Oct 05, 2021 10:30 AM

USD 489 candidate profile: Cathy Hopkins

Posted Oct 05, 2021 10:30 AM

Editor's note: The following questions were submitted to candidates for the USD 489 school board by the Hays NEA. The questions and answers are being posted as submitted with the permission of the Hays NEA and the candidates.

Three positions are up for election. Also running are Ken Brooks, Casey Herrman, Curt Vajnar, Thomas Wasinger and Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp.Cathy Hopkins

Cathy Hopkins
Cathy Hopkins

Cathy Hopkins

Please discuss your reasons for seeking a position on the Board of Education. What qualifications do you have that make you the best candidate? 
I am seeking a position on the BOE to engage in my community and bring my passion of life time learning into this arena. 

I don’t believe any one candidate/board member holds all the qualifications necessary for being on a school board. I do believe each of us have strengths and talents that when combined and used for the goal of supporting parents/ families, teachers/staff to provide a quality education to the children- we all win. 

There’s no way this happens without the hard work of collaborating -throwing all we have into the mix. Humbly asking of each other, vulnerably sharing, and purposefully listening. Transparency creates trust. Trust builds strength.

 What do you see as the greatest problem facing public education today? In Kansas? In USD 489?
I have a lot to learn about all the workings of a BOE. And I’m passionate about doing so. I have raised six children, ran my own small business, worked for the Hays Chamber of Commerce, worked with and for attorneys, trained and supervised others - I recognize there can be many ways to get to the same end goal, but the goal must be agreed upon to even begin to reach it. 

In the broad landscape of our country I see politics has encroached on education. This didn’t happen over night but it has certainly become more evident. I do not know what this looks like in our schools here but it honestly concerns me. I read somewhere recently that if students know the political viewpoints of their teacher, then the teacher has failed. While students should definitely be able to see character traits in their teachers, I don’t know that they should ever have the thought or question regarding the teacher’s politics.

Is education not for empowering children to discover who they are, what their talents are, what interests them and makes them passionate? To empower them to be able to become amazing adults who will one day take upon themselves the running of our schools, cities, counties, states etc?

How do you see your role as a member of the Board of Education in regard to accountability to patrons of the district? ... to teachers? ... to students? Do you see your role as overseeing policy or making decisions regarding day-to day operations?

What philospophy /core belief will be the driving force behind your decision making if elected to the board?
The weakest thing we can do, I believe, is what we’ve always done just because we’ve always done it that way. Questions have to be asked - systems and processes looked at. However we do not change for the sake of change. This can be a fine line but a challenge that can be met if each board member is all in. Unity can be a strong catalyst for change where change is needed. Without it (unity) we all fail and therefore fail the kids, parents, teachers, staff and community of 489. 

The BOE members should be a real team, transparently working together for the goal of understanding: the budget fully, therefore the use of the citizens tax dollars, involved in the curriculum in our schools, and the overall process for ensuring quality educators and staff. 

What is your position on 1-to-1 Techonolgy for K-12. What changes, if any would you like to see?
What do our kids say about what’s happening in their classrooms? Is 1-1 technology working for them? What are the parents seeing? Have we asked? If yes, have we listened to the answers? 

My kids were at the beginning of the device handing out .... there are negatives and positives that come with constant screen time and online usage. 

Do the devices help or hinder individual learning styles? Bring out creativity or hinder it? 

I did speak to an 8th grader, my grandson, and asked him about the iPad usage. He told me so far this year they have been on them less hours in their school day and he is very glad of that. Last year was a lot he stated.  So that tells me we may need to look at what they are being used for and there may need to be a balance found. When I asked my daughter, she spoke of the pediatricians comments on screen time, how it is actually like a drug (cocaine was specifically mentioned) and can be harmful and must be watched carefully. 

As a tool in a world of technology I definitely see the point of using them. But everything good has it’s bad as well. That is simply the truth overall in our world. 

What’s important to me also, is what you believe you are seeing in the classroom. What differences, especially for those who have taught long enough to watch the 1-1 come into play, do the devices make in actually advancing learning in our children?

Describe the first change you would like to see enacted by the Board of Education.
The change I would like to enact or see first is about the Board itself, and how it operates, becoming more of a team while not being clones of one another but truly pooling (experiences, passions, strengths) together to and for the betterment of all in USD 489. 

We believe every student deserves qualified, committed teachers. How do you feel due process for teachers affects this goal?

What is your vision regarding facilities in the district to provide our students with the best opportunities for success? What are your thoughts on previous and future bond issues/elections?
I look forward to seeing the information put together by the DLR Group regarding their assessment of our schools and the possible answers to said assessment. 

I have been asking others about previous failed bond issues.... the main response I have received is lack of trust for those holding the purse strings. Therefore, I feel this is a very foundational issue to look at so we can move forward. I don’t believe anyone argues the fact our school buildings need work... obviously there is concern on that cost and the handling of those dollars. Questions are being asked, are they being heard and answered? 

How can the board/district recruit quality teachers? What could the board do to imporve teacher morale?
I firmly believe the board members need to be in the schools. Often.

I do believe this will improve teacher morale, at least to some extent, if the BOE is seen, truly seen to care and be present in their world. Is it not what the BOE is all about... education?

I want to get in the schools, meet teachers so you are all real people; not nameless, faceless entities that are discussed through numbers in a meeting. And that is not to take on the role of principals or the superintendent but to build relationships and gain understanding. 

A strong active board can help in teacher recruitment and retention, It shows the community cares about its public education system. 

How would you characterize your attitude toward collective bargaining? What role do you see yourself taking in this process?
I believe collective bargaining on both sides is important and beneficial, again as long as all involved are willing to truly hear the other until understanding is gained and move forward from there. Hopefully anyone involved is there to assist and not bring stonewalling or division.

Other comments