Oct 18, 2021 10:30 AM

Hays Post Hays USD 489 candidate profile: Thomas M. Wasinger

Posted Oct 18, 2021 10:30 AM

Thomas M. Wasinger

Thomas M. Wasinger
Thomas M. Wasinger

Age: Not Relevant/Why is this being asked?
Occupation: Small Business Owner/Attorney
Community involvement:
Owner of 104-year-old small business, Ellis County Abstract & Title, LLC, operated by the Wasinger family for four generations
• Ellis County Commissioner from 1989-1992
• Served on Ellis County Space Needs Committee that developed the plan to build the new EMS/Rural Fire Building and remodel the Ellis County Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center and worked on the campaign to pass the bond
• Worked for and against various local political campaigns and bond issues 

Do you or have you ever had children or grandchildren who attend(ed) Hays public schools?
Three of our four children attended Hays public schools.

Did you support the USD 489 2016 and 2017 bond issues? Why or why not?
I did not support the earlier bond issue for a very simple reason – it was too expensive. I wrote previously about the reasons I did not support the last bond.

To reiterate those reasons: The school board failed to follow results of the survey it had done on the size, scope and duration of a bond the public was willing to support.  The proposed bond was rushed through the “vision process," too expensive and too long (30 years) given the political nature of the voters of Ellis County. The bond effort should never had been led by the architectural firm, DLR, that stood to benefit from its passage.  Obviously, the voters understood this conflict of interest in that the greater the amount of the bond the more money the architects stood to make.

Would you support a bond issue if it were put to a public vote in the next year? What do you think it should include?
There is no question that a school bond needs to be passed. I would have supported the past bond if its final version had been more representative of what the school board's poll had suggested the public was willing to support.

One of the reasons I decided to run for school board was to help pass a school bond that is both reasonable as to cost and duration. But, any future bond needs to be handled differently than in the past.  The members of the school board need to be more hands on and help sell the bond. DLR, the architects, should absolutely not be the face of the next bond. It has a limited role to play in developing a bond, but not as the lead. 

Also, there should be just one vision team made up of administrators, teachers and citizens, not three separate teams. This will better help everyone to understand what the others are saying. It is bad strategy to let DLR be the filter through which all information flows.

How do you think the district should address facility needs and maintenance outside of a bond issue?
The school board has developed a prioritized list of projects that have been deferred in the past but are in need of serious attention now. This is exactly the correct thing to do.

The school district's capital tax levy of 8 mills generates roughly $2.4 million per year. The school board needs to discipline itself to spend the overwhelming majority of this money to address the deferred maintenance issues. I actually believe that the school board should develop a plan whereby the goals for the bond and the capital outlay fund run parallel with each other to maximize the effect of taxpayer dollars on school facilities.

What would you do to improve relations between the board and the community?
The school board needs to be transparent with the community in its thinking and decisions; develop a public relations effort to let the community know of the good things that are happening throughout the school district, particularly as it relates to student and teacher activities and achievements; respect the opinions of parents and individuals no matter the differences in opinion with the school board.

Do you think board unity is important? Would you be able to compromise with other board members who do not share your same views? Do you think you would be able to work with the current board members who will remain on the board after the election?
Any elected commission or board needs people who are willing to collaborate with each other on the issues. That doesn't mean that every decision should be unanimous. In fact, I believe diversity of opinion effects better results because of robust debates and give-and-take among the elected officials.

As Ellis County Commissioner, I did not always agree with my fellow commissioners, but we were able to forge a consensus on major issues, e.g., the creation of the current Ellis County paramedic EMS service and the transformation of the then feudal system of rural fire operations in Ellis County into a single organization with one Rural Fire Chief.

What is your position on students wearing masks in schools as a COVID mitigation effort?
As I understand the current COVID mitigation efforts, students who have been exposed to COVID are given a chance to return to in-person school sooner if they agree to voluntarily wear a mask for a limited period of days. This seems to be a compromise that works given the lack of noticeable pushback from the parents, teachers or staff.

Do you support the school district’s current COVID mitigation policy? If not, what would you put in its place?
The school district's current COVID mitigation policy seems to be reasonable and acceptable from what I can tell. Of course, the policy needs to be reviewed regularly to determine if adjustments should be made, particularly as it relates to the number of days students are being asked to quarantine due to a close contact.

Have you received any funds or in-kind donations from a donor from outside of the school district or a PAC? Please explain.

What is the most positive and negative things about USD 489 currently? The answer I believe revolves around the issue of trust. Based on past decisions of the school board, voters believed that they could not trust the school board when it came to spending taxpayer dollars. The school board has made a conscientious effort to regain the public's trust and has made progress, but there still exists some apprehension on the public's part.