Board members work well together, Lindbergh candidates say

Four candidates vie for two seats on school board

By MIKE ANTHONY

The four candidates seeking election to two seats on the Lindbergh Board of Education in Tuesday’s election said during a forum last week that they believe school board members work well with each other and the administration.

In fact, all four said they supported the direction the Board of Education is headed and would change very little, if anything, regarding the workings of the board.

Incumbents Robert “Bob” Bader and Vic Lenz and challengers Richard W. Meuser and David L. Peek are vying for the two seats, which carry three-year terms.

The four candidates met March 19 during a roughly one-hour forum at Lindbergh High School that was moderated by Board of Education President Mark Rudoff.

Rudoff posed a range of questions to the candidates, including whether they favored placing a measure before voters for additional funding and what they believe is the biggest challenge facing the district.

Rudoff asked: “Do you favor bringing a measure before the voters for additional funding for Lindbergh schools? If so, would you favor an increase for operational or a bond issue for capital expenditures?”

Meuser said, “I believe that before I would bring a bond issue or an expenditure before the voters, I would review the current budget and the current spendings within the district. Since I’ve not been a part of the board and not followed very closely the expenditures and the budgets that we have right now, I would have to look at where we’re spending our money now to see what we were doing. If that would come about that we would have to go and it would be required to have more funds available, to try to do everything that we could to still keep the resources in the different projects the children would be involved in without taking anything away from the students, if at all possible and before I would go to the voters.”

Peek said, “I have a very strong belief that we as a board have a very important role in terms of financial stewardship. I believe that one of our responsibilities is to make sure that the budgets that we set and the expenditures that we have are spent on the right things. And obviously, if there were a need for an operational funding, obviously, it would have to have come after a very careful review of all of our expenditures to understand and making sure we are spending our money on the right things. In terms of capital expense, I think we have made the right decisions. I believe we have taken care of our district for the future and we’ve made some great plans with our Prop P. And I was very pleased with the community’s support for the way that was supported.”

Lenz said, “As for capital expenditures, I believe that, again, we’ve done a good job with that. Bond levies — no-tax-increase bond issues, by the way — about five years. We’ve maintained the buildings. We’ve kept them in good shape and I think that in the long run is saving the district money, not costing. As far as expenditures for the operating budget, I believe it’s critical that we make sure that we are spending the funds as wisely as possible before we look at moving into fund increases …”

Bader said, “We’ve done good with our capital bonding, the new roofs and Prop R (projects) that we have coming up. Right now, our tax, we’re the second-lowest tax rate in the St. Louis area and I think if these figures are correct from (Assistant Superintendent for Finance) Pat (Lanane), I think over the last 10 years we’ve rolled back somewhat around $32 million in taxes that we didn’t take because we operate under the philosophy that we never take more than we need. And I think we adhere to that very genuinely and I would see no problems in a tax increase for operational expenses.”

Rudoff asked: “If you could change the direction of the Board of Education on one issue, what would it be?”

Peek said, “… I can’t honestly say that I would change anything. I’ve been an active participant in the board meetings several months now. I do not have anything that I have heard that I would be opposed to, I don’t think. From a direction standpoint, you look at what this district has done, I can’t find fault. One of the things, I guess — it sounds to me like the board is doing a good job of trying to get community involvement by sending out the board members to the parent-teacher meetings. Obviously, I know that because I’ve been to about a hundred in the last month and a half, but the one thing I have noticed, though, is that very few people take advantage of their opportunity to engage the board in any kind of questions or discussion. So I guess maybe one thing I would try to strive to improve would be community involvement, community engagement. I know we’ve got an initiative going on there. One idea I have would be to hold some directed town-hall meetings to where you basically tell folks we’re going to be talking about these particular topics and we’d like for you to come, as opposed to just leaving it as an open bring-your-questions on these topics. So that might spur some interest.”

Lenz said, “I can’t say that there’s anything I would change in the workings of the board. Our board, as someone mentioned before, works very well together. We’re open with each other. We speak openly at meetings. We disagree when we need to, but when a vote is taken, we support the results of that vote and I think that’s important for the school district. I wouldn’t want to change any of that. We support the administration. We support the superintendent. I think that’s critical. That’s one of the reasons we’ve had the kind of school district we have. We work well together with our administration and each other, and I think it’s critical that the board continue that. Other than the community engagement, which we’re currently working on and we would like to develop that further, I wouldn’t make a change.”

Bader said, “As far as the board’s concerned, the old adage if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. You know, you don’t need to fix it. We put on some addition to the PR (public relations) department, which may help get us out there more to get to the community. And I do think we need more community involvement and more community awareness as to really what our needs are.”

Meuser said, “… There is one thing that I would change with the board. I believe I would return Dr. (Jim) Sandfort’s letter of retirement and ask him to stay for three more years while I would be serving on the board. Other than that, though, there really isn’t anything that the board does or that I’ve come up with the board, again, (the) other candidates have said that they get along so well, that they make sure that they’re together when they make a decision and there’s really nothing to change.”

Rudoff asked: “With the exception of filling the superintendent’s position, what do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the Lindbergh School District?”

Lenz said, “The biggest challenge after filling the position of superintendent is maintaining a Distinction in Performance for our students because each year the requirements for that go up, and each year it’s that much more difficult to meet those needs, very specifically with students that have specific educational needs. That’s more costly and it takes a lot more time and effort to go through that process. But that I think is the biggest challenge that we face. Maintaining that and continuing to reach toward all students being proficient by the year 2013.”

Bader said, “Replacing Dr. Sandfort’s going to be a major task, I can assure you of that. I would say into the classroom would be the first major step to take to give our teachers support to make sure that they have the proper material to engage in this, and the classroom right now is one of the most important places and the support that we can give our teachers and our administrators.”

Meuser said, “It’s kind of a mix between the two. I agree that we need to support the No Child Left Behind. And we do that by giving the teachers the tools that they need to be able to teach in a way that every child has the chance and the ability to grow and prosper within the school district. And to make sure that the buildings and the environment that we have our children in are safe and a learning-experience type of location so they enjoy coming to school and being there.”

Peek said, “I think probably the greatest single issue that I see would be to continue to set higher expectations for both the district and our students and our administrators and our staff. To continue to see people excel. To continue to see our students excel. To continue to retain and hire highly qualified teachers, highly qualified administrators. I think it’s very important — one of my educational priorities that I have as a board member is going to be to make sure that we continue to fund our certified teachers so that we don’t ever exceed the state’s requirements for the teacher-student ratios. I think it’s so important, such a key area, especially for the No Child Left Behind and the Adequate Yearly Progress, to be able to continue to meet that. I think our kids need adequate access to our teachers and our teachers need adequate access to our kids.”