This is the final in a series of question and answer articles on the candidates for Hays USD 489 school board. The same questions were emailed to each candidate, and they were given several days to provide their answers. Answers appear here in full, unedited. Four seats are open on the school board, each consisting of a four-year term. Other candidates are Paul Adams, Cole Engel, Alex Herman, Lori Hertel, Jessica Ann Berg Moffitt, Luke Oborny, Craig Pallister and Allen Park.
Tammy Wellbrock recently opened her own professional coaching business, Girl Twin Solutions LLC, after leaving her position in July as executive director of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce. She grew up in Healy and attended Fort Hays State University, receiving a bachelor’s in communication with a public relations emphasis in 1994 and a master’s degree in communication in 2002.
1. Why are you running for school board? What experience or qualities do you have that will benefit the board and district?
For more than eight years, I promoted civic leadership as part of my Chamber of Commerce duties. Due to employee policy, I was unable to run for any elected position, so when I pursued my own professional consulting business, I knew I needed to “practice what I preached.” This may sound trite, but I truly believe it is time to do my civic duty and give back to our community. Working with a variety of boards, personalities, and the general public helped me develop an extensive and diverse set of skills. From mediation to political savviness to fiduciary oversight, I have hands-on experience with the more delicate matters that are unique to a Board of Education member. I grew up with my own father serving on the Board at our local school district, and thus believe my own child (who is a Sophomore at Hays High School) will benefit greatly by observing me serving in this important volunteer capacity.
Besides serving on the Facility Needs Committee (more shared in Question 2), I was a board-appointed representative on the USD Foundation Board from 2011-2015, a member of the O’Loughlin Elementary Site Council for six years, held a three-year term for the Hays Area Children’s Center Board and am now a Hays High Athletic Booster Club Board Member. Along with my new business, I am an adjunct instructor at FHSU for the Robbins College of Business Entrepreneurship (both on campus and virtual) and will add a new class to my teaching schedule this spring with the Leadership Studies Department.
2. What do you see as the three biggest challenges USD 489 will have in the next five to 10 years?
From my advantage point as the recent President/CEO of the Hays Area Chamber of Commerce, I know how important the school district is on our community’s economy, especially when considering quality education, teachers and facilities. From 2012-2015, I served on the Facility Needs Committee, which was charged to determine the needs of our district. We toured every building; I observed first-hand every boiler room, “cafegymatorium,” storm shelter area, and front entry as well as many other aspects. Currently, I have requested visits with key individuals (all building principals, top administration and other department heads), to better understand the needs most pressing today. Based on these discussions and my direct observations, I believe the top three challenges will be: passing a Bond in the near future; determining a direction for facilities not part of the Bond; and the retention/recruitment of quality teachers.
3. USD 489 and the Hays NEA have reached impasse on contract negotiations for two years in a row. What steps need to be taken — by both sides — to help smooth the talks and improve relations between the board and the teachers’ bargaining unit?
I recognize and respect that the relations between all parties is delicate and needing healed so that progress can be made. However, I am not a fan of adopting a “Monday Morning Quarterback” mindset and stating I know how best to improve relations when I have not been the one doing the hard work on either side. All I can share is I hope to positively affect the current culture throughout the district (not just with the bargaining unit) by bringing a greater level of trust, helping reduce micromanagement and increasing efficiencies overall.
4. What priorities should the district put on projects for facilities improvements and how should they be funded?
The entire community should desire greater improvements because the quality of our facilities impacts beyond the classroom. At the Chamber, I saw firsthand how prospective professionals chose employment in other communities due to our outdated infrastructure. Our city is not considered for a variety of school-related state events, meetings and activities because of numerous limitations — this directly affects our city taxes and the profits experienced by local businesses.
I anticipate the primary funding source will depend on Bonds, and most likely more than one. In addition to stringent financial governance by the Board of Education, I also believe developing schedules to routinely address ongoing maintenance (such as roofs, HVAC systems, etc.) will be another element that complements future Bond successes.
5. The school board and administration have recently put an emphasis on building a contingency fund, adding $300,000 last year for a total at the end of fiscal 2019 for $1.2 million. Is this a good strategy, or should that money have gone for other use?
I asked this question to the USD 489 Administration team and found their answer to support the financial strategies which governed the Hays Area Chamber during my leadership. While I would like to research this philosophy more with the Kansas Association of School Boards during Board of Education training, this strategy is consistent with sound business practices. My understanding is the recommendation is to have two months of salaries held for times of emergency, times like the state funding issues we experienced in recent years. However, I also recognize school finances are extremely complicated and the most popular answer would have me saying I support using all this money for teacher and staff compensation. I simply need more data from the Board of Education perspective before I can adequately answer as to what my direction will be if I’m elected.