Johnson: Today’s students enjoy amazing options
By RACHEL COLEMAN
Leader & Times
School board candidate Stacy Johnson finds the students of today unique and fascinating.
“They’re so clever; they’re so witty,” he said, noting that visits to local schools have been the best part of his term on the board.
“Isn’t it amazing? There are so many tools at their fingertips. They can, in a matter of seconds, learn something that took us days to research. I remember going to the encyclopedia to learn about Korea, Japan, things like that. Now, they can type it into a search engine and keep going,” he said. “It can be scary; we need to be cautious at times, but even so, these kids have such a wonderful opportunity, and we’re just tapping the surface. It’s an amazing time to be a child.”
That’s why he wishes school board meetings could focus more on the students, and less on arguments about money.
“I find it sad that we spend so much time talking about money and programs, but not so much about the students,” he said. “We should focus on what is best for them, not for teachers, not for administrators, but what is best for my child and your children, and all of them.”
He also wishes more of the students who go through the Liberal school system would choose to make Liberal home once they’ve grown to adulthood.
“Getting our kids to come back home is something we need to focus on as a goal for the community,” he said. “It’s hard. I graduated in 1988, and I don’t see many of my classmates here. I was fortunate to come back.”
Johnson, a local native who graduated Liberal High School and Seward County Community College, got involved in school board service during the years he lived in Missouri. When he and his daughter moved back to Liberal to be closer to family, he decided to campaign for a spot on the USD 480 school board.
“Liberal’s school system was good to me. Now I have a daughter, and a son in high school. I believe in my kids, and the kids in Liberal,” he said. “These kids have so many options, and they’re so diverse. They can look ahead to doing things I never dreamt of. It’s a huge challenge to try and reach every one of them, help them form an idea of what they want to do.”
At the high school level, Johnson would like to see a renewed emphasis on entrepreneurship and industry skills.
“We put such an emphasis on reading and math that sometimes it’s at the expense of skills that will help kids succeed in the business world, and get an idea of what’s possible,” he said. Listing examples of local people who’ve succeeded with small start-ups like plumbing outlets and medical offices to larger-scale efforts like the ethanol plant, Johnson said, “We need to train kids who want to come back to Liberal and do these things.”
Balancing those goals with the usual push to get all students graduated and on the way to college can be difficult, he said:
“I struggle with this so much. I know we need to do well on standardized testing, and I know that it’s important to encourage kids to go to college, but I don’t think we push the technical school hard enough. We need to get programs in place that are connected to the industry in the area. We need an electrical program at the vo-tech, and horticulture, and skills for wind farms, because eventually we’re going to have that in Seward County. Not every kid is going to go to college, and that’s OK.”
If the local school system focuses on well-rounded students who are familiar with more than standardized test basics, Johnson said, “the kids can be the deciding factor about what they want to do for the rest of their lives. We should give them our best, and then let them choose.”
Leader & Times Candidate Q & A
Bio: Stacy Johnson, grew up in Liberal, graduated from Liberal High School in 1988 and Seward County Community College in 1990, with an associate’s degree in applied science. He attended Panhandle State University before entering the work force. He and his wife, Tracy, a nurse, were married Feb. 22, 2011. His 14 year-old daughter is a freshman, and his 15-year-old son is a junior, at LHS. Johnson works for Howard Drilling Co.
Q: What motivated you to run for USD 480 school board?
A: I want to continue working on, and growing the programs that we have in place. I feel it is important that we expand the AVID program, we must continue to give the teachers the tools that they need to be successful with literacy first, and start a Dual Language Program that feeds into Cottonwood Intermediate.
Q: Explain your priorities for the education of children and teens. What areas are most important?
A: Of course reading, writing and math are the foundations of a child’s education but I also feel that we should focus on study skills and social skills to ensure that students are successful in their teenage years.
Q: Describe your vision for the future of USD 480 and its students.
A: I feel the future for the district is very positive. We have great people and programs in place to be very successful. The AVID program or some resemblance of it needs to be expanded to all grade levels, we have to continue to work hard on improving graduation rates, and it will be imperative in that we pass a bond issue in the next four years.
Q: What challenges do you see in education in our school district? How should these be addressed?
A: Standardized testing is the biggest challenge I feel our district is facing. I think it is ridiculous that the fate of our administrators and teachers are dependent on how students do on a reading and math test. I feel that true teaching has been taken away from teachers and given to the companies that create these tests and the tools that it takes to teach to the test.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel that reading and math are very important but I also feel that so are English, history, science and the arts. I think we have very bright teachers and administrators that could come up with a great set of standards at all grade levels that would ensure students are successful in whatever challenge they will face after high school.
Q: On the other hand, what strong points do you see in USD 480? What’s working well?
A: I feel our administration, faculty and staff are our strongest assets. They all are very passionate people that love teaching children. I know that I don’t say it enough but they do deserve a huge “thank you” for the job that they do.
Q: Personally, what strengths and relevant experiences would you bring to the board?
A: I feel that serving on the board the past four years has been an awesome experience. It has been very eye-opening as to how the educational system works and I hope I can continue to work with the administrators, faculty, staff and students.
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