Five seek three Park Hill spots

In the words of one of the candidates himself – it’s not a very controversial election this year.  Five candidates, including two incumbents, are running for three seats on the Park Hill Board of Education. Only about 20 people — many of them members of the Board themselves — attended a candidate forum held Monday evening at Park Hill High School. Candidate Lathem Scott, who has run for the Board in the past, summed up the election with his comment at the forum. It was a sentiment echoed by incumbent Boon Lee, who noted some of the past drama involving the changeover from retiring superintendent Dr. Dennis Fisher to Dr. Scott Springston a couple years ago was unwarranted. On the ballot are incumbents Lee and Janice Bolin, along with Scott, Bart Klein and David Blackburn. All candidates support the 32-cent levy increase that also shares the April 8 ballot. In addition to the levy and FLiP program, candidates were also asked about their feelings on year-round school. Lee, originally from Malaysia, said year-round school was the way of life in his home country, as it is in many countries. With Park Hill’s implementation of full-day summer school, he said the district is in some ways coming closer to that idea already. Scott and Blackburn agreed, with Blackburn noting the current calendar is based on an agricultural calendar that most urbanites don’t follow anymore anyway. Bolin and Klein had more mixed feelings on the issue, feeling that students often got different opportunities in the summer not available during the school year. JANICE BOLIN Bolin, 44, has served on the Board for six years. She is married with three children, who attend school in the district or recently graduated. She works as vice president at George K. Baum and Company, in accounting. “One of the things that I love about Park Hill is that we appreciate our achievements, but we are also dedicated to continuous improvement,” Bolin said. “I have valuable experience as a current board member and a long career as an accountant in both public private industry.” She said the district is still facing a tough economic environment and the Board must continue to be fiscally efficient, yet retain and support the existing staff. She said the district will need to continue to work with community employers and be adaptive to the meet the demands of the global economy. “I will work hard to ensure that the kids in our district continue to receive a first rate education,” Bolin said. BOON LEE Lee, 46, is running for his second term on the Board. Married, he has three children, all of whom attended Park Hill schools and one still in high school. He is the vice president of Sogeti USA. “I have strong leadership experience, leading and managing organizations,” Lee said. “I am dedicated to this district and the community. I have lived here for 25 of the last 27 years and my three kids have spent everyday of their school lives in the Park Hill School District. I advocate for the kids while spending taxpayers money wisely.” Lee said the district faces the challenge of adapting to the changing needs of today’s students. “We have to better prepare our kids for college and career,” Lee said. “We want our kids to maximize their college years by knowing the fields they are interested in. Common core adoption will also be a challenge. Funding continues to be an issue with the State not fully funding the formula. Thus, it is important we continue to get our community to support our schools.” BART KLEIN Klein, 55, works as vice president of information at UMB Bank. He is married with two children in the district. Klein assists the North Kansas City School District with its information technology and does support as a curriculum advisor for the computer information systems department at the University of Central Missouri. “My established background in supporting higher education combined with my professional career in finance and information technology will allow me to successfully address the challenges facing the district,” Klein said. He said he has attended Board meetings for some time to get up to speed on issues facing the district such as funding, technology and security. “While attending the board meetings, I have met many high quality teachers and personnel from the superintendent’s office where I have established a good working relationship,” Klein said. LATHEM SCOTT Scott, 39, is married with two children in the district. He works as vice president at First National Bank of Omaha. “I have watched as the district administration has evolved over the past five years and have impressed by the many positive changes,” Scott said. “I am running to make sure that these changes are maintained and to support the district’s continued improvement.” He said as the spouse of a teacher he brings a unique perspective regarding teachers’ perspectives. Also, having worked in the financial industry for the last 15 years, he believes he can bring a financial and budgeting background to the Board. “I think the district is on the right track in many areas, including recognizing its short-comings with regards to security and technology,” Scott said. “I think that the district needs to broaden its technology focus, both in the education of its students and the technology infrastructure of the district.” DAVID BLACKBURN Blackburn, 64, is married with two adult children. He is city administrator for the City of Lawson and previously served in the same position for the City of Riverside. “I have a unique combination of skills and experiences,” Blackburn said. “I have a bachelor’s degree in education with a lifetime teaching certificate. I have a master’s degree in public administration. My work experience has ranged from teaching at the secondary to the community college level.” His past work with Riverside gives him insight into TIF funding, particularly on projects currently underway in the district, he said. “The problems facing the district – except for the new reality of the safety of students, faculty and administration – are the same as they have been for years,” Blackburn said. “Parents want the best possible education for their children to prepare them for life. The taxpayers want that same level of education for the cheapest cost.”