Voters hear from 5th District School Board candidates

Shelby Kline

This is the first part of a three part series on the Shenandoah County Public School Board forum.

WOODSTOCK – Three candidates seeking to fill the school board seat once held by Irving Getz answered questions from some of the 70 people who attended a candidates’ forum Thursday evening at the Tom’s Brook Volunteer Fire Department.

Fifth district candidates participating in the forum were:

* Chris Boies, 36, vice president of Financial and Administrative Services at Lord Fairfax Community College. He was the town manager of New Market and previously the Shenandoah County planning director.

* Shelby Kline, 52, retired from the Shenandoah County Public Schools. She was a part of the education system for 30 years, 22 of those with Shenandoah County, as a teacher, assistant principal and principal.

Eugene Putkowski

* Eugene Putkowski, 67, has been a bus driver in the Shenandoah County Public School District for 13 years.

He has also been a First Class licensed engineer who worked for the government.

Questions were provided by members of the audience prior to the start of the forum and read by a moderator.

The forum was hosted by the Farm Bureau of Shenandoah County, Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River, Shenandoah County Chamber of Commerce, Shenandoah County Education Association and the Shenandoah Forum.

Question: I will ask you to introduce yourself and tell us why do you hope to be on the school board?

Chris Boies

Boies: I am going to talk a little about me and in my closing remarks why I am running for the school board here in Shenandoah County. I am a life long resident of the Shenandoah Valley. My great grandparents had a farm on the back road of District 5. My grandparents attended schools in Shenandoah County. I have the unique perspective of having lived in New Market, Woodstock and the Strasburg area so I understand all the divisions of the county. We are a very long county. Where you come from makes a big difference in this county. My wife and three daughters and I live outside Strasburg on the west side in the Randall Clary area. I have kids in the school system and in a couple years I will have a high schooler, a middle schooler and an elementary school student. I currently work at Lord Fairfax Community College. I have been there 7 1/2 years as the vice president of financial and administrative services for the college. This process is like a job interview, you want to share your experiences and your knowledge so folks can make an informed decision on whether to hire you or not. You don’t want to come across as too arrogant or too confident. I have a couple areas of experience I think will be helpful on the Shenandoah County School Board. First is the budget. Adopting the budget in Shenandoah County is one of the most important things the school board does and I have been writing and monitoring budgets my entire career. The budget at Lord Fairfax Community College is about a $36 million annual budget. I am also in charge of monitoring that budget and making sure we stay on track. That experience means that I can look at budgets, ask the right questions and understand what is going on with developments. I also oversee facilities at the college. Building school buildings is much different than your house. We have two campuses at Lord Fairfax and part of my job is making sure we are building buildings correctly, we are maintaining them properly and we have the proper technology for our students. In Shenandoah County, the largest expenditure in the school board budget is personnel. Education is still a people business. We can add technology in our schools but we would still be spending this money on people. I have experience in human resources and managing those. I have attended employee leadership programs at different institutions I have been at. I am the emergency manager for the college and the police chief reports to me. As you all know, school safety is a much more important topic than it was 10 years ago. I have those experiences that I hope will put me on the Shenandoah County School board

Kline: First I would like to thank our moderator for coming out this evening as well as to all of our District 5 folks who will be coming out to the polls Nov. 7. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your busy schedules to come here and allow me to speak to the questions that you found important and close to your heart in the upcoming election. As a long time resident of Shenandoah County public schools since 1976 my parents chose to move here from Prince Georges County Public Schools in Maryland. I can share with you in mid 1970’s you did hear all about on the news each evening, even today, about drug busts in our elementary school. They said ‘you know we need to move to a safer place for our children.’ I am a product of Strasburg High School from the class of 19, I am not going to tell you the exact year (to laughter from the audience). I have to say Strasburg High School prepared me well to move to Virginia Tech where I graduated with a bachelors degree in family and child development with a concentration in early childhood education. I completed all but my dissertation toward a doctoral degree in Organization Leadership at Shenandoah University and my masters is also from Shenandoah in reading education. I have 30 years of experience in public school education. I just retired in June. I am still certified. I felt it was important to keep my certifications up in case an opportunity presents itself to return to teaching. I am currently certified as a teacher, administrator and have my superintendent’s license as well. I have also had the opportunity to teach at Lord Fairfax Community College, Blue Ridge Community College and Shenandoah University which was an experience in itself, sort of living past even public k-12 education. It was a good experience to see how we prepare our students for the future. I have three goals should I become elected to the school board if I am fortunate enough to be represented by you folks. The first is that all students, and I mean all, I mean the kids who are exceptionally smart and our average kids that they will receive high quality education no matter what level they are at. Recruitment, retention and how we follow up on staff is very important to me, as well as adequate funding for our schools. Due to the experiences I have had in my career, I believe I am extremely knowledgeable in instruction and management of the public schools. I have a deep understanding,  so I feel I can best represent the wishes of District 5.

Putkowski: I am a school bus driver. I have been a school bus driver for 13 years in the Cedar Creek area. The only reason I am doing it is that I am retired from the government as a licensed engineer but the kids and the families were tired of having a different driver every year. They asked me to become a bus driver. You asked for it, you get it. Through out District 5 I am known as Mr. Gene. As you can see my last name, it’s a good name, but it is not easy to pronounce, the kids prefer Mr. Gene. Being a bus driver you get to see the community, the kids, the parents. I interact with all of them every day of the year. As my bosses say ‘In transportation, unfortunately, I am the first one out in the morning. I am the last one home at night,’. I do have the longest route in the county. So why am I running? I believe in transparency, let the people know whats going on —  both good and bad. All we know is what they want us to know. You never hear the whole story, you just hear part of it. To put it bluntly, let’s separate the wheat from the chaff. I am practical. I am a farm boy and,, for the last few years a bus driver. Being practical, let’s not waste money. A lot of things have been spent foolishly in my opinion, that is going to have to change. I am realistic. The biggest thing for me, the parents and the kids they always ask, ‘Why is Shenandoah County always compared to the other counties?’ We are not like the other counties so don’t be like them. Thank you.

Q: Please explain a special skill set you possess that sets you apart from the other candidates. Give me two examples of how this can be used for the position in which you are a candidate.

Boies: I addressed this in my opening remarks. I don’t want to repeat myself too much but having over 10 years plus of budgeting experience will help me as we figure how to spend our money, how to make sure we are getting the most bang for our buck with our tax dollars that are being spent for our schools. Related to that is facilities. We maintain a lot of buildings and having the knowledge and skills of working at Lord Fairfax and constructing new buildings and maintaining buildings would be unique to the board. I think I can be an asset to the board.

Kline: I think a couple skill sets that I have is that I was fortunate enough to serve Shenandoah County schools as an assistant principal and a principal where I went from the classroom to administrator, fully with my eyes open, but as principal and assistant principal, I was able to manage school budgets of well over $100,000 and that is tough at times. There are a lot of needs in the classrooms for example. Teachers are only given $100 each for the classroom. They spend a lot more than that of their own money. But by this I was able to manage hiring, and unfortunately on the flip side firing had to be done for those teachers who were not successful making sure our kids grew academically. Also instruction. I am a strong, or was, a strong instructional leader. That skill set sets me apart from the other folks. I was fortunate that education is my career.

Putkowski: I deal with the kids, not just one grade or two grades but I go from Pre-K to 12th grade. School takes roughly seven hours. My kids have 11 hour school days — I get them two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. I have never had to deal with budgets. That would be a learning experience. You get to know the kids and you get to know the parents real well. That is where my experience comes in at. Life is learning. You say you know everything, you have not been a bus driver.

I interact with the kids and some of the teachers that are here who have dealt with me know what I mean when I say I interact with the kids. My philosophy is if you can’t understand the kids you have no business being in education. As an engineer, I was in charge of the national archives building in College Park (Maryland) and that was to maintain, repair and restore all treasures of the country. Believe it or not, there is a large section for Shenandoah Valley in it. That’s why I feel I can do some good. Thank you.