School expectations, funding among concerns of Kingman school candidates

Three of four school board candidates make pitches to GOP club

Raise expectations, implement programs to correct problems and make this school year the best it can possibly be may sound like one school board candidate's platform, but the ideas actually came from three different people.

Three of the four candidates running for two open spots on the Kingman Unified school board introduced themselves to a small crowd during the Kingman Republican Men's Club monthly meeting Monday.

Kevin Burgess, Marvin Robertson and Laurie Voss Barthlow told the audience a little bit about themselves, their viewpoints and then spent some time answering questions. Candidate Bruce Ricca did not attend.

Burgess, who owns four Superior Tire locations in Mohave County, focused on expectations and demanded they be raised.

For example, Kingman High had a graduation rate of about 77 percent at the end of its last school year.

"(That's) very, very pathetic," Burgess said. There are a lot of causes, but above all, it's about "our level of expectation," he said.

Expectations must be raised throughout the school district, even at the school board level, he said.

Burgess also has problems with the district's budget. He said KUSD's maintenance and operations budget is out of control, and added that more money could be put into the classroom without raising taxes if that were corrected. He did not provide any examples of out-of-control spending.

According to KUSD's 2012-2013 budget, revenue for maintenance and operations is expected to be $34,253,138 while its expenditures are set at $35,869,688. Maintenance and operations is by far the largest piece of the KUSD budget pie.

Teachers are not paid a wage they deserve, Burgess said. But if there's an effort put toward cutting out frivolous spending, that money could go to the teachers, which would end up raising expectations in the classroom, he added.

Voss Barthlow somewhat agreed with Burgess.

"I'm a big proponent of paying people what they're worth," said Barthlow, the longtime manager at the local Chicago Title. "But it's difficult right now with the budget."

Voss Barthlow was appointed to fill a vacancy on the school board in early 2011. She's seeking her first full term.

She graduated from Kingman High and so did her parents. Her two children attend schools within KUSD as well.

"I'm invested in the community and the school district," she said.

There are plenty of challenges facing the school board, the district and the schools.

White Cliffs Middle School and Kingman Middle School faired poorly on last year's standardized testing, and because of that the district's overall grade was lower than it was the year before.

"This absolutely has to be corrected," Voss Barthlow said. But she maintained that it is being fixed right now with improvement plans in place for teachers, principals and curriculum.

Marvin Robertson doesn't believe money is the key to improving educations. The retired, longtime educator ran unsuccessfully in 2010.

Engaging students is the key to improving education, he said.

"We need to find their hot-buttons," he said, "and get them interested."

It's not about trying to improve in the next decade or two, it's about making this school year the best it can be, he said. Robertson is big on vocational education, community involvement and employing quality teachers. He believes all three are key to improving education and argues that money - or the lack of - should never be used as an excuse to not fix education.

"We will never have enough money to do what we want to do," he said. "But a good teacher is priceless, and a bad teacher is below worthless."