South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

ELECTION 2017: Two vying for one-year seat on Lindbergh board in April 4 election

Second in a series: Duchild, Shamia square off for one-year seat on board
Martha Duchild
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Martha Duchild

Two political newcomers are vying for a one-year seat on the Lindbergh Board of Education in the April 4 election.

Martha Duchild and Mike Shamia, who is endorsed by the Lindbergh National Education Association, are seeking the seat held by Gary Ujka, who did not file for re-election.

Three three-year seats also are up for election that are currently held by board President Kathleen “Kathy” Kienstra, Vice President Don Bee and Treasurer Vicki Lorenz Englund. Kienstra and Englund are seeking re-election. Also seeking election to the three-year seats are union-endorsed candidates Matt Alonzo, Cathy Carlock Lorenz and Christy Watz, along with Jennifer Bird and Daniel Sampson. Bee is not seeking re-election.

Alonzo, Bird and Englund were profiled last week. The remaining candidates will be featured in upcoming issues of the Call.

Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the two candidates for the one-year seat responded:

• “How to effectively address issues associated with district growth. If we do not place students first, we risk jeopardizing the positive trajectory of district achievement. Without this focus, our commitment to the highest and best use of taxpayer dollars will also be challenged,” Duchild said.

• “Student success and academic achievement should always be the most relevant issue in any school board election,” Shamia said.

Duchild, 52, 9158 General Grant Lane, Crestwood, is a community volunteer and Parish School of Religion teacher at Our Lady of Providence Catholic Church. She and her husband, Paul, have three children.

Duchild, who has not held elective office, said she is seeking election “to use my knowledge of and service to the district, along with my research and analytical skills, to ensure Lindbergh remains a top-quality public school while fulfilling its obligation as a prudent steward of taxpayer dollars.”

Shamia, 46, 10552 Gregory Court, Concord, is vice president of fixed income and mutual fund trading at Scottrade Inc. His wife, Meighan, is a reading specialist at Sappington Elementary School. They have three children.

Shamia, who has not held elective office, said he is seeking election because “I grew up in a family that stressed the importance of family, community and giving back. My father, Gus, was president of the parent group at Concord Elementary. My mother, Janet, worked in the Lindbergh School District 25-plus years and was a Lindbergh Leader in 1990. As a board member, my goal will be to do the hard work necessary to ensure Lindbergh Schools remains a top district …”

The two candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

Duchild said, “While this protest action was effective in drawing attention to teacher concerns, it has become nothing more than a source of tension in and among district teachers — who are not uniformly observing work to contract — parents, administrators and board members, and no longer serves any real purpose. Additionally, teacher representatives have neglected to establish any criteria to end work to contract, leaving district administration without a structure for resolution.”

Shamia said, “I know this was an agonizing, difficult decision for the teachers. The Blue Ribbon awards and high level of student academic achievement are a direct result of a student faculty that cares deeply about their profession. A solution must be found to assure we value our teachers appropriately.”

Duchild said, “Not at this time. As a member of the Salary Schedule Committee, I reviewed data which indicated that total district compensation is still very competitive. Any consideration of a tax increase to fund salaries would have to be accompanied by a proposal to change to a budget-driven salary structure, as the current step structure has failed our teachers.”

Shamia said, “I will evaluate all possible solutions to address school funding. The Lindbergh Schools system continues to be a value for residents living within the district. Our children benefit from the award-winning education which helps support and sustain property values. We will need to look at all possible solutions to determine what is best for our students, school district and community while maintaining our board’s fiscally responsible approach.”

Duchild said, “Yes, this is a prudent approach that allows the BOE the flexibility it needs to govern the district effectively.”

Shamia said, “I agree that administration should be responsible for governance issues. That being said, the teachers should be included in the process in a mutually respectful manner. Their input would be valuable since they are most affected by these issues and in a position to provide feedback on the benefits or repercussions of making these decisions.”

Duchild said, “Items would have to be prioritized so that those which have the least impact on student learning would be considered first.”

Shamia said, “Any budget cuts should result from a fully vetted opinion by a special committee including representation from the community. If needed, these cuts should be made which would least impact the classroom.”

Duchild said, ” Yes, to my knowledge they have complied. To improve efficiency in complying with Sunshine Law requests, I would recommend that BOE members have a Lindbergh Schools email address.”

Shamia said, “I believe the board has adhered to the Sunshine Law. As an elected member, I would strive to continually educate myself on the law to ensure compliance.”

Duchild said, “Having had our children complete the sex-ed course at Lindbergh, I am satisfied with the curriculum. Basics should be taught at school, but school must also leave room for parents to connect with their children and impart their own values on this very important topic.”

Shamia said, “Students should have available at least a basic level of age-appropriate sex education curriculum. It’s also very important for parents to play a role, be informed and be given the tools to supplement this education in the home.”

Duchild said, “Restricting my answer to Lindbergh only, books regarding homosexuality should be age appropriate and meet the same academic and literature standards as any other book in the library.”

Shamia said, “I am strong proponent of teaching tolerance for all people. Whether you approve or disapprove, alternative lifestyles are part of our culture. My belief is the library should make available age-appropriate and fact-based information regarding alternative lifestyles.”

Duchild said, “Yes. The program complies with the recent state mandate on educator performance evaluations and is tailor-made for Lindbergh. It was developed and pilot-tested through a collaborative committee of teachers and administrators.”

Shamia said, “Performance-based evaluations are proven to be effective as a development tool. Teachers should be evaluated not only on test scores but overall success and individual student progress. I support this type of evaluation in conjunction with professional growth and development opportunities.”

Duchild said, “Success has come as a result of placing students first, committing to data-driven decision-making, pursuing innovation in education practices and placing emphasis on fiscal responsibility. Continue those practices, while actively pursuing opportunities for innovation.”

Shamia said, “Lindbergh Schools should continue focusing on classroom curriculum and individual student growth and development. We must also maintain our focus on technology and providing the resources necessary for high achievement. Focus on retaining our quality educators, staff and administrators, while giving them every opportunity for professional development. The selection of our next superintendent will be extremely important to maintaining our level of success.”

Duchild said, “I supported and was a subcommittee chair for Prop G. The district demonstrated a prior record of fiscal restraint and the funds were dedicated to a specific purpose.”

Shamia said, “Yes.”

Duchild said, “I supported and was a subcommittee chair for Prop L. The district demonstrated a prior record of fiscal restraint and the funds were dedicated to a specific purpose.”

Shamia said, “Yes.”

Duchild said, “(A) school board member is a nonpartisan. As a board member, I would place quality education first, while maintaining a fiscally conservative approach to decisions impacting district finances.”

Shamia said, “I do not identify myself with any political party.”

Duchild said, ” Make data-driven decisions, backed by valid research. Learn to place political chatter in its appropriate context.”

Shamia said, “Any decision I make would be based on what is best for the students, district and community. Politics should not be a factor on the board when you maintain the proper focus towards student success and academic achievement.”

Duchild said, “The state mandates that districts keep at least 3% percent of their operating budget in reserves, which Lindbergh does. During this period of aggressive growth, tying up more than the minimum would leave the district with less financial flexiblity to address emergencies.”

Shamia said, “Reserves should be maintained at a level allowing the district to operate and maintain without borrowing additional funds.”

Duchild said, “As elected officials, BOE members have an obligation to the public to explain their votes if asked. Only the president of the BOE is entitled to speak on behalf of the BOE as an entire body, but the individual board members are also entitled to speak on their own behalf.”

Shamia said, “The board president should act as a spokesperson in the instance there is consensus among the members. Otherwise, members should be free to express their opinion to the media if done in a respectful non-divisive manner.”

Duchild said, “The socio-economic factors contributing to the failure of public schools are far larger than what charter schools and vouchers can adequately address. Failing to address these core issues absolves the responsible district from its legal obligation to educate students and places that responsibility elsewhere with mixed results. In areas where districts are performing adequately, there is no need for charter schools.”

Shamia said, “Charter schools play a role in a district that is underperforming. They should not be a consideration for a top district such as Lindbergh. I would not support any charter school which diverts funding within our district.”

Duchild said, “As with charter schools, the voucher system diverts public funds away from the public schools designated to serve specific districts. Vouchers do not address the systemic issues facing failing public schools.”

Shamia said, “I am opposed to the voucher system or anything similar that would divert funds from public schools that are high performing.”

Duchild said, “Short term: Hiring a new superintendent, completing teacher negotiations and restoring positive relations, enabling smooth transitions at elementary and middle schools affected by redistricting (and) acclimating the new CFO. Long term: Planning for building and staffing needs to address growth, study growth trends, look at innovative options for addressing cycles of growth and decline in student population, working with legislators to amend TIF (tax-increment financing) laws which have had a negative impact on public school funding.”

Shamia said, “The challenges facing the district are related to increasing enrollment, funding, teacher negotiations and replacing our superintendent. Each unique challenge has both short and longer term implications. We need to continue taking steps to address each of these challenges working together, with shared sacrifice, in a collaborative manner. Every decision to address each challenge must be made with fiscal responsibility and in the best interest of continuing to provide an excellent education to our students.”

Duchild said, “Absolutely. Dr. Simpson was hired to lead the district, and during his tenure the district achieved top rankings and the individual schools within the district have also achieved academic and character distinction. All of this success is the result of hard work by students, teachers, administrators, the BOE, parents and the community, but it takes a leader to set the expectations, and Dr. Simpson has done that without question.”

Shamia said, “The district is award-winning and academically excellent. The budget continues to be balanced during a time of increasing enrollment and a decline in funding. He should be recognized for his accomplishment in those areas. His successor should be an exceptional communicator who can build consensus, a leader that is student-focused and a strong presence in our schools and community.”

Duchild said, “No. Research has demonstrated the benefits of time off for kids, and any incremental benefit to academic performance would come at a cost of less time with family.”

Shamia said, “No.”

Duchild said, “The district works with great consultants who advise on the best vehicles for revenue generating; all are project-specific, whether bonds, property tax increases or other options such as certificates of participation or grants.”

Shamia said, “I will evaluate all possible solutions to address school funding. The Lindbergh Schools system continues to be a value for residents living within the district. Our children benefit from the award-winning education, which helps support and sustain property values. We will need to look at all possible solutions to determine what is best for our students, school district and community, while maintaining our board’s fiscally responsible approach.”

Duchild said, “No. Business is being conducted properly, the school is well-run — as demonstrated by its many distinctions — and there is no reason to implement changes at this point.”

Shamia said, “I would not make any changes to the manner in which this board has operated.”

Duchild said, “I am neither seeking nor accepting endorsements from any special-interest groups.”

Shamia said, “I am endorsed by the Lindbergh NEA (National Education Association).”

Duchild said, “Since regulations are still evolving, I am comfortable with the district’s current practice, which is to handle each transgender student’s needs on a case-by-case basis, and make available unisex bathrooms.”

Shamia said, “All students should be afforded a safe environment at school. The district must be aware of the laws surrounding this issue and be in compliance while protecting a student’s civil rights. I support a workplace and educational environment that is free from discrimination and harassment.”

Duchild said, “No. There is overwhelming evidence that TIFs have a negative impact on taxing districts, including schools. I have been active in opposing TIFs and tax abatements, as they do nothing more than shift existing tax dollars around while diverting available property tax dollars for schools. Poorly written redevelopment incentive laws have allowed developers to use these incentives in areas which were not the original target of the legislation, while areas of true blight remain.”

Shamia said, “I support the redevelopment of the Crestwood mall property. I have a concern over tax incentives related to the proposed residential dwelling. This will have a certain negative impact on Lindbergh Schools in regards to funding for future enrollment growth.”

Duchild said, “I am opposed to TIF, mostly because the laws establishing TIF leave too much room for abuse. Legislators need to tighten the definition of blight to end TIF abuse. Additionally, the retail landscape has changed dramatically with the increased use of online shopping. Missouri TIF laws are at a complete disconnect from the economic realities of current retail trends.”

Shamia said, “Any development involving tax-increment financing would need to be independently analyzed based on its merits. In many cases, it may be necessary to incentivize development where that would otherwise not be the case. I believe the impact on school funding and other local business should be closely scrutinized.”

Duchild said, “The district should continue to pay attention to housing trends and put plans in place for the possible addition of an elementary school and expansion at the high school. Cost-saving ideas will take on greater importance, as well as open communication with district stakeholders to determine the appropriate funding mechanisms for capital and operational needs.”

Shamia said, “The addition of Dressel Elementary will provide some much needed short-term relief. It makes most sense to keep a close eye on forecast for growth, plan in advance, and explore all available opportunities. The ultimate goal should be to maintain appropriate classroom size in order to continue providing our excellent level of education to all students.”

Duchild said, “No.”

Shamia said, “No, I do not believe the district should deficit spend for operating expenses. The board has maintained a track record of fiscal responsibility and would expect that to continue.”

Duchild said, “No.”

Shamia said, “My wife, Meighan, is employed as a reading specialist at Sappington Elementary School. I have no relation to any current board member or candidate.”

Duchild said, “While communication could have used improvement — on both sides — I believe the BOE performed well under the circumstances and addressed teachers’ salary and bargaining concerns honestly.”

Shamia said, “I believe any negotiations should be done in a mutually respectful manner. There must a defined process and collaboration between all parties. This will include shared sacrifice in order to reach a consensus decision. It will be a goal of mine to assure the board, administration and teachers work in conjunction to achieve our mutual goal.”

Duchild said, “No.”

Shamia said, “I have not applied for a job in the district.”

Duchild said, “Proven leader and innovator in education field, long-term thinker and strategist, excellent communication skills and ability to collaborate, awareness of district’s position with regard to outside economic influences, fortitude.”

Shamia said, “In searching for a successor to our superintendent, I would look for an individual with the following traits: extremely student-focused, consensus building mentality, fiscally responsible, open-minded and collaborative, respectful and excellent communicator.”

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