As a general manager for Stryker Orthopedics, Aaron Chester saw his staff grow from five employees to more than 20 over the course of nearly five years. That kind of experience has given him the perspective of planning for and managing growth and he is looking to use those skills as a school board member in the rapidly growing Piedmont Public School District.
“I know about managing growth and I know high growth industry and what needs to happen,” Chester said. “When it comes to setting a vision and helping set policy in relation to growth in (the school district) that’s where I see my fit.”
Chester is one of three candidates running for school board seat No. 4 and said he began to contemplate the decision to run about eight months ago. His schedule at work does not allow him to volunteer as much as he would like, but Chester believes he can get involved by bringing his business experience to the school board as it works to handle student growth.
Chester grew up in Ardmore, and following high school, attended the University of Central Oklahoma where he received a bachelors in business. For the past 13 years he has worked in sales management and nine years ago moved his family to Piedmont, mainly because of the school system. As a parent of two Northwood Elementary students, Chester said he is looking to help lead an already strong school district into the future.
“One of the reasons they have school board elections is because I think some fresh ideas should be injected into the organization,” Chester said. “I have a different perspective just from what I’ve done differently…my perspective is unique from the business I have been in and possibly that adds to what the school is trying to do.”
Chester said as a school board member he would like to help the district continue to handle its growth and sees a need for expanded facilities, especially at the high school level.
“If you look at where the enrollment is growing, (high school) should be our next consideration,” Chester said. “I know you don’t want to bite off more than you can chew, but I also don’t see how you can wait.”
Chester said a large number of elementary and middle school students preparing to enter high school places the district in a position where it needs to consider expanding its high school facilities. In addition to class room space, Chester can envision the school district building new facilities for programs such as band and athletics on the high school campus.
“If you look at the high school now, they are pretty much full, so, to me, I think building around the high school is what we should be prepared for immediately,” Chester said. “I think the elementary schools are in great shape for now, but we still have growth ready to hit us.”
While Chester wants to see the district continue to build facilities to manage its growth, he is concerned with maintaining fiscal responsibility. His plan to keep the district’s budget in check will be to outline a strategic plan for each school program area in order to plan and prepare for the future. He also believes the district may need to look at areas it can increase staff size.
“It’s important that the kids have what they need and I think increasing staff is important for that,” Chester said. Areas that may be in need of increased staff include computer education and counseling.
Chester sees the role of the school board as that of any other board overseeing a corporation. It’s not necessarily the day-to-day operations that the board is control of but instead leading the overall vision for the district.
“We would need to be planning for (growth), making sure the district has enough resources and infrastructure,” Chester said. “We will help set a vision and help set policy and that’s where I see my experience fitting in.”
Next month Piedmont School District residents will be asked to elect two school board members. In the weeks leading up to the Feb. 8 election the Piedmont-Surrey Gazette is taking a closer look at all five candidates. This week we continue our in-depth candidate profile with Aaron Chester, who is seeking school board seat No. 4.