Kansas City Star profile on JCCC candidates – JCCC candidates focus on transparency, revenue

Original linK: http://www.kansascity.com/2011/03/25/v-print/2751090/jccc-candidates-focus-on-transparency.html

Posted on Fri, Mar. 25, 2011
JCCC candidates focus on transparency, revenue
By MARÁ ROSE WILLIAMS
The Kansas City Star
A slate of nine candidates is going after three at-large seats on the Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees.

Two of the candidates are incumbents. One candidate, Benjamin Hodge is a former trustee who served from 2005 to 2009. Outgoing trustees say if Hodge is elected he’s likely to shake things up on a board that they say currently works well together.

But Hodge and another candidate, James Nelson, contend that the board operates too much behind closed doors and isn’t being held accountable for decisions. Both have said they are out to make changes, including more transparency and better treatment of faculty and students.

Some other candidates have said the cohesiveness current board members say exists among the trustees is merely a “rubber stamp,” appealing to the college president.

Here’s the list of candidates and their reasons for seeking a position on the community college board of trustees.

Benjamin Hodge, 30, of Overland Park, wants “to equally represent JCCC students, all employees and taxpayers. Right now I’m concerned that only a small number of employees and a small amount of voters are being represented and frankly the students are not being represented at all,” Hodge said.

Hodge lobbed a number of accusations at the board including “First Amendment rights violations, open meeting laws violations and unethical bidding practices.”

“All of that needs to be reformed,” Hodge said. “My main goal is to simply fulfill the motto of the college, which is learning comes first, and right now learning does not come first, unfortunately.”

He said that while he is a “strong fiscal conservative,” ensuring that people are treated fairly trumps financial matters.

Greg Musil, 53, of Overland Park, wants to serve as a JCCC trustee because the community college faces some of its greatest challenges with revenues down millions of dollars while more and more people are going back to school.

“Trying to serve more students with less money takes some leadership and judgment, and I would like to be part of that process,” he said.

He said he sees the college as “the key to the future of economic develop in our county and we need people of character and responsibility to ensure that JCCC remains one of the top community colleges in America.”

Musil, unlike some other candidates vying for one of the three available seats, said the college’s current administration and board of trustees “have done a tremendous job of spending the taxpayers’ money and the students’ money. It continues to be top ranked in the nation and the business community uses it to train and retrain employees.”

James Nelson, 35, of Olathe, said he’s running because “I’m a small-business owner and a graduate, so I care a lot about the school,” he said. Also, he said he wants to push for more openness and accountability on the board.

If elected, Nelson promises to create an electronic system allowing Johnson County residents, students and faculty to “look up how I voted and why,” he said. “I think there is a lot they do behind closed doors,” Nelson said. “I want to have a complete open-door policy where teachers and faculty can come to me any time with their opinions and questions on things.”

Nelson also said he also wants to use his small-business skills to help the college survive the financial impact caused by the economic downturn without jeopardizing education quality. Because of his business background, “I’m familiar with balancing budgets and finding new sources of revenue.”

Ron Platt, 68, of Overland Park, said he’s running to “give back to the community,” and because as a retired businessman he has the time and the interest in the college where he currently is a student and has been for last seven years.

Platt said he is concerned that “the college does not put enough money into education, as in teachers and with how they treat some of the adjunct faculty.”

He said he is out to change some bad decisions he thinks college leaders have made recently, including ending the option for students to switch classes once the semester starts.

If elected to the board, Platt said, “I would certainly push to see things out in the open and done aboveboard. And when we make a mistake, admit it promptly. My bottom line as a trustee would be to always ask, ‘How is this best for the students?’ ”

Richard Schroder, 65, of Lenexa, taught certified nursing aid as an adjunct professor at JCCC for six years. He’s said he’s running because, “I’ve got a lot of experience as a student and an instructor so I do have a feel for the operations out there. I feel they have been wasting money out there. I want to return it to fiscal responsibility.”

Also, Schroder feels the board has embarrassed the college and damaged its reputation, “not only in the county, but in the state and the nation,” with some decisions.

He pointed to scandals as one involving former JCCC president Chuck Carlsen, who resigned over alleged sexual harassment and the recent expulsion of four students for posing with placenta in a picture posted on Facebook. A federal judge order them reinstated.

“I don’t believe they are on target,” Schroder said. “I think that they are wasting a lot of money and making poor choices.”

John Stewart, 56, of Lake Quivira, has said he supports raising tuition at JCCC but not the college’s property tax levy. In a survey at midwestdemocracyproject.org, Stewart, an incumbent, said he “would not vote to raise the mill levy until the administration has exhausted all cost reduction efforts/program evaluation.” But, he added, if mission-critical areas were at risk, then it would be time to consider a mill levy increase.

Stewart said he “supports a shared approach between tuition and tax revenue to cover increased costs of education.”

To maintain access for students in this economy, scholarships created through the JCCC Foundation, “are an even more critical piece of the affordable education equation,” Stewart said.

Richard Van Buskirk, 62, of Overland Park, said he is running because “I want to give back to the community and I have a lot of experience in long-term strategic and financial planning and I think that is what we are going to need to continue to provide the best quality education in this county given the budget cuts that are coming.”

He said, “We have to keep in mind that tuition cannot be raised and taxes can not be raised.” That’s why Van Buskirk said his background “would have a lot to offer in the planning of how the college goes forward.”

“With two of the major sources of funding for the college poised to make some very significant cuts to the budget, we are in trouble,” he said. “If they don’t come we’ll be OK. But if they do we need to be ready for it.”

Don Weiss, 58, Olathe, wants to return to the board “because these are very difficult economic times, the college has to have the most professional board of trustees that it can to get us through a period of declining state funding and property tax values,” said Weiss, an incumbent.

“The motto for the college is learning comes first. Our focus as trustees is to maintain a high level of learning despite the level of funding that we get,” he said. “The college already has cut $11 million out of the budget without decreasing the quality of education and without layoffs, but there is even more work that needs to be done for the fiscal year 2012.”

Doug Wood, 66, Olathe, is running to “promote education in Johnson County and in the process encourage economic development and to prepare citizens for present and future jobs.”

He said he also wants to “bring some financial accountability to the board and improve its governance.” Helping the community college become more efficient to manage the shrinking state budget and reduced property values that impact the community college funding levels are the main concerns for JCCC trustees Wood said.

The top issues, Wood said, to develop a strategic plan to become more efficient and to find other resources to support the mission of the community college.

Benjamin Hodge
Age: 30

Address: 11916 W. 109th St., Apt. 302, Overland Park

Education: Bachelor’s degree in journalism, Kansas State University; credits toward master’s degree in business administration, University of Missouri-Kansas City

Occupation: Publisher of conservative news Kansasprogress.com.

Previous elected office: JCCC board of trustees 2005-2009; Kansas Legislature, 2007-2008; Delegate to the Kansas Republican Party 2009 – 2010

Website: benjaminhodge.com

Greg Musil

Age: 53

Address: 10721 W. 121st St., Overland Park

Education: Bachelor’s of science, Kansas State University; University of Virginia School of Law

Occupation: Lawyer

Previous elected office: Overland Park City Council 1993-2001

Web site: musilfortrustee.com

James Nelson

Age: 35

Address: 1413 South Sheridan Bridge Circle, Olathe Education: Associates degree of applied science, JCCC; attended University of Kansas

Occupation: President of KC Net, an Internet service provider.

Previous elected office: None

Website: votejamesnelson.com

Ron Platt

Age: 68

Address: 11708 W. 108th St., Overland Park

Education: Doctorate and master’s degrees in mathematics, University of Iowa; bachelor’s degree, University of Northern Iowa.

Occupation: Retired businessman

Previous elected office: None

Website: kcstats.blogspot.com

Richard L. Schroder

Age: 65

Address: 8912 Millstone Drive, Lenexa Occupation: Retired nurse; retired U.S. Army master sergeant with 26 years service.

Education: Bachelor’s of science degree in biology, Washburn University; master’s of science degree, Fort Hays; associate degree in science in nursing, JCCC; Emergency Medical Technician certification, JCCC; legal nurse consultant certification, JCCC

Previous elected office: None

Website: schroderfortrustee.com

Jon Stewart

Age: 56

Address: 575 Mohawk Street West, Lake Quivira

Education: Associate degree, JCCC; bachelor’s of science degree, University of Kansas

Occupation: self employed

Previous elected office: None

Website: http://midwestdemocracy project.org/candidates /jon-stewart/

Richard Van Buskirk

Age: 62

Address: 9643 Horton, Overland Park Education: Bachelor’s degree in biology, Tulane University; master’s in microbiology; University of Missouri-Kansas City; master’s degree in business administration/finance, Indiana University

Occupation: Businessman/business consulting

Previous elected office: None

Website: None

Don Weiss

Age: 58

Address: 12100 Cherry Lane, Olathe

Education: Bachelor’s degree in philosophy, University of Kansas; master’s degrees in business administration and project management, Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University; near completion of dissertation for doctorate in higher education; St. Louis University

Occupation: Associate dean of the College of Engineer and Information Sciences at DeVry University

Previous elected office: None

Website: donweiss.org

Doug Wood

Age: 66

Address: 13157 South Hagan, OlatheEducation: University of Missouri-Kansas City law school.

Occupation: Family, real estate and business law at Berger Law Firm

Previous elected office: Johnson County Commissioner, 12 years

Website: None

To contact Mará Rose Williams, call 816-234-4419 or send email to mdwilliams@kcstar.com.

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