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Paynesville Press - Oct. 31, 2012

Paynesville School District #741
Bruce Vanderpool

Bruce Vanderpool

Bruce Vanderpool, 55, is an insurance agent with Farm Bureau Financial Service. A 1975 PHS grad, he graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in business management. He and his wife Susan have two sons: Jason, a 2002 PHS grad, and Bradley, 12.

Why are you interested in serving on school board?
I am interested in serving on the school board to assist in the growth and quality of education in the Paynesville schools. I have a sone in the school, and I have a grandson who will be in the system in a few years. I hope to help the system as we move into the future. We need to be sure that the students graduating are competitive in college or occupations they may choose.

Very interesting and sometimes costly issues have arisen in the past few years, and I think I would add a voice to the decision-making process. I believe I will represent many Paynes-ville School District #741 residents. Describe your experiences with kids and explain how these will help you make decisions on school board. I was involved in the building of the hockey arena. It was planned for children, but my contact was with organizations and other adults that made the arena into a reality. I coached my son's hockey team for a number of years and have had involvement in church youth groups. Generally, my contact with other children has been with my son's activities. My decisions on the school board would directly involve student's education as a priority. I have a good understanding of students and goals they need to achieve. My decisions will be based on the goal of education, sound financial judgment, and input from people in the school district.

What new ideas do you think you can bring to the school board?
e need to spend carefully and increase the quality of education, which may not necessarily include spending more money. We need verifiable achievement goals and accomplish these goals. The best decisions are based on varied opinions and good information. If we always agree and have no discussion, we would only need one member for the school board.

I would like to look forward to becoming the best school in the area. This would bring more students and can reverse much of the negative pressure that can occur with declining enrollment. With open enrollment, we have become competitors with other area schools for students. The school systems do not really look at this as competition, but financially it is clear that if the school had 10, 20, or 100 more students that the amount received from the state (which funds the majority of school revenue) would increase. Without looking for additional students, we will struggle with decreasing enrollment, increasing costs, and providing superior education.

Why should (or shouldn't) district voters support the operating levy referendum on Tuesday, Nov. 6? (With its $415 per pupil levy expiring, the district is asking voters to approve a new 10-year levy at $723.)
I attended many of the meetings of the school board related to this referendum. I attended a planning meeting last winter where the amount (assuming the numbers presented were accurate) should have actually been at about $1,100 per student. The school board has decided that the amount they could pass was $723, which appears to be the average of the area schools.

If I apply a three-percent inflation factor to the $415 from 10 years ago, it comes to about $541 today. I can accept that we need the funds we have now of $415 (which is going away this year) and the $723 would help slightly. I think voters should approve the $723.

If the operating levy referendum passes on Tuesday, Nov. 6, what would you see as funding priorities for the school district?
If it passes, I actually do not see any excessive amounts of extra new funds. Most of this will be used to keep the school going as it is. It appears we have already spent below the reserve, which is about one month of operating expenses. If funding sources have any delays, we are out of operating dollars without this reserve.

If I look at this $723 over the next 10 years, we probably would have years 2-6 out of the 10 that could have some growth funding. About 25 percent of the new referendum would possibly be available. It will take about 1-2 years to become financially sound and then inflation will catch us in about 6-8 years.

A chart of the $415 referendum from 2002 until 2011 is available from the school and how it worked for 10 years. I think this will be much the same. The first few years will get us back to stability and then a few years to potentially grow in some areas. I think the last few years of this $723, 10-year referendum could begin to tighten, and we will need to plan far ahead to achieve goals and stability in the district.

If the referendum fails and the district needs to make additional spending cuts, what areas would you target for reductions?
If the referendum fails, we need to look at cuts. I think we should first look at all existing expenses to be sure that the dollars are spent in an efficient manner. This efficient spending needs to be done whether the levy passes or fails. When we have this information, then we should look at areas to reduce cost with the least effect on student education. No matter what happens, the students need to graduate and be competitive with other school students at college or the job market.

The buildings will need maintenance, and the grass will have to be mowed. We will need to be the best in educating students because our only source of other funding will be with more students. The only only method to attract students is to have the best school system in the area.

All employment by the school will need to be reviewed and adjusted because of reduced revenue. Employment changes will need to be very well managed and planned. It will take much planning to reduce the costs, and it will need to be done quickly since spending has exceeded revenue this year and reductions would need to take effect in July 2013.

If if does not pass, the voters will be asked again next year because the school has no other source for this funding. Ninety percent of the districts in the state have operating referendums.

What do you see as the district's most pressing facility needs?
The district has a five-year plan to accomplish facility needs. We will need to follow the plan, evaluate regularly, and use it in budgeting. The school has done regular improvements in the past with existing revenues.

How should the district address these needs?
Related to the large project that was stopped a year ago, it was a surprise because it was not in the five-year plan. If a large project is needed, I think taxpayers should decide this issue and the district has the responsibility to show the people in the district why we need this done and justify the costs associated with the project.

What should the district do to deal with the impact of declining enrollment?
Promotion of the school is a very big issue. We need to have a welcoming committee to contact new families and introduce the school. A system for families to tour and see what we have to offer. We are somewhat unique in that we have all ground floor and no second story levels. I would think we should be a very safe school for students.

We need a complete analysis of children leaving the school rather than they just moved. Could it be job changes of the parents, bullying which creates problems, and/or not providing for the needs of students, possibly college credit? I think we need to analyze area schools and programs to confirm our educational offering. I think all residents in the Paynesville School District should help promote the school and help bring students.

How important are strong extracurricular programs to our school district? What should the board do to encourage and enhance these programs?
I think that all of the programs need to be strong programs when compared to area schools. I think the board needs to analyze how we can offer various programs, so we have a complete educational experience for students and that they may be competitive with students from other schools.

How should the school board and school district maximize community support for the Paynesville Area Public Schools?
The school system needs to be transparent and open to community input. Communication is the most important. Forecasts, budgets, and finances need to be accurate and correct. They cannot have quarter million dollar swings in budgets compared to audited reports. With some accuracy, the community will become engaged to make things better because the district is giving them good, accurate information.,P> I question the amount of transparency and interest in the community resident's thought when the community members have five minutes to talk at the first board meeting of the month and answered at the second meeting. Not that I disagree with five minutes, but answers should not be delayed for discussion, except for missing information that needs to be obtained for an answer. Residents need to be very comfortable in communicating with the board members and the school administration. The school needs the community, and the community needs the school.

What's your view of the leadership role of the school board?
It is our job to lead the school into the future and be an integral part of school district growth. It is our job to help where needed to achieve a superior education for the students attending this district.

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