Occupation: Graduate Professor at Rockhurst University Helzberg School of Business
Education: Master in Busi-ness Administration from Rockhurst University.Bachelor's in Psychology from Rockhurst University. Pursuing Ph.D. in Business from Creighton University.
Years lived in LS: 16
Previous elected offices held: Presidental Council for Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition at the White House. UN Ambassador for the UN Foundation and International Malaria Campaign. National Association for the Parks Foundation
Why are you running for school board?
I have always been active in leading through service. I’ve lead at the regional, national and global levels through various entities, always advocating for youth and children. For me it was never a matter of IF, but more WHEN I got involved locally. In my case, now is the right time to help lead locally in an area that I’m extremely passionate about, which is education. Also, as a father, a husband, and a Lee’s Summit resident, I am extremely an invested and interested in our city’s best interests, and our future, which are our kids and our youth. I’d like to put my business and educational experience at the service of the community.
What other volunteer/civic involvement have you had? What have you learned from that experience?
Through the last 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to represent dozens of causes, including the United Nations Foundation, US Soccer Foundation, America SCORES, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, American Lung Association, Chicago Fire Foundation, among others. In 2007 I was honored by President George W. Bush for my service, and later appointed by the President to the President’s Council for Fitness Sports and Nutrition, one of 18 influential Americans who engage, educate and empower all Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles. I’ve also been a UN Ambassador for the last 10 years. One of the main things that I learned from that governance experience was that working with different kinds of people, from all walks of life, helps to lead effectively. Diversity on a board is a great thing, something we need more of currently.
If elected, what would be your top priority as a board member?
There are a lot of things that are pressing for us as a district. One of the top priorities has to be to contribute in keeping an eye towards the future; we can do this by helping and supporting our new Superintendent to rebuild optimal communication with our public, our teachers, and the district as as whole. As we re-build that communication, also re-instituting transparency, I believe this will strengthen our bond with our community. Additionally, helping to lead the implementation of the Academic Systems Review, which I believe will elevate us as district into a whole different level.
Where do you stand on technology in the classroom?
I appreciate technology. And while I do believe that we are losing some traditional skills to the use of technology, we also must consider that the world is changing and evolving around us by the minute. The world that we live in right now is not the same world our kids will get to work in and blossom in as professionals; it will be a much more tech-reliant and advanced world, so we must bring our kids with the ability to not only survive in it, but also compete and lead. We must find the right balance between technology, traditional teaching and physical activity, a balance that gives our kids the best opportunity to be healthy and successful both physically and mentally.
What do you foresee being the biggest hurdle facing the district in the upcoming years?
Our biggest hurdle and our biggest challenge is the potential defunding of tax dollars from our ecosystem, whether by national or state-level initiatives. This would force us to increasingly rely on local funds and other measures. Currently we are facing a wave of proposals for partial or total privatization of education, which would be extremely detrimental to our kids and our society as a whole. I believe that our biggest battles are making sure people are aware and understand just how damaging these proposals are, and how it would change the landscape of education in our country, our state and our communities for a long time to come.
What are your plans for returning funding to dwindling and lost extracurricular activities?
We must be very vigilant with our budget and display thorough fiscal responsibility (see the point above). Our board is continuously reviewing the budget and studying challenges and opportunities. I’d like to return some of the popular and beneficial activities to the table, but only if it makes sense from an education perspective, if the budget allows it and we have the ability to afford it. Assuming there is a surplus of funds that will be present for a prolonged stretch, then we would have the opportunity to discuss bringing some of those programs back; we also don’t want to bring them back for a year only to see them gone again the next.
How would you make the R7 district as inclusive as possible?
To answer this question, we have to consider our assets: We have a great foundation laid already through the district’s previous work. With a continuously changing demographic, we have an accepting culture from our teachers, administrators and staff; they have an embracing and open door policy. We also have programs that assist families with many challenges, including special-ed and an increasing number of lunch assistance, to name a couple. But our greatest asset in this regard are our students. We currently have the most socially aware and socially conscious generation-ever. Our students often set the tone for what we do inside and outside the schools. Beginning with our work at home, he have demonstrated that we are making massive strides into becoming the best district we can be, and that is executed in the schools, our homes, and our community as a whole. I would make sure that using my position as a board member, I help guide our district’s policies to be inclusive, accepting and seeking equality and equal opportunity for all children.
In your opinion, what are the strength and weakness of our school district?
We have a great deal of strengths. It starts with our families. Our infrastructure, great buildings and our vertical model provide great opportunities for students. Our teachers are second to none and bring a passion that is hard to match. Additionally, we’ve proven that we can produce top students that come out of our district with life skills and ready to go to top institutions. Having said that, I believe there are big opportunities for improvement. One of those opportunities is the lower performing students; we can continue to elevate their performance and make our collective performance even better. Also finding transitional opportunities for those students that are neither high or low performers, we could continue to develop programs that seek opportunities for them.
How do you view the financial management of the district? Would you do anything to change it?
I believe thorough financial management is paramount. We have done a good job in this regard, but we need to continuously study opportunities for financial management, asset maximization and efficiencies, as this would allow us to spend smarter, in ways that allow us to provide other opportunities to students, by way or new programs or bringing back some of the ones we have lost.
Do you believe in an itemized budget?
I do believe in itemized budgets; they’re the best way of ensuring constituents and tax payers that we as a district are doing everything we can to maximize our funding. Also, this provides an opportunity to promote transparency, visibility and confidence in knowing that we’re spending our resources in the best way possible.
Do you believe that a teacher’s evaluation should be based on student test scores?
I believe test scores are important, but should not be the driving force for teacher evaluations. There are simply too many variables that come into play when it comes to test scores; and while they are a metric that is extremely important, even when a teacher does everything right, the test scores may not be as high as desired. It’s a metric worth considering and keeping track of, but it is by no means a true way or the only way to determine a teacher’s performance.
Police Chief Travis Forbes is wanting to implement a program to increase suicide education and awareness. What are your ideas for addressing this topic in all levels of the public school system?
I think this would be an idea worth considering seriously. As we know, mental health is a topic that we seldom discuss openly, yet seems to be something that continues to plague all levels of society, including our youth (and social media doesn’t necessarily help). I would be open to learn more about Chief Forbes’ initiative and seeing if it is something that needs to or can be instituted at the district level.
Would your occupation and/or other time investments hinder your ability to service the district? How will you make sure you have adequate time and energy to serve?
I am a business consultant and a graduate school educator. I do not have any conflicts of interest or investments that could cause a conflict in my role as a board member. As for time, while previously I had an almost chaotic schedule, I now find myself with the flexibility necessarily to execute the role for the district effectively. Historically my passion for serving has never taken a secondary role in my life. Everything I do, I do with 100% commitment, bringing all of my skills and my experience to the table.
In light of the recent and past incidents of teachers and volunteers for inappropriate contact/relations with a student, what steps would you recommend the board take to prevent further issues? Should changes be made to the current background check requirements?
Fortunately, this has not been a recurrent problem for the district. We as a community must be vigilant so that this doesn’t happen again. But I believe it will take more than the district’s direction to solve a problem of this nature. It starts with the education that we as parents provide our children and our vigilance as citizens denouncing any irregular activity. One case of this kind is too many, and changes for background checks should at the very least be evaluated and studied.
How do you plan to address public concerns and improve openness and transparency?
While serving in various boards and councils I learned the vital importance of communication. Whether communicating a mission, an initiative, a strategic approach or a tactical one, effective and clear communication allows you to make connections, truly deliver your message, and keep key stakeholders informed. As a board member I will be an extension of the district; I will be able to serve as an outward conduit for the proper information, though always being a guardian of process, protocol and directing questions through the process resolution channels.