Note: This is the third in a series of articles profiling candidates for Hays USD 489 school board. Candidates were emailed the same questions; their answers have been edited only for grammar, punctuation and style.
Kevin Daniels is pastor of Hays Christian Church and has lived in Hays since 2009. He is running as a write-in candidate for Hays USD 489 school board.
A Seattle-area native, he came to Kansas to attend Manhattan Christian College, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Bible/family ministry. He received a master in divinity from the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology.
His wife, Lori, is a substitute para-educator for USD 489. They have a son, Logan, a sixth-grader at Hays Middle School, and daughter, Kamryn, a fourth-grader at Roosevelt Elementary School.
Why do you want to serve on Hays USD 489 school board?
I want to serve on the board because I believe that people simply don’t trust that the board is making decisions in the best interest of the students and staff, and I can help change that. I believe the board needs to be a place where board members listen to the voters, staff and students. In my time as a candidate, one person asked me a question to which I responded. She told me that she had never received a response from anyone before. I will bring transparency, integrity and honesty to the board. I pledge to listen to people and be available for questions and concerns. The board is charged with one of the most important tasks in society: Educating our children. We need to know that those in power have the best interests of our students, educators and community in mind.
Throughout the bond issue this year, the matter of trust in the school board has been brought up. Where do you feel the level of trust with the board might be weakest? As a member of the board, what could you do to ensure trust in the board with the public and/or district staff?
The level of trust with the board is low right now because people do not believe that the board is listening to the voters or the staff. The last bond issue is a prime example. The past bond issue failed, and now we’re being told by the board and administration that it was a good thing that it did because it was very poorly designed. If that is the case, that calls into question why the school board would have put that bond to the voters in the first place. If we’re going to build trust, we have to be sure that we’re being transparent and really listening and considering the issues. We can’t pretend to have an open discussion when we already have our minds made up. As a member of the board, I pledge to listen to people by being accessible and by truly being open in my decision-making process. I don’t promise to make decisions that make everyone happy — that’s an impossible task in itself — but I do promise that stakeholders’ voices will be heard and I will carefully consider each decision before voting.
Do you believe the scope of the proposed bond is adequate, or does it encompass too much? What would you change about it?
The bond issue that is proposed deals with many essential needs for the schools. For one, it covers safety and security: We must have storm shelters in our schools that are accessible to all students. We also must have secure entrances so that our children are safe during the day. People may say that terrible things “can’t happen here,” but the reality is that they can and we must be prepared. We also need to provide equal access to all students, regardless of their abilities. Having buildings that are not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act is saying to a certain percentage of the population that they are not welcome in our schools. We need to be a welcoming and inclusive place that is dedicated to educating all of our students to the best of our abilities.
If the bond issue fails, what steps should be next for USD 489 to address issues of infrastructure and class size?
If the bond fails, then we need to take a step back and evaluate why it failed. We need to get in the room with a representative sample of those who voted no, and have a frank and honest conversation with them. We need to respect and listen to one another if we’re going to make any progress together for the sake of our students. Listening, mutual respect and trust are essential in that pursuit.
If the bond passes, where do you think the new elementary school should be located? Why?
The location of the new elementary school should be in a location that is available to the district at a reasonable cost. We need to make sure that there is easy access for pick-up/drop-off and plenty of parking available. It would be ideal to locate it near a population center that does not currently have a school.
Other than issues addressed by the bond, what would be your priorities if elected to the school board?
We have got to increase communication because communication fosters trust. The board needs to communicate clearly with the staff and public so that people are aware of what’s going on. We need to do this in a technologically savvy way. In addition, we need to look at the budget and make sure that we are doing all we can to provide our staff with fair wages that are comparable to other districts our size, and that we are doing what we can to reduce class sizes, particularly for early elementary classes. We need to make sure that we’re evaluating options when it comes to spending priorities, and that we’re listening to all sides of an issue before making major decisions. The cost is important, but it’s not always the most important consideration when making decisions. We must be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars, but also make wise, thoughtful decisions for the students and staff. When we make the tough choices, we need to be open and honest with people about our decision-making process and allow input from stakeholders. We’re not always going to agree with one another, but we must respect and listen to one another through the process.