The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School

BVNWnews

The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School

BVNWnews

The official student media of Blue Valley Northwest High School

BVNWnews

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BVNW Speaks

School board candidate responses

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Avery Sigg

Questions we aksed candidates:

  1. Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board of education?
  2. What disciplinary actions do you support for students caught abusing substances?
  3. How would you reallocate money in the budget if appointed? What programs would be expanded or created and where would the money to fund them be pulled from?
  4. Do you think there should be a dress code implemented at any or all levels of education and what would that look like?
  5. What is your opinion on the changes in graduation credits required for the incoming high school class?
  6. What is the greatest weakness or shortcoming of Blue Valley as a district right now and how do you plan on addressing it?
  7. What should technology implementation in the classroom look like at the different levels of education?
  8. Is there anything you would reform about the current cellphone policy for high school and middle school students?

Rachel Faagutu:
1. The need for a return back to academic excellence in Blue Valley schools. Since 2015, math and reading proficiencies have slipped, college readiness has declined, and ACT scores continue to fall (see ksreportcard.ksde.org). These are dangerous trends that reveal the district’s priorities over the past eight years. I propose that we reprioritize academic excellence, especially at the elementary school level, where rudimentary deficiencies can be corrected quickly to set students on a path towards enjoyable learning. Excellence in reading, writing, an math will produce critical thinkers who will thrive after they graduate.
2. I haven’t not looked at the policy in depth, but my sense is we have an adequate and appropriate substance abuse policy.
3. I would like to see our teachers get paid more. Teachers are the true wealth of any school district. I would also like to see the role of paras more appreciated.
4. Personal expression is a high priority in popular culture. When does this expression impede one’s learning, and the disrupt the learning of others? Respect for self, the classroom, and the community should be at the core of dress code policy.
5. Did not respond
6. Since 2015, math and reading proficiencies have slipped, college readiness has declined, and ACT scores continue to fall (see ksreportcard.ksde.org). These are dangerous trends that reveal the district’s priorities over the past eight years. I propose that we reprioritize academic excellence, especially at the elementary school level, where rudimentary deficiencies can be corrected quickly to set students on a path towards enjoyable learning. Excellence in reading, writing, an math will produce critical thinkers who will thrive after they graduate.
7. Technology is a powerful resource and it will be continue to be used in the future. The development of a child’s brain and intellect can be impeded by overexposure to technological devices. Consideration needs to be given to the amount of screen time children are exposed to as they mature. Critical thinking and technological mastery can be achieved in our schools if we balance the two wisely.
8. Did not respond

 

Christine Vasquez:
1. My husband and I relocated to Blue Valley for its famed tight-knit community but more specifically to place our children in the prestigious Blue Valley Schools. I am getting involved because my kids’ education and futures, and the education and future of EVERY Blue Valley District student, matter. The next generation is the future of our community, state, and nation, so, for me, there can be no better investment than an investment in you!
2. No response
3. No response
4. No response
5. No response
6. I do not like lowering our standards. Blue Valley’s goals must be to develop the next generation and instill a sense of purpose and civic responsibility in them. We are developing them into thinkers, communicators, and innovators who are able to grapple with complicated questions and complex tasks, whatever career field or next steps they may choose, Students who come through a school system with that mindset will be the next generation’s leaders in business, families, churches, and government the like.
7. Our teacher retention and the great need we have for staffing in the Blue Valley schools is a high priority. Supporting our current teachers is fundamental for BV success; with competitive pay, resources, and a great classroom environment.
BV has long had a caliber of teachers that is second to none. Still, the last decade has seen new challenges enter the classroom that have added far more to our teachers’ responsibilities than just teaching the core academic disciplines. And we’ve seen the cost as BV experienced, in 2022, their highest teacher turnover rate in 5 years. Diving into the reasons for these turnovers and addressing these needs will be vital in attracting new teachers into the profession and into our schools
8. I think this is a many faceted issue and there are various factors to consider. Technology is growing by leaps and bounds and the necessity of understanding and incorporating technology is key for our students’ success in the future. But we need to work to ensure technology is used as a tool for wisdom and continued growth and take a look at how and when we institute it in our classrooms and/or curriculum to make certain we are not inserting unnecessary obstacles but rather maximizing learning.

Trisha Hamilton:
1. Yes, there are 5 priorities that you can see on my website at hamiltonforbluevalley.com. Click on the “My Priorities” tab to view them.
2. I would need to review the current policy to give my suggestion.
3. This is a great question. Part of my daily responsibilities include making sure my organization is allocating resources appropriately. I look forward to bringing my area of expertise in budgeting to the board’s oversight of the district’s finances.
4. BVNW has a dress code and it’s the responsibility of the principal to enforce it.
5. Did not respond
6. A very important issue BV is facing is staffing shortages. Staff compensation needs to be reviewed along with the environment in which our staff is coming to work every day.
7. The district policy on technology needs to be reviewed. Our elementary students do not require the same level of technology needs as our high school students. Elementary students should have less during these formative years when interpersonal skills and basic core skills are being developed.
8. The current cellphone policy is up to the principal to enforce.

Clay Norkey:
1. All nine of my kids are in or have graduated from Blue Valley schools. Having lived in many different places before settling here 25 years ago, I have witnessed firsthand the advantages Blue Valley offers my own family and the opportunities available to all students. It’s nothing short of phenomenal. So the short answer to my motivation: We must keep it going! The TL;DR answer? After enjoying (and sometimes enduring!) the many years of football, basketball, softball, and baseball games; band and orchestra concerts; theater productions, tennis, volleyball, and soccer matches; cross-country, track, and swim meets; marching-band competitions; teacher-conferences; and 12 years of coaching, Blue Valley has become a significant part of our family. (Yes, our kids were in all those sports and activities, and I’m sure I still missed some!) I’ve chaired Blue Valley Rec to make sure we have top-notch facilities and programming for you, our students, and for the entire community. To help address the mental-health crisis, I founded and still run the BV West chapter of the Father’s Club where we engage with students and dads by cooking out and serving lunch twice a year, handing out chicken biscuits and donuts, launching hot dogs into the student section during home football games, and partnering with student groups like Sources of Strength. The relationships formed with 1,000s of teachers, administrators, coaches, families, and students over the years has provided a window into what makes Blue Valley tick. It is clear that our Blue Valley community is proud of our schools and our students and demand a robust offering of Academics, Athletics, Arts, and Activities. I feel compelled to give back, protect our schools, and build upon the great foundations that are already in place.
2. In a school environment, each situation is unique and should be handled individually, usually at the building level. Broad guidelines are important, but with such a diverse student population, It cannot be a strict one-size-fits-all approach. All interactions and consequences for behavior should involve the overarching goal of educating and supporting our students to become the best versions of themselves they can be. If handled properly, infractions become opportunities to help students get on the right track.
3. The current budget allocations are serving the district well, launching Blue Valley to be the #1 school district in Kansas and in the Top 1% in the entire country. Nevertheless, we must still address teacher recruitment and retention issues, class sizes, and additional supports for children with special needs and behavioral issues, particularly in the younger grades. To help address these issues, we must have School Board members who will continue to push the Kansas legislature to fully fund Special Education as they are required to do by law — but have never done. Why is this important? Because Blue Valley is still required to provide Special Ed services despite the lack of funding. Therefore, we must take money out of the general fund to do so, which impacts everyone. That’s $12,000,000 that could otherwise be used in our everyday classrooms to improve pay for teachers and paras, reduce class sizes, and improve the classroom environment for all students.
4. The Blue Valley community does not seem interested in creating a strict dress code for students. Students should feel free to express themselves through their clothing and discuss within their families or those who care for them what may or may not be appropriate. Of course, teacher, staff, and student attire should still meet basic standards of decency as to not contain or promote: hate speech; racial, ethnic, or other discriminatory slurs or overtly hurtful messaging; illegal acts; acts of violence; behavior or messaging that demeans others or is a form of bullying; or other inappropriate images, depictions, or messaging. These matters are usually best left to each building’s leadership team.
5. Blue Valley has long held itself to higher standards than those required by the state. It helps set Blue Valley apart and contributes to our top-in-the-nation status. The recent changes made by Blue Valley reflect changing times and are better tailored for what students and the community are looking for in Blue Valley graduates. One new state requirement, long-sought by Blue Valley parents, is the personal-finance course requirement. Although it is already offered in our district, many in Blue Valley were happy that it is now required. I agree with those who feel it will better equip students for life after graduation and provide some real-world skills students often feel are missing.
6. Technology is changing at lightning speed. All educational institutions are faced with these challenges, and the best ones view them as opportunities. We must ensure that Blue Valley stays abreast of these changes — embracing them where appropriate, implementing them when safe to do so, and always looking to best prepare our students for the world of tomorrow.
7. We are no longer a paper-and-pen predominant society. Technology is here and it will only keep evolving. Therefore, we must prepare our students to appreciate the pros and cons related to various technologies, as well as the skills to discern, investigate, and make informed decisions about it. This starts incrementally throughout the educational years based on when it makes the most sense and when it is best suited to improve learning of core subjects. I am firmly in favor of providing laptops to our high-school students, as it is the best way to maintain equity, provide a uniform platform from which teachers can teach, and prepare students to be college- or career-ready.
8. School Board members must be cautious not to overreach or micromanage the classroom. Many issues are best left to those closest to those affected, such as classroom teachers for classroom management and building leadership for behavior and management decisions. Cell-phone usage falls within that category. Therefore, unless the principals seek out a districtwide policy, or some extraordinary event occurs, or it becomes a matter of safety and security, this is not an issue the Board should wade into. Nevertheless, I am always interested in hearing students’ opinions on issues like this and value their input.

Jodie Dietz:
1. I am the current board president and I know what it takes to continue to keep Blue Valley in the top 1% of school districts nationwide. I am motivated to continue my service on the Blue Valley Board of Education as I believe that ALL children have the right to a high-quality education. I support giving students and staff the right tools to be the best they can be. I also know how important it is for our students and staff to feel safe and secure so I can use my background as a probation officer to keep an eye on providing support whether it be for physical safety or mental health support.
2. Our current policy outlines the steps to address those caught with illegal substances. We must address the issue, support the person to aid in treatment, and assist in making a plan going forward. Our system needs to focus on supporting the student.
3. The district has an extremely tight budget. The Kansas Legislature does not fully fund our special education program according to their guidelines. If they did fund as they are supposed to, we would not have to use money from our general fund. If I were to be able to focus on areas I would like to improve, it would include decreasing class sizes, expanding our career-ready options with JCCC, and increasing teacher/staff funding.
4. I am not in favor of a strict dress code.
5. Blue Valley has already exceeded the state requirements for several years and will only need to modify a few areas such as eliminating the tech credit and including a required financial literacy course offering.
6. Blue Valley is always looking to improve and move forward and we try to be agile enough to meet upcoming trends in education and industry. We can always look at better communications with parents as well as our larger community. We encourage our parents to volunteer in our schools as well as attend theatre, music, and sports events. I have been working with our communications department on messaging as well as supporting a new Board Advisory Communications committee.
7. Blue Valley has looked at appropriate levels of technology use at each level of education and we will continue to review and adjust as necessary into the future.
8. No, each level has appropriate expectations.

Patrick Hurley:
1. All Blue Valley students should have the same opportunities we had. Academic excellence, security and safety, and fiscal responsibility are critical as we move forward. Every parent hopes their children will come back home to our community to live and raise a family. To do all this, our community needs good jobs. Employers will come here as long as the schools remain strong. We did not build one of the best school districts in the nation overnight or on inexperience. We built this school district with the best minds in the community to be the best, and it is today the top 1 percent of all school districts in the nation. Any change in board members will ruin this for all of us.
2. Support, treatment, and the current policy.
3. A- To decrease class sizes in the schools. B- Continue to develop career tech education program options in partnership with JCCC.
4. No.
5. Blue Valley has met and exceeded the new requirements for several years.
6. The Kansas legislature’s failure to fully fund special education. Improve communications with parents and our community members about the negative impact the Kansas legislature has had on our schools, like increased class sizes, which is due to the Kansas legislature’s failure to fund special education fully.
7. Blue Valley has appropriate types and levels of technology in the classroom at the different levels of education and has plans to continue to improve technology over the next several years.
8. No.

Jan Kessinger:
1. I moved to the area due to the schools and all three of my daughters graduated from Blue Valley, as did a granddaughter and a grandson will soon. Blue Valley Schools are the backbone of our community and the driver of property values as well as quality of life. I seek to preserve that for generations to come.
2. Each case is unique and should be treated as such, up to and including expulsion. The greater concern is to provide consultation and intervention to help if there is a mental health issue, or emotional issues driving the abuse. We can provide that. Our goal is not to punish, rather it is to help prepare students for adult life to become productive members of society.
3. Frankly, I am satisfied with the way we are allocating funds. Others would cut counseling and add more armed SROs, including at elementary schools. We must continue to invest in cutting edge programs such as CAPS and AP classes while making sure Special Ed is fully funded and care given to those who need a little more help.
4. I am not sure that a dress code should be a great concern, though distracting attire should be controlled. Frankly, it is a parent’s responsibility to help a student determine what is appropriate attire for school.
5. I love the new requirements. We have higher standards for graduation than the state requirements, which means graduating from Blue Valley is more impressive than from others in the state and nation. The requirements are focused to give students real life skills and preparation for life after high school. We have a graduation rate over 97 percent, far above the state average. That is testimony to the talents and skills of Blue Valley students. We hold high standards and Blue Valley students exceed them.
6. Our biggest weakness may be that we face a challenge of keeping up with the fast-changing technology and skills of students and society. We have professionals looking at curricula everyday and seek to keep our students on the cutting edge of innovation and changing economy so that Blue Valley grads not only are prepared for the work world, but are prepared to excel in life.
7. I support integration of technology at all levels, implementing more as students progress K – 12. There’s an adage among my peers that if you have a tech problem, call a teenager. We acknowledge that today’s students are far more tech-savvy than we were and we must provide those student the tools to use those skills and to grow with them.
8. No. Classroom decorum is the responsibility of the teacher and the students. Students must learn to respect their time in class as an opportunity to learn, while at the same time we must acknowledge the power of the phone as a learning tool. If a phone prevents a student from participating in class and the teacher is not able to alert the student to pay attention, then confiscation of the phone is warranted until end of class
Mike Huebner: no response at all

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About the Contributor
Avery Sigg
Avery Sigg, Design Editor
​​Avery Sigg is a senior and Design Editor for “The Express.” This is her third year on staff as a designer. Outside of newspaper, Avery is involved in girl’s soccer, NHS and Quill & Scroll. In her free time she spends time with her family and friends, playing soccer, watching movies and traveling. Avery is excited to take on the role of being an Design Editor and enjoy her senior year!

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