On Tuesday, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The spring election traditionally is reserved for school and city governing bodies. Continuing a long-standing tradition, we offer the following observations and endorsements as a public service:
Only one incumbent is seeking to retain a position on the Hays USD 489 Board of Education. Richard Kraemer is standing for re-election even though he's served 12 years already, while Sharon Befort and Alan Moore are stepping down. Four political novices are hoping to be part of a new era in the district: Lance Bickle, Kathleen Fischer, Danielle Robben and Josh Waddell.
Change is coming to USD 489. The next board will be deciding the most appropriate and efficient use of district buildings moving forward, with careful consideration given to the level of financial support from the state. The baseline the BOE will be starting from is solid: high test scores, low dropout rates, more sensible educational standards being transitioned in, and great success in the classroom and on the athletic fields. A growing elementary population, more special education needs and buildings designed for a different era necessitate some sort of bond issue -- and soon. How big, how the priorities are arranged, and how best to present the package to the public will be the biggest challenges facing the new board.
We believe a trio of new faces will be best to meet those challenges.
The first would be Bickle. The owner of Sicoir Computers has been stepping up his community involvement, and the school district would benefit from his expertise in the same way the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce has.
He is thoughtful and considerate in his analysis of the community, seeking feedback not just from those in charge but from everyday citizens.
"It's easy to sit back in an office and say this is the way I think it needs to be," Bickle said. "But it's extremely important to talk to the people in the trenches."
That input has made him realize the variety of differing opinions on the same subjects. Bickle possesses the ability to sift through those viewpoints and articulate long-term plans that will move the district forward.
The second candidate we believe is a solid choice is Robben. The human resources specialist at Glassman Corp. is another team player qualified to help fashion strategies for the future.
We are encouraged Robben is "looking more toward renovating and updating rather than closing schools down and building a new high school." We see a lot of life left in the current structures as well and support her position.
Robben is keenly aware what makes Hays schools so successful and would dedicate her energy to maintaining those features.
"I feel like the small class sizes is one of the things that makes this school district great," she said. "Parents like that."
They do. And Robben could be counted on to ensure that ratio is left intact.
The third individual is yet another first-time name on a ballot -- Josh Waddell. The residential manager for Uhl Construction, Waddell already is serving on the board-appointed facilities needs committee. The insight and knowledge gained through this process will serve him well, as well as the community.
Waddell wants to eliminate the perception of the district surprising the public with significant announcements.
"The community should be just as informed as we are," he said. "I think we should make it a priority."
The aspiring board member received keen insight on the subject as one of the supporters of the controversial weight room at Hays High. If elected, we believe he could parlay that experience into a push for greater transparency.
We believe Bickle, Robben and Waddell are the best options for Hays USD 489 Board of Education.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry