KUSD School Board candidates field questions at forum

JAMES CHILTON/Miner

JAMES CHILTON/Miner

KINGMAN - Three of the five candidates running for the Kingman Unified School District Governing Board spoke before the Kingman Republican Men's Club Monday afternoon at Hualapai Mountain Medical Center, giving members a chance to get a feel for each candidate's agenda for the difficult times ahead.

As might be expected, the two incumbents present, Charles Lucero and Bill Goodale, each pointed to their past accomplishments on the board, namely in effectively managing to change with the times. Goodale emphasized the board's decision to "right-size" the district's staffing levels in order to compensate for statewide education cuts in light of the budget deficit, as well as the board's continuing policy changes to reflect changes mandated by the state Legislature.

Goodale also pointed to the hiring of district superintendent Roger Jacks as a major feather in his cap, highlighting Jacks' commitment to student achievement, individual standards measuring and for placing principals in a greater leadership role, with additional responsibilities down the line.

"If there's one reason I should be rehired, it's because we hired Roger," Goodale said.

Lucero, meanwhile, pointed at the immense changes the board has wrought during his tenure, including the construction of the new White Cliffs Middle School and Desert Willow Elementary School, as well as the on-going construction of Lee Williams High. He stressed an ongoing emphasis of "academics, advocacy and accomplishment" in district schools, adding that the district needs to maintain its dual enrollment program with Mohave Community College in Kingman High School and that it must fund full-day kindergarten.

In introducing himself, Goodale also chimed in on two state propositions on the November ballot. He urged voters to vote in support of Propositions 301 and 302, which transfer money out of the state's Land Conservation and First Things First funds and into the state general fund. Goodale argued that, in both cases, the money was better spent plugging the state's $468 million budget deficit, which he said would force continued cuts at the district level were it to remain.

"When resources are limited, wants must be set aside so that needs may be met," he argued, adding that, with KUSD receiving about 1 percent of the state's overall education budget, the district has had to set aside more than $4.5 million in reserves just to make sure it remains solvent in the event that the deficit remains unaddressed.

The sole newcomer candidate present, former teacher and journalist Marvin Robertson, argued that statewide education finances were not going to get better anytime soon, and that the district must be proactive in identifying ways it can save money while still placing children's education at the top of its priorities.

Robertson noted that, throughout much of his career, he worked at universities in Michigan and Georgia doing research and evaluation of various school districts and their practices. He argued that his research and planning background could be a boon to KUSD, which he said has among the finest facilities in the state.

Both Goodale and Robinson broke from Lucero when asked about their take on the board's decision last week not to pursue potentially outsourcing its custodial staff. Lucero had voted with fellow board candidate Margaret Libertini and member Terri McMullen to not pursue submitting a request for proposal from various private custodial firms, a move that KUSD Construction Director Oz Enderby had anticipated could save the district as much as 25 percent of its $1.3 million custodial budget.

"I don't think anything is off the table," Goodale said. "I think we need to study everything."

Robertson agreed, adding that, while custodial staff have a somewhat more dynamic working relationship with schools than they do in most other settings, the budgetary challenges the district may be facing in the next several years should require the board to consider any possibility that will help it save money.

"It's time for educators to look at education with new eyes," he said.

Neither Libertini nor fellow candidate Dr. Jeri Brock made it to Monday's meeting. All five candidates have been invited to a second, public forum hosted by Residents Against Irresponsible Development and scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, also at Hualapai Mountain Medical Center.