School Board Candidates Respond to Questions
By Carol Kincaid
With the retirement of two of the Knox County R-I School Board Members, the April 7 election provides voters a chance to choose two new Board Members from among three candidates: Rhett Hunziker, Craig Miller, and Karen K. Hall. (This is how they are listed on the ballot).
To assist voters with this choice, The Sentinel has provided a number of questions to the candidates. These are the questions and the responses we received.
What do you hope to accomplish by becoming a school board member?
Hunziker: “I want to ensure that our students continue to get the best education possible. One can never be satisfied with the current results and must always strive to continually improve.”
Miller: “I would like to maintain a strong Board, work with the Administration on funding issues and expenses, get technology updates, and keep good teachers for our school district.”
Hall: “I value students excelling in academics, music, and sports, and every student must be given the opportunity to do so and that is why I’m running for a school board position. I will try to represent every child regardless of their social or economic background.”
How do you feel your educational background/and or life experiences have prepared you for becoming a school board member?
Hunziker: “I graduated from Knox county High School in 1987, and from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1991. My wife, Barb is also a graduate of Knox County. We have three children in the school system, two currently in middle school and one in elementary.
“It seems that I have always been involved in our community. From FFA and other high school groups, I started learning how to work as a team to accomplish goals. In college I was involved in several organizations and clubs.
“After college, I moved back to Knox County and have served on the county Farm Bureau board ever since in various capacities, including serving on the state-wide Young Farmers & Ranchers committee. I have also been involved with Knox County Cattlemen’s board and Greenley Research Committee. I am a member of the Bee Ridge United Methodist Church, and serve on several church and parish committees.”
Miller: “I have served and currently serve on several boards. I feel with my financial background, work experiences and education, I can use these three ‘tools’ to help work with the Administration and the current school Board to maintain an educational experience for every student and faculty member in the Knox County School District.
Hall: “I’m a member of the Edina United Methodist Church. Teaching children and youth in Sunday School for 40 years has it’s rewards. I also serve as youth advisor. I serve on the KC. Caring Communities Board as co-chair. I am a member of the Knox Co. Interagency, serving as treasurer, and am co-chair of the KC Health Department. I am a 20-year 4-H leader, have been a Girl Scout leader, and served on the area Girl Scout Board of Directors. I am team captain and survivor co-chair of the KC Relay for Life.
“I retired in 2004 from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services after 36 years serving MO’s finest citizens, the elderly and special needs persons. I then re-retired in 2008 from this agency. Serving people is something I enjoy doing. I describe myself as a ‘people person’. Currently, I work here in the county for Doss Funeral Home and Kids-R-Us as a part-time toddler teacher.”
Do you wish to initiate any new programs or policies at Knox County R-I? If so, what are they?
Hunziker: “I’ve got a couple ideas that I’d like to explore. There are a couple of work study options that might not only give students tech skills, but also produce a source of income for the school. There are of course details that would have to be explored such as teacher qualifications and liability. But I think we owe it to our children to research ways to enhance their education. We should not be afraid to get creative in our thinking.”
Miller: “Not at this time.”
Hall: “If parents contact me with an issue that needs an answer, I believe in the chain-of-command, taking all issues to the superintendent through the school board and returning to parents needing a response. Every parent needs to be treated with the utmost respect. Being an advocate for teachers and other school personnel is also important to me.
“Hopefully, school board members are allowed to observe in the classroom and at sport practices. I’d like to do just that.”
Do you feel Knox County teachers are adequately paid?
Hunziker: “At this moment, I don’t know what each teacher is paid. The easy answer would be to say no, but there is no easy answer to this question. For the responsibility and demands put on teachers, they should be paid a great sum of money; but as we are all aware it depends on what tax burdens our citizens are willing to bear that ultimately dictates what the school can afford to pay its staff.”
Miller: “I feel they are underpaid at this time, but unfortunately most school teachers are.”
Hall: “I’m certainly not opposed to any teacher receiving a raise. It would depend on whether funding is available and I would hate too see any teacher leave our district to receive more money in an adjoining county.”
(The average yearly salary in Knox Co. is $30,555; Adair R-2 (Brashear) is $30,105; Scotland is $32,079; North Shelby is $32,960; Clark Co. is $33,087; and Lewis C-1 is $34,603.)
With enrollment going down and state budget funds based on enrollment —how do we keep providing a good education for students?
Hunziker: “This is the million dollar question. There may be several options available, but it will depend upon what our community is willing to do.
“The first thing we would have to do is look at the budget and make sure that the school is running as efficiently as possible.
“Then we could look at other options such as an increased tax levy, four-day school week, or a number of other options. I really don’t know what the answer will be , but as a board member you have to be willing to explore all options and weigh the pros and cons of those options to decide what would ultimately be best for our students.”
Miller: “This is going to be a big challenge for our school district going forward. I feel it is important to use every dollar wisely, whether it is state, federal, or tax payer monies. Because, the main focus is providing a good educational environment for students to excel in.”
Hall: “We will have to spend the tax payers monies wisely. We will have to prioritize that spending. Academics will have to come first, we MUST educate our children.”
All three candidates have grown up in Knox County, all three have family members enrolled in the school system. The choice is yours—-VOTE on Tuesday, April 7, 2009.