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School Board Q&A: Board veteran Lees: Teacher to student ratio is important

Published 5:13am Monday, August 13, 2012

School Board Q&A: Dick Lees, running for Austin Public Schools Board


Q: Why are you best qualified to represent Austin on the School Board?

A: With two board members not seeking office again that will leave only two members with board experience. I feel my past terms on the board with experiences in referendums, facility projects, and curriculum would be valuable.

In curriculum, which is the keystone of any school, academic year progress is giving way to multiple measurement ratings and we are adpting the STEAM [Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics] approach to curriculum starting in the 5-6 school. Knowing where we have been and where we are going is an asset.

I have been active at legislative meetings both state and local. I am a lifelong Austinite and interested in the education for Austin children at all levels. My background is 35 yeras teaching and involvement in extra curricular activities.

After retiring from teaching I worked as a probation officer with Mower County working mainly with young people.


Q: Board members may be asked over the next few years to make budget cuts. What initiatives or programs would you cut? What do you consider too important to cut?

A: I have been on the board when budget cuts were made. I feel that the student-teacher ratio is the last area you want to affect. All other areas should be examined first. It is not an easy process. It takes a lot of study.


Q: What technological advancements do Austin Public Schools need to make?

A: We have recently added SMARTboards among other advances and are considering iPads in the new 5-6 school. We have a very excellent technology unit and I feel they are very up to date. Technology does not come cheap and it must be efficiently maintained. We must not forget that the ability to write with pen and pencil is still a necessity.


Q: Sumner Elementary School is in the second year of its year-round, 45/15 schedule. If Sumner students show gains in state comprehensive testing scores, should 45/15 be adopted district-wide?

A: I have been to Sumner Elementary School often and the 45/15 is going well. The test scores have shown a vast improvement and the students, parents and teachers are all very pleased. We will have three kindergarten classes again this year on a 45/15 schedule. The future of more schools going 45/15 will certainly be studied and discussed.


Q: What programs, initiatives or class would you like to see added to the district?

A: The first order of business is to get the STEAM process going in the new 5-6 building. Then [we should] work on preparing students in grades K-4 following up with STEAM in seventh- through 12th grades. Our AP classes are going well and additions have been made. We must be careful not to add classes just to add classes. They must have a purpose and goal in mind.


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