Archive for Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Shawnee Mission school board Position 7: Bart Altenbernd

February 23, 2011, 12:46 p.m.

Updated: March 9, 2011, 12:46 p.m.

Bart Altenbernd

Bart Altenbernd


Name: Bart Altenbernd

Date of birth: July 24, 1951

Family (Spouse, children, grandchildren, etc.): Wife, Micki and son, Gabe a 7th grader

Current employment: Paraprofessional

Past employment history:

Classroom teacher and coach for 15 years.

Principal of Uniontown High School 1988 - 1991

Pleasant Ridge High School 1991 – 1993

Principal of Lansing Middle School 1993-1998

Associate Principal of Westridge Middle School in the Shawnee Mission District 1998-2008


BA in Education Washburn University - 1973

Master in Administration from the University of Kansas - 1982

Education Specialist form UMKC - 1995

Number of years lived in community: 12 years

Previous public offices held: None

Community involvement: Boy Scouts

Three candidates now vie for the Shawnee Mission school board's at-large Position 7 seat. Bart Altenbernd, Joan Leavens and John W. St. Clair Jr. advanced from March 1's primary election and will face off April 5 in the general election.

Previously, candidates fielded questions on a host of topics during an open forum. You can find our recap elsewhere on this site and on the blog, Extra Credit. In addition, each candidate completed a questionnaire prepared by The Shawnee Dispatch. Bart Altenbernd's response is below.

For Joan Leavens' response, click here.

For John St. Clair Jr.'s response, click here.

What made you decide to run for office?

Throughout my professional life, I have often thought of running for a board position. I have seen the positive impact they can have on the direction of a school district. As a parent and educator, I watched with great interest the recent debate over boundary changes and school closings. I believe because of my experience, I can bring greater transparency, thoughtful leadership and a commitment to long term excellence we need.

What special qualifications would you bring to this office?

My 35 years of experience as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal and now a paraprofessional makes me uniquely qualified to serve on the board. Because of my ten years as an administrator in Shawnee Mission, I have truly seen and experienced the district, its schools, teachers, and patrons.

How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the issues that come before the board?

I’m told we will be given a lot to read and I plan to do my homework. I plan to be visible and accessible. I want to ensure a fair process by asking questions, listening to answers and helping the district plan for the long term. I have a wealth of experience. Schools are what I know.

What leadership qualities do you possess?

I am a good listener. I trust my judgment, but recognize the community around me has much to offer. We must take advantage of the knowledge, expertise, and commitment of our patrons. They can help the board make better informed decisions. I am committed to asking and listening.

How do you plan to stay in touch with constituents if you are elected?

Public forums, email, and facebook are good ways to stay in touch. I really prefer phone calls or face to face meetings, but the size of the district makes that tough. Attendance at school functions such as sporting events, plays and concerts will also help keep me in touch. I feel the administration has not been successful in really listening to its constituency. I pledge to change that.

Describe what you see as the main role of a school board member.

The primary role of the board is to set standards and policy. Then the board must assure that the resources and accountability are in place. The board should not look over anyone’s shoulder but also, not put their head in the sand either.

What is the best attribute of our school district and why?

First, we have parents, teachers, and patrons who are committed to excellence. Their expectations are high. Second, a shared belief that researched based instruction provides the best outcomes for our students. That is how students learn the best. Third, the Signature programs at the high schools and the Broadmore Technical Center are excellent attributes because they go above and beyond. That is what our patrons expect.

What are the three most important issues facing the school district and how would you confront them?

First, the almost total absence of long term planning bothers me even though there is a 5 year plan online. We appear to be very reactionary. We put a million dollar library on Mission Valley Middle School less than three years ago and now we are closing the school. Second, the administration seems unwilling to seek community input early in the process before proposing major changes. Third, we face serious funding issues. This problem has been brewing for a long time as far back as when the legislature took most of the taxing authority away from local school boards. Unless there is a major change, which I do not foresee, we will be forced to look at more budget reductions in the near future. Where we cut and how best to keep these cuts from impacting the classroom is the real challenge.

Do you think public schools are adequately funded? Why or why not?

No. The Shawnee Mission District is in the bottom third of total expenditures per student state wide. If you look only at the general fund, we are in the bottom 10 per cent. I know money doesn’t solve every problem, but lack of adequate funding makes it very difficult to maintain the program our community needs and expects.

What areas of the budget would you target for spending cuts if necessary?

I have been asked repeatedly, to commit to where I would make spending cuts. I have been asked to rank the reductions form least likely to cut to most likely. I want to keep these cuts as far away from the classroom as possible because that is where the learning takes place. No one wants large class size and reduction in staff. However, with salaries 80 % of the general fund budget, personnel reductions will be made. I believe we can find some saving in greater efficiency of energy use. Our administrative costs need careful review to see if reductions can be found there. I know these things are being done. We probably have too many administrative functions scattered across the district. We should consolidate them as much as possible to save costs. Indian Creek Technology Center, for example, is nowhere near capacity. Perhaps we should look there for consolidation. We have several facilities that have been recently closed. Although it would be a onetime infusion of money, selling those properties could add to the tax base and no longer need the maintenance they currently require.

Are the district’s teachers being compensated fairly? Why or why not?

No. Nobody likes to work this year for what they made last year. Teachers in the district have received little in the way of pay increases for many years. It’s the less experienced teachers who are “low” on the salary scale who feel the most discomfort.

You could say they should consider themselves lucky to have a job and I have heard many say just that. On the other hand, teachers are being asked to do more and more each school year. Class size increases and more and more students need additional help than ever before. Good teachers are hard to find and even harder to keep. We must to do whatever we can to attract and hold on to good teachers.

Under what circumstances would you favor increasing property taxes?

The circumstances favor increasing local property taxes now. The local option property tax is capped by the legislature. They continue to cut funding and do not give us the opportunity to raise the LOB to fund our district to the state average. I see this local taxing authority as our only real chance to deal with the short falls in state funding. By the end of next school year we will be back to spending levels of almost ten years ago. Even if the economy improves, we can’t wait for Topeka to help. The mood of the voters is against any state wide tax increases. We must be able to help ourselves.


Cornflower 10 years, 5 months ago

It's a little disconcerting to me that someone who claims to know and love this school district doesn't know the spelling of the Broadmoor Technical Center. I can't take this candidate seriously after that. It reflects poorly on the school district overall that this man was a school principal and is still instructing students. Not the attention to detail I want to see on my school board.


marytinkc 10 years, 5 months ago

Really? In all of his thoughtful answers the only thing you noticed was one error in spelling? You must be a current member of the Board - my clue is that you entirely missed the big picture to be snide and petty...


Cornflower 10 years, 5 months ago

Mary -- I'm being neither snide nor petty. This country is in a crisis educationally, and proper use of the English language -- including spelling (and he had other grammatical errors, by the way) is a critical job requirement for me in someone who would be leading a school district. Inability to properly use language tells me this man probably isn't the leader-by-example I want for the district's kids. I'm looking at the big educational picture -- the core of what education is all about -- and you're calling names. If you're a fan of this candidate, you're welcome to try to convince me he's up for the job instead of attacking me. Your attitude and his poor grammar tell me I should look elsewhere.


SchoolsFirst 10 years, 4 months ago

Finally, a candidate for the board that believes administrative costs require a review. It's high time for someone to reign in the administration and their raises while they freeze teachers' salaries and lay-off great teachers. I'm intrigued by this candidate. Hope I can find a website since it's not listed here.


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