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School board candidates answer readers' questions on issues

School board candidates answer readers' questions on issues

March 18th, 2018 in Local News

Four candidates are running for two available seats on the JCPS Board of Education. Incumbent board members Michael Couty and Pam Murray — each with one term of experience on the school board — face challengers Ken Enloe and Lindsey Rowden on April 3.

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The News Tribune asked all four candidates to respond to the following questions, with responses limited to 150 words.

Candidates' responses are listed in the order the candidates will appear on the ballot.

Q. What do you think the future of the Simonsen 9th Grade Center building should be once the last class of freshman students finishes in the 2018-19 school year?

Pam Murray: "In November 2014, the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee recommended Simonsen be decommissioned entirely after a second high school was completed. Since then, a new administrative team has determined the building is structurally sound and could fit into future, yet-to-be-determined plans. The building is over 100 years old, and the cost of continuing to operate Simonsen versus building a new facility for the unspecified need would weigh into a final decision on my part. Options that have been mentioned for Simonsen include an alternative school for behavioral issues or a middle school. I am open to those or other uses if the details support the use. If the building is decommissioned, what is done with it should be a community decision with those who pay their fair share of taxes to support public education given full voice."

Ken Enloe: "My position on what we do with Simonsen 9th Grade Center is very simple. We must determine what is practical and cost-effective considering the building's historical significance in the community. I attended seventh and eighth grade there, but I have also been in the building many times over the last few years to speak to classes, and there are many challenges. Making a significant investment in a 152-year-old building must be critically cost-justified. There may be practical and effective ways to use it, but I believe more research must be done to make that determination."

Michael Couty: "One option is to develop an alternative program for the students with disruptive behavior disorders. This program should not be confused with the JCAC program that the district already has in place. The alternative program that I would choose is one for students that have been suspended several times because of disruptive behaviors. Behaviors such as physical aggression displayed attacking other students, teachers/staff, and the basic rights of others violated, excessive argumentativeness, deliberate destruction of property, stealing and other forms of defiance, social conflicts or resistance to authority. To make this endeavor successful, specialized, dedicated, committed personnel and resources would be needed. The personnel must consist of professionally trained experienced educators, counselors, interventionists and mental health therapists. The program would be available for middle and high school students. The students learn positive behaviors and begin to react to life situations in a more appropriate fashion."

Lindsey Rowden: "I think a great use for this building would be to house our JCAC. This would give them their own space and allow them plenty of room for expansion. This is an amazing program that I would love to see grow. They work on developing the 'whole child' building trusting and caring relationships and working on social and emotional skills. I think there are many more kids who would thrive in this environment, and Simonsen would be a great home for them."

Q. From reader Ed Williams: Did anyone, such as organizations like the Chamber of Commerce, approach you to be a candidate?

Pam Murray: "The chamber has not contacted me or in any way encouraged me to run. Seeking re-election has been my decision after weighing the progress made during my first term and looking ahead to challenges, both new and old. Core issues for me in 2015 and now have been transparency in how the district operates, accountability to the community for how dollars are allocated, and to always put students and teachers first in decision making. During my time on the board, we started for the first time to review requests by businesses to have their school (and other) property taxes abated instead of simply rubber-stamping requests. There remain certain topics of taxpayer concern that the majority of the board do not want to take place in public; I do not feel that is healthy for a public body. The only endorsements I have sought are from educational organizations and individuals."

Ken Enloe: "I made my own decision to run after thoughtful consideration and discussion with my family. My decision is based solely on my passion for Jefferson City Public Schools and the experience and positive influence I can bring to the board."

Michael Couty: "No. I have not been approached or encouraged to run for school board by any individuals or organizations affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce or any other groups period. I am seeking re-election because of my passion and strong advocacy for high quality, free public education for all students. I believe consistency and continuity is needed to follow through with the labor and processes needed to make a difference for our students and community. I need our students to be academically, career, socially and mentally ready for the future. I want to continue being a change agent in making the best decisions for our community of students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators and taxpayers to ensure educational opportunities are available for all."

Lindsey Rowden: "No — my decision to run for school board is one my family and I have considered for the last few years. I am very active with my children, their schools and the community. I think now is the most important time for me to share my ideas and experiences with the board and district. I'm currently raising my children with the rest of our district families, and we are raising them with new challenges. Challenges with technology, social media, increases in anxiety and depression the list goes on and on. My current situation as a parent makes me the perfect candidate today."

Q. From readers Jeff Holzem and Shirley Seabaugh: What specific actions will you take to encourage JCPS to install solar panels on the new and existing high schools to reduce electricity costs?

Pam Murray: "Energy costs and the JCPS carbon footprint are of concern to me. When the board engaged architectural firms, energy conservation was addressed. Optimizing opportunities to use natural light throughout the two high school projects and energy conservation have been part of design presentations. A cost-benefit analysis specific to solar has not been shared with the board but will, if I am re-elected, be part of discussion. Historically, energy efficiency has been built into building renovations done in the past decade and the district has benefited from loans through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. The Missouri Department of Economic Development has offered to present information about the Missouri Energy Loan Program to us, and I hope that option will be considered in concert with our architectural and construction teams who we rely on for expertise. Staying within the taxpayer-authorized budget is imperative as is being environmentally responsible."

Ken Enloe: "I have asked and will continue to ask and encourage the district to evaluate cost-effective renewable energy technologies. These should be considered not just at Capital City High School but also existing district facilities. I believe we should examine all available resources and try to find creative ways to reduce energy consumption and cost while setting a good example for our community."

Michael Couty: "I would ask our buildings and facilities director to look at a cost-benefit installation and recovery study to determine the feasibility of installing solar panels for Jefferson City and Capital City high schools. Based on the findings, we would then have to weigh the cost benefit of the solar technology's ability to reduce our electrical cost to determine if there is an advantage. However, from personal experience, I have found that there is a reduction in the cost of electrical power, but the initial costs of the solar panels and the installation takes approximately eight to 10 years to recuperate."

Lindsey Rowden: "I think we should make it a goal to make all of our buildings as efficient as possible and decrease operating costs where we can. I would like to see the cost comparison to see how quickly the installation of solar panels would pay for themselves. I would also like to collect more information on the sustainability of these products."

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Q. From reader Douglas Piant: Missouri legislators are debating whether to repeal the prevailing wage law, which sets wages for contractors to fairly bid school projects. Do you support the current prevailing wage law? If not, how would repealing the prevailing wage law help?

Pam Murray: "As a school board member, it is my place to work within the rules set by the Legislature and get the most value out of taxpayer dollars. Prevailing wage has been the law, we have had quality work done within budget.

Ken Enloe: "Whether the current prevailing wage law is repealed will be determined at 201 W. Capitol Ave., not at 315 E. Dunklin St.; however, like other legislation coming out of the Capitol we must operate within the parameters we are given. Supporting a fair and equitable public construction project process is important to the school district as we look at completing the second high school, which our community overwhelming voted to approve. As a board member, I obviously don't want to see wages inflated because we're charged with ensuring we spend taxpayer dollars properly. Given that I also believe there is no question that well qualified, and if possible local, employees working on the construction project should be paid adequately for their trained professional skills."

Michael Couty: "My knowledge and understanding about the prevailing wage law is limited. It is a mandated hourly wage rate that most employers are required to pay their workers for their specific trade. The wage rate is set by the state Department of Labor. The rates are broken down by industry and duty, meaning a carpenter has a different rate than an electrician or plumber to help the employees get a fair wage for their work. During my tenure, the district has secured bids for many projects using the prevailing wage rate. The cost was within appropriate range and met our needs for contracting purposes. However, I see pros and cons of both sides."

Lindsey Rowden: "I appreciate the Legislature considering options that affect the outcome and budgets for our future school projects. As a good steward of the district's spending, I would like to discuss where every dollar is being used — prevailing wage or not. I am currently serving my second term as a Parks and Recreation commissioner and am proud of the job I have done with my fiduciary responsibilities to the citizens of Jefferson City, especially during the recent building of The Linc."