Monday, November 14, 2005

Don Weiss

When I mentioned Don Weiss's entry as a Democratic challenger to John Bacon, I contrasted him with Harry McDonald (running for the Republican nomination) noting that McDonald is a school teacher and longtime activist for science education while the Mr. Weiss's is currently running a toy store.

This comparison doesn't fully capture either figure, but Mr. Weiss was kind enough to send some more biographical information my way.

In addition to his work in educational toys (and I think learning should be fun, so I don't minimize that experience), he is a senior adjunct faculty member at the Keller School of Management, where he's taught IT and business plan development. Before that he taught at JCCC, got a couple Masters degrees and sent a couple of kids through the public schools. And you have to like someone who helps organize Christmas Bird Counts.

In looking a this fuller resumé, the thing that most intrigues me is the work in management. Teaching in a college is a very different world from teaching in the public schools. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. And most, if not all, of the current Board members are parents. Again, important background, but nothing to make a candidate stand out from the crowd.

The Board is responsible for managing the school system of Kansas, and for overseeing the ways that local school districts manage the schools. Most of the current Board members have experience as classroom teachers, and understand the unique challenges associated with that work. Mr. Weiss would bring some professional experience in management. While Bob Corkins learns how to manage employees, it would be good if there was someone around who could give him some pointers.

Harry McDonald has a different set of experiences. I know his work with Kansas Citizens for Science and while I agree with Andrew Jackson's comment on jobs for Democrats ("If there's a job a Democrat can't do, let's eliminate the position"), Mr. McDonald is the kind of Republican I think I could endorse. I wouldn't have any trouble endorsing Mr. Weiss either.

The same is true in the 5th District. Sally Cauble appears to be well qualified and I hope she beats Ms. Morris in the primary. If not, I hope Tim Cruz wins. And if the matchup is between Ms. Cauble and Mr. Cruz, I'll make an endorsement based on the totality of the candidates' positions.

I hope the campaigns for school board go beyond evolution. The Kansas schools face serious issues and we need a real debate about science education and sex ed, but also about how to modernize schools, how to get the best possible teachers into rural schools with limited resources, how to offer unique opportunities to students in areas that don't have a large population base, and how to keep class sizes down in larger areas.

There are special ed students who need help, and gifted students who need opportunities. There are average students who just need the right spark to turn them into gifted students. That's what these campaigns should be about, and I look forward to a serious, thoughtful debate.

…plus outrageous silliness from Connie Morris.