Four vying for three seats on school board – Don Leathers

Published 10:44 am Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Four candidates are seeking seats on the Austin School Board in the Nov. 8 election. The field includes newcomers Carolyn Dube and Nathan Wradislavsky, along with incumbents Richard Lees and Don Leathers. The top three finishers will be elected. All terms are four years. Board member Mary Jane Kestner chose not to run for another term on the board.

Don Leathers

Don Leathers

Don Leathers

Don Leathers, a retired educator, will seek a second term on the Austin School Board. Leathers is married to Marsha. They are the parents of two sons and a daughter, and have one grandchild.

Q: Why did you decide to run for another term on the school board?

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A: I’ve been active in education my entire adult life. As a high school teacher, I was involved in educating youth in the classroom, active in coaching sports and engaged in activities such as speech, yearbook and National Honor Society. I fervently believe in the vast potential of our young people and I want to do my part in ensuring their success, not only in school, but beyond.

Q: What are the things that you believe will make you a good board member?

A: My experience as a classroom teacher for 34 years has given me, to a certain degree, an insight into what education is. I’m also passionate about things I am actively engaged in. I am a people person, team player and a good listener. Finally, I believe that education is a lifelong mission; therefore, I strive to learn new ways of becoming a better board member.

Q: The district has long been discussing alternative calendars and start times. Would you support these? Why or why not?

A: District 492 established a calendar committee of teachers, staff, community and board members to investigate the viability of having a 45-15 calendar with later start times for high school students. The committee worked tirelessly for more than two years conducting interviews with district stakeholders. The result: The committee reviewed the data and concluded the Austin Public Schools community is not ready for an alternative calendar at this  time. The school board will direct district groups to revisit the issue in the future.

Q: Austin has a high percentage of students who qualify for free and reduced lunch and a high percentage of students whose home language is not English. What should the district do to address the achievement gap?

A: Although progress is being made, both in Austin and in the state, to lessen the achievement gap between white students and students of colors, more needs to be done. That is why, with the generosity of various community groups, APS is addressing the disparity with a host of powerful tools. District-wide, success coaches, interventionists, instructional coaches and technology specialists are working hard to track and improve test scores and the way students learn. Scantron testing is implemented not only to target student proficiency but, equally important, track student growth over time. Teachers and tech specialists collaborate over data to customize and optimize student learning.

Q: What other issues would you like to see addressed by the board and why? 

A: In no particular order of importance:

•Drug use in our schools and community. It affects mental/physical health, family dynamics and student learning. It’s a societal problem.

•Poverty: APS has over 50 percent free and reduced lunches. Mower County is one of the poorest counties in the state. Why?

•Teacher shortage: Fewer and fewer college graduates are selecting education as their career. We need to provide incentives (loan forgiveness, paid student teaching, higher salaries, a guaranteed defined-benefit pension) to recruit and retain our best college students.

•Vote: Please, get out and vote on Nov. 8. It’s one of the most sacred rights in our great democracy.

Q: What would we find you doing on a Friday night?

A: At an AHS sporting event, grilling out or getting ready to go hunting. Maybe a movie, maybe not.