Two new applicants filed to run for the Beatrice Board of Education this week. Neither has held office before, but they both have school-age children.
As Thursday’s deadline for non-incumbents drew near, Andrew Pinney and Matt Langley put their names in the running for school board this week.
Pinney, who works for Nebraska Machine and Tool and has a daughter in preschool, said his reason for running was personal.
Back in November, the bus his daughter was riding home from school was involved in a crash. No one was injured, but when he attempted to call the bus company and the school district, he couldn’t get an answer, he said. The first information he was able to get was from a photo of the crash on the Daily Sun’s Facebook page, Pinney said.
“Honestly, every parent wants the safest and best possible education for their children, but I see so many issues that are going on right now,” Pinney said. “With communication, the transportation issues, obvious financial miscues. I want the opportunity to be part of the solution.”
With the crash, as with a recent lock out at Beatrice High School and Middle School, Pinney said the district has to get better at communicating with parents and setting up protocols for any emergency situation that might arise.
Pinney also said that the district and school board have taken steps in the wrong direction financially in recent years.
With recent financial problems facing Beatrice Public Schools and the board looking for items to cut from the budget, Pinney points a finger toward the 94 acre, $1.8 million property purchased by the district and approved by the school board back in 2014 where the district hoped to build a consolidated elementary school. A bond measure to build the proposed school was twice voted down by Beatrice residents.
The problems the district now faces, Pinney said, fall back to the land issue. The district won’t be purchasing new textbooks for the upcoming school year and, with talk of restructuring for the elementary system, Pinney said he’d like to see the district and the board reach out to parents before making big financial decisions.
“It's just like they're robbing Peter to pay Paul, and I think that it needs to stop,” Pinney said. “We need to get down to core basics, which is truly, giving the safest and best possible education.”
Though they might differ on some topics, Langley, who works as a branch manager for Farmers Cooperative in Diller, said having more parental involvement with the school board is key.
Langley, who has three kids, ages 5, 3 and 10 months, said that at Monday’s Beatrice Board of Education Committee of the Whole meeting, the parents who spoke up to speak their minds had some great ideas. The parents who spoke really gave the board something to consider, he said, including things that the board might not have even considered.
“A body of seven can come up with some good ideas,” Langley said, “but there's others out there and those need to be put on public record to be dealt with.”
Langley said he’s hopeful about new changes coming to the Beatrice Public Schools administration next school year. He said incoming Superintendent Jason Alexander appears to be a great leader and said he’s excited about where Alexander will lead the schools.
The first time the district attempted to pass the bond measure to build a new elementary, Langley said he was a big proponent. He still is, he said, and he sees a lot of economic development opportunities that come with a new school. Langley praised NGage and the city of Beatrice for community improvement, but said that the school can be a vital part of economic development as well.
Langley said he’s looking to bring an agricultural perspective to the school board. With agriculture in a downturn at the moment, there’s a big discussion on how property taxes affect farmers and ranchers. Langley said he wants to do what’s best for the schools and for the agricultural sector, but said that he wants to do it right. The district is at its levy cap, he said, but the district can be successful in using the amount of money that’s coming in.
“Everybody wants the best for our kids,” Langley said. “I just want to bring to light that this is what's happening. I don't think I'll be able to lower property taxes, per se, but just to bring that mindset that 'let's remember that' when making decisions.”
Langley said that technology will play a huge role in schools in the future, and making the best use of current technology is imperative. With nearly every middle school and high school student carrying around a smartphone in their back pocket, he said it’s a good idea to encourage mobile devices being worked into the education system.
“My big thing is that I'm not bringing an agenda with me,” Langley said. “I've listened to a lot of the public, I've heard a lot of topics from board members. That's really what I do is first sit down and listen and get my mind wrapped around the big picture of what's going on here, then possibly start to look for issues and problems.”