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BOE candidate looks to solve problems with funding

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Richard Kraemer thinks school districts are being asked to do more with less and funding is the biggest challenge for the Hays USD 489 Board of Education.

"If we don't at least maintain current funding, class sizes will go up, morale will go down, and the quality of our education will go down," he said.

Taxpayers' incomes have increased, but the percentage going for education hasn't "varied more than half a percent," Kraemer said. "We're being asked to do a whole lot more than just reading, writing and arithmetic."

Kraemer has been on the board since 2001. He is one of five candidates for three seats on the board of education in the April 2 election. The other candidates are newcomers Danielle Robben, Josh Waddell, Lance Bickle and Kathleen Fischer.

Most of the district's budget goes to salaries and benefits.

He points out the district has cut some administrator positions in recent years.

Superintendent Will Roth has "done a fabulous job in seeing how we can become more flexible (and) efficient with the dollars we have, yet still provide the quality of education we're known for."

Partnerships between the school district and local businesses could help expand some programs.

"We need hooks to bring students to the classroom -- debate, drama, sports, music, art."

Those partnerships include booster club participation and projects such as Building FAST, the new weight room facility at Hays High School.

"A lot of people in the community put a lot of time and effort into that, and to turn our back on them would have been -- I couldn't have faced some of the major contributors," Kraemer said.

He would like to see the infrastructure in structurally sound buildings improved and the district provide distance learning to smaller school systems.

Closing schools might not be popular, but having "a lot of small neighborhood schools does not make economic sense," Kraemer said. "How much money do we want to dump into Washington or Lincoln (elementary schools) knowing full well, at some point in time, the facilities will not be compatible with what public education is -- with what the technology is?"

Those schools could be used for other programs such as Head Start.

Districting or closed enrollment at elementary schools isn't his first choice, but might become necessary.

"At some point, we won't have a choice if we don't take steps to control our own future."

The facilities needs committee's recommendations should be considered by the board, but "as a board member, I'm a little concerned that they want to continue to try to salvage some of these smaller schools. I went to Washington. I went to Lincoln. I have no desire to close them. I really don't, but if we're not going to get additional funding, I see more pluses to consolidation than I do negatives. I think kids will readily adapt to it. ... I don't think it's going to be a problem."

Consolidation also makes sense educationally and in use of resources and staff, Kraemer said.

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Richard Kraemer is a Hays native. He graduated from Hays High School and is a vice president at Insurance Planning Inc.

He and his wife, Marty, have a son, Mitch. Kraemer also has two step-children, Tate Gooden and Tonya Normandin, and five grandchildren.