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Candidate says maintaining all elementary schools not smart economically





Approximately 50 people, including school administrators, teachers and board members, attended the Hays USD 489 Board of Education candidate forum Monday night at Fort Hays State University.

The forum was hosted by the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, American Democracy Project, Student Government Association and the Fort Hays State University Department of Political Science.

Five candidates are running for three positions on the board in the April 2 election. They are Richard Kraemer, Josh Waddell, Lance Bickle, Kathleen Fischer and Danielle Robben, who was unable to attend. Candidates answered nine questions, ranging from general issues such as cutting spending and keeping qualified teachers to specific issues such as closing schools and funding the Hays High School weight room.

"While local, small neighborhood schools are very comfortable, convenient and handy, I don't think we could make a very good case from an economic standpoint that they're very efficient," Kraemer said.

Waddell said he doesn't support closing schools.

Doing more with less and options such as fundraising or auctions might help offset funding cuts, Bickle said.

Community volunteers could make a difference in improving the performing arts offerings, Fischer said.

"One of the mainstays of our culture is the performing arts," she said.

Using district money for the Hays High weight room seemed to be a hot topic in the community, Bickle said. He declined to specify how he might have voted without more research.

"I supported the decision to assist with the completion of the (Building) FAST program," Waddell said. "The FAST program has turned out to be positive for the school."

The candidates agreed on several points -- maximize partnerships with FHSU and North Central Kansas Technical College, working to maintain and attract qualified teachers and English as a Second Language classes.

Waddell identified low morale as the district's biggest problem.

"We're not unified. There's dissension between grade school and middle school, high school and middle school, teachers and administrators," he said.

Each of the candidates had a minute for closing remarks.

It could be time to look at changing policy, Bickle said.

"I think we need to look at more long-term planning," he said.

Fischer said she would bring a conservative voice to the board.

Kraemer's motivation for being a board member continues to be "what's in the best interest of the students and staff of USD 489."