Mark Ousnamer, school board candidate

April 2, 2014 

Recently, Superintendent David McGehee joined with other superintendents to put forth a plan on the school transfer issue. Missouri Rep. Mike Cierpoit has a recommended plan as well. Do you support either of these plans and why?

No, I don’t support either plan because each is focused on symptoms (transfers) and not the actual problems causing the school district(s) in question to fail. Each plan will address the school transfer issue in theory, with the base goal being to prevent burdening adjacent districts, but neither provides concrete actions to address poor MAP scores. Academie’ Lafayette is an elementary charter school in the Kansas City Missouri School District that I helped establish as one of many involved parents on a shoestring budget. In 2012-2013 it’s students out performed many of Lee’s Summit R-7 elementary schools in combined MAP scores. The key is having the student’s home community providing solid structure and support to remove the need for transfers.

A recent Lee’s Summit R-7 audit revealed mostly good news, with some exceptions in how the district conducts competitive bids. Are you familiar with this audit and does it signal some needed changes?

I am familiar with the audit and I firmly believe that any time the District breaks Missouri State laws and even it’s own administrative procedures that strongly demands changes be made not only in the lack of competitive bids, but also in other flagged areas in this partial audit. Un-monitored purchasing cards with $600,000 monthly limits? Hundreds of thousands of dollars per year to subsidize the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation? $25,000 to $60,000 in construction change orders being made without bids or authorized signatures? A $15,000 premium membership to the Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council? The superintendent being paid $15,000 per year in car allowance which violates Federal law as well as other undocumented employees getting car allowances. Yes, this signals needed changes.

How is the district poised for future growth in existing school buildings and, perhaps, with new construction?

The District is poised too well. If one looks at the ratios of students to buildings for instance, then in an uncertain economy the ratios should be bumping the upper acceptable limit and not be firmly in the middle. We should be delaying construction to ensure we have enough students to fill the buildings we have and avoid burdening the district with more hard assets that require yet more dollars to construct and maintain.

Cost containment has worked well in recent years following the failed school bond issue. With state funding always in limbo, what financial measures can the district continue to take to stay healthy?

Considering we have the highest paid superintendent in the state and pay a premium to our Central Office staff I think containing from the top should be a priority. We should be professional in how we manage our funds and heed the partial audit. I am also concerned that the CNG fleet conversion cost us far more than is justifiable, but the district has been unable to provide data for review. Extremely large leases like this put a huge cash flow burden on the district. I would also caution against deferred maintenance as has been suggested. With the money the district has tied up in hard assets, massive amounts of equity and value can be lost very quickly unless it is professionally monitored and administered.

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