Tony Rumpl said he never envisioned himself running for public office, but he also never imagined the turn the school district would take so soon after he transferred his children to Luther Public Schools. What he perceives as a leadership problem at the district led him to became a candidate for a seat on the Luther School Board. He’s challenging the incumbent, Matt Mohr, the current board president, who also filed for re-election. The other candidate is Gerald McCauley, 66, the police chief in neighboring Arcadia. Filing for the office was December 5 – 7.
Many are familiar with the Rumpl’s story. The Highway Patrol trooper and his wife, Radeana, secured a transfer for their children from Wellston to Luther schools. Then they built a house in Luther to live in the school district. Having lived in their brand new home only a few months, a tornado destroyed it last April. Security cameras in the home caught the destruction less than four minutes after the family sought cover in a neighbor’s basement.
The encouraging part to that story is the generous help the family received. Within minutes, Rumpl said neighbors just started coming to help, and they didn’t stop helping until the family was secure and had temporary housing. Also the Rumpl family plans to move into their rebuilt home in January, just about nine months after the tornado. The rebuild has not been easy, and Rumpl has learned a lot about what to do after a disaster when it comes to insurance, and fighting with insurance. He plans to use that experience and knowledge to help others.
“If you can calmly and rationally discuss a problem with someone, you can generally come to a resolution. When you get frustrated, angry and start yelling, that doesn’t get the response you want,” he said. His firmness and rhetoric skills might serve a school district well, he said.
He said the district was in a great position when their kids enrolled at Luther. It was so refreshing – the kids enjoyed their teachers and were challenged, the facilities were better, and he said, even the food was better than at Wellston schools. It was an obvious great decision for their family that propelled them to move here to be more involved in the community. He said that all changed in a very short time, pointing out that at one frustrating point last school year, his daughter wanted to quit during her senior year. But she stuck it out, and earned an academic scholarship to Oklahoma Baptist University where she now attends.
Rumpl sees two main problems with the district – mismanagement of funds and a lack of communication.
“Ultimately we are going to have to make due with what’s there in the budget, just like with every household. No more overspending. We all have budgets and we have to live within those means. Where it becomes a problem is when the head of household starts mismanaging funds. My perception is that is what’s been going on,” he said.
“There’s also been a lack of communication, a lack of answers to the parents. There’s a lot of hard feelings about that,” he said. “You’d think the school board who represents the parents of the students would see that and handle that. Seems like it isn’t getting handled.”
The district has been beset with financial issues that led to a citizen’s call for a state audit which should be finalized next month. In addition, a Reduction in Force and other budget cuts last Spring led to the district slashing programs and moving to a shortened school year (instead of a four-day school week).
“I supported the four-day school week because it came down to the budget. if you have ‘x’ amount of dollars to operate, then you have to operate within that amount. If your costs exceed your balance then you have to cut your costs. There’s no other way around it. Some of those costs are going to be uncomfortable and what I’m seeing from the state budget its not going to get better any time soon,
We are going to have to get creative in reducing overhead and still provide an education for our children. Thats the bottom line. We have to educate them. Some cuts may be uncomforatble. Some families might have different priorities but I want the same education for those children as I want for my own.”
Rumpl knows the job will not be easy and will take a lot of time. But he’s willing to invest the time and the training, between his three jobs and being an active family man.
“I don’t understand all of the inner-workings right now because I’m on the outside. That’s why I decided to run. I want to know what’s going on, and be sure the right things are being done.”
Just two days after Rumpl filed, word circulated that Superintendent Dr. Sheldon Buxton would resign at the end of the fiscal year, June 30. The board will discuss the resignation at the December 12 school board meeting.
“I think the timing is interesting. I also think the resignation of Dr. Buxton is the right thing for the District to move forward. We will have an opportunity to find a Superintendent who will cultivate a more amicable relationship with the Board and with the parents in the district,” he said.
“If elected, my top priority would be to hire such a person,” he said.
This is the first in a series of stories about the 2017 School Board election with the candidates. An interview is scheduled with Mr. Mohr next week (after the board meeting), and an interview with Chief McCauley is pending.