By Mary Clarkin

The Hutchinson News,

At least five people are intrigued by the idea of serving on the Hutchinson USD 308 Board of Education.

Sitting in the audience of an informational session Monday evening for prospective candidates were: Randall Gray, Mena Michael, Teresa Preston, Lance Patterson and Jennifer Cook.

Gray works in sales and has four children in USD 308 schools. Michael works for a law firm and has a 2-year-old child. Preston taught art in Buhler USD 313 and Hutchinson Community College. Patterson has children in school and is director of operations for the Boys and Girls Club of Hutchinson, and Cook has a daughter in elementary school and works for the Kansas Department for Children and Families.

Jack Mace is ineligible to run because he is a USD 308 substitute teacher, but he attended to get information to pass along to others.

Four incumbents on the seven-member USD 308 board have terms ending at the end of June 2015. Sarah Blake has said she is not running again. Kent Hilst and Mary Lynn Baker have said they do not plan to run. The fourth, Mike Mendoza, said in November he is "on the fence" about running for re-election.

The filing deadline is noon Jan. 27. The general election is April 7. Winners will get four-year terms that begin in July 2015. Incumbents Tad Dower, Stephanie King and Jeff Nichols have terms that run until mid-2017.

Current board members talked about why they ran, how they campaigned and how much time was involved in the non-paying position.

"I did want to be involved," said Hilst, "and I wanted to give back." Other board members echoed that reason for running.

Board President Jeff Nichols ran when the district was talking about closing his child's elementary school, Roosevelt. Once on the board, Nichols' perspective changed and he wound up voting for the closure.

It's not a board member's responsibility to fix every problem, said Blake and Dower.

"You listen," Blake said, and communicate to the administration. Dower said a board member can direct someone with concerns and questions to the right place.

Recalling their campaigns, some board members walked door-to-door, handing out cards, or had yard signs. Facebook, letters to the editor of The News, and radio advertising were mentioned as other campaign tools.

Board member Tad Dower didn't go door-to-door or order yard signs. "Don't be dissuaded from running because you fear a campaign," he advised.

Board member Stephanie King said she didn't realize how much of a commitment the role would be, and others said their time spent reading documents before a school board meeting has shortened over the years.

"The amount of time you put into it is what you choose," said Nichols of the overall job.

"It's been a rewarding experience," said Mendoza, finishing up eight years on the board. "I would recommend it."

(c)2014 The Hutchinson News