Vasilios Lefkaditis, BKW School Board candidate
KNOX — Among the goals for Vasilios Lefkaditis in his second term on the Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board is the creation of a central repository for the school’s documents.
“I’d really like to revamp the district’s documentation policies,” said Lefkaditis. “We have suffered and been forced to make decisions we may not have normally made had we properly documented events at the district.” He declined to offer examples, saying the decisions were made in executive session.
The 42-year-old father of five says he is running for another term because it’s crucial that the district provide sound education.
“I want to continue offering my expertise in making sure the district is financially sustainable, so it retains its identity,” Lefkaditis said, “and that’s something I’m a little nervous about given the last couple of weeks at board meetings.”
Lefkaditis served as the board’s president during the 2012-13 school year and is now its vice president. He has been the most outspoken member, most recently questioning the costs and savings projected by the business office for the new budget proposal and two collective-bargaining agreements.
“If I could change anything in the last three years it would not under any circumstance be the message, but, rather, my delivery of the message,” said Lefkaditis, adding that he held his promise of accountability and openness for his first term.
“If you’re going to have the same votes over and over, that basically means the board is feeding out of the hands of the superintendent,” he said of decisions made in public. “And that is not the role of a board member.”
Lefkaditis voted against the $21.9 million budget, proposed by the school board with the four other members in favor. It includes new spending on teachers and savings through shared services, like consolidating food preparation into one kitchen and using Board of Cooperative Educational Services personnel for the business office.
The projected fiscal future for the district was based on annual tax-levy increases of 2 percent as well as increases in state aid as the district has received in recent years, Interim Superintendent Lonnie Palmer said at the April 21 board meeting. A state-set cap on levy increases means each budget is limited in how much more money it can raise from property taxes each year.
Lefkaditis said he voted against the budget because he doesn’t see it as sustainable.
If shared-services agreements fall through, Lefkaditis said, “We’re going to have some tough choices to make, and we shouldn’t be in that position. We should be in a more sustainable, more growth-oriented situation.”
Asked what he would have changed in the budget, Lefkaditis said he doesn’t feel the board is able to make decisions on the level of which programs or teaching positions are funded and which aren’t. The board should have financial oversight over administrators’ determinations about the academic program, he said.
In an e-mail clarifying his point, Lefkaditis wrote that administrators should use their professional experience along with feedback from the faculty.
If voters defeat the budget, Lefkaditis said, the implications would be minor. He added that a contingency budget’s restrictions aren’t as narrow as many believe. Lefkaditis said, before a contingency plan, he would prefer revising the budget and calling a forum to hear community input immediately after a failed passage.
Lefkaditis said he appreciated the way the budget development was presented this year, but would have preferred to start sooner.
“They can come in for what is mechanically or fundamentally sound and not have to worry about vying for a new contract, and that in itself is a huge value,” Lefkaditis said of what a second interim superintendent can bring over a permanent one.
He said he wants the next superintendents to have the managerial skills to handle the various new programs and to understand how to improve academic achievement.
Lefkaditis, a managing director of Shaw Funding, said he created the acronym “HEEHA” at work: Hire the right people, Evaluate them properly, Educate or remediate as necessary, and Hold Accountable.