Sep 15, 2021 11:01 AM

Five apply for vacant USD 489 board seat; app deadline Monday

Posted Sep 15, 2021 11:01 AM

Hays Post

The Hays USD 489 school board set a deadline of Monday for applications for a vacant seat on the board.

The seat was vacated by Nuchelle Chance, who moved out of state.

The district has received five applications thus far. They include Cathy Hopkins, former small business owner; Derek Yarmer, physician; Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp, librarian; Curt Vajnar, business owner, farmer and former teacher; and Timothy Kershner, Nex-Tech employee.

All applicants will be invited to the Sept. 27 school board meeting, where the school board members will interview the candidates.

Chance's term is set to expire at the end of December. The newly appointed board member would only serve through that time.

Three of the five applicants are running for a seat on the board in the upcoming Nov. 2 election.  Those include Vajnar, Hopkins and Zampieri-Lillpopp.

The other three candidates who have filed for the Nov. 2 election are Casey Herman, Thomas Wasinger and Ken Brooks. Chance also filed but will be ineligible because she no longer resides in the district.

See copies of the letters the applicants submitted to the school board below. (Published as submitted)

Cathy Hopkins application letter

I am seeking the open position on the BOE to engage in my community and bring my passion of life time learning into this arena.

As a parent of six children, three of whom were educated in USD 489 from start to finish. The other three spent six-ten of their thirteen years of education here before we moved to Johnson County.

I was very involved, especially during their elementary school years, in their classrooms as well as being a part of the Home & School Association, serving as president within that timeframe.

I owned and operated my own small business for nine years and then worked for the Hays Chamber of Commerce. In Johnson County I worked for a law firm for over nine years where I supported up to six attorneys and paralegals, as well as trained and supervised other administrative staff around the country. My strengths and talents when combined with others on the Board and used for the goal of supporting parents/families, teachers/staff to provide a quality education for the children of our district - can create an environment where 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. My attention as a school board member would center on serving all the children in the community. All stakeholders of the community; BOE members, parents, all district personnel and administrators as well as students must be partners in this endeavor in order for our district to succeed. Education takes place in a classroom and the Board's efforts must focus on enhancing and enriching what goes on there. 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 ... ?

By working together we can all share in the knowledge and satisfaction that we have provided for the educational needs of all children and have built a district where students, parents, teachers, and staff feel they are welcome, encouraged, respected and belong. I am asking for your support in selecting me to fill the vacant seat on the BOE.

Derek Yarmer application letter

I am writing to request consideration as an applicant to fill the open school board position vacated by Nuchelle Chance. My interest in becoming a member of the school board is multifactorial. First, I believe educating our children is one of the most important responsibilities we have as parents. I have two daughters in the school district who love attending O'Loughlin. I want to be active in their education as well as the education of other students within the district. Second, I want to become more active in the community. I was thinking about different ways to get involved and when I heard about the opening on the school board it piqued my interest. I believe filling this temporary vacancy would be good exposure to the inner workings of the school board to make sure that the skills and leadership I have would be beneficial to USD 489 prior to running for a full term on the board. Third, I am an emergency medicine physician in town. The ongoing pandemic is affecting the children of our school district and I would like the opportunity to help develop strategies that are effective in keeping our kids and staff safe while also minimizing interruptions to their education. I believe that my service on the school board would benefit the school district and students in several ways. 

1) While I have not been active at the administrative level of education, I have spent a lot of time in academia. I have eight years of post-secondary education in addition to three years of postgraduate education. My experience would bring a different perspective to the board.

2) My medical training and experience would also be beneficial at this time. I have been a front­line healthcare worker since the beginning of the pandemic and have first-hand experience caring for COVID patients. I have access to medical literature as well as direct contact with other providers who are caring for patients in our community. I would work to bring a pragmatic approach to managing the pandemic in a responsible way for the students and staff of USD 489.

3) I have nearly 10 years of experience in the construction industry. I worked for a general contractor from the time I was in middle school through undergrad. There have been several articles about the condition of the buildings throughout the school district in the news lately. My construction experience would help guide my judgement when deciding what is the best approach to managing the infrastructure of the district going forward.

Curt Vajnar application letter

I would like to be considered to fill the vacancy on the school board that has been vacated by Nuchelle Chance. I retired this last year from USD 489 after teaching Agriculture Science and advising the FFA for the last 31 years. I have a strong desire to stay involved in education as I have 3 children in the USD 489 educational system. Cyrus is a Junior at HHS, Lizzy is an 8th grader at HMS, and Cannon is a 3rd grader at Wilson Elementary this year. My oldest two sons graduated from the USD 489 school system - Conrad just graduated from FHSU and is employed at Brungardt Hower. Conrad married Haley George this summer and she is starting her first year as a third-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary. Colton is a sophomore at KSU. My wife Mary Ella is employed by the State of Kansas with the Department of Health and Environment. I am a partner of Hays K-Lawn and run a small farm by Antonino. Under my direction, the HHS Agriculture and FFA Program became one of the top programs in the State of Kansas. The following is a brief summary of some of the accomplishments that have occurred in the last 31 years. 

• 1999 Kansas Teacher of The Year
• Young Agriculture Teacher of the Year
• National Board-Certified Educator
• 15 - 20 State Champion FFA Judging Teams
• A National Champion Team, a National Runner-up Champion Team, and several other top 10 finishes while representing Kansas at other National Competitions.
•Hays FFA Chapter continually was ranked in the top 10 for Kansas in the National Chapter Award

I will now address important priorities for USD 489 and contributions that I can make to the USD 489 School Board.

Highly Effective Staff- Having been a highly effective staff member of USD 489 the past 31 years and having the privilege of working with many great educators within our school system gives me a unique opportunity to help the board in this area. I think the first step to fulfill this goal is to hire early for the coming school year or USD 489 will get what is left over. For those retiring from USD 489, offer a $1000 bonus if their resignation is received by February 1st would be an effective yet simple step in this process. I am also greatly concerned about the wellness of educators in this time of COVID-19.

High Student Achievement - "Accountability" and "Responsibility" were constantly stressed to my students. My students were also held to high expectations. Students will strive and even surpass expectations if they know where and how high the bar is set. Student achievement from the HHS Agriculture Program is a true testament to High Student Achievement. High student achievement is a direct relationship of highly effective staff. Class size is also a major factor that can affect this important goal.

Effective and Positive Communications - Communications within each school is acceptable, but knowing what was going on throughout the district and especially what was going on with other schools could be improved. A weekly/monthly district highlight email or page on the website may help. I also feel that effective communications within our community could be improved. A personal example is that after the National FFA Career Development Event Championship (not a league championship, not a state championship, but the placing above 300 teams from within the 50 states) there was only a small article on the Hays Post. We need to broadcast the story of all of the great successes that happen in our school buildings. A future bond issue will not pass if our community is not informed of our successes and our needs. Digital signs/billboards in front of our facilities (similar but better than the ones at Roosevelt and O'Loughlin) telling our story would be a great start. How many people could be reached each and every day? When I first started at 489, we had a fulltime public relations person. Effective and positive publicity is lacking.

Management of Resources - There have been some noticeable improvements in this area including the quality of vehicles in our transportation fleet. It wasn't very long ago that we were operating numerous school suburbans with over 250,000 miles. Also, the adoption and use of technology for our students and faculty is and has been a positive focus. We cannot stop there. The settling of employee contracts before a school year starts needs to become a priority, and the condition of our facilities must be addressed soon.

Timothy Kershner application letter

I am writing to express my interest in filling the vacant school board position. I am a lifelong resident of the area growing up in La Crosse and living and working in Hays for the past 17 years. I have and still have kids going through the school district. I think that I am very qualified to fill the position, because of my experience with the school district. My five children have all been involved in various clubs and activities. I am a very big advocate of the fine arts. I volunteer my time coaching flag football, I work with musical, and work with the spring plays. I work for Nex-Tech and can bring some technical expertise to the board. Thanks for you consideration and hope to hear from you soon.

Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp application letter