By Scott Peceny
and Aaron Jordan
Mason Times staff writers
MASON—There has been no shortage of coverage on the presidential race.
In Mason, however, local elections also have major implications.
Five Mason School Board members’ terms are up, including Secretary Laura Fenger, Treasurer Julie Rogers and Vice President Becky Brimley. They face a challenge by Ed Altenritter. School Board President Ralph Beebe and Trustee Laura Cheney are unopposed.
Rogers is the longest-tenured board member with 14 years’ experience. Cheney is the newest member. She was appointed in 2011.
The candidates face many issues, but most agree that budget problems are most important.
When asked what issues Mason School District face right now, Fenger answered instantly.
The budget is Job One
“The money,” said Fenger. “If we could just have a year where we’re not having to cut the budget. That’s one part of being on the school board I don’t like.”
Altenritter agreed and said his experiences would help him to effectively balance the budget.
“I’m concerned with the budgetary hammering that every district has had,” said Altenritter. “We really have to stay ahead of the game on what I believe is not a recession, but a paradigm shift. If we can stay ahead of the game, we’ll be OK.”
Rogers said, “I will work to balance the budget with a minimal impact on teaching and learning by focusing on providing the best educational experience possible with the financial resources available.”
Cheney said that the budget is at the center of this race, but said that there may be no end in sight. “The way that we allocate money at the state level doesn’t work at all for communities that aren’t growing or that have had a change in demographics,” said Cheney.
Beebe and rimley declined comment.
Some ideas about solutions
Solutions for the ever-present budget problem aren’t easy to find, but Altenritter offered his thoughts: “I think we need to go more aggressively with services consolidation and buying-pools. I would not ever consider merging with any other district, but for supplies and materials, to begin to be part of buying-pools I think makes immense sense.”
The school district has faced other problems, including fluctuating enrollment. Until three years ago, Mason’s enrollment was declining. Cheney said that the past three years have seen increasing enrollment, generating more dollars for the district, but also posing potential problems of overcrowding.
Rodgers agreed, but said the district is monitoring the situation closely, and that nothing definitive can be said about the future student population.
“The Board of Education and the superintendent are currently closely monitoring the increase in student population to first determine whether it is a short or long term shift,” said Rogers. Then, (we can) plan carefully for the future.
If students continue coming to Mason, Fenger said the district could accommodate them.
“When we repurposed Cedar (Elementary School), we did consider that sort of thing, because obviously population can come and go,” said Fenger. “The way it’s configured, we could put students back (in Cedar Elementary) and continue to grow in the district.”
All candidates agreed on one thing: They want to help the school district flourish. All candidates live in the district and either have children currently in the district, or have had children graduate from Mason High.