Q&A with Gardner’s Mayoral and School Board Candidates

Local+elections+will+be+held+on+Nov.+2.+Mayor+and+school+board+candidates+are+up+for+election.+Read+their+answers+to+our+Q%26A+here.+

Olivia Steele

Local elections will be held on Nov. 2. Mayor and school board candidates are up for election. Read their answers to our Q&A here.

Olivia Steele

Election season has come back around and Gardner residents are getting ready to cast their votes on Tuesday, November 2, 2021. The Blazer sent out questions to each candidate running for mayor and each candidate running for school board.

Mayoral candidates Tory Roberts and Randy Gregorcyk answered the same set of questions regarding their mayoral candidacy, while school board candidates Jeff Miller, John Brandon Parks, Lana Sutton, Monica Jacobs, Rob Shippy, Thomas Reddin, Greg Chapman, and Stacey Coleman answered a set of questions regarding their school board candidacy. Mayoral candidate Todd Winters and school board candidate Corrie Kramer did not submit responses. The answers to the questions are verbatim, with some minor grammatical and spelling edits made.

Mayoral Candidates

Todd Winters
Tory Roberts
Randy Gregorcyk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q + A

*Note: originally, a different first question was asked. Gregorcyk has decided to keep his original answer.*

Q: What positions of leadership have you previously held?

Roberts: Currently on Gardner City Council. Current President of the Gardner Lions Club, Current Sergeant at Arms American Legion Auxiliary in Gardner. Former Chairman of the Gardner Planning Commission and Former Chairman and Board Member of the Gardner Festival on the Trails.

Gregorcyk: [I have been on City Council for] 4 yrs.

Q: What is the greatest challenge facing the city currently?

Roberts: Planning for growth and minimizing the taxes.

Gregorcyk: Common sense growth, Gardner Police Department, & Investment in infrastructure.

Q: What will you tackle first as mayor?

Roberts: Electric Rate study. We have a surplus in the Electric Fund, the surplus is an overpayment by the citizens. Some surplus is needed to be able to pay for future needs and expansions, however we could be charging too much. A Rate study should shed some light on this situation. The last rate study was done prior to me being on city council.

Gregorcyk: As Mayor, it will be important to understand Gardner’s recent history & subsequent challenges. Forecasting the next 4 years will be difficult for anyone, with that said, initiatives built on policy governance – guides appropriate relationships between an organization / investors / community; will be important to maintaining vision during expected and unexpected challenges. With a balanced financial position, sound infrastructure & services, a strong and growing community, our City can weather any challenge – as seen in 2020!

Q: Do you support a non-discrimination ordinance, similar to those adopted by other Johnson County cities? Why or why not?

Roberts: Yes, I think all individuals, living, working, and visiting our city are entitled to be treated with equal dignity and respect.

Gregorcyk: Gardner currently has policies in place addressing non-discrimination. All men are created equal.

Q: What is your position on the proposed solar farm to be located west of Gardner?

Roberts: I have not done much research on this issue, since it is not in the city limits of Gardner, I would have to do more research. However, I am in favor of all resources and options for alternative energy sources if it makes sense for Gardner.

Gregorcyk: Currently, I am in the due diligence phase and understanding / seeking alternatives to location and considering the effect [sic] it will have on the City of Gardner’s ability to annex / grow; furthermore, I believe the Sunflower Ammunition site, may be a better location and “re-use” of portion of that site.

Q: Which of our inter-jurisdictional partners are most important, and which relationships need to be strengthened the most?

Roberts: I think Gardner needs to work with neighboring communities and USD 231. Working together will benefit all involved. There will be upcoming annexation issues, upcoming shared road projects, the potential weigh station on I-35 and minimizing truck traffic. Working together will be very beneficial.

Gregorcyk: All Departments of the City are important, considering their individual impact on ALL citizens. Ensuring each department is staffed and supported is important; furthermore, the City’s relationship with the County, Sheriff Department and GEHS, are equally vital, as they serve the larger community, including Edgerton. Continuing and improving those relationships will be vital to me, as your new Mayor.

Q: If you have been on the city council before, what are you most proud of?

Roberts: I have been on City Council two times (2013-2015) and currently (2019 through present, my term expires in 2023). There are many things I am proud of, the main one is providing the citizens a free month of Electricity in March 2020. I am also proud of myself for always representing the people 100%.

Gregorcyk: I am proud of numerous examples, but the number one example is REPRESENTATION of citizens.

Q: What will a successful term look like for you?

Roberts: Responsible growth of all types of housing, businesses, amenities. I would like for more people to work in Gardner instead of leaving for their jobs, more job opportunities in Gardner would be awesome!

Gregorcyk: Supporting and prioritizing:

  • Public Safety: The primary purpose of local government is to provide for the safety of its citizens. As such, my priority, as Mayor, is continued support of our local Gardner police initiatives, ensuring they have the resources the Department needs, to do their jobs effectively. Additionally, we need to make the city inviting for new officers, while increasing staff retention rates. Our officers are excellent, and we should promote from within, whenever possible. Continued partnership with Johnson County Sheriff and Fire Department is equally important to the safety of our community – I will support ALL! Finally, our children are our future. As Mayor, I intend to work closely with the school board and the police department to provide our schools with adequate numbers of school resource officers.
  • Community Investments: The City of Gardner must be ready for accelerated development through continued investment of our utility infrastructure and community facilities, as commercial and residential growth increases. This investment supports a thriving community, of all ages and demographics. I support continued maintenance of our community’s infrastructure year over year, providing long term success for our neighborhoods.
  • Fiscal Stability: Anyone who has held a leadership position in the private sector knows that you must live within your means. For too long our city council has not actively requested input from the public and rubber-stamped the budgets provided to them by the administration. As Mayor, I will listen & make informed decisions and question items thoroughly to provide the greatest amount of benefit to the city while keeping the mill levy as low as possible.
  • Future Development: The future of Gardner is prime. When elected, as Mayor, I will work to ensure that our policies are business friendly – this includes our existing businesses. I will continue to support targeted commercial and residential growth, challenge the City Administrator and Directors, ensuring sound fiscal methods are in practice, with a simple goal – a balanced investment.

 

School Board Candidates

Jeff Miller
John Brandon Parks
Monica Jacobs
Lana Sutton

Tom Reddin

Rob Shippy
Stacy Coleman
Greg Chapman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corrie Kramer

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q + A

Q: Do you, or have you ever, had kids in the USD 231 School District?

Miller: Yes I have had 4 children attend their entire 12 years and graduate from GEHS. I have 9 grandchildren and some are currently attending school in the district.

Parks: I have 2 elementary students currently attending Nike.

Jacobs: Yes

Sutton: I am the proud mother of three USD 231 graduates! We moved to Gardner when my oldest was in second grade and my other two children attended K-12.

Reddin: Three of my five children have been or are in the district. Emily graduated in 2020, Seth is a senior and Sammie is a sophomore.

Shippy: Yes, two daughters that attend GEHS.

Coleman: I have three. My oldest graduated in 2017 and I have a sixth grader at Wheat Ridge middle and a freshman at GEHS.

Chapman: Yes I have a wonderful Senior daughter and I had two kids that graduated in the last 3 years from GEHS.

 

Q: Which of our inter-jurisdictional partners are most important, and which relationships need to be strengthened most?

Miller: The city and the district should be working together to keep all decisions local and transparent to the citizens.

Parks: I think our relationship with Johnson County and the City of Gardner are the most important. The County sets rules and regulations that we must follow and the city makes decisions that can affect the operations of our schools (i.e. current road work by GEHS). Since I’ve served (just the past 2 years), I haven’t come across anything that would indicate our relationship with either entity is problematic. I would say that it is pretty imperative that we keep open communication between the schools and the city simply because there have been a few different road construction proposals that have the potential to create some real problems for our students and we need to be able to work together to ensure that we can come up with solutions that are best for both parties.

Jacobs: I would need more information regarding this question…between schools, cities, age groups? Not sure.

Sutton: All inter-jurisdictional partners are important. I would like to partner more closely with the City Councils of Gardner and Edgerton.

Reddin: This is a hard question as there are so many important partners. I am going to go outside the box and say our most important “partners” are the parents and the community. Parents need to be more involved in their children’s education. Ask questions when they get home, ask what they learned and learn for yourself what is being taught in the classroom. My wife and I have always been involved in our children’s education and knowing how their days went. When asked, I helped them with difficult homework (but sometimes had to rely on Google for assistance as things have changed and it had been a while since I used certain topics). We need to strengthen relationships with our community as it has become so divided. Bridges need to be built or repaired. Confidence and trust need to be reestablished in our district. We owe it to our community, to our children and to their futures.

Shippy: Most of the time, both communities Gardner and Edgerton. The past couple of years the relationship with the Johnson County Government has been increasingly important. This is a relationship that we have until recently had little communication with. The recent communications in regards to public health have highlighted the need to improve the communication in the future.

Coleman: If I’m understanding the question correctly, the city and school board need to have quarterly meetings. The communication between the two bodies now is minimal and oftentimes oppositional. The district and the city need to work collaboratively.

Chapman: I think they are all equally as important, and unfortunately there has been some damage to them in recent years. We need to work on rebuilding those relationships and making this a two city COMMUNITY again!

 

Q: Education in a pandemic is difficult for both students and educators. What do you think is the biggest challenge facing our district as the pandemic continues?

Miller: Keeping the students and teachers in the classroom with minimal distractions. Education should be a priority. Many struggled with the loss of last year’s classroom time.

Parks: Burnout. I am so thrilled that students are back in school, it is better for students, teachers, and families without question. From what I have seen there is still a lot of emotional and mental exhaustion, both leftover from last year and transitioning back into the buildings (for the middle and high school populations). I think as a Board, we need to be extra supportive of staff and work to provide whatever support we can. We also need to work with the district office staff to do the same so that our students and building level staff have the support they need to get through another difficult year. As for what exactly needs to be done, I can’t say. I think it’s going to take a lot of conversations with different groups to get ideas for combatting the exhaustion and burnout students and staff are experiencing.

Jacobs: Keeping students in the classroom.

Sutton: Education during a pandemic is very difficult for everyone, the students, teachers, and parents. I am concerned at the loss of education during the past 18 months. We need to continue to focus on the core subjects and ensure that our graduates are ready for the next stage of their lives be it college, trade school, military, or the workforce. Mental health also needs to be readdressed. We can’t ignore that some students suffered greatly while being out of the classroom. We need to ensure that our schools are never shut down again!

Reddin: The biggest challenge would be the masks and the quarantine guidelines that are causing children and teachers to miss valuable classroom time. There are schools in our county that have masks as recommended or optional and have had no outbreaks. There are schools that use the state provided resource of conducting covid tests on exposed students at the beginning of the day causing them to miss about 15 minutes of class versus 2 weeks. We lost a year of school over this already, we cannot afford to cause our children and educators to miss any more.

Shippy: I think the biggest challenge outside of academics, and the impact the pandemic has had, is knowing and anticipating when things will return to normal. Everyone one is anxious and exhausted with the topic and the divide it has created in the community. The biggest challenge has been to continue to work on things that have long-term impacts to the district and not focus on this single issue.

Coleman: I believe that the situation with Covid is improving thanks to increasing vaccination rates and mask mandates, and unless a new variant, resistant to vaccine emerges, I’m optimistic that we’re past mass shutdowns. I honestly think our greatest challenge in educating safely and effectively during a pandemic extends beyond the classroom and into the community and society as a whole. Misinformation, disinformation, and propaganda have unnecessarily politicized the pandemic–creating fear over safe, effective vaccines and division over wearing masks. The primary goal should be to keep students and staff safe, healthy, and in the classroom with as little disruption as possible. To accomplish that, vaccinations should be encouraged, and staff and students should continue following the rules and regulations set forth by the CDC and local health officials. Most importantly–and this is the sticky part–we need to figure out a way to come together as a community. Teachers want to be in the classroom, but they also want to be safe. They want to teach class without daily debates about masks. They’re not the ones making the call, but they’re the ones on the front lines of both the exposure and the enforcement of mask rules. It’s stressful, disruptive, and hazardous to both their physical and mental health. We’re already losing teachers to other districts, to burnout, and to better paying industries. The consequences of not supporting our teachers during a pandemic (as a nation, it’s not exclusively a Gardner issue, of course.) are going to echo throughout education for the next decade. The other issue we face, of course, is lost learning time, and make sure that all students are caught up and working at or above grade level. I’d like to see the district offer supplemental tutoring led by teachers who volunteer for extra time/compensation.

Chapman: There are many challenges ahead, but I think ensuring that our students are caught up from the year online, and making sure that we do it in a way that doesn’t add stress to the students and teachers. Students and teachers did amazing this past year, but the difficulties and limitations of online learning really limited the education the students received.

 

Q: What is your stance on masking within the district?

Miller: Masks should be a decision made by the parents after consulting with their own health professionals. Therefore we can keep the mask mandate in place but parents can choose to sign a waiver to opt out. This seems to be a very divisive subject however it should be an individual choice.

Parks: I am for whatever can help keep students in school moving forward. Right now, masks are helping keep the number of exclusions down, so I am for them. When infection rates have dropped and the County eases their exclusion requirements I am open to revisiting masks.

Jacobs: I believe the policy should follow the Johnson County Health Department guidelines.

Sutton: My stance on masking is pretty well-known. I voted at the beginning of the school year to follow the Johnson County guidelines to mask K-6 and not beyond that. I believe that mask exemptions should be allowed and followed for both medical and religious reasons. Ultimately, I believe that parents and students know what is best for their families and that the government should not be involved.

Reddin: I feel masks need to be labeled as recommended but not mandated. As I stated previously, there are schools in our county doing this with no outbreaks or concerns. If it works and can alleviate other collateral damage created by masks, then we owe it to our stakeholders to move this direction.

Shippy: I personally believe that what we are doing is the best course of action at this time to keep our students in the classroom as much as possible. The exclusion criteria in place by the Johnson County Health Department places a large number of students out of the classroom in the event of an exposure. We are expected to follow state statutes in these manners, regardless of if we agree with the guidelines that are in place. 

Coleman: As long as the CDC and other public health officials recommend masking, I’ll continue to recommend it as well.

Chapman: I am for Parent Choice, but I also understand that there is concern from students and citizens. That is why I am open for a phased approach that will allow choice masking when the threat is low, and could increase if the cases begin to increase. Even the health department didn’t mandate GEHS be masked.

 

Q: Do you believe the medical professionals in the Johnson County Health Department are providing accurate and necessary guidance regarding the district’s covid policies? Why or why not?

Miller: No. I have seen that the data does not always reflect an accurate report. Sometimes relevant info is not included. They have offered no guidance on the quarantine or real data that shows it is effective.

Parks: I feel like they’ve done a better job this year. Last year school districts were left on an island in many ways. They have definitely worked to keep us off that island more this year. I will say that whether anyone agrees with exactly what they’ve decided or not, their numbers have held up. Last year we saw a direct correlation between the positivity rate and the number of exposures we had among staff – as the rate went up, so did our staff exposures; as the rate went down, so did our staff exposures. This has also held true with students as we’ve more fully reopened this year.

Jacobs: Yes. I believe they have done the best they could with the information that they have.

Sutton: We have learned so much during this pandemic. There are medical professionals in Johnson County, the United States, and the world that have conflicting guidance on how best to navigate the situation. I am disappointed in the lack of data regarding active cases versus exposure in the public schools. This is a necessary piece of information when crafting public policy. Earlier in this school year the district quarantined the 7th and 8th grades in one of our middle schools due to possible exposures. When I asked during a board meeting how many of those possible exposures developed into a positive case of COVID, I was not able to get an answer. This is extremely concerning.

Reddin: I have watched the board meetings as the information is presented. They have given great information, but what appears to be one-sided information. When asked opposing questions or for data not presented, it wasn’t on hand, or they said it was something they don’t keep track of. I am for getting all the facts and all the data to make an informed decision. 

Shippy: By and large, I believe they are giving what the industry standard is regards to guidance given or population here in the county. However, I don’t think they take into full consideration some of the impact those decisions made have on students and families. This is the difficult part for the BOE, as we are not public health professionals, it is tough to undermine their guidance and disregard the possible consequences of making a decision that is not recommended. Doing so may put the students and district at unnecessary risk.

Coleman: I know that the JCHD are acting in good faith and providing the best and most accurate information available to them. Pandemics are dynamic. Information and recommendations change as info is gathered.

Chapman: I think that this pandemic along with social media has made getting accurate facts out, when what the JCDHE has recommended has changed numerous times. This is why as part of that phased approach I would like to see JCDHE staff come be a part of the phased approach planning.

 

Q: If you were elected and put into a position to make the decision on whether or not to renew the superintendent’s contract next August, what factors would go into that decision?

Miller: At this point it is a personnel matter and board members cannot make comments on these matters.  I will say we need strong leadership that creates both a positive place to learn and work.

Parks: There is an official evaluation process that we utilize. So, as a Board we evaluate the Superintendent on 6 Performance Areas. They are: Leadership, Students, Staff, Systems, Community, and Board Relations. The way it works is that the Superintendent submits goals for each Performance Area, which the Board reviews, discusses, and ultimately approves. Once that approval happens, the Superintendent will provide updates, with proof, about how he/she is progressing on those goals with the President and Vice President. Then, a formal evaluation is performed by the Board where the Superintendent’s performance is graded. Afterwards, the President and Vice President of the Board meet with the Superintendent to go over the evaluation and to address any concerns. On top of this, I try to have conversations with staff at multiple levels (district admin, building admin, teachers) just to get a sense of how staff view the direction of the district. I would love to have a little more formal process for that side of things as well.

Jacobs: It would not be a priority because I don’t have enough information to make that decision right now.

Sutton: I am unable to discuss personnel situations.

Reddin: A person’s contract should include performance measures that can be readily tracked. I think everyone would agree it would be foolish for any governing body to go in and renew a contract blindly. To name just a few for this particular contract, I would say budget management, district performance (test scores, graduation rates), and setting ways to measure leadership (morale surveys, staff retention, exit interviews).

Shippy: The BOE already renewed the contract for an additional year in September this year, through June 2023 in a 5-0 vote. As a current BOE member it is not within my scope to comment on the performance of an individual employee in the district, whether it be teacher or the superintendent.

Coleman: The factors that I’ll consider when making a decision about extending the superintendent’s contract will include assessments of her results, as measured by student academic success during her tenure, a look back at past benchmarks and metrics set by Ms. Stranahan and her team to determine whether or not they were executed effectively, and reviewing the feasibility of the team’s next 5 year plan to ensure that her goals for the district ally with those of the district’s teachers and my constituents. Specific areas of consideration include SPED, the budget, and K-3 reading curriculum.

Chapman: When making a decision like this, I believe it is important to look at the effectiveness of their leadership in the past. This district needs a leader that is strong, confident, and can think outside the box instead of just saying no when things arise that are out of the norm. As a community I think we also need a leader that will promote a staffing culture that makes good teachers and staff want to stay, and doesn’t make them afraid to voice their concerns or opinions. The teachers are the ones with the education and time with the students to know how to help them best, we need their input and expertise, and they should never be afraid to speak up for their students.

 

Q: If people want to learn more about your campaign, where can they go for information?

Miller: Facebook @jeffmiller4usd231 or www.jeffmiller4usd231.com 

Parks: I have a Facebook campaign page – John Brandon Parks USD 231 School Board. There is also an interview with the Chamber of Commerce posted on their Facebook page, a questionnaire with Fox4 News on their webpage, a questionnaire with votejoco.com/candidates, and a questionnaire with the Gardner news (although I haven’t seen it printed yet). I have links to all of these on my Facebook campaign page as well. Thanks, and please get out and vote if you are eligible – it’s one of the most important things you can do in our democracy!

Jacobs: — (no response was given by the candidate)

Sutton: I have been actively campaigning and talking to individuals for quite a while.  I answer emails and am happy to meet in person. I’ve responded to questions from The Chamber of Commerce and my responses can be found at www.votejoco.com. My cell number is available on the USD 231 website and I have a Facebook page.

Reddin: I have an email and a Facebook page for my campaign: [email protected] https://facebook.com/tomreddinusd231boe 

Shippy: https://www.facebook.com/ShippyUSD231/ 

Coleman: https://www.facebook.com/staceyfor231 

Chapman: They can go to my Facebook page Greg Chapman for USD231 School Board or send me an email at [email protected] 

Q: How can I look up a sample ballot?

Visit https://voter.jocoelection.org/ and type in your name and date of birth. You will be able to check your voter registration status and see what your ballot will look like on Nov. 2.

 

Background Q+A 

To get a small glimpse into each candidate’s background, The Blazer asked some more lighthearted questions to the candidates in addition to the Q+A.

 

Q: How old are you?

Roberts: 54

Gregorcyk: 49 yrs old

Miller: 59

Parks: 40 years old

Jacobs: 56

Sutton: I am 53 years old.

Reddin: 50 years young

Shippy: 43

Coleman: 43

Chapman: I am 36 years old

 

Q: What is your current profession?

Roberts: I have worked at Stouse in New Century since 1995. I am the current Scheduling Manager.

Gregorcyk: Program Development Director

Miller: I am a Neon Sign Glassblower. I have been in the industry for 42 years and self employed for 36 years.

Parks: Stay-at-home Dad

Jacobs: Business Banker

Sutton: I am Executive Assistant to the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at Commerce Bank – Kansas City.  In this role I utilize my financial, budget, scheduling and management skills.

Reddin: I am recently retired after a 30-year career in law enforcement

Shippy: Firefighter

Coleman: Marketing Consultant/Small Business Advisor

Chapman: Currently I am a Fedex Ground Driver

 

Q: Where did you go to high school?

Roberts: Jefferson City High School in Jefferson City, Mo.

Gregorcyk: H.M. King High School in Kingsville, Texas

Miller: Ruskin High School. Kansas City MO.

Parks: Olathe East

Jacobs: Scotland High School, Scotland, SD

Sutton: I am a graduate of Paola High School

Reddin: I attended high school at Savior of the World Seminary (Freshman year) and Bishop Ward High School (Sophomore – Senior)

Shippy: GEHS

Coleman: Lawrence High School, Lawrence, KS

Chapman: I am a proud GEHS graduate of 2003!!!

 

Q: What activities/organizations did you participate in while in high school?

Roberts: Student Council, Varsity Letter all 4 years for Cross Country and Track, Competitive Swim Team, Art Club, Cheer Pep Squad and many more.

Gregorcyk: Boy Scouts (Eagle Scout ’91) Church (altar boy) Soccer, Tennis, Football (kicker)

Miller: Band, Orchestra and Track

Parks: Boy Scouts, Choir, Theatre, Model U.N., National Honor Society

Jacobs: FBLA, Vocal Music, Band, Yearbook, Cheerleading

Sutton: When in High School I was active in many activities. Cheerleading for three years, Drill Team my senior year where I was Co-Captain, Theater / Musical Theater where I was a Thespian, Speech & Debate, Forensics and Youths for Christ. My senior year I participated in an advanced business class where I worked the second half of the day in banking.

Reddin: In high school, I participated in Wrestling and Intramural Volleyball

Shippy: Automotive, Wood Shop, Drama, Yearbook, Photography

Coleman: I wasn’t really a joiner, I wish I had been. I did a bit of debate and theater, but not much. In fact, that’s the main reason we chose to move to Gardner instead of Lawrence when we came back to Kansas. I wanted my kids to have a small town school experience.

Chapman: My favorites were Choir and Autotech. I am kind of jealous of the new ATC center.

 

Q: What was your favorite subject in high school?

Roberts: Art and Study Hall.

Gregorcyk: History & P.E.

Miller: History.

Parks: History

Jacobs: Business classes.

Sutton: My favorite core subject in high school was English but my truly favorite class was Theater.  

Reddin: My favorite subject in high school was History

Shippy: History

Coleman: Always Civics

Chapman: Besides the two mentioned above, I really loved Science and History.