Larry Marks


FAMILY:  Father of six adopted sons.  Joe, Fredy, Robert, Ricky, Julius, and Miguel.  Gairett Dykes although not adopted has been part of the family for over a year.  Five of the seven are Aurora High School graduates.

OCCUPATION:  Retired school bus driver of 38 years.  Business owner in Aurora since 1971 to present.

ORGANIZATIONS/AWARDS:  Member of N.A.T.O. National Association of Theatre Owners located in Washington D.C.  And, Mayor of Aurora and City Council.


Question #1 – What motivated you to run for the Aurora R-8 Board of Education? 

Aurora, Missouri R-8 School District has been a part of my life for many years.  Not only have I had 9 children and exchange students in this school since 1987, but I also retired September 2014 after driving a school bus for 38 years.  Therefore, I have a vested interest in the success of Aurora’s educational system. 

I believe in a strong education for all children and public education is the cornerstone of a democratic society.  I believe the school is the most important asset in our community.   It is also vitally important to encourage public engagement for our school district to be successful.

As Aurora Mayor for the past 2 years I have already demonstrated my strong sense of community dedication and will serve as a valuable resource in sustaining a quality learning environment.  The school system is an important aspect in preparing our children as adults when the system provides an environment that encourages children, builds self-esteem, and prepares them intellectually.   I believe that to be the challenge of any successful school board and I feel quite capable of meeting that challenge. 


Question #2 – What are the main roles and responsibilities of a school board?

I believe the basic role on a Board of Education is to set policy, while the role of administration is to execute it.  I recently read Gemberling, et. al, “The Key Work of School Boards Guidebook.” 

(www.nsba.org/services/school-board-leadership-services/key-work-school-boards). The responsibilities identified include:


1.      Vision

2.      Standards

3.      Assessment

4.      Accountability

5.     Alignment

6.     Climate

7.     Collaboration

8.     Continuous Improvement

 

I would personally add another—9.  Public Engagement.  In order to be a successful Board, we must have engagement from parents and the public at large.  If elected, I do have ideas regarding avenues by which this can be accomplished. 

I believe all school board candidates should be aware of the concepts on this guidebook. Again, as Board members, we are to set policy and administration is to execute it. 

 

Question #3 – What qualities and experiences do you have to bring to the table to serve the patrons of the Aurora R-8 District?

As most are aware, I have been a business member in Aurora for more than 40 years.  I began in the movie business in 1965 and purchased the local movie theatre in 1971.  In most of these arenas I have had contact with Aurora’s young people and have been a role model for many.  My business acumen will be helpful in dealing with the financial responsibilities of the school district, while at the same time making certain that the taxpayers are aware of expenditures of their tax dollars. 

I have experience in working as a team on the city council, yet will debate tough issues, leaving personal agendas behind. The ability to collaborate as a member of a team is one of my greatest assets.  Respect is key to any group and I will show respect to all, whether there is agreement among us or not.  Good listening skills are paramount to any effective group and many have commented that I will listen and can be flexible when needed, yet can also make tough decisions.  Engagement of the community is very important to me, and I will devote time outside of meetings to work on this issue.  I am not afraid to ask questions, even on controversial issues, and have the ability to understand diverse points of view. 

I am excited at the prospect of representing the school district and feel I will bring a positive and intellectual attitude to the table.   I am an unequivocal advocate for public education. 


Question #4 – What is your vision for education/academics in Aurora, Missouri?

 An acquaintance who taught in a university told me she pointed out to her students that 90% or more of what we knew about technology less than ten years ago is now obsolete.  When she made that statement I was taken back, but then realized something.  Remember DOS, Word Perfect, Alta Vista, etc.?  What about AOL, Polaroid pictures, sounds of a modem connecting?  My point is technology is changing at a rapid pace and we as a school district must prepare our students for careers that were not even in existence just a few years ago. 

Education is changing, not only in the realm of technology, but in many areas.  It is the school district’s responsibility to provide an education for our children that will prepare them as responsible citizens and lifetime learners.  We need to think outside the classroom box and tap into new technologies and teaching techniques as they become available.  

 

Question #5:  What are the top three challenges facing school districts today?

The three challenges facing school districts today include:

1.      Lack of financial resources:  Many school districts are struggling.  We as a School Board must utilize our resources in a prudent manner in our responsibility to taxpayers. 

2.     Student use of drugs:  Schools, including Aurora R-8 District, deal with drug issues.  As Mayor of Aurora I have helped push for the now in place School Resource Officer with the Aurora Police Department. Working with such things as locker checks.  Drug testing should be mandatory for all administration, faculty, staff, and those who have student contact.

3.     Lack of community involvement: Parents and the community at large need to have an interest in the school district.  There are several avenues by which this can be accomplished, including, but not limited to, radio public service announcements and public meetings with the Board aside from the scheduled Board meetings. 


Question #6 – How you would handle controversial decisions as a board member?

First, the “Controversial Issues Policy” should follow the chain of command. This policy should begin with the person presenting the issue, then the school’s administration.  If unsuccessful, then the controversial issue should be presented to the Board. 

When given the opportunity, I prepare in advance.  I study the point of view of all concerned and think of the positives of their arguments.  Respect of each person is key in any disagreement. 

Compromise is always a key to any disagreement.  John F. Kennedy once observed that “too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”  If it becomes apparent that compromise is out of the question, I keep the language respectful and if we must, then I “agree to disagree.”  Mutual respect is the key to any disagreement. 


Question #7 – Describe your decision-making thought processes.

In a small group such as the School Board I believe in making decisions by consensus when possible.  I believe in first listening for understanding of the matter under consideration.  All options should be thoroughly discussed, along with the pros and cons of each.   Input from my colleagues’ points of view is very important to me.  I am willing to compromise when necessary and can be flexible. 

However, when needed, there may be times when we “agree to disagree.”  I can make decisions without hesitation, although I prefer to give the matter the deliberation it deserves.  I take the responsibilities such as those of the School Board very seriously and will work with my colleagues to the best of my abilities. 


Question #8 – Should the School Board be involved with the day-to-day operations of a school district?

No.  The School Board is responsible for the quality of education of our children.  The School Board also has fiscal responsibility to taxpayers.  The day-to-day operations of the school district are the responsibility of the administration.  Effective School Boards do not micromanage the school district.


Question #9 – What are your perceived weaknesses of the Aurora School District?

My areas of concerns regarding the Aurora School District include, but are not limited to:

1.      I believe ALL school employees, including administration, teachers, and staff who have any contact with students, should be subject to drug testing upon hiring and random testing thereafter. I believe the only random testing at present is for bus drivers and food staff only.  At some point it time I believe student testing should also be implemented.

2.     A written policy should be formulated allowing the Aurora Police Department to make random locker checks.  This policy should reflect that the Aurora Police shall be informed of any incidence of drugs found on school property and the Police shall be called immediately to the facility in which any drug is found.

3.      Of 111 2014 graduates in the Aurora School District, 34 (30.60%) were at or above the national average on composite ACT scores.  The national average ACT scores for 2014 graduates were 21.8, while Aurora graduates average scores were 20.5.  These figures, although strong, do show room for improvement in the academic area.  (MAPS Assessment Website)   

4.     I believe the lunch program needs looking into.  I question the need for outside vendors.


Question #10 -- What are your perceived strengths of the Aurora School District?

1.      Unlike problems with many school districts, there is no overcrowding in our district and facilities are in good repair. 

2.      Maintenance and condition of our school buses are satisfactory and the district owns its own buses without outside vendors. 

3.     Overall, administration and faculty have a reputation of doing a good job and appear to have an interest in all students.