PITTSBURG — USD 250 School Board candidates share their reasons for running for the school board in the upcoming November elections. 

There are six candidates who are running for the USD 250 Board of Education: current board members Marlene Willis, Rusty Akins, Jason Grotheer and Ed McKechnie, and two new candidates Laura Sullivan and Justin Crain. These candidates weighed in on their reasons for running in response to inquiries from the Morning Sun. 

Parent of a current USD 250 student and a recent PHS graduate, Sullivan said she is running for school board because she has “a passion for education and helping others.”

“As the parent of a recent PHS graduate, a sophomore and 7th grader, I enjoy staying involved and aware of current events in the district.” 

According to Sullivan, she has been active in the elementary PTO, PHS Site Council, the strategic planning and bond advisory committees. Sullivan currently serves on the USD 250 Foundation Advisory Committee and regularly attends or watches USD 250 board meetings.

“I feel this is an excellent way to know the pulse on what's happening in the district and the community,” she said. “After owning a local business for over 8 years, I realize the importance of following a budget. 

“If I'm elected, I pledge to balance being a good steward of taxpayer dollars with the unique needs of our district.”

Crain, a USD 250 alumnus, life-long resident and business owner, said his ties to the community are strong. Crain said his accounting and business background can help the district in this area. 

“The Kansas Supreme Court’s recent decision on the Gannon case, stated that the legislature has adequately funded our Kansas K-12 leaving the task at hand to be one in which School Administrators and elected School Board members must collaborate to use taxpayer monies wisely,” he said. “My accounting and business background gives me the knowledge to do just that. 

“Wise use of district money will not only assist administration, teachers, and staff but most importantly provide the resources needed to care for those in our charge - the students.”

Willis has served on USD250’s school board for eight years, and said she is running for school board again because “the job is not done and I want to keep working.”

As a board, Willis said, the district needs to plan and prepare for the future. 

“Between 2014 and 2044 Crawford County is projected to have a 14% population increase (Source: U.S. Census Bureau and the University of Kansas Institute for Policy & Social Research),” she said. “The district’s new strategic plan is integral to our ability to serve and prepare our current students as well as position us for the projected growth in our district and county. The school district is in a unique position to have strong partners in early childhood education through The Center and technical careers through CTEC.  

“My experience can benefit the work of the district as we continue to build a strong Pre-K through graduation education system that serves all kids and gives them the tools to find meaningful work as adults. Why do I want to continue to serve on the Pittsburg Community School Board again? To provide continuity, experience, and perspective.” 

Akins, who has also been on the board for several years, said he is a “dedicated husband and father with two sons attending USD 250 schools.” He has also worked in the district as a School Resource Officer, a coach and maintenance employee. Akins said his time in the district helped him become “acquainted with personnel and many aspects of the district.”

“My family and I have PURPLE PRIDE that runs deep,” Akins said. “Anyone associated with their school will understand the connection of school, family and community. 

“I will do my very best as a voice for the community, parents, students and staff as a school board member. I would appreciate your vote.”

For the last year, McKechnie said he has centered his priorities on Board Governance of District issues; financial oversight of the budget; academic review; and facilities master plan. 

“Each of these items have subsequently been incorporated into the District’s master plan that was adopted this year,” he said. “Our efforts and work on the facilities master plan should turn into a five year out-look for our capital outlay budget as we prioritize the facility needs district-wide.

“The Board should also continue to engage in a review of our academic performance by grade and by discipline. In the next 2 years the district will receive more than $1 million in additional state funding and the board needs to make sure that spending priorities are set and outcomes achieved with those additional dollars.”

Grotheer filled a vacancy on the board of education in Nov. 2018, which he said was a long-time personal goal of his and he said he hopes to continue working collaboratively with the Board of Education, superintendent, assistant superintendent and all other stakeholders in the district.

“In November of 2019 I hope to be elected to continue serving as a Board Member during this exciting time of change, improvement, progress, and opportunity for each and every student in our District,” he said. “As a community we voted to make improvements to our facilities. Go for a ride and check out the schools in our District. They look great. This was possible because the community made improvement a priority. Take a few minutes to visit with your child's teacher, or someone you know who works in the District. Ask them about the Strategic Plan. A plan that will serve as a guide to align our community's expectations for our students with resources to accomplish these critical goals.”

These changes, improvements and progress was made possible by the community electing members to the Board who in turn have selected a Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent who have “recruited quality people at all levels and retained dedicated and committed stakeholders who want to be part of a successful school district,” Grotheer said. 

“This success cannot be achieved or maintained by a single person,” he said. “It will take a team of people to accomplish this, and I want to be part of that team.” 

Grotheer also has twin girls who attend Pittsburg Community Middle School. 

“It has been a great experience watching them grow, learn and flourish,” he said. “As a parent, we have a vested interest in the success of our children. As a community member and professional educator, I have a vested interest in the success of all the children who attend public schools.

“It is my hope that all students have the same great educational experience that my own children have enjoyed. It is time for me to give back to the community and the school district that provided the tools for the life I live today. I want to be part of the bigger picture, I want to be involved and be the person I encourage others to be. A person who is hard working, honest, and dedicated to making the world around us a better place.  A person who is dedicated to empowering the people we serve to be successful, happy, and productive members of our community.”