Two seats are open on the Independence Board of Education with current board members Joanie Mencl and Andrea Marek seeking re-election against newcomers Anthony Avila, Katie Day Hill, Mathew Urie and Mike Zubic.
All school board members serve four-year terms and are paid $125 per meeting with no meeting limit. Fringe benefits are not offered to board members.
Following are questions posed to the candidates by Independence Today magazine. Their answers were limited to 225 words. Following are their unedited responses. ∞
- If elected, what is one thing you want to accomplish while on the school board?
Avila: Strengthen our academic performance on the state report card. ILS has the resources to be performing better. We’re capable of being a perennial Top 10 school district in the state, and this should be our goal. Hiring a new treasurer is another paramount decision facing the district, and with our current treasurer retiring this May, identifying the very best potential replacement candidate, from the private or public sector, is a priority.
Hill: I would be honored to be the voice for our families in the district. I have three children in Independence Schools (5th grade, 2nd grade, and attending IPS preschool). Being a lifelong resident of Independence, as well as IPS/IMS/IHS alumni, I would like to generate a focused vision to restore the reputation for excellence in our schools.
Marek: As an incumbent for re-election in November, I will continue to support student services and well-being. My goal is to educate and promote our district to provide Pre-Participation Physicals and Athlete Heart Screenings on site. This will include working in collaboration with a pediatric cardiologist and hospital for cardiac screenings including an EKG, and echocardiogram. I strongly feel promoting awareness of life-threatening events in pediatric sports will help identify young athletes at risk in the growing rate of sudden cardiac death (SCA).
Mencl: I would like to facilitate a stronger diversity in our academic offerings. What class choices would students like and need to experience in 2024? Our world is changing but our curriculum choices (K-12) stay the same. Our class offerings need to meet today’s life! I know we are a small district (student population) but there are ways to reach out and partner with other districts to enhance our student choices or explore ways to bring more variety of classes to our students (K-12) to help them into 2024 and beyond. We would still fulfill all grade level requirements but open more exciting life choices for our students!
Urie: Student and staff safety is one of my top priorities. It is critical to ensure students and staff are safe each day. There are a number of opportunities that we have to make our schools safer. Safety isn’t just physical; it’s also ensuring mental safety for our students.
Zubic: Manage the school district as a $20M per year business. All costs must be transparently shared, in line item detail, with the taxpayer for their “buy in” in alignment with the value expectations of the community. “Profit” is defined as teaching students (in a safe and respectful environment with zero tolerance for bullying) real world life skills and creating joyful lifetime learners. The continual goal of the business is to teach and mentor all students to constantly explore and reach their fullest potential intellectually, socially, creatively and physically within a respectful and service based framework. The business return on investment (ROI) and ultimate measure of success is the creation of highly functioning contributing members of society.
- There are two school levies on the ballot. How should the district address finances and current deficit spending pending the outcome of the vote?
Avila: Two things are paramount in answering this question. First, having a competent understanding of the operational resources the district has is required. We must know the revenue streams available to the district relative to the tax duplicate and make wise projections for the future through proper processes. Secondly, we must scrutinize every expense and be efficient with expenditures as a constant mindset.
Hill: In times of financial uncertainty, such as we are experiencing in the broader economy, a conservative financial approach is warranted. Given the current financial climate, community support provided by organizations such as the PTO can be a valuable asset to our schools. It is crucial for the future of our school district to not sustain budgetary deficits, but to chart a path forward that will restore financial viability for our schools.
Marek: The residents will vote on two school levies that are critical for the ISD. The ISD has district financial stress indicators including 1) deficit spending and 2) decrease in cash balance. I will continue to keep residents informed. ISD will need to develop a deficit-reduction plan and make strategic changes in how we fund the budget framework with the outcome of the vote. I will support soft adjustments and focus on the students. I will continue to strive to work towards solutions.
Mencl: When our levys pass we will be able to embellish our academic offerings already in place and be able to enhance class choices to enable students to experience new and exciting challenging classes. Our focus has to be and remain our students success for their future!
Urie: As a district we need to be fiscally responsible and nimble. We need to ensure every single tax dollar is put to work in a positive way and be creative to stretch each dollar. It’s time we are transparent and fiscally responsible regardless of the outcome of the levies.
Zubic: The taxpayer is the customer. The customer has the fair (trust based) expectation that what they receive for their investment is a highly functioning school system that educates students safely, efficiently and effectively. There is currently a palpable disconnect between the taxpayer, school board and school administration. Trust erosion is the natural consequence and is the first problem that must be solved. The business must be focused on line item transparency with the customer. This includes educating and sharing with the taxpayer state mandates, program options and consequences. The customer needs to decide how they want their money invested.
- How will you maintain a relationship and collaborate with the city?
Avila: As a Board member for 8 years, I along with certain members of city council who found it beneficial and relevant, began the practice of holding annual meetings with all members of the board education, city council and the mayor on an annual basis. Restoring those collaborative sessions twice each year would help maintain that relationship, be transparent regarding matters of strategic importance and give us the opportunity to problem solve, as it relates to sharing of resources and safety measures.
Hill: Independence City Schools currently has a wonderful relationship with the city. Events such as our Mental Health and Wellness Day, Home Days Family Fun Zone, and upcoming Disability Awareness Day would not be possible without the city’s support. I would love to have the engagement of the mayor and council in being more present in our school facilities. As a school board member, I would like to increase the access for the community members to share their thoughts and input with school board members.
Marek: School-community partnerships are a promising way of supporting students academically, socially, and emotionally. I will continue to work with city officials to staff and support a safe environment and focusing on student well-being/and security as top priority. I will continue to collaborate and share ideas, insights and innovations that help our schools grow. I look forward in working with the community/city officials to strengthen our partnership.
Mencl: I feel I have had a successful and productive relationship with our city. I have participated in monthly meetings with our mayor, finance director, and council president to keep the city and schools connected and proactive in our collaborations on a monthly/bi monthly basis.
Urie: It’s about making sure every voter feels heard and listening to our community. We need the support of our community for the success of our schools. I believe the more consistent and transparent communication we provide, the more community support we will have.
Zubic: I will volunteer to be the liaison. ∞
Name: Katie Day
Name: Andrea M.
Name: Joanie Mencl
Name: Mike Zubic