ANNE COSTELLO FOR SCHOOL BOARD
Emphasis on Fiscal Responsibility and Transparency
I grew up in the Olathe public school system. I was proud to be able to attend such great schools. I want my kids to have as good of an education as I did, if not better. My family moved to our current home just about a year ago. We were moving specifically to change schools in order to give a fresh start for one of our kids. It had nothing to do with what the school did or did not do for him. Socially he needed a change. We recognize how privileged we are to be able to make a move like that. We had tried transfer requests, but they were denied year after year. When my husband and I were discussing where we wanted to move, we debated about staying in Lawrence or moving to one of the big 3 districts in JOCO. Ultimately we choose to remain in Lawrence. This is where we had started our family, where our friends are, and it is the town we love. Not to mention, that my husband works for the district. He started as a para and now teaches at LHS. If we were staying, I wanted to make sure that I could help my kids get the best education possible and that was the final kicker to convince me to run.
OUR GREATEST CHALLENGES
I believe we have three top challenges to address as a district. We need to improve teacher/staff recruitment and retention, find more money in the budget for salary increases and rising costs, and focusing on student achievement.
Teachers and staff need more support. This is how we will be able to retain our wonderful teachers and staff while recruiting the best and brightest new hires. While it is great that we are giving our teacher's and classified staff historic wages, it is not enough. Salaries are still not competitive and our classified staff is not earning a living wage. This must be addressed along with reducing class size. We need to support our teachers mental health through fostering a positive cultures in our schools and ESC, creating safe spaces for them to ask questions or share concerns, along with removing work that is not needed and does not directly impact students and learning. Student behavior has become more challenging since the pandemic, we need to offer our teachers and staff more support to manage these behaviors.
The work of the future's committee was not completed. We still need to dig into the budget and find additional money for salary increases, increased costs of health insurance and utilities, as well as building back our reserve funds. We can also help this by demanding that Topeka adequately fund our schools. Money spent to cover the shortfall in special education funding from the state is money we can't use to accomplish these budgetary goals.
Student achievement needs to be improved for all, but we especially need to focus on closing the gap for students of color, students from low-income families and students in special education. Increased parental/familial involvement can positively impact student achievement. Strong early childhood programs are some of the best ways to help marginalized students close the achievement gap. I am excited to see the impact of the new SEL curriculum. Social and emotional skills are key to academic learning.
Developing a strategic plan that sets the district up for success.
My mission as a school board member will be to work with my fellow board members to create a budget that is sustainable despite small fluctuations in enrollment and includes addressing the goals of making wages competitive for our teachers and staff and reducing class size to ensure that every student receives the individual attention they deserve.