Yukon Public Schools Board incumbent Leonard Wells is being challenged by chemical engineer Paul Gerber in the District 2 general election slated for Tuesday.
Wells graduated from Yukon High School in 1965 and has served on the school board for the last 10 years. He graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma in 1969 with a degree in accounting, and he has three grandchildren who currently attend school within the district. He currently serves on the WEOKIE Federal Credit Union board of directors as board secretary and treasurer.
“I felt compelled to pay back my community that had provided me and my family with a good education,” Wells said.
Wells said a big responsibility of the board is to hire, evaluate and, if needed, replace the district superintendent. He was involved in the hiring of the district’s current superintendent, Jason Simeroth.
“I feel good about my part in the interview process, the evaluation of candidates, and the hiring of Jason Simeroth,” Wells said. “Another accomplishment was the ability to present large bond proposals for needed expansion and improvements to the voters of the district that would not raise taxes. In addition, I supported the one-time payment to teachers and staff with federal funds received because of COVID.”
Gerber, who also has a background in data analytics and finance, said he decided to run for school board after attending a board meeting back in June.
“What I saw was a definite disconnect of communication between the board and the parents,” Gerber said. “I want to close that gap.”
Gerber also believes his business mindset, along with logic and reasoning skills, will help him make the best financial decisions for the school and its future.
Information for this article was obtained through email correspondence with the candidates, as well as publicly available documents. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.
Ensuring students are graduation-ready
Wells said he wants to provide students with an education that makes them college- and/or job-ready when they graduate. Bond packages totaling about $194.2 million were approved by voters in November and include plans to construct a college and career center.
“The recent bond issue passed by the community will provide new opportunities for our students and teachers,” Wells said. “I want to be a part of making that happen.”
Gerber said he wants to see students be educated as well-rounded and productive individuals in the workforce, and he said he wants to see them become great problem-solvers in society.
“We need to focus more on learning how to communicate with others, both (in) writing and verbally,” Gerber said.
Another concern for Wells is the coronavirus pandemic, as he said COVID-19 continues to disrupt the education of students.
“I will continue to do my best to see that we provide a safe environment for our students to learn in,” Wells said. “Hopefully we have gotten the virus behind us, and we can concentrate on educating students.”
Wells also believes that finances will continue to be a challenge for the district.
“This is a challenge because of the way state funding is calculated, because of unfunded mandates and because education dollars are being diverted away from local school districts,” Wells said. “Another concern the district has is the shortage of teachers in Oklahoma.”
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‘Above all I will be the voice of the parents’
Gerber said he wants to establish a civil discourse between the board and parents to “actually listen to parents’ concerns and frustrations.” A post on Gerber’s campaign Facebook page states his belief that the school board of any district should always be the voice of the parents.
“Above all, I will be the voice of the parents,” Gerber said. “They elected the board to represent them and they help decide what’s best for their children also.”
He said he’s concerned about behavior within the student body and believes parents need to be involved in the conversation surrounding it.
“I hear a lot of bullying and disrespect toward the teachers and fellow students, but mainly the teachers,” Gerber said. “I understand that this could be one of the many reasons why substitute teachers do not want to fill in. We need to involve the parents 100 percent and have an open dialogue as to why this might be happening.”