On Nov. 7, three new members — who would all be serving their first term in public office — are set to be elected to the USD 373 Board of Education. Decisions will also be made on a school bond issue and a referendum on the sale of Camp Hawk this election season.

Below are the profiles of the six candidates (all active, involved community members) running for those BOE positions, with the top three vote-getters to serve four-year terms. Profile information was taken from questionnaires sent out to each candidate and focuses on three key issues: their goals if elected, what they view as the district's most pressing needs and their stance on the school bond issue.

While the bond issue has been a sticking point in the lead-up to election day, it should be noted that as the candidates are currently running for office they have had no direct input in the action of bringing the bond issue on the current ballot to a vote. The only influence from any candidate has been indirect and minimal — as Mallory Morton was part of the community advisory committee regarding the bond issue.

Angela Becker

Becker has lived in Newton with her husband for one year and currently works as a senior financial analyst at Flector Inc.

What are your goals, if elected?

As a financial analyst, I ensure money is being spent responsibly and in the best interest of the company I work for. We need that skill set on the Board of Education. I will ensure money is spent in the best interest of our children and their education.

I am committed to ensuring that public education is adequately funded. I believe we must continue to press the legislature for better and fairer funding. It is essential that we have strong leaders on the board to ensure Newton public schools are fully funded.

It is imperative the community remain informed and supportive of public education. Without strong community backing, building the necessary partnerships for successful education policies is more difficult. Communication and transparency with the public is essential.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing needs and concerns of the school board?

The biggest issue facing public schools is a lack of funding. For almost a decade, education has been sacrificed at the altar of tax cuts for wealthy Kansans. Coupled with a lack of community involvement with our schools, this has made a bad situation worse. Far too many people lack the basic understanding of the dire fiscal straits our district finds itself in. The community doesn’t see the day-to-day struggles teachers face to continue to do their job. Teachers should not have to sacrifice their own pay to keep their classroom functioning. Yet, every day, teachers give more and more of themselves to ensure that their students don’t feel the pinch of budget cuts. We must continue to lobby the state legislature for better funding, but we must also ensure the community understands just how bleak the budget situation is and what needs to be done to fix it.

What is your stand on the current bond issue?

Based on my analysis of the current bond proposal, I am not inclined to support it. I worry that we are spending too much money in the wrong places. Ten years ago, we passed a bond, and in hindsight, it’s apparent it wasn’t invested in the ways we needed it to be. I will leave it to the wisdom of the voters to support or not support this bond proposal. In the event the voters support it, if elected, I will work diligently to ensure that every penny is wisely spent. Should it be defeated, I will work with the administration and citizens to ensure that we address every need our district has and do so in a fiscally prudent manner.

Jennifer Budde

Currently a stay-at-home mom, Budde has previously worked in a dental office and lived in Newton with her husband and four children for six years.

What are your goals, if elected?

1. Ensure safety of all our students. 2. Empower and equip our teachers for success. 3. Restore trust and transparency in our district and Board of Education.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing needs and concerns of the school board?

Our greatest needs center around our teachers. There is a teacher shortage not only in Kansas, but nationally. Our teachers are overwhelmed with workloads and often do not feel supported by administration and the district office. Our teachers need more autonomy and flexibility in making educational classroom decisions. This also flows into the need for ongoing professional development regarding project-based learning. If we are to attract and retain the highest quality teachers, we must provide them with a full scope of support and competitive wages.

What is your stance on the current bond issue?

I am in favor of our current bond issue. The facility needs that are being addressed with this bond are dire and need to be addressed now. We have state legislation that is going to be a road block for presenting another bond should this one fail and we don’t have time to wait. Our children deserve schools that are safe and worthy of a 21st century education. We cannot expect students to be on par with more advanced districts when we do not provide them an equitable learning environment.

Andy Harder

A lifelong resident of Newton, Harder lives in town with his wife and four children and currently works for Newton Fire/EMS and Harder Family Construction, as well as serving as a reserve officer with the Newton Police Department.

What are your goals, if elected?

My goals are to make sure our students have what they need, ensure safety and security at all schools and improve communication and trust throughout the entire district and community.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing needs and concerns of the school board?

There are many needs within our district, but one of the most important things we need to do is rebuild our foundation of trust — both within our district with teachers and staff, and within our community. Without this strong foundation, we are not able to do our best for our kids. Safety and security is also one of our biggest needs. It’s just something we have to take seriously and have at the forefront.

What is your stance on the current bond issue?

This does not come easy for me because I cannot stomach spending $61-plus million, but let me tell you why I will vote yes. The needs in our schools are real and we need to provide better and more modern learning environments to our children and highlight our schools as a reason for people to move into our community. My concern with any bond is that I do not want to see this money wasted on things that do not aid in student outcomes or community advancement. As a board member, I will do everything in my power to make sure the money is spent wisely and that when what needs to be fixed is done, the spending stops.

Mallory Morton

Morton has lived in Newton for the past 13 years, with her husband and three children, and is currently a stay-at-home mom. Previously, she worked at First Bank of Newton.

What are your goals, if elected?

If elected, I will:

1) Ensure that decisions are made with students' best interests in mind.

2) Work to retain current teachers, and attract excellent new teachers and administrators to our district, while also providing support and resources necessary for success.

3) Keep budget cuts away from the classroom.

4) Work to restore trust and provide transparency within the district and community.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing needs and concerns of the school board?

I believe the most pressing need of any school board will always be to ensure the safety of students, meet students’ needs — physically, emotionally, and academically — while providing them with the best education possible. A top priority is meeting the needs of our teachers, both current and future. USD 373 needs to provide a competitive wage and an appealing district to attract high-quality teachers, especially in the midst of a current teacher shortage. The school board will need to ensure they are using the limited funds wisely and providing all students with the opportunities and assistance they need to thrive. Funds need to be spent in a way that best supports students. Finally, continuing to promote community involvement and communication is crucial.

What is your stance on the current bond issue?

I support the current bond issue. There are significant needs within our facilities that must be addressed now. This is not due to lack of maintenance, but largely a result of systems that are nearly 45 years old that need to be replaced. While the district funds maintenance and upkeep through general funds and capital outlay, there are greater needs than what can be addressed through the school budget. Safety requirements in all schools and some basic amenities, such as heat in some classrooms, hot water and gas in science rooms, aren’t being provided within the high school. We owe it to our students and staff to provide a safe environment. Our students and teachers deserve facilities and classrooms that are conducive to teaching, learning and student success. New state legislation will make it difficult for USD 373 to pass another bond in a timely manner, should this bond fail.

David Oller

Oller has lived in Newton for 52 years and is married with 12 children. He currently works for MII Management Group in insurance, an industry he has been in for 40-plus years.

What are your goals, if elected?

1. Ensure the safety of all school personnel and students. 2. Make sure that our facilities are adequate for our students. 3. Conservative financial decisions for USD 373.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing needs and concerns of the school board?

We need to quit putting extra demands on our teachers outside of the classroom. We need to let teachers do what they do best, teach the kids and young adults. The school board needs to equip the teachers and students to help them learn.

What is your stance on the current bond issue?

I am currently against the bond issue. Are there some facility upgrades that need to be completed? Yes, but not to the extent of $61 million. We do not need a third gymnasium at the high school. I am in favor of a new school building in Walton.

Toby Tyner

A resident of Newton for most of his life, Tyner lives with his wife and two children and currently teaches in USD 259 (Wichita).

What are your goals, if elected?

I’d like to take a proactive approach in expanding community support for public schools.

We need to reduce class sizes and increase teacher compensation.

We need a themed program similar to the Walton Rural Life Center in every elementary school.

In your opinion, what are the most pressing needs and concerns of the school board?

The teacher shortage is really starting to become obvious. We're going to be competing for the best new teachers with all of the surrounding communities. Our compensation package needs to be a selling point. This is one reason I'm proud of the leadership position that USD 373 has taken with the Schools For Fair Funding lawsuit, and I believe we should continue to lead in the fight to keep schools sufficiently funded. I love how hard our teachers and staff work for kids, and care for them. I want them to be well compensated.

What is your stance on the current bond issue?

The current bond issue is not a part of my motivation for running. If the voters of USD 373 approve it, I will support their wishes as a board member. If the bond fails, I will advocate that we move as quickly as possible to find out what the sticking points were. I anticipate that I would advocate for a new elementary school in the south section of town, appropriate renovations for Walton RLC, all of the proposed high school renovations and that the elementary schools would remain K-4, consistent with the professional opinions of the teachers who serve those students.

As a voter and taxpayer, I am frustrated that the Brownback tax experiment has gutted the state budget to the point where we may not receive the state aid for bond repayment that is so helpful in local school improvement processes.

I am very much in favor of high school renovations and school safety improvements.

The switch to K-5 gives me great pause as an educator.

Building thematic project-based learning into all of our elementary schools would alleviate crowding in Walton and give all 373 kids access to the best education practices, without spending the kind of money proposed in the bond.