Grosdidier

Editor's Note: This is the final story in an 11-part series focusing on local candidates running for election. The City Commission candidates ran Thursday. The School Board candidates will run Friday and Saturday.

If you would like a PDF of our entire Voters Guide, email us at eudoratimes@gmail.com. Printed copies of the Voters Guide will be available to read at Zeb's next week.

Name: Charis Grosdidier

Race: School Board 

Current job: Nurse practitioner in the cardiac ICU.

Current community involvement: 

I used to be part of the baseball board. 

I work with the high school a lot, like doing all-night prom, unofficially with the Booster Club. 

The Bird's Nest.

Why are you running for election? 

I'm running because I felt like I got involved a lot with the school last year. And after seeing more about how important the School Board actually is, I thought, you know, I think I could lend my voice to the School Board. I've been a Eudora resident since eighth grade, I graduated from Eudora schools. And I would like to be involved more. So that's why I decided to run.

Earlier this year, residents participated in surveys and focus groups about what they wanted in a new superintendent. We’re going to ask you some questions related to this same data since they relate to leadership vision for the district. One of the top priorities was creating more competitive salary and benefits packages to attract and retain staff members. How do you think the School Board should approach this issue? 

Well, I've been looking into more about what a School Board's ability to do that is. We would have to free up more things in the budget. In order to retain teachers, you have to keep their salaries higher and going up. So it's difficult to work on new salaries. Benefits may be a better way to go about things. 

My idea would be to see what you could change in the budget, the beginning of the budgetary year, to hopefully help with salaries. As far as retaining, there are a lot of opportunities for teachers to voice their opinion on how they're feeling at work right now. And I think that mentorship programs are a really good way to retain people. In nursing, we use mentorship programs. 

We have something called a nurse residency at KU, where you spend a year having workshops once a month and things like that. I think, for new teachers, especially those types of things would help with retention.

Another priority that residents noted was upkeep of buildings. What capital improvements do you think are needed across the district? 

I saw the Eudora news article that said that our enrollment’s going down and down. Part of the way that schools get paid is through enrollment. But it seems like, with new housing being built and things like that, enrollment actually might go up depending on who goes into those houses.

There's been talk of adding an extra pod at the elementary school. I don't know that we can add on to the middle school much. That's the oldest building, though, so improvements may need to be made there first. Then as far as at the high school, I don't know how much we could add on but probably there will need to be an add-on at some point.

Also, there need to be HVAC improvements I've learned. So that may be something that needs to be done before we get more classroom space. They may need HVAC.

Improving diversity and equity in the district was also noted as important. What role do you think the School Board should play in this? 

I think that the School Board, as far as actively changing things, may not have a huge role. But there are things like the new Equity Council that are going on that we can help facilitate. I don't know that there's anything that we can do besides signing off on new hires necessarily helping. Maybe reach out to other communities for recruitment when we're doing teacher recruiting so that we're getting a broader span of people that apply.

How do you hope to improve the educational experience for students? 

All the things we've talked about right now will help with their educational experience, even down to like if all we can do is get a new HVAC system in. I know, when I was younger, our school didn't have air conditioning. And we would have hot days, like instead of snow days. 

So things like that can help. If you're in a nice environment, you're more apt to learn. We already provide school meals and things like that. I'm not sure when the money will run out for the reduced free meals. But making sure that it's easy for students to access things that help them get in the right mindset to learn.

Students should feel comfortable at school. And they're comfortable personally, physically and then comfortable emotionally. I think that our teachers do a really good job of keeping students feeling safe. It's so hard for the School Board to make those small changes, though, because the School Board covers so much. I guess I just feel like supporting teachers and staff because they're the ones that actually support the students. 

Not only community members but School Board members themselves said they wanted a next superintendent who is a proactive thinker. But the board plays a key role in this as well. What vision do you personally have for the district? 

I see this district being a competitive place. I would like to see this district draw people away from other districts possibly. Not necessarily like De Soto and Johnson County and Lawrence. But there is Baldwin, Tonganoxie, Wellsville, Basehor, all these smaller schools and school districts around. And that Eudora could offer things that maybe those school districts don't, and could make us a more attractive place to live.

I think that part of the school district being attractive is also the community being attractive. I think that a lot of what's going on with the old Nottingham development will help to bring people here. Then if we have things like high testing scores, and nice facilities and things like that. You look at Tonganoxie. They're building a whole new high school. So I think continually improving things as much as we can and getting involved with the community will help to make Eudora a more attractive place that will bring more students here to enroll. 

So I guess that my vision would be to continually improve things and have happy graduates, a high percentage of our students that graduate and have the ability to go on to higher education if they would like. Or that have some relationships with a trade school program. I'd like to see more opportunities for kids to be able to move on after high school also.

What do you think are the biggest strengths of the school district? 

I would say that our biggest strengths are that we still have a very small-town community vibe. Even if you don't have kids in one of the buildings, you know people at the building. The strengths of the district are that we have a small-town vibe and everybody kind of knows everybody.

The teachers have good relationships with the kids. Not just the teachers but other staff, like the office staff, the principals. I know that it seems like we don't have the highest salaries necessarily, compared to Johnson County. But I think that they, especially with the cost of living in Eudora, that the salaries are competitive right now. 

We have a wide range of things that kids could do like extracurriculars. There are things from the cycling club and the marathon club, all the way to traditional sports, band, choir. So I think there's a lot of opportunities for the kids to do things, good opportunities for teachers and a small-town feel.

What do you think are the biggest challenges? 

I wasn't super familiar with what challenges would be honestly. I've had some opportunity to look into that. It seems like the biggest challenge is just making sure we have enough capital to do what we want to do. Part of that comes from enrollment. Part of that comes from bonds and stuff. So I think the biggest challenge would be finding where our shortfalls are. With declining enrollment and trying to decide what to do about possibly funding a bond or something. Making sure that people know what it's for and what's in it. 

One of the things in 2008, we passed a bond, I think it was 2008. There was a huge state budget cut, and we were in the middle of building the district stadium while we were firing teachers. It was really sad. We don't have really that much control over what the state does with our budget, and talking to people who were on the board at that time, they were like, yeah, it was really, really awful. Because you have all this money in this bond over here. 

If something like that were to happen, where we were going to put a bond out there, I would want to make sure that there was some kind of safety so that we don't have to, if the budget were changed, hopefully, we wouldn't have to fire teachers while we're using this bond for all this other stuff.

The traffic outside the high school and middle school is really bad. One way that we could help with that is maybe increasing participation in the shuttle bus program. It's free. You basically can go to any of the schools, hop on a shuttle and they'll take you to any of the schools. So maybe trying to promote the shuttle bus for kids to help with traffic. 

There's a lot of issues with kids vaping, or whatever. Programs to disincentivize that. As far as younger kids, there are after-school programs that we could focus on. I don't think they're necessarily a problem, but making sure that the kids have access to after-school programs. 

For younger kids, that would help out families a lot. Those are some things we could explore.

Is there anything else you’d like to add? 

I've learned a lot in the last month about what a School Board is and does. I'm interested in helping to make the school district better in all the ways that a School Board can. I'm somebody who's definitely for Eudora. 

I don't wanna say something cheesy, like, vote for me. I feel like I would make decisions that are in the best interest of the students’ education first. Then, of course, the staff is right up there. But education comes first as far as the board is concerned. I would make decisions that always have students’ education first. 

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