This is the third in a series of question-and-answer articles on the candidates for Hays USD 489 school board. The same questions were e-mailed to each candidate, and they were given several days to provide their answers. Answers appear here in full, unedited. Four seats are open on the school board, each consisting of a four-year term. Other candidates are Paul Adams, Cole Engel, Lori Hertel, Jessica Ann Berg Moffitt, Luke Oborny, Craig Pallister, Allen Park and Tammy Wellbrock.
Alex Herman was born, raised and educated in Hays as a fifth generation Ellis County resident. After earning his juris doctorate from the University of Kansas in December 2009, he returned home to work in his father's law office, where he has been ever since. His practice focuses on criminal defense, domestic, juvenile and other general practice areas. He has served as president of the Ellis County Bar Association and currently serves on the board for Northwest Kansas Community Corrections and Northwest Kansas Juvenile Services. Alex has two children, Brayden, 11, and Samantha, 5.
1. Why are you running for school board? What experience or qualities do you have that will benefit the board and district?
I am running for the school board because I believe leadership is needed to accomplish several of the long term goals of the school district. We desperately need to pass a bond measure. The last two have failed because of a lack of leadership from the school board in educating the public on the need for a bond, and the inability to formulate a bond measure that meets the expectations of the citizens of Hays. I plan to provide leadership to get a bond passed that addresses the needs of the district while being a fiscally responsible measure that does not bankrupt the district.
2. What do you see as the three biggest challenges USD 489 will have in the next five to 10 years?
The three biggest challenges will be addressing the crumbling infrastructure of our school district, keeping up in the ongoing technology arms raise all schools face, and negotiating teacher compensation.
3. USD 489 and the Hays NEA have reached impasse on contract negotiations for two years in a row. What steps need to be taken — by both sides — to help smooth the talks and improve relations between the board and the teachers’ bargaining unit?
The issue from my perspective has been an effort on the board's part to arrive at an impasse, rather than listening to various ideas NEA has. NEA needs to do more to provide incentive to their members to be more vocal about the need to reach an agreement, and the repercussions of not reaching an agreement so they are more vocal in the community about the ramifications of not getting a deal done.
4. What priorities should the district put on projects for facilities improvements and how should they be funded?
Priorities need to be set based on the areas of most need first for facilities. If the best plan is to build a new high school, allow the middle school to move into the current high school, and re-purpose the middle school as a grade school, then, obviously, a new high school is the area of most need. Any project the school wants to invest in should be looked at first, with cash on hand. Building a new school isn't going to be able to be paid with cash on hand, so a bond will be the most likely source of revenue.
5. The school board and administration have recently put an emphasis on building a contingency fund, adding $300,000 last year for a total at the end of fiscal 2019 for $1.2 million. Is this a good strategy, or should that money have gone for other use?
A rainy day fund is a sound financial decision for an entity like a school board. Obviously, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, but using those funds for a short term tax break is fiscally irresponsible.