Shawnee Mission School Board Position 7: Mark Anderson
Name: Mark Anderson
Date of birth: 1954
Family: Happily married with three children
Current employment: Principal WinningOutlook Associates
Past employment history: MCI/Verizon Business for 25 years in various roles and responsibilities, from entry level to VP of Sales
Education: Jo Co Community College, Associate of Arts. KU, BA
Number of years lived in community: Was baptized and grew up here, went to school and married here. Relocated for career opportunities, and returned in 2000
Previous public offices held: Elected to Fairway City Council as a teenager, re-elected for second term.
Community involvement: Indian Hills Homes Association, Church groups.
Four candidates vie for the Shawnee Mission school board's at-large Position 7 seat. Last week the candidates fielded questions on a host of topics during an open forum. You can find our recap in this week's issue and on the blog, Extra Credit. In addition, each candidate completed a questionnaire prepared by The Shawnee Dispatch. Mark Anderson's response is below.
For Bart Altenbernd's response, click here.
For Joan Leavens' response, click here.
For John St. Clair, Jr.'s response, click here.
What made you decide to run for office?
I felt time was right for a fresh perspective in SMSD planning, and that I could make a positive difference with the planning and execution skills I have acquired in business.
What special qualifications would you bring to this office?
I make my living looking through and re-engineering processes in contact centers, finding efficiencies, assisting people in decision-making for positive results.
How do you plan to familiarize yourself with the issues that come before the board?
Through my expertise in the District, through our clients—the taxpayers, Parents Groups, Teachers, students, through developing metrics that show what is working now, what is not working, other possible school district studies dealing with the same issues, and personal contact to gather information.
What leadership qualities do you possess?
I am a “consensus” leader, not a point-and-tell person. That skill of consensus building has served me well in moving large contact centers, managing labor issues, motivating people and planning for the future, all with straightforward over-communication and a people focused strategy.
How do you plan to stay in touch with constituents if you are elected?
Town Hall meetings, to piggyback on other groups for information—listening, and gathering feedback. Web site, much timelier updates and more interactive, also using a blog for venting and sharing. Don’t have the funds for a lot of mailings, so will also use the students’ backpack and all groups presently in place to share information. Media outlets, all the tools we can find to be thorough, consistent and accessible. Will try some new actions that parents recommend, taxpayers recommend, and that the “experts” of the community recommend. This is a work in progress.
Describe what you see as the main role of a school board member.
Being accessible to all viewpoints, gathering information until the best answers present themselves, being a spokesperson for our district, lobbyist, voice of the customer- the taxpayer, listen and act, Support our teachers. Spend our monies wisely, with the most impact for our students.
What is the best attribute of our school district and why?
Our product is our students. What an amazing “Who’s Who” of graduates from our district and the dedicated teachers that mold, guide, challenge and educate them through all the pressures, changes and adversity of their growing up. I remember great teachers from my days at SMSD, not great buildings or classrooms.
What are the three most important issues facing the school district and how would you confront them?
- State funding formula. We need to work for a win for the rural districts, and creating a win for the urban districts with a total package that “makes all boats rise.” Not just a SMSD solution, albeit the present flawed funding formula is coming up on its 18th year!
- Winning back the confidence of our constituents/taxpayers/customers. Our PR is not good, and not trusted.
- Making sure we address change/evolve based on funding, we put everything on the table to create a long term plan, addressing our budget issues aggressively, while working to preserve teachers. Look at demographics; find trends in our district and plan towards all the needs, both good and bad, not just cuts.
Do you think public schools are adequately funded? Why or why not?
Seems the money is there, just not in the right buckets for us to operate. Agree with the legal reasons for this, but we need to return to accountability and find out where the money is going and for what, gather information before we draw conclusions. The money spent on Mission Valley improvements would more than cover the just voted on reduction in operating budget for example. The state formula needs to change as we all have stated, we are not being treated fairly, consistently or equally as the court “case” by several of our citizens so eloquently lays out. While that makes its way to a better funding formula, I would stick to what we have in front of us know, and NOT wait for that change.
What areas of the budget would you target for spending cuts if necessary?
Hats off to Superintendent Johnson and his team in this area. SMSD is the most efficient run district in the area. I truly mean that compliment because this has not been an easy accomplishment. The problem duty of balancing our budget is never ending, because the state has made this a moving target that never seems to stop moving! The proposal gives us a challenge of 2.6 million this year of lost funding in the current school year, and 5.6 million lost for next year. It is going to take some sharp pencils and ALL possibilities on the table to get through this, while the State Legislature continues with its present flawed funding formula that keeps SMSD in the bottom 10%, with the amazing curriculum we support. Areas like 6th grade moving to middle schools, like the affect on capital budget of some of our middle schools being almost 60 years old. Heck we spent 3 million dollars on a middle school we are now closing…that kind of thinking most certainly would be a target. Year round school would go over horribly, but we have to look at it. 2.5 miles for free bus service. Look at what our citizens are finding through their expertise in all of these areas, sharing what works with expertise that solve issue, not just cutting as a strategy.
Are the district’s teachers being compensated fairly? Why or why not?
With what we have right now, yes…..with a couple “buts.” I don’t like the “freeze” in place that keeps teachers from adding to their salary if they take courses and improve themselves. They are paying for those courses and bring the knowledge back to the classroom. The cuts going on now are a “brain drain” to our district. Heck, I would sell the Administrative offices on Antioch and move that function to the tech center, and or trailers to show our citizens how serious we are at preserving teachers’ headcounts. Keeping teachers and the smallest classroom size we can possibly afford are key to our success.
Under what circumstances would you favor increasing property taxes?
When we have a plan that is well vetted and delivers the kind of education SMSD taxpayers want for their children. We have just come off of school closings, redistricting, a 180 million dollar bond issue, thus I am not sure I would support any increase at this time. Right now, there are so many other priorities and this one is hypothetical, that I won’t even get into this one now. We should play the hand dealt us, and move forward with it.