Stevensville School Board Candidates Forum Held

Citizens who attended the Stevensville School Board’s Candidates’ Forum last week might have a hard time choosing from the five candidates in the running, depending on their answers to the questions posed to them. American Legion Post 94 sponsored the event which was attended by approximately 25 people. Ed Sperry, retired Justice of the Peace and Post 94 member, served as moderator. The five candidates, who are vying for three vacant seats on the board of directors, were present: Billy Donaldson, Stephanie Esch, Tony Hudson, Kris McKoy and Frannie Schmitz. Mail-in ballots must be returned by May 3.

Candidates were asked about their vision of education.

Stephanie Esch, who currently sits on the board of directors, said, “Stevensville has a very unique place in this valley. She said there was tremendous community support in the passage of recent bonds. “The challenges aren’t unique to Stevensville,” she said. “We need to leverage our resources – our staff, our facilities and our students. We must support them. I would like us to be the heart of our community.

Kris McKoy, who is also currently on the board, mentioned a few benefits – bond passing, building upgrades, great staff and community. He said he wanted more vocational and technological education.

“I see us providing the basics for everyone and then providing career opportunities,” McKoy said. “We can partner with the community to get kids into the workforce.”

Tony Hudson said: “I would like to see a school where the kids are proud to bring their parents to school and you don’t have to wonder which kid is fainting Adderall. I think we need to take a step back and create a work ethic and self-esteem. He said there should be less money for administration and more money for teachers.

Frannie Schmitz said students need to see a continuum of education, from elementary through middle school to high school. As an example, she said that currently no coding courses are offered in high school, but coding courses are offered in younger grades. She sees this as a disconnect between program levels. She said children need to be well prepared for three possible outcomes: college, trade school or the job market.

Billy Donaldson said: “I would just like to see us continue to progress towards excellence. I would like to see us develop strategies to prevent children from going to other districts. We must foster excellence and ignite passion for the school and the community.

Candidates were also asked if they were running because of a particular problem.

Kris McKoy said for him it was “finding a way to pay our teachers and staff”. He said money is a problem because “teachers can’t afford to live here. This is the most important thing – to give our children a good education, we have to pay those who do.

Hudson said that for him, it was “watching the kids in our community having trouble, not going to work, going to college just because they don’t know what else to do.” I have nothing to lose by doing everything I can to save a child. This is one hundred percent about saving children. This is absolutely the future…”

Schmitz said she was concerned about teachers’ salaries. “We have a shortage of teachers,” Schmitz said, “and if there aren’t good salaries, they won’t stay here. I have five kids graduating from Stevensville and a freshman. It’s my community. I come to almost every school board meeting. We must be active if we want our school to change.

Donaldson agreed that “the finances are huge. For me, it’s just serving my community. Be part of a team to understand these things. I’m really excited about the vo-tech center. Not all kids are cut out for four-year college. I’m happy to give them a different route.

Esch said she spent a lot of time volunteering at the school. “I think there’s a disconnect between what people think is going on at school and what’s really going on here. I guess I thought our kids were buzzing all day. Our staff work very hard – they need their cup replenished. They know how to do their job very well. »

Asked about the council’s role and responsibility, Hudson said council members need to go out to constituents, “your constituents. You need to involve parents in a much bigger way. There is incredible support to be gained by speaking to the community in a sincere way.

Schmitz said the board should help balance the budget, not just not go into the red, but balance the allocations of funds. She also said the council should establish a policy.

“These policies are important,” she said. “It is important to develop a good policy. The laws are constantly changing. We have to follow federal guidelines in order to get the money.

“Finance and policy,” agreed Donaldson. “When the covid arrived, I was on the board of directors. It’s important to understand the era, because there’s so much going on. Listen to the voices of students, teachers, parents and the community. Listen to these voices and bring them together.

Esch said the council’s core job is to “provide a safe place for children to develop to their potential”.

“We have to build a team, build trust,” Esch said. “We have to do our job efficiently. We must ensure that the district is in compliance with the law and financially responsible. We need to encourage community involvement and public feedback.

McKoy said the board needs to think about what’s best for students, staff and the community. He said the board should “set the direction and goals that reflect our community. “We should make the dollars stretch to achieve those goals.”

Asked about the different roles of board members and the superintendent, Schmitz said, “The superintendent deals with day-to-day issues. The council can analyze the information longer and be present in the community. We should all be working towards what is best for our students.

Donaldson said the superintendent, staff and administration are the “boots in the field.” He said the council’s job was “to be there to support them and give them the tools they need through policy and finance.

Esch said the school board is a governing body. “Our main tasks are financial planning and policy development. The school board only handles larger decisions and also handles appeals. She said the board hires the superintendent and business manager and the superintendent takes care of the rest of the staff. “We have to trust him,” Esch said.

McKoy said the board sets policy and direction and supports staff in implementation. He said it was important to “get involved and check it out. Do we represent our community and its values? »

Hudson said the board sets the policy. He pointed out that the position of superintendent is a paid position. “The superintendent is following the policy,” Hudson said. “One is paid, the other is public service.”

Another question dealt with the question of the quality of education in relation to the tax burden.

“It’s a very fine balancing act,” Donaldson said. “You have to weigh them both. While we want to do everything we can to pay our staff and improve our facilities, sometimes the money just isn’t there. We have to understand it. Communication needs to be really, really open. Each part must give a little.

“I like to imagine that the money we spend comes directly from someone in the community,” Esch said. “It’s really important to listen to the community.” She said finding funding sources was “difficult” and that there was no one thing that was going to fund everything. “We can partner with the business and industry community,” she said.

McKoy said it was important to solicit feedback from educators and the community. “Providing top-notch education and that means funding. We have to be creative. How do we use our community? »

“When I look at our country, we’re going to face a lot of challenges,” Hudson said. “Almost everyone can do more with more money, but we need to be able to do more with less. Like at home, we have to reduce the basic products. You need really stable, sharp people to figure out how every dollar is going to be spent.

“I had a grand vision before I started attending the school board meetings about how the money was spent,” Schmitz said. “I was way off base. It’s difficult, it’s really difficult to know how the money should be spent. When we work together as a board and community, we do our best.

Esch said the community involvement element is “so important. It’s been a tough few years. We are ready to move forward with innovation. I would like to continue to serve.

McKoy said he was appointed to the board two years ago. He said it was fun to be part of the construction project. He said he was “listening to the needs and the challenges, and would appreciate the opportunity to continue.”

Hudson said a lot of the challenges will be financial. “They need to know that when you put money into work, they come home tired. I could name you people who are about to be taxed out of their homes. It takes smart people to do more with less. I don’t have all the answers, but there is something to build on.

“If you want someone perfect, don’t vote for me,” Schmitz said. “But it took me four years to find out about the school. I volunteer at school, I attend school board meetings. I love Stevensville. I will always ask myself, what is best for our student body? I will act on it.

Doanldson said he has served on the board in the past and is still learning something. “If we can bring together people with experience and ideas, we can make it a place of excellence. I’m just here to serve and do what I can to make this the best school district in the valley.

Sperry closed the forum by asking the public to join him in a moment of silent prayer for the school.

Melvin B. Baillie