Next Cape school board to face rocky period

Friday, April 2, 2010
Paul Nenninger, candidate for Cape Girardeau School Board (KRISTIN EBERTS)

A banker, former superintendent, board member and university department chair are vying for two spots on the Cape Girardeau School Board as the district, like many across the state, is facing a rocky financial period.

The composition of the board and many others in the area will change with the outcome of Tuesday's election. In the Cape Girardeau School District, four candidates are running for two three-year terms -- Don Call, incumbent Paul Nenninger, Philip "Phil" Moore and Hamner Hill. Incumbent Laura Sparkman did not run after serving six years on the board.

According to projections from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the district could face from $129,000 to $255,000 in cuts in the June payment from the state. The district's budget is $42.9 million. Other bills at the state level could affect how funding is doled out to districts during the next fiscal year.

Hill is the chairman of the political science, philosophy and religion department at Southeast Missouri State University. He said he has experience with budget cuts through his administrative position at the university.

He said maintaining academic standards will be important. The board should establish a core mission and let the staff closer to operations determine where cuts can be made.

Don Call, candidate for Cape Girardeau School Board (KRISTIN EBERTS)

"I don't think across-the-board budget cuts are particularly wise," Hill said.

Elected candidates will have to make decisions regarding the outcome of the district's $40 million bond issue. The proposal addresses millions of dollars in deferred maintenance. District officials have said they hope replacing roofs and boilers through the bond proposal will put less strain on the operating budget. The plan also contains a new elementary school and an event complex and auditorium at the high school.

Hill said the current proposal reflects a compromise between district interests.

"A bond issue is a political thing, and politics is the art of compromise," Hill said.

Current board member and candidate Paul Nenninger advocated an incremental approach before and after voting to put the proposal on the ballot.

Phillip Moore, candidate for Cape Girardeau School Board (KRISTIN EBERTS)

He said smaller proposals would pass easier and have less effect on district operations. Whether the issue passes or not, the influence on the budget will not immediately transpire, he said.

"The immediate impact I don't see as strong for operations or any kind of effects on our budget," said Nenninger, a retired Secret Service agent.

In looking at budget cuts, he said they will force the district to weed out underperforming programs. Student-to-teacher ratios could increase and all operations from grass mowing to food service should be analyzed, he said.

"All those little things add up," he said. "We still have to maintain our standards with education and keep trying to improve annual yearly progress."

While programs will need to be prioritized, Moore said he advocates maintaining teacher salaries even in tough economic times.

Hamner Hill, candidate for Cape Girardeau School Board (KRISTIN EBERTS)

"They are the basis of what's being put out there to the children," said Moore, a commercial loan officer for the Bank of Missouri.

In past years, the district started to increase its salaries to be more in line with districts of comparable size. He said going back on the promise would not help attract young, quality teachers into the district or improve academics.

"That does not foster a good working relationship between the teachers and the district," he said.

Maintaining teachers and low student-to-teacher ratios should be a priority, said Call, a Cape Girardeau native and former superintendent in southwestern Missouri.

"I think the last thing to be cut would be classroom teachers," he said.

Delaying textbook and technology purchases could be an option for cuts as well as staff losses through attrition, he said.

After more than 30 years in education, he said, he has a background understanding state education funding, assessment and curriculum coming into a board position.

While unfunded federal mandates posed a challenge during the end of his 20-year tenure as an administrator, he said he did not experience a similar budget situation.

"This is unique because on the horizon there doesn't seem to be any relief coming," he said.


Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: