Wendy Baustian - 1st District
Loudon School Board, Seat A
Click to read: About Wendy
Click to read: More about Wendy pdf format
Copy of newspaper questionnaire furnished by candidate.
What is your background?
My husband, Kevin and I, along with our daughter, Allie moved here from Knoxville just over 3 years ago. We are residents of the Matlock Bend community. Having been married in October of 1996 at the Mason Place, here in Loudon, re-locating was like coming home. Our business, Kevin's Pro Painting has been thriving since it's inception in 2000 and we fortunate to be able to serve the residents of the surrounding Loudon area. I was born and raised in the Northeast, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, to be exact, but have chosen to reside in East Tennessee for the majority of my adult life.
I have been the President of the Loudon Elementary School Parent-Teacher Organization for 2 years now and have served in a volunteer capacity with the school for 3 years, as this is where my daughter attends school. I serve on the Loudon County Graduation Task Force and I am currently in my 8th year as a member of the Girl Scouts where I also enjoy volunteering my time. We enjoy lending our time to the Loudon County Animal shelter as well. I am an avid gardener and boast over 150 varieties of daylilies in my yard.
Prior to becoming a stay-at-home Mom, my field of expertise was with the insurance industry where I have had 12 years of experience working with major insurance companies such as Prudential, Capital Blue Cross and Crawford and Company. I a was dually licensed agent in New Jersey and Pennsylvania for Life & Health, Property and Casualty, as well as my Series 6 license for the sale of investment products including mutual funds, variable annuities, & variable life insurance products. I have successfully worked my way up to positions of corporate training and group service representative which specifically handles benefits for large groups. I most recently served as a team leader of a regional management center, in which we administered claims related to faulty plumbing in accordance with a class action lawsuit. I attended Moravian college and Rutgers University.
Why are you running for office and what are your qualifications for this position?
I believe that education, in Loudon County, has not been given the priority that it deserves. Our children deserve to have a safe place and a healthy environment in which to attend school, which is not overcrowded, has working heating and air conditioning and is free from conditions which warrant firemen present to operate. We need to establish a system of accountability that requires checks and balances to ensure that necessary repairs to our current facilities are completed. We must maintain the buildings we already have to insure we don't incur further expenses to our Capital Building Plan.
We must also continue to set the bar higher for our children. Graduation requirements are changing and our children will need additional resources to help them achieve these successes. Rather than cutting education, we need to invest in our children, as they are the future. A better educated county will result in higher median incomes and a more stable tax base which can better support our schools, rather than draining social services. I believe that my commitment to education is based on the knowledge that our children need to have the opportunities to succeed. My husband and I have successfully managed our own business for over 8 years. I have always held positions with exceptionally high standards of customer service and as a public servant, I will bring that same level of service to our district. Our children need a voice….and I'd like to be that voice!
What is your opinion of the county schools building program and what do you believe should be the first priority in the building plan?
Given the current housing market, the proposed building plan, at $147 M is probably more than this county can support at this time. We need to scale back the building program. Priority should be give to both Greenback and Loudon, as both currently have 5 learning cottages, with a total of 10 classrooms utilizing what are supposed to be “temporary” learning facilities. These learning cottages barely meet minimum required safety standards and the children of Loudon County deserve better.
I also believe that it is important that we make better use of our current facilities and properties. Space at the Technical Center may be able to be utilized for programs to help alleviate overcrowding. Better accountability to our maintenance plan is needed. Adding additions to current schools, rather than building new facilities may need to be considered, given the current state of the economy. We may want to consider selling the land on Hwy 321 as a means of generating revenue, which could be used to secure bonding for our capital building needs, rather than a wheel tax. We, as a county, may also want to consider in the future, consolidating Loudon County Schools with Lenoir City Schools, which by my estimates, could save this county approximately $1M in administrative costs alone.
What is your opinion of the proposed wheel tax and county property tax to help fund school needs?
We are a wealthy little county. Based on state statistics for 2006, Loudon's assessed property values are ranked in the top 5% of the state. We currently have an exceptionally larger average home value ($182,000) compared to most counties in the state and we pay much less for per pupil expenditures than 85 other counties (2007-Loudon- $7145, state average-$7794). This seems unbalanced and I would like to see a higher allocation of the current property tax go directly towards education. We need to give education priority in this county by utilizing the funds we already have. Cosmetic improvements to county buildings and road projects to private developments have taken precedence over schools and we must simply agree to putting funding towards educating children first.
As a business owner, I am reluctant to support anything without a well-thought out plan which is based on consensus and is supported by the public at large. As it stands now, our current School Board has approved a $147M capital building plan, which has not been approved by County Commission. If a consensus is reached on a new building plan and a new tax is needed to support the plan, then at that time, the residents of the county should have the opportunity to vote on a wheel tax or a property tax. Currently, we don't have a plan!
What are your expectations of the county's new director of schools?
Wayne Honeycutt has got his work cut out for him. He enters this position during an exceptionally difficult budget . What he does offer us is: Hope. Hope that new ideas and a fresh perspective will guide us in our efforts to become leaders in education. He will need to keep an open mind, listen to all opinions and then speak loudly and clearly as to the needs of our children, so that they may have the very best opportunities to help them succeed. I look forward to working with our new Superintendent!
What do you believe is the most pressing problem facing the Loudon County School System and how would you propose that the problem be solved?
I believe that one of the most pressing problems plaguing Loudon County Schools is the delay in starting the capital building plan. When my family relocated here, we did so with the understanding that new schools were being built. There was a “plan“! Three years has now gone by and not a brick has been set. We are no further now, than we were then. Unfortunately, our delays come with major financial implications….construction costs have gone up and what were once record low interest rates, are now higher, costing us millions of dollars in additional expenses. These delays have affected us in other ways as well. Money spent on learning cottages would have been better applied towards brick and mortar structures. Moral is down and teachers are leaving for better paying jobs. So are families and businesses.
We must begin building our new schools. We need to look at our current available funds within the county and maximize those resources without always running to the citizens for a tax increase. We need to decide that children must come first!