Four candidates, including two incumbents, are seeking three seats on the Mehlville Board of Education in the April 4 election.
Peggy Hassler, Michelle Pommer, board Vice President Jean Pretto and board President Samantha Stormer are vying for the three seats. Board member Venki Palamand did not file for re-election.
“I consider academic achievement the most important issue in this race because recent test scores indicate that we are not performing as well as we should be. This issue must be addressed and academics and performance must be improved. The district has already made some changes in terms of new curriculum, but that must be monitored closely to make sure we are seeing positive results and goals are being met …,” Hassler said.
“Transparency and spending of Prop R funds,” Pretto said.
Pommer did not respond to a Call questionnaire.
“I believe continuing to build community trust/transparency, academic achievement that helps us move more into the 21st century and creating a positive environment that attracts and retains teachers is our mission,” Stormer said.
Hassler, 51, 5411 Milburn Road, Oakville, is an operations/office manager/paralegal at a law firm. She and her husband, William, have three children.
Hassler, who has not held elective office, said she is seeking election because “I want to see Mehlville continue to grow to become one of the best districts in the state, to excel our community and children forward, to figure better ways to retain our talented teachers and administrators and to improve the image of our district. Since I played an eminent role of the Prop R campaign, I want to ensure that we fulfill our promises to the community and to our children and staff of the district. In a nutshell, I want to be a part of making Mehlville a destination school district, one that people will want to move to in order to send their kids to the schools.
“I want to pursue academic excellence in our schools for all children from early childhood education through high school and beyond, while maintaining fiscal responsibility to ensure effective stewardship with taxpayer funds.”
Pretto, 66, 114 W. Pottle Ave., Oakville, is a private piano teacher and also works at Anheuser-Busch as a tour guide and in the gift shop. She and her husband, Joe, have two grown children.
Pretto, who was elected to the school board three years ago, said she is seeking re-election “to help our students.”
Stormer, 40, 7924 Silver Pine Drive, Oakville, is a transportation specialist at UniGroup Inc. She and her husband, Sean, have four children.
Stormer, who was elected to the school board three years ago, said she is seeking re-election because “I have had the privilege of serving the district for the past three years and I would like to continue the progress we have started over the past two years — to keep the Prop R promise and keep working to make this a destination district.”
Hassler said, “Yes, Dr. Gaines is an intelligent, thoughtful, strategic and tactical thinker who is effectively leading our district through the strategic plan, Prop R commitments, Choice School of Innovation and a waste identification and reduction program. He has a strong nationwide network of people that he continues to learn from and he brings new and trending ideas to our district so we can be visionary leaders in the academic arena.”
Pretto said, “Absolutely. I do wish he had more to say, but actions speak so much louder than words. He is a financial whiz — just what we hired him for.”
Stormer said, “Yes. Dr. Gaines is doing exactly what we hired him to do. We wanted to move this district forward and he has brought resources to our district that will customize learning for our students. He has added additional programs for our students with no cost to the district.”
Hassler said, “I will follow the plan as written and make sure that the superintendent is reaching the goals promised by Prop R … I will vote for things that fall within the original plan, and will ask for detailed clarification for anything that does not appear to be following the plan, understanding that some things need to be flexible when you are dealing with as many moving parts as a school district as large as Mehlville. During the Prop R campaign, MOU (Mehlville Oakville United) charged the Finance Committee with overseeing the funds and they have set expected budgets against which to measure spending that is consistent with the promises communicated during the Prop R campaign.”
Pretto said, “We have the chart that was produced prior to Prop R being approved.
“We stick to that and the strategic plan.”
Stormer said, “I will continue to work with the Finance Committee to ensure that the Prop R revenues are spent according to the guidelines put out by the district. I will continue to remind all board members what our promise is to our community if at any time it is called into question.”
Hassler said, “I voted yes on Prop R because the district was struggling financially and there were cuts of over $4 million being made with the possibility of another $4 million to be made the next year. I feel very strongly about supporting the education of children and in turn the future of our community and our country. A strong school district is a strong community and that is reflected in our children, our property values and the desirability to live in our district. Cutting teachers and lack of text book funding and technology funding is/was not the way to help our struggling academic performance issues. I simply felt it was time to support our district and give them more money to retain teachers, provide more professional development and provide the necessary tools to the children that are needed in the 21st century to be competitive in the academia world and in turn, the labor market.
“When looking at the additional issues on where cuts could be made, and because teachers and administrators in Mehlville make considerably less than neighboring districts, reducing teacher or admin compensation was not a feasible option. We already have less admin personnel per student and building than neighboring St. Louis County districts. Our per-pupil expenditure was the second lowest in the area, yet our academic achievement was in the middle of the pack, demonstrating that our district was giving an excellent education for the money being spent, but left you to wonder what could be done with more resources. Simply, I supported Prop R because I was tired of being the underdog and wanted more for our children and our community. I moved to the district to escape a failing district and I did not — do not — want to see Mehlville fail.’
Pretto said, “All for it. Our district suffered through the ‘most bang for the buck’ until it nearly bottomed out. We are still the second lowest school tax rate in the entire St. Louis area.”
Stormer said, “I voted for Prop R because there was a proven need and a very specific plan was presented as to how the funds would be used. As a parent and taxpayer in this community, I want to see our schools thriving and making a difference. I want to see our home values go up because we have families wanting to move here due to the academic excellence and the options we provide as a school district.”
Hassler said, “I voted yes on Prop A because it was a no-tax-rate-increase tax transfer and the district has many AC and roofing problems, along with other facility issues that need to be repaired and replaced. Transferring the 4 cents helped to start on these projects. The district laid out a very concise plan for which projects would be paid for and when, and I felt like they would be responsible with the expenditures based on the needs of the district. If you don’t repair things when they need to be repaired, eventually it will cost you more in the long run to let them deteriorate further and have emergency repairs. Since Prop A is a pay-as-you-go process, the district is able to spend all of the money on capital improvements. If we had to use bonds for these capital repairs, we would have to pay interest, thus wasting tax money. Prop A gave an opportunity to avoid the interest costs.”
Pretto said, “Of course, I voted yes because we need the forward motion to continue. Our schools need to be maintained on a regular, recurring schedule.”
Stormer said, “I voted for Prop A — a no-tax increase (measure) was a way for the district to maintain funds for the capital needs in our district without it costing the tax payers additional money. We currently have around $55 million in capital needs and this allows those needs to be addressed over time.”
Hassler said, “Yes. I support the strategic plan. The district is doing well following the plan which includes improving student performance with early intervention, training teachers for innovative school and finding waste and reducing costs. I believe they keep the details of the plan as a “draft’ in order to make any possible changes that might need to happen, for example addressing the math curriculum early since our test scores were so bad. I appreciate the way the administration keeps everyone informed whether it is by an email, a video, or a download from the district’s website. The strategic plan gives us the high level direction for student academic performance, support for teachers to ensure quality learning environments, and using our district resources in a responsible manner. I believe these goals are the right focus areas for our school district to be successful so I do believe the district should continue to follow the strategic plan.”
Pretto said, “The strategic plan is our GPS. It was developed by the ‘godfather’ of Prop R — Dr. Norm Ridder — and has given our district clear direction.”
Stormer said, “I firmly support the strategic plan. Every decision I make on this board has to tie back to our strategic plan. Yes, the district should most definitely continue to follow the strategic plan otherwise we end up with random decisions being made. Any successful business follows a strategic plan.”
Hassler said, “Keep the community informed, make fiscally responsible decisions, be approachable and available to talk to, always keep kids first in all decisions made, continued use of data-driven and transparent communication in all ways possible.”
Pretto said, “Keep the Prop R funds where they were promised — and in harmony with the strategic plan.”
Stormer said, “As a board member, we must maintain our promise to our community. I will continue to ensure that we do not waiver from the Prop R promise, I will continue to push transparency and updates to our community. I will speak out against anybody that wants to do something outside of our promise.”
Hassler said, “First I would assess the true need for additional revenue and the cause for the need. If we truly need the revenue, first we must look at all of the expenditures and budgets and see if there is any way we can make cuts without any adverse effects on academic achievement, or figure ways to squeeze the funds from the money we already have without robbing Peter to pay Paul. We must make sure there is no waste we could eliminate and if, and only if we have examined all options and there simply is not enough money, then we would have to take some community polls to see if we felt the community would support another tax levy or bond and decide from there if it is something we would put on the ballot for the voters to decide.”
Pretto said, “I will personally continue to fight at the state level for better school funding and continue to see where state cuts can be made that could go to our schools.”
Stormer said, “If there was a proven need for additional revenue I would first look at where we could possibly create revenue growth. If there is an additional, we need to start conversations with our community, we would need to communicate the what and why it’s needed and if they believe it is also needed. Our schools belong to our community and we can do anything together.”
Hassler said, “Yes. The approval of the Prop A tax transfer will pay for many of the repairs and hopefully there will be cost savings in other areas that we can use those funds to systematically repair and replace these things. As I stated earlier, if you let them deteriorate too far, it will just cost more than if you repair them when you should. If we do not replace outdated HVAC systems and roofs, then they will eventually fail and we will be in an emergency situation of needing to replace them quickly. Having new HVAC and newer roofs will result in lower utility costs. In addition, if we have a planned program/schedule for replacing these things, we may be able to save money by contracting with a vendor to do projects back to back and get quantity discounts.”
Pretto said, “Through Prop A — for now.”
Stormer said, “The district currently has a replacement schedule for our outdated HVAC and roofs throughout the district. This was able to happen due to Prop R and Prop A funds.”
Hassler said, “If elected as a school board member, I will support the CSOI as I will support all of the programs of the district if the board voted or votes to approve them. I believe that my first duty is to collaborate and support all decisions made by the majority of the BOE. I believe it is bad for the district for a board member to Monday morning quarterback the issues that have already been decided. As I understand it, a funding plan is already in place and the school has the potential to drastically improve how we teach children across our district and not just in the one CSOI school, as we will use this model to learn and incubate behaviors and methods of our educators.
“The CSOI has the potential to make Mehlville a destination district. I believe it has a likelihood of increasing the number of school aged families moving to our district. Logistics, implementation and cost need to be constantly assessed with the goals of making this effective and efficient.”
Pretto said, “I do support it. Problem-solving is the future. So, naturally, it should be the education our students receive.”
Stormer said, “Yes. This will be the first of its kind in the St. Louis area and a start to making the Mehlville School District a leader. We will use this to master this type of learning and then work to push it throughout the rest of our district. The district currently has 26 percent reserves and that is projected to go up 1 percent each year for the next couple of years. The Finance Committee was comfortable with a onetime expense of $1 million. With the startup cost and reoccurring cost this would cover two years of the school. I will continue to challenge the administration to find ways to reallocate spending throughout the district and look at areas that may not be needed with the new additions we have added throughout the district.”
Hassler said, “Nonpartisan.”
Pretto said, “Depends. I am a member of the Oakville Democratic (Organization). Mostly though, I vote for the person, not the party.”
Stormer said, “Political parties should not play a role in a nonpartisan school board race.”
Hassler said, “Depending on how we are defining politics, my answer would vary. I personally do not believe in political games or political agenda, and I really do not believe there is any room for these games on a school board. In my opinion, the school board is charged with the responsibility to establish and maintain a basic organizational structure for the Mehlville school system, and to set policy and oversee the superintendent of the district to implement the established policy. In order to set the policy of the district, I will focus on data, process, the strategic plan and the board goals.”
Pretto said, “The school board should not be driven by politics, but rather by the bipartisan desire to do what is best for all our kids.”
Stormer said, “District-related business needs to center around improving the district. I will continue to push the why, not the who.”
Hassler said, “Yes, I believe that they should be recorded at the minimum by transcript so that there are no questions in the future about decisions that were made in the closed meetings. However, because they are declared closed, no one can have access to them under any circumstances.”
Pretto said, “No. Many times, the very private issues surrounding personnel/student situations are discussed. Often this is where the facts are gleaned and this could be harmful were it to become public, particularly if the information was found to be untrue.”
Stormer said, “I am not for or against recorded closed sessions. The way I conduct myself in closed sessions would not change based on a recording.”
Hassler said, “Charter schools are a bad idea because they take away funds from the schools in their district, yet they are not monitored by any entity in terms of academics, fiduciary responsibility, etc. They are not accountable to their community, like a public school and a public school BOE is. They are privately owned and are for profit. They do not have to accept all children and when a child becomes difficult to teach, they can kick them out, sometimes right before testing so their test scores don’t bring the averages of that school down. Charter schools increase segregation, school choice takes away attention from the real problems in our public schools — poverty and funding equity. I believe charter schools are bad for society.”
Pretto said, “They are a drain to our public school resources. They are not accountable to anyone and they do not need to accept all students.”
Stormer said, “While I understand the purpose of a charter school, I believe public money should go to public schools, not to for-profit corporations that have questionable results. If you want ta payer monies, you need to be held to the same rules of admitting all children, not cherry picking. They should be required to take the same test and be held to the same standards as a public school.”
Hassler said, “My feelings about the voucher system mirror those of the charter schools stated above. Properly funding parallel school systems would be incredibly wasteful and expensive.”
Pretto said, “The vouchers will allow further dilutionof funding for our public schools with no accountability.”
Stormer said, “I feel that if you are receiving taxpayers dollars, you should have to be held accountable. As a public school, we are held to many standards from certified teachers, test scores and accepting all children. We are accountable to the taxpayers. The voucher system that is being promoted would allow taxpayer dollars to have no accountability.”
Hassler said, “Passing Prop R has helped tremendously in teacher attitudes and job contentment. I would like to see some effort made, if we can fit it into the budget, to bring their salaries closer to the average in St. Louis County. We have already made some progress in that area in the last year, which is why, I believe, recently teachers are more content, but continuity in teachers will help our academic achievement so it is important to hang on to the teachers after we train them. I believe we need to compensate our teachers at a reasonable market rate and create a culture that draws and retains great teachers. We also need to make sure they have the resources that other districts have to educate the children and that they do not have to use their own money for things in their classrooms that should be provided by the district.”
Pretto said, “We have already started by improving the salary schedule. I propose we thank a teacher every day, for starters.”
Stormer said, “We have to maintain a salary schedule that will attract and retain the brightest and best teachers. As we continue our professional development, we need create a culture of collaboration with our teachers and administration so this is meaningful and can be brought back to use in our class rooms the next day. We need to create opportunity for our educators within our own district.”
Hassler said, “No.”
Pretto said, “No.”
Stormer said, “No.”
Hassler said, “Yes, but I would review this issue as a board member to make sure that all children are safe.”
Pretto said, “Yes.”
Stormer said, “Yes, the district does a good job.”
Hassler said, “No. I don’t believe the current system is causing financial distress to the district and it does not place any unfunded mandates on the district. Because of this, I would not initiate any changes. The current system has teachers putting 14.5 percent of their salary into the retirement system, which is their own money. The district matches with another 14.5 percent. This match sounds high, but we need to keep in mind that teachers and the district do not pay Social Security tax — 6.2 percent apiece — and teachers will not draw from the Social Security system when they retire. There is also no teacher 401(k) plan or 401(k) matching funds. Teachers and the district put away a good amount for retirement, but when looking at the numbers and comparisons with Social Security and 401(k) plans, the district only pays a couple percent more than the cost of Social Security taxes and a 401(k) match.”
Pretto said, “I don’t believe so. Our teachers deserve the best that they can get. The joint contributions of the teacher and the district then keeps them from drawing Social Security.”
Stormer said, “Missouri has a strong retirement system. As long as no changes are made the system, it is good.”
Hassler said, “Only if it becomes impossible to make use of the Nottelman’s due to overbooking. Currently, the entire district uses the one auditorium and I don’t find it a problem to go to Mehlville for Oakville’s performances or Bernard’s or Point’s, etc. If it is overbooked on a regular basis, then that should be assessed, and if there is a true need for two auditoriums, then it should at the minimum be discussed. Mehlville is one school district with one auditorium, which seems adequate to me, unless we cannot accommodate everyone that needs to use an auditorium throughout the year.”
Pretto said, “Yes, eventually, if it is logistically feasible.”
Stormer said, “Oakville High School should definitely have an auditorium like Mehlville High School. We have seen over $2 million in scholarships offered since the auditorium has been added to the Mehlville campus. If there was a way to add an auditorium and it was supported by the community, it would be a huge asset to Oakville. As with anything else, the financial part is the issue.”
Hassler said, “Not to my knowledge. Before I would support extending the school year, I would first need to understand what the problem is and how can it be solved. If it were a problem that could be solved by working more efficiently during our current school year, I would want to see progress towards these improvements over continuing an inefficient system that runs longer. I would be open to extending the school year if there were well understood and agreed upon goals that are aligned with the strategic plan, and could not be accomplished in our current school year. I would also be agreeable if we were not meeting the DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) standards for attendance minutes. We would need to weigh the benefits with any increase in costs, including staffing, to make the right decision.”
Pretto said, “A couple more days probably wouldn’t hurt, but we just approved a two-year calendar.”
Stormer said, “I do not like that we are only going the minimum number of days required. I would love to see days added to the calendar, but it would have to be done so there was a positive impact on our students. Adding days just to add days does not make it meaningful. Research shows that it takes 10 to 12 days to make an impact on student achievement. With that comes cost — not only teacher salaries, you also have additional transportation, additional cost throughout the district to keep every building up and running during those days. Until we can make a positive impact on adding days to our calendar, I’d like to see the expansion of our summer school programs.”
Hassler said, “No — not being able to vote on a family member to the fourth degree of blood or marriage seems appropriate to me.”
Pretto said, “I don’t believe so.”
Stormer said, “The policy is good.”
Hassler said, “Mehlville NEA has endorsed me. South County Labor has not done their interviews yet, but I have been told by members of the organization that I will probably be endorsed.”
Pretto said, “Not yet, but hopeful.” Pretto since has been endorsed by the MNEA.
Stormer said, “I have been endorsed by the MNEA.”
Hassler said, “The board should consult with the Finance Committee on major financial decisions. This group is comprised of financial professionals who have a deep understanding of the district finances. The final decision needs to rest with the board because it is the elected body that is given this responsibility, but I am happy that someone with a financial background is there for guidance and advice as I would not want these decisions to rest solely on board members that might not have a financial background. As a board member, it is important to do your homework and educate yourself on the finances, but it is still good to have a support committee for financial advice.”
Pretto said, “I believe their opinion should be considered. However, the big picture may be what needs to be considered despite forecasts or probabilities in the finance landscape.”
Stormer said, “We need the Finance Committee’s analysis on what impact different decisions have on the financial health of our district. We then need to take that into account with the academic benefits of strategic investments.”
Hassler said, “If children are at grade level in elementary school, the probability of keeping them at grade level through high school is higher. Therefore, early childhood education is very important. Early Childhood Education is where we set the base for a successful academic career. If kids are struggling, we need to provide early intervention to these students. In addition, college preparedness and career readiness is also of ultimate importance and I will work with the administration to ensure we have the programs and classes that best meet these goals.
“Goals and measures are necessary to understand how we are doing and where we need to improve. We need to compare our performance to peer and aspiration districts. Measures of key leading indicators are necessary to understand how our children are doing with the important concepts in each grade. I would work and support the administration to give them the resources necessary to understand the most effective leading indicators, determine how we can collect these and utilize them to improve academic performance.”
Pretto said, “Make sure our educators have everything we can provide to achieve this. Benchmarks.”
Stormer said, “This year we have started many new programs for our students. Everything from My Path, CAPS, High School Innovations to a new elementary school. As a board membe,r you have to allow change if data can support those changes. We have also added benchmark testing three times a year that will help us measure throughout the year, as opposed to waiting for sx months after a MAP test to try to make changes.”
Hassler said, “I would charge administration with researching if there was any wasteful spending and try to make cuts only to things that do not affect academics. While I understand the importance of clubs and sports, it could be a necessary evil to start with cuts in those areas. If nothing else, my sense is that this does make people stand up and get engaged in the process and from that point we could get their input on how they would like to handle the shortfalls. I would try to best understand areas where they see waste that can be eliminated and what budget items they believe would have the least detrimental effects on the kids and the district.
“I would not support reducing busing, but I would entertain charging for it if there were no other options. I don’t mean to imply that I would use these things as a scare tactic, but if these things truly needed to be cut to pay for text books then that may be what needs to happen. When the community gets involved, we can get their input on how to move forward, and see what kind of support we would have for a tax levy, if absolutely needed.”
Pretto said, “I hope this never happens again. I would rely on our administrators to find what cuts would least affect students. I would not support busing cuts.”
Stormer said, “Without knowing how much would need to be cut, it would not be difficult answer that at this time. I would not support cuts unless it was absolutely necessary.”
Hassler said, “State law says this has to be offered and that parents can opt their children out. Teaching kids about everything that can go wrong and negatively impat a young person’s life is beneficial especially if there is a lack of guidance in the child’s home. Personally, I believe that knowing these consequences helps children make better decisions. I think abstinence should be taught first and foremost, but I also think the various types of birth-control methods should be taught with the inclusion of what can go wrong and what they do not protect against.”
Pretto said, “Birth-control methods should be taught in health-related classes — a simple concept that would prevent conception.”
Stormer said, “As a district we have to stay in accordance to state law. I believe not all children are taught this at home and providing this at school would be educational for them. I believe we should continue to have an opt-out policy to ensure parents who would prefer to teach this at home can have their children excluded from the class. While abstinence is the only guarantee to avoid STD and pregnancy, I would rather see kids educated on how to protect themselves.”
Hassler said, “Humbly, Prop R is my biggest districtwide accomplishment. As mentioned above, I served as one of the key leaders of MOU and we pushed Prop R to an overwhelming victory. I am also proud of all the hands-on things I have done in the schools. At Blades, for instance, we — the PTO — put in a new playground, bought numerous white boards, I started a fundraiser called the Bobcat Mile where kids get sponsors for running laps around the school. The kids love it, it generates a LOT of money for the PTO and it is healthy way for the kids to raise funds and they don’t have to sell junk food or trinkets that end up in the garbage. I know they still do this fund aiser and it makes me proud that I thought of it and implemented it and it stuck for so long and continues to generate much needed funds for the school. I am also proud that I have always stepped up where needed in the schools and helped them out with anything I could as a parent.”
Pretto said, “Well, that’s complicated. I speak my mind. I am not easily influenced by others. I initiated student advisers in our district.”
Stormer said, “Hiring Dr. Ridder was an excellent start to the many changes that have happened in our district over the past couple of years. Hiring Dr. Gaines to continue that work while taking our district to the next level is a major accomplishment. The passing of Prop R and A, back-to-back ballot measures with historic passage, was unpredicted in our district. My part of that was simply letting our community decide. Had we decided that we knew what our district wanted and chose not to put this on this on the ballot would have been voting against our very own community. And my biggest accomplishment has to be the work that I did with the Salary Schedule Committee. We were able to create a new salary schedule that had not been changed in 10 years and work with the same monies that was already allotted for the schedule.”
Hassler said, “No. Enrollment is actually down in our two current high schools, so there is no current need for a third school.”
Pretto said, “No.”
Stormer said, “No. I believe if we have the funds that could build a third high school it should be used to upgrade both current high schools.”
Hassler sad, “I support VICC because the program helps kids that live in unaccredited districts get a better chance at a quality education which is the basis for people to work their way out of poverty. A program like VICC has the potential for multiple generational changes when kids educate themselves and gives them a better opportunity to be successful upon graduation and beyond. I am on the fence about whether the district should end its participation in the program once a transferring district becomes accredited. The district the kids are coming from are paying much-needed money from their struggling district to our district so the question comes down to are we hurting the other kids at the struggling districts by taking their funding away from them to educate the transfer students? If we did away with the program, I think we would be OK financially since we are also losing the student, but I admittedly don’t know all of the ins and outs of that question and do not know if there actually would be a loss of revenue to the district.”
Pretto said, “I support it as long as there are students that wish to take advantage of the program.”
Stormer said, “I do support our VICC program. We are allowing students in failing districts to come here and receive not only a good education but a sense of community. These children, like many that live in our city, live in poverty. If we can provide the opportunity for VICC students to become successful in their education and overcome the cycle that poverty can create I welcome every one of them.”
Hassler said, “I do not believe that board members should always follow or go against the recommendations of the administration. Decisions should be made after considering all factors involved and consideration must be made as to how it fulfills the strategic plan, does it align with board and school district goals, how does the decision affect academic performance, how does it affect all children in the district, and the community as a whole and how does it affect the budget and is it being fiscally responsible to the taxpayer.
“Board members have to collaborate with each other and with the administration, but board members have an additional oversight responsibility beyond rubber stamping any and all ideas brought to them. Again, they have to take into consideration all of the above goals while working as a team and remaining unified.”
Pretto said, “I think one must consider the facts to make any decision — follow their own heart, not worry if you are for or against. However, we must trust the people we have placed in important positions were put there because we trusted their knowledge, and not continually undermine their suggestions or recommendations — no micromanaging.”
Stormer said, “Any decision that the board makes needs to be data driven. It needs to be fiscally responsible. It needs to follow the strategic plan. You cannot always vote with the administration and you cannot always vote against the administration. There needs to be a working balance and respect from both parties.”
Hassler said, “”I would have no way of knowing if the MSD BOE has faithfully adhered to the Sunshine Law. I have no inside knowledge of the daily operations of the BOE in which they did not follow the letter of the law and it would be foolish and irresponsible for me to speculate on something I do not know as fact or have substantial evidence to prove such wrong doing. As a board member, I would fully educate myself on the Sunshine Law and make sure that all of the members which would include myself, followed the law and I would make sure I was never any part of breaking the law from an ethical and moral standpoint.”
Pretto said, “I absolutely do. We are always conscientious about whether or not we are adhering to those laws. Our goal is to be super transparent.”
Stormer said, “I believe we have been in accordance to the Sunshine Law, and as a board member, I would ensure the board complies with the law.”
Hassler said, “After the Supreme Court made their historic decision regarding gay marriage, it may be time for LGBT issues and curriculum to be spoken about in schools. I am confident that there would be strong arguments from some parents and community, so there should be rules about the location of the information and the process for checking out any of the information from the library. “Perhaps that policy would be that for any child under the age of 18, a parent must sign giving permission for their child to check out such material. I read a study and based on qualitative interviews with 31 school librarians, this project found generally strong support for collecting LGBT materials. School librarians discussed serving their communities, having resources for all students, and meeting the needs of diverse students. In addition, they shared several ways that school libraries can counter bullying by educating and creating a bully-free zone in the library, collecting LGBT and anti-bullying materials, collaborating with guidance counselors and teachers, suggesting particular books for certain students, being a supporter of students, and positioning the school library as a safe space for any LGBT students.”
Pretto said, “No. I just don’t think in this day and age, it’s necessary.”
Stormer said, “Laws would need to be followed and our materials in our libraries should always be age appropriate.”
Hassler said, “We are subject to state law on this topic, and I know there have been legislative attempts to include creationism in public school science classes. At this point, creationism is not part of the science curriculum. I believe creationism could be taught as part of a theology class on general religion as an elective and I would support this approach in the schools since the classes would be voluntary classes and not requirements.”
Pretto said, “As part of a ‘Beliefs’ class that would cover evolution as well.”
Stormer said, “I believe we need to follow the law. I would have no problem with this being taught as an elective.”
Hassler said, “I believe this issue is regulated by federal and state law. Currently, Missouri has Senate Bill 98 pending, which was introduced Jan. 4 The bill requires that all public school student multiuser restrooms, locker rooms, and shower rooms be designated for use by students based on their ‘biological sex.’ It defines biological sex as the physical condition of being male or female, as determined by a person’s chromosomes, assigned at birth, and indicated on their birth certificate.
“The bill does state, and I agree, that Mehlville School District should follow the following example, that ‘school officials may provide transgender students with alternative accommodations if they have parental permission. Alternative accommodations shall not include multiuser facilities designated for students of the other sex. Alternative accommodations may include single user restrooms, unisex restrooms, or access to faculty restrooms.'”
Pretto said, “The locker room should match their genitalia, unless/until more specific accommodations are available.”
Stormer said, “The district must stay within state and federal law. While there is still much debate around this subject, I would support making accommodations for any transgender students.”
Hassler said, “No.”
Pretto said, “Yes. Sub teacher — 1970s.”
Stormer said, “No.”
Hassler said, “I believe we should maintain about a 17.5 percent to a 20 percent fund balance. I do support the decisions to increase the reserve target because it should be set to ensure we do not dip into deficit spending near the end of the year. This needs to be regularly monitored and discussed to ensure we are not reserving more than we really need.”
Pretto said, “Yes. I do support it because this is a seasonal balance. We never know what could happen, and carrying this reserve would make it possible to borrow, if necessary, at a much lower rate.”
Stormer said, “I am supportive of the higher reserve percentages, as long as student needs are not being neglected.”
Hassler said, “I believe block scheduling is beneficial to the kids in high school. It helps struggling kids because they can get intervention during ANP and TAP time and for some classes it is very worthwhile to have 90 minute blocks for labs, metals and wood working classes, computer lab classes, chemistry, biology, et cetera. This type of schedule benefits kids at all levels, especially as we become more and more innovative in the way we teach.
“On the other hand, some classes are better served on the traditional schedule time of about 50 minutes and some students benefit from seeing their teachers on more consecutive days for shorter periods of time. With that being said, the goal of the block scheduling committee formed in the last year, is to roll out a full schedule for the year 2018-2019 that has a flex of all classes built into it. For the teachers and kids that are better served by a shorter block period and seeing the teacher on more consistent days of the week, they will be channeled into those classes and for the kids that need the longer block time they will be channeled into those blocked classes.
“I recognize that it comes at a cost of $2 million, however, I believe after many discussions with people that hold their doctorate degree in education this is the best way to serve all children. It is true that some districts do just fine on a straight traditional schedule but I also believe that they spend an equivalent of funds on interventionists and other programs that help the kids in their studies. It is a balancing act and this is just how the MSD has chosen to spend their money. Granted, it would be nice to have additional resources for both the flex schedule and the one-on-one interventionists, but for now it is important that we are creative with our funding and budget and are as fiscally conservative as possible with an eye towards providing the best possible education we can for all of our children.
“If we went to a classic traditional schedule, I believe the extra funds would be needed to spend on extra intervention teachers to help the struggling students and to pay teachers to stay beyond their contract hours to tutor and help the kids.”
Pretto said, “I really depend on the folks that have researched this. I value their opinion, since I have no experience with block scheduling. I know the kids seem to like it — not sure if it’s what’s best, however. I like the flex approach.”
Stormer said, “When spending almost $2 million on any program you have to review the ROI. At this time, data can support either a traditional schedule or a block schedule. Our committee has recommended adding a C day this upcoming year and then moving more to a flex mode schedule, which I fully support. I support more of a schedule that is flexible and agile to a student’s course work.”