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Hallsville R-IV candidates’ forum draws a crowd

Posted on Wednesday, March 30, 2022 at 1:33 pm

More than 50 people sat in the spacious-feeling surroundings of the Hallsville Intermediate School cafeteria to hear the thoughts of four who would be members of the Hallsville School Board.

Four candidates, Ben Dawson, Shaunna Turner, Lori Wheeler and incumbent Ben Wildenhain are running for two seats on the Hallsville R-IV school board and participated in the Hallsville Community Teachers Association.

The candidates spent more than an hour answering a variety of community submitted randomly drawn questions. R-IV’s Rachel Sides acted as moderator and announced that staff and community had been given the opportunity to submit questions before the event.

The event concluded with each candidate responding to the same set of specific questions, which are being reprinted here.

The first of those questions was:

Please give 3 examples of positive things you see from our school district. Please give 2 examples of change you would like to see.

Candidate Ben Wildenhain, far right, answers a question at the Hallsville R-IV Candidates Forum. The other candidates are, sitting, from the left: Ben Dawson Shaunna Turner and Lori Wheeler

Dawson: “Growth in FFA, passionate parents and community members, and engaged athletics programs are positives that I see in the district. I would like to see a more cohesive environment between the board, faculty, and the community and I would also like to see better communication and transparency from the district.”

Turner: “We have an incredible superintendent, great administrators, awesome teachers, and the best staff. We have the best community and we are growing constantly as new families are wanting to establish Hallsville as their hometown. I believe that our school and community is passion driven when it comes to what is in the best interest for the future of our children. I would love to see the divide amongst the board/community/staff dissipate. Everyone should be able to express their opinions without the fear of repercussions. I would also like to see that we keep our class sizes manageable, as smaller class sizes have higher effects on student learning.

Wheeler: 1) I love that we teach our students about positive character traits and recognize them when they exhibit them. These are all traits they need to have to be successful, well rounded adults. 2) We have great administrators that are very involved and care about our kids. 3) I love that our district is looking to the future. They have already started planning and making good financial decisions so that we can expand and keep class sizes down.

1) I would like to see us work on a plan to reduce bullying and reduce referrals from our buses. 2) I would like us to find a way for the board to interact with teachers more. Perhaps we could have board members touring schools and increasing their positive interactions with teachers.

Wildenhain: 1.) Successful Students – Hallsville R-IV excels at student success. Year after Year our students excel on standardized testing, a direct testament of the hard work our teachers put into our students. 2.) Activity Program Excitement – From FFA to Speech & Debate, Drama Club, Thespian Society, Quiz Bowl, Band…the list goes on…students are excited about these things which comes back to those that sponsor these programs and the great job they are doing outside of their classroom assignment. 3.) This hiring cycle saw almost all positions get re-hired, a great testament to our district and the great things that are happening here. This also means retention is working and reduces some of the recruitment pressure for this hiring cycle, it sure is a start!.”

1) Student Behavior – I truly believe the district needs to take a deep look and how we can get more out our students, especially how they behave while in the buildings. If there was a way to keep cell phones out of the classrooms, that would be great start in my eyes. 2.) Teacher Retention – We must find ways to keep teachers in our buildings for many years. We need to make our district an enjoyable place to work and one where a teacher wants to stay and for their kids to grow up in the same hallways.

The second question: If a large sum donation to the school and it had to be spent this week, how would you suggest we use it?

Dawson: Depending on the donation – I would suggest insurance coverage be paid for the Chromebooks that are being distributed. If we are requiring their use and care, then we should figure out how to cover the cost of insurance as well.

Turner: Purchase land that borders the school. Land is an investment and a much needed commodity for our school district’s future. Preschool!!! Preschool!!! Preschool!!!

Wheeler: I think it would be wonderful to complete all of our building improvements in one stage instead of three. Our school is growing quickly and it would be great to be able to continue to keep class sizes small and avoid trailers. Like all schools, the list of improvement never ends. Technology is always changing and could use improvements too.

Wildehnain: “Quite frankly, it depends on the definition of large. If it is $1 Million dollars, that really doesn’t go very far in today’s market, and would most likely be best spent completing many smaller projects on campus. If the donation was $5 Million, then it would be time to accelerate the Middle School building project into phase 2 and/or 3 to try and get ahead of the curve on that one. Due to our limited bonding capacity as a district, any time we can accelerate a building project puts us years ahead in catching up our campus to our ever-growing community.”

The third question: Are in favor of Proposition B? If so, why do you think it is important? If not, why not?

Dawson: “Yes. I think more could have been done to focus on academics and classroom facilities but overall, I agree with Prop B. The growth in our district and general condition of some of the older parts of the schools require a faster track to classroom and facility improvements. On the other hand, many families take athletic amenities into account when finding a new school so both areas of improvement in Prop B do hold value.

Turner: “I’m 100% in favor of proposition B. Hallsville’s middle school is bursting at the seams and is almost at capacity. Our school district must expand in order to accommodate our current and future students.

Wheeler: I am in favor of Prop. B. I think that if it doesn’t pass, that we will continue to see our population grow. Without the ability to expand, we will have larger class sizes and trailers. Larger class sizes will also impact test scores and our ability to retain high quality teachers.

Wildenhain: Yes – Proposition B is the first step of many years of projects that will need to be completed on the Hallsville R-IV campus. It lays the groundwork for many projects to come by building the first phase of what will be a great Middle School building once complete. It also starts the process of re-furbishing our Athletic Facilities which, quite frankly, would rank amongst the lowest in quality in our conference. Moving the track to the Football stadium makes since in so many ways as now we have one centralized location for multiple sports seasons instead of multiple locations for one sport each. These improvements will then open opportunities for building and parking improvements on campus in the years to come as well.

The fourth: What is your opinion on school activities and athletics in comparison to school academics?

Dawson: “Building an excellent school culture includes athletics and activities, and many students may use those as avenues to gain scholarship opportunity for higher education. Our commitment, however, must focus on producing intelligent and capable future generations through the school systems.

Turner: Education will always be number one with me. I’m definitely hoping to learn more about the activity and athletic components of our school. I enjoyed drama, softball and basketball in school, which I eventually traded for the dance team and cheerleading, but I was always a student first. Education is the future of our youth and I want to continue to be a part of it.

Wheeler: “I think that school activities, whether it be sports or fine arts, are very important. They teach students to be team players. They get students active and provide them with skills that will benefit them in the workplace. I think that there needs to be a balance between academics and activities. Coaches, conductors, and teachers need to encourage their players and students to give their all in the classroom just like for their activity.”

Wildenhain: “I support ALL school activities and athletics. Both extracurricular opportunities are important parts of our student’s time spent at Hallsville R-IV. It is just a fact that students involved in extracurricular programs have a much higher success rate in the classroom and life beyond High School than those who are not. It is our job as a Board to support extracurricular activities just the same as the education being taught in our classrooms and our community should support these as well. Some might see me as an athletic supporter, and yes, I am, but I support what is going on in our buildings just the same and you should too! Our Quiz Bowl team is outstanding!! Have you seen a school play?? Marvelous!!! Did the football team have a good season, of course, but so did softball, volleyball, basketball and wresting!!! Have you seen how many of our student athletes are also receiving honors for academic All State, what an achievement!!! What about our

growing FFA program and all its members competing at contests, receiving State and National Degree’s!!! There is so much to be excited about outside of the classroom as well and all these programs will always get my support!!

The fifth: How do you believe the school district can best prepare for situations such as active shooters?

Dawson: Security Improvement grants such as Mr. Sides has been pursuing are excellent preparations in adding lockdown mechanisms and reinforced building materials. In addition, awareness training for faculty and staff to aid in identifying and rectifying mental health and bullying concerns in the district can help avoid some potential threats.

Turner: “Create a healthy school climate by addressing bullying, harassment and physical violence, and have security systems in place. We need to work together to create a healthy school climate by involving students (students influence one another with their behavior). We must learn to recognize potential threats like knowing the signs, setting up a threat assessment team, creating a plan that gives school staff options, providing students with training on what to do during an incident, and hosting practice drills.

Wheeler: Our district does an amazing job training for active shooters. Not only do staff have training during professional development days, students also train. It is scary to have these conversations and training with our students, but in this day and age, we know that shootings can happen anywhere. I would rather have my child be prepared than to freeze and not know how to react.

Wildenhain: Education and Training, both of which happen routinely inside of our district.

The last: What do you know about the school district?

Dawson: “Hallsville is a close-knit district with a student population nearly as large as the in-town total population. The district has many passionate contributors throughout the staff and community.”

Turner: “That it is the best place to work and the staff is passionate and dedicated when it comes to the education of our students. I taught in our district for four years. I love our small district. We have great teachers and smaller class sizes. We are known as one of the better districts with higher test scores. Hallsville is a very desirable town. Our population is growing quickly. I love the steps that our district is taking to keep up with that growth.

Wheeler: I taught in our district for four years. I love our small district. We have great teachers and smaller class sizes. We are known as one of the better districts with higher test scores. Hallsville is a very desirable town. Our population is growing quickly. I love the steps that our district is taking to keep up with that growth.

Wildenhanin: “Other than it’s the GREATEST SCHOOL DISTRICT in Boone County, I don’t really know what this question is looking for…I have been a community member for 16 years, have 5 kids currently enrolled in 3 different buildings, have worked for, substituted, volunteered in many capacities, and now serve on the Board of Education of the district. I think the real question is what I don’t know about the district, which isn’t very much.”