After several years away from education, former Washington Elementary School Principal Allen Park is seeking to return to Hays education as a member of the USD 489 school board.
Park, 56, joins a field of eight other candidates for four open positions on the board, including incumbents Paul Adams and Luke Oborny and newcomers Craig Pallister, Lori Hertel, Tammy Wellbrock, Alex Herman and Cole Engel.
Park has worked at all levels education preschool through college.
He started his career as a para at Washington Elementary School, then was a teacher at Hays High School and Kennedy Middle School. He spent the last 25 years of his education career as the principal at Washington Elementary School. He was a transition coordinator briefly before retiring in October 2015.
“I think with my experience and having children in Hays for over 25 years straight — I still have kids in Hays schools — that I have a unique perspective and maybe have some things that might be able to help,” he said.
Park was part of the first Leadership Hays Class in the early 1990s. He said that experience and a desire to give back to the community also led him to his decision to run for school board.
Park was part of the committees for the last two bond issues that passed in the 1990s. The district has had two failed bond issues in the last three years — in 2016 and 2017. The board is considering a third bond election in 2020.
“I think getting the community involved in all aspects of the planning stages and asking their opinions and helping all schools are areas that might be helpful,” Park said. “I think involvement is key and asking opinions and being inviting.”
He said getting teachers and staff more involved in planning a bond is also important.
Park said he supported the last two bond issues.
“I have always supported anything that helps kids,” he said. “We just need to look at all of the different angles to see what we need to improve facilities and make sure facilities are safe.”
He said voter turnout has been low during the last two bond elections.
“I think something as important as a bond issue, we need everyone to express their opinions,” he said. “That is something we need to look at to see how we can inform our public and get them involved.”
The current school board has discussed three projects for the next bond although it has not voted on them yet. Those projects include finishing upgrades to the HHS HVAC system, expanding the HMS cafeteria and renovating and expanding Roosevelt Elementary School.
“It is really sad that we need to take care of maintenance issues on a bond election, but maybe that is the only thing we can do to get those things taken care of,” Park said.
The USD 489 school board went to impasse with teachers during negotiations last year.
“Education and what is best for kids, you need to have a quality and a strong staff. We need to make sure we support them and help them in any way we can, but have high expectations and be accountable for results, he said.
In recent years, the board has also debated its one-to-one computer policy for students.
Thanks to grants, Washington school was one of the first schools to go to a one-to-one program.
“I think that is something that needs to be looked at and see what the teachers need, so they can be successful” Park said of computers, “and give them the training and in-service they need to make sure they can bring that technology to kids the best way possible.”
Park named a list of goals he would have if elected:
- Achieve what is best for all kids in the community
- Build trust and increase public involvement
- Help ensure USD 489 has quality and safe facilities
- Help the district be fiscally sound
- Support local businesses
- Build a positive and team atmosphere on the board
- Use local and national data to help drive decisions on what works in education
- Include the whole school community
“I think people care,” Park said, “but we need to be more inviting to get them at the board meetings whenever possible.”
Park is on the Student Development Committee for the Cottonwood Extension District and is a member of the Hays Sunrise Rotary Club where he is a chairman of the community basketball challenge. He continues to volunteer in USD 489, is on the Roosevelt Site Council and is involved in church activities.
Park has four children. They all have gone through Hays schools. His youngest child is a junior at HHS.
“I hope I can use my experience as a parent and an educator to help move USD 489 to the next level,” Park said.