Editor’s note: The Urbana Daily Citizen surveyed candidates for the Graham Local Schools Board of Education. Six candidates are running for three seats, including Toni Kite, Leslie Maurice, Alan Mitchell, incumbent Ryan Pine, Brittany Todd and David Uhl. The Daily Citizen is printing the survey reports from the candidates in alphabetical order of the candidates’ names for six publication days. Answers for each question were limited to 100 words or less and some have been edited to conform.
Brittany L. Todd, 36, is a licensed phlebotomist at Memorial Primary Care in Urbana. She graduated from Graham High School in 2001 and Illinois Fire Service Institute in 2004. She lives in Harrison Township with her husband, Anthony Todd, a 1991 graduate of Graham, and their two sons, who attend Graham Middle School. She enjoys serving the youth of Champaign County as a 4-H leader and volunteer. She is running for a seat on the school board because she believes students need to be the board’s top priority, and every child in the district deserves a quality education.
1. What type of tax increase do you favor, if any, to address the district’s recurring operating money challenges?
At this time, I do not support a tax increase for operating expenditures by levy or income tax. The board needs to reevaluate the district’s current spending. Currently, less than 58% of per pupil revenue is used for instructional expenditures. We need to put more money into classrooms and less into pockets of administrators. All of these numbers can be verified at https://grahamlocalschools.ohiocheckbook.com. However, I do support the upcoming renewal levy for school improvements and transportation vehicles, which cannot be used for operational expenses. My goal is to see full busing restored.
2. What caused the current financial problems, in your opinion?
Two words: Wasteful spending! Over the past three years, average administrator salaries have increased more than five percent even though board members knew about the financial challenges. Don’t forget the thousands of dollars our former superintendent spent to “professionally develop” himself all the way to Indian Hill, with implicit approval by current board members. Also, while I think renewable energy is a priority, spending more than $500,000 for lighting upgrades while basic busing is an ongoing issue is absurd. We need to focus on what is most important: our students!
3. What expenses would you prefer to reduce with or without any additional taxes being proposed?
I would encourage an administration salary freeze for two years. According to http://www.tos.ohio.gov, for the 2017-2018 school year, Kirk Koennecke’s salary was $118,560.00 and Judith Geers made $104,000. Compared to other surrounding districts, I think this is unacceptable when we have a district population of about 11,500 people, serving about 2,000 students, but more than 10 percent of them live in poverty. Non-essential programs and professional development trips need to be cut to refocus on the basics of academic instruction. We must restore district busing for all students.
4. What’s the top strength of Graham Local Schools?
Graham’s greatest strength is the student body and the dedicated teachers and staff. Graham needs to return to a student-centered view on education. When any decision is made in the district, the first thought of board members and educators should always be: “What is best for the students?” The second should be “How can I communicate this effectively?” As a community, we need to help all students reach their full potential academically by supporting them in education.
5. What is the top weakness of Graham?
When the county auditor has to issue a statement due to incorrect information provided by the district, that is a “material weakness.” The board and administration should not have made empty promises, created misleading statements, and communicated in a condescending manner. Graham’s operations should be transparent at all levels and the district should value its teachers and parents as agents of student success. The board members and administrators should admit their failures and be willing to adjust based on relevant data, especially when safety of students is involved. Overcoming these weaknesses is a challenge, but I believe it can be done.