Monday, October 17, 2011

CPS School Board Reflects on Serving the District

(A guest post written by our CHS teacher Jill Paopao)

Chadron Public Schools School Board Reflects on Serving the District
By:  Jill Paopao

Serving on Chadron Public Schools (CPS) school board is an obligation that all six members of the board of education are proud to be a part of.  

            The CPS board is comprised of individuals who work in a wide range of careers. 
Board member Sandy Roes is a Registered Nurse and the Director of the Public Health Program at Chadron Community Hospital.  She is the mother of four and will have served on the board for six years in January, but brings the experience of serving on the board of education for Trunk Butte rural schools, which is now closed.  Roes became interested in running when the rural schools were going to become part of Chadron Public Schools.  Beyond that she felt that she had the time to commit to district.
            Dr. Dave Johnson is a physician in private practice, a parent of five, and has lived in the community for six years.  January will mark one year of service for him on the board.  Dr. Johnson felt that giving the public a choice was an important reason to run.  He wanted the public to have choices, not just a single person to vote for.  
            Charlie Kuskie is the father of three alumni of Chadron High School.  He has lived here since 1998 and owns his own business as a commodities broker.  Kuskie has served on the board longest at eight years. Kuskie was originally appointed to the board when a former board member moved away from Chadron.  He has continued to run because he had an interest in what CPS was doing, he’d served on committees, and like Roes, felt it was the right time in his life.  Kuskie also said, “The schools are vitally important to the business community.”
            Terri Haynes is employed by Chadron State College in the student services department.  This is Haynes’s second year on the board.  She served on Whitney’s board, a former rural attendance center, before its closure.  Being involved in the community was the reason Haynes opted to run for the board of education.  But, she also said she “enjoys the collective intelligence of peers.”
            Tom Menke works for the city of Chadron as the utilities superintendent, and this is his first year on the board.  Menke said his three daughters were his reason for wanting to be on the school board.  He said he wants to be directly involved in the decisions that will affect his children.
            Keith Drinkwalter completes the team.  Drinkwalter is completing his third year on the board.  He serves as a Nebraska State Patrol investigator.  For Drinkwalter, he wanted to be part of the solution rather than someone who sat on the side and complained.  His goal was to be part of the solution.
            The challenges and rewards of serving on a school board often go hand-in-hand.  And from those pieces there is much to be learned.
  For Roes the biggest challenge she faces is the time commitment.  She said, “If you want to do this well, it takes time.” 
However, she feels that she has an opportunity to affect the community through the kids, economic development, etc.  For her it is exciting as learning never stops. 
Roes has learned that there are “so many different sides, opportunities, ways of thinking, etc. to each situation” that she has learned to compromise and adapt her views in order to reach the best decision.
            Dr. Johnson summed up what he sees as an obstacle as financial constraints.  But, he feels that the board has worked hard at decisions.  According to Dr. Johnson, he feels that the board has always made the best decision for that point in time.  Dr. Johnson said, “We [individually] are just one piece to the puzzle.  Not one of us has the right answer, but as a collective group we polish and hone each other to make the best decisions.”
            Kuskie echoes Roes’s sentiment in that time is a difficulty, but for him the toughest aspect of being a board member is that decisions the board makes effects individual lives.  He pointed out teacher RIFs and the rural school closures are two of the most difficult decisions he’s had to make.  But, he finds the rewards to be in the opportunity to work with lots of people that he would never have had the chance to work with. 
            Haynes’s concern is always that a decision made by the board may have “unintentional consequences.”  She stated that sometimes when a policy is created it may look good at the moment, but it may not always fit the situation later.  Yet, Haynes said, “Every decision has felt right for the school at the time, even though hard, they have been in the best interest of the district.”
            Menke said that as he has “never done anything like this,” it is both a challenge and a reward.  He stated that he is amazed at how much information is given at board meetings, but how little of that information gets to the public.  According to Menke, he would like to see more public input and more people at meetings.
            Drinkwalter, like Dr. Johnson, sees finances as a hurdle.  “Taxes are hurting some people who struggle to survive.  So, it is very difficult to vote in favor of any new tax or tax increase.  In saying that, our district buildings are in dire need of attention, and the only feasible way I see to address the issues are to try to continue the current bond to finance the repairs that are needed,” Drinkwalter said.  He hopes through open and honest communication and community involvement in tough decisions, there can be support of board decisions.    
            While serving on a school board has its ups and downs all members of Chadron Public Schools’ board of education are pleased to serve the community.