On May 15, School District 15 residents will be able to vote on a proposed $93,155,150 schools budget and a $2,995,135 library budget. They will also be able to vote for school board and library trustees. Abel Feldhamer is unopposed in his election for a second term. Patch spoke with him about the issues facing the school district.
Why should residents come out and support you for another term?
Although the accomplishments of an individual trustee are often not separable from those of the entire board, I am very proud of everything that we have accomplished together over the last few years, and I look forward to continuing on the same path together with rest of the board. Together with the hard work of our administration, we have made great strides in our academic performance (including a significant increase in our high school graduation rate), recently completed a extensive capital improvement program, expanded many of the district's services, without imposing an increased burden on our taxpayers.
What do you see as the major issue(s) facing the Lawrence School District?
Lawrence faces many of the same challenges that other school districts now struggle with — to maintain solid academic programs in the face of increasing costs, reductions in aid, budget caps, and increased government mandates. Although our district has always been ahead of the curve with fiscal responsibility, it still remains a great challenge each year to maintain all of the programs and services that we would like to.
What do you see as the greatest strength of District 15?
The greatest strength of District 15 is certainly the people. Educating our children can never be just a job, and I applaud every member of District 15's administration and staff who comes to work each day with so much dedication and devotion to our students.
What do you see as the greatest weakness in the district and what would you do to change it?
While I don't think it's a weakness that's unique to our district, all organizations are resistant to change. But constant innovation and adaptation are especially vital in light of the challenges of educating our children in the 21st century, and the fiscal constraints faced by the district. That being said, I am proud of the many accomplishments that we have already seen from our superintendent and administration through out-of-the-box thinking and pioneering initiatives, and I am confident that Lawrence will continue to serve as a role model for other districts through its commitment to innovation.
What changes, if any, should be made in the district’s budget?
The proposed budget does an excellent job at delicately balancing the interests of maintaining and enhancing our district's stellar programs, with fiscal responsibility, and I don't think there is anything that I would change. Of course, I encourage everyone in the community to participate in the school budget vote on May 15.
Is there any other information you would like to share about yourself or your goals? What would you like the community to know about you?
I always like to remind everyone in the district community that we are your representatives and we like to hear from everyone, whether at our open board meetings, town hall meetings or through individual communication. (Board members can be emailed via the district's website at www.lawrence.org) Whether a question, concern, comment, suggestion, or even constructive criticism, it is always nice to hear from people in the community.