. We need kids educated and they need to be prepared for a competitive world. We should expand the business academy.  Kids need to learn about real life, not just books. We should give them what they need.

Kloss: Everyone is a taxpayer. The Board should figure out what is important for kids. The cultural aspects of the schools and sports are all important, and they’re all taxpayers. Everyone is respected and listened to.

Andrews: You can’t separate them. The PR of last year was taxpayers vs parents, but they’re one and the same and taxpayers will act in best interests of kids.

Stock: It’s important to understand that the multiplying affect of what we put into kids lasts for a long time. A small investment makes huge gains to society. We need balance, but be aware that kids will own our decisions in the long term.

5. Support Vouchers? 

Kloss: That’s a difficult decision, because when you make the decision to move kids, we lose a sense of community. With vouchers, Community, neighborhood schools, and the district lose out.

Andrews: Clarence schools are better than most private schools, and she is a firm believer in public education.

Stock: They mean different things, so it depends on what the proposal is. He believes in public education, but choice is also important. “Voucher” itself doesn’t mean much.

Worling: Need to evaluate it in entirety. It won’t be happening, and it’s a 2-sided situation. One positive is that choice is good, and competition is good. But we need to evaluate what it would do to the community. Won’t say he’s for or against.

6. Mental health providers psych and guidance counselors: for or against?

Andrews: For. Many kids struggle for a variety of reasons, and they need help. Social workers were cut, and psychologists are likely very busy. Kids need to be able to talk to trusted adult.

Stock: People think it’s a luxury because they don’t need it, but even one or two kids going through a bad time can have a ripple effect, so it’s good to have a strong support network and help kids get through rough time.  In many cases, family can’t or won’t help, or is the source of the problem.

Worling: He went to small claims court and saw people litigate zealously. Divorced parents were fighting, and their 3 kids might need help. Need support to help kids.

Kloss: Loss of social workers is a cut that keeps her up at night. When kids come to school they bring their issues with them, and that can affect learning, functioning. Embarrassing.

7. Clarence: Undertaxed or overtaxed?

Stock: No one thinks he is undertaxed. The question is whether we want to provide the services kids need to excel and maintain quality. So we need to pay for quality, balance is needed, and new funding sources sought.

Worling: Look at the costs, and whether they’re sustainable. Can we do it less expensively and better. Can we find other revenue sources?

Kloss: Question is value. Look at what you get for your dollar, and how efficiently it’s delivered. School quality directly impacts home values, not to mention quality of audited. It you pay nothing you get nothing.

Andrews: No one loves taxes, but Clarence is best education bang for buck. We’ve cut to the bone, and taxpayers get a great value.

8. What is cause of financial crisis in schools and what do you plan to do?

Worling: Increasing costs. Health care rising, paying for longer retirement, and we need “creative solutions”.

Kloss: Gap elimination is a budgeting nightmare and has done terrible hurt. Not being used well in other districts, but rising costs are hurting, so we need money from other sources, advertising on fields, etc.

Andrews: Unfunded mandates and gap elimination have sucked money out of the district. She has lobbied Albany, and we got some money back.

Stock: In hindsight, the cause is from 2 factors. We aggressively used fund balance on bad advice, and because of that when the financial downturn hit, and gap elimination hit, we had no flexibility.  As a result, very aggressive cost cutting was needed to stay within the cap. We’ve now stabilized.

Closing:

Worling: Everything changes with time. Schools are run like they were 50 years ago. Businesses can’t do that, neither should schools. We need creative ideas, so the board needs to work with town board businesses to come up with creative solutions. We need clean sources of revenue, and the town says business is not welcome. We should create a trust fund. Give people opportunity to pay more if they want, as a separate line item on taxes. Some probably would. We need multi year budgeting & a plan for future. We should change district boundaries.

Stock: 2 kids of his went through our school system. The health of the district matters to everyone – not just those with school-age kids.

Andrews: We need to invest in education.  People move here because of the schools and their superior programs. We need to take a stand and protect our district. Wants to protect core but also other programs: clubs, music, sports give kids a competitive edge. We must maintain our cost-effective excellence.

Kloss: Importance of dialogue requires asking and answering difficult questions. Funding, affordability of districts, and common code are challenges. We are efficient and cost-effective, same tax rate as 08-09.  Won’t stand for the dismantling of the district, brick by brick. CSEF and KCSG helped get accurate info out, and helped fund lost programs. Finding solutions and pushing them through are key. If we mess this up, what does this say about us?

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