Four candidates seeking two seats on Mehlville Board of Education

Mehlville candidates respond to newspaper questionnaire

Lisa Dorsey

Lisa Dorsey

By Mike Anthony

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Four candidates, including one incumbent, are vying for two seats on the Mehlville Board of Education in the April 7 election.

Seats held by Katy Eardley and board President Ron Fedorchak are up for election. Fedorchak, James “Jamey” Murphy, Lisa Dorsey and Kyle Haubrich are vying for the seats, which carry three-year terms.

This article will focus on Dorsey and Haubrich. Fedorchak and Murphy, who is Eardley’s brother, will be featured in a future issue.

• “The top critical issue facing the district and the board is student achievement in relation to our peer and aspiration districts. Collaborating with the administration, faculty and staff affords the board the opportunity to be informed of strategies to not only support the students, but also the faculty with the resources necessary in and out of the classroom to succeed in academic achievement goals,” Dorsey said.

• “The financial condition of the district is the most important issue. Uncertainty surrounding the finances has a ripple effect throughout the entire system, negatively affecting the classroom, teachers, administration and the community in general. We must regain sound financial footing in order to address the challenges ahead,” Haubrich said.

Dorsey, 46, 4409 Ventura Place Drive, 63128, is associate vice president, undergraduate education; assistant professor, Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training; and assistant professor, Program in Health Sciences at St. Louis University. She and her husband, Bill, have two children who attend Mehlville schools.

Dorsey, who has not held elective office, said she is seeking election to the school board because “as a professor at St. Louis University, I understand what is necessary for students to be admitted to college, to be awarded financial aid and to be successful in college. These are insights that I believe will provide a unique perspective to the board.”

Haubrich, 35, 106 E. Marseille Drive, 63129, is an attorney with his own law firm. He and his wife, Elena, home-school their three school-age children. They plan to send their oldest child to Margaret Buerkle Middle School in two years.

Haubrich, who has not held elective office, said he is seeking election to the school board because the “Mehlville School District is a family tradition — my mother was a teacher for Mehlville for almost 40 years and my grandmother was a bookkeeper for Mehlville. I am a Mehlville graduate and my children will attend Mehlville schools. I want the best for the children of the district and I believe I have the requisite skills to address the challenges ahead.”

Dorsey said, “I can’t recall my response.”

Haubrich said, “I did not live in the district in 2010. If I had been in the district, I would have voted against Prop C because of the lack of credibility regarding responsible stewardship of the district finances.”

Dorsey said, “I support the current closed-meeting policy for the district.”

Haubrich said, “I think closed meetings should be rare and recorded.”

Dorsey said, “I would recommend completing a comparative analysis of peer and aspirational districts and review the aggregate data in collaboration with district administration, faculty and parents relative to goal-oriented, student-success outcomes.”

Haubrich said, “I think we should work towards extending the school year to meet the average days of all the other schools in the area, which currently is about 180 days.

“I also feel that this is another area where a collaborative effort by the teachers, parents, taxpayers and community to come up with the best possible way to do this is a must.”

Dorsey said, “If additional revenue is needed, it would be important to review the current budget model as a board and with district administrators, teachers and parents to identify current revenue streams and possible options.”

Haubrich said, “I would first conduct a thorough review of the district’s expenses to identify areas of inefficiencies. The community’s trust in the district must be restored before any request for a tax increase could be considered. As a rule, I am not in favor of tax increases, especially in a community whose incomes and property values are static.”

Dorsey said, “The search produced an experienced candidate pool, who underwent a thorough deliberative process relative to the district’s leadership needs and academic goals.”

Haubrich said, “I did not support the use of MSBA (Missouri School Boards’ Association) in the search for the new superintendent. But now that the process is completed, I look forward to collaborating with Dr. Gaines as we work towards meeting Mehlville’s challenges head-on.”

Dorsey said, “Dr. Ridder has successfully navigated the district through the strategic planning process to better align the district with important academic benchmarks.”

Haubrich said, “Given my legal, administrative and financial background, I very much appreciate Dr. Ridder’s introduction of strategic planning, continuous improvement, and data-based decision making into the Mehlville district. I am very supportive of this system of management.”

Dorsey said, “Yes.”

Haubrich said, “I returned to the Mehlville district towards the end of Dr. Knost’s time at Mehlville and do not have sufficient knowledge of his leadership to be able to comment.”

Dorsey said, “Yes. Continue to uphold the requirements of the law.”

Haubrich said, “With the exception of personnel issues, I am opposed to closed meetings. When it is necessary to have closed meetings I believe they should be taped.”

Dorsey said, “As a pediatric health care professional and educator, it is apparent to me that sex education is important in human development. I respect that curricular decisions are developed through a comprehensive curriculum review and development process per the district curriculum department and directors.”

Haubrich said, “I believe sex education is the responsibility of parents and should not take place in schools.”

Dorsey said, “I support the current district Library Media Program Belief Statement leading to the current library selections.”

Haubrich said, “These are topics that should be addressed by parents in the home and they do not have a place in our schools.”

Dorsey said, “I wasn’t a member of the board at the time this initiative went forward. In these situations, I find it helpful to complete a comparative analysis of peer and aspirational districts’ aggregate data. For the Mehlville School District, it is important to identify the options to address the current budgetary shortfalls. It is essential to identify compensation and noncompensation factors that support strong faculty and support teaching goals.”

Haubrich said, “I think we should pursue all reasonable options for teacher pay. Merit pay may be a possibility, provided it is arrived at in a collaborative manner. Improvement in the classroom experience should be the main goal of our compensation considerations.”

Dorsey said, “If elected, I would work to regain financial stability in the district. Operating with a positive fiscal margin favorably impacts all areas within the district necessary to support student success, from human resources to facilities and extracurricular activities.

“In addition, as a taxpayer I, too, benefit from a strong school district as it positively impacts the value of my property, increases the residential interest in our community, has the potential to improve the bottom line for our local businesses as more seek the Mehlville district as a residence and current residents remain in the district. Once the budget is aligned with the goals within the district, decisions can then be made with regard to resource needs to afford teachers to achieve their goals and objectives for student success in and out of the classroom.”

Haubrich said, “After finances are stabilized, I believe the primary and constant focus should be on improvement in academics. All stakeholders — students, parents, teachers, administration and the community — should feel a responsibility to making significant improvements in this area.”

Dorsey said, “The five-year plan approved by the board projects deficit spending for the next several years. In my view, the district needs to maintain adequate reserves and a sufficiently balanced budget so that Mehlville continues to be highly rated by Moody’s Investors Service. It is essential that the goal of successfully educating students remains at the forefront of all budgetary decisions — investing more in our classrooms and teachers.”

Haubrich said, “I believe the fund should be maintained at 17 percent to 23 percent, which is the level necessary to maintain a bond rating of A+ or A. A bond rating of A+ gives us the lowest possible interest rate and provides a cushion in the event of an unexpected major expenditure.”

Dorsey said, “No.”

Haubrich said, “I applied once for a job with the College Student Summer Aid program with the facilities department in 2000. I worked in that department for the summers of 2000 to 2003. I very much enjoyed working with these men and women who maintain our schools, fields and equipment.”

Dorsey said, “Not applicable for this position.”

Haubrich said, “I am a fiscal conservative and I vote for the individual who best aligns with that philosophy regardless of party.”

Dorsey said, “Board decisions should be made in the best interest of the students and not based along political lines.”

Haubrich said, “The classroom and best interests of the students are the criteria that will guide my discussions and decisions. I believe this to be the best way to rise above the politics of any given issue.”

Dorsey said, “No.”

Haubrich said, “No, I am not.”

Dorsey said, “Charter schools may be the ‘right fit’ for some students and should not negatively impact current district funding.”

Haubrich said, “I support charter schools for failing school districts.”

Dorsey said, “Voucher systems should not negatively impact the current public school system.”

Haubrich said, “I believe the current system is in need of a thorough review and reform. However, I don’t believe the voucher system to be the cure-all that some hoped it would be. While it would offer some advantages, there are many serious drawbacks.”

Dorsey said, “No.”

Haubrich said, “Not currently. However, my mother taught for Mehlville for almost 40 years, retiring in 2005, and my grandmother was a bookkeeper for Mehlville for almost 40 years, retiring in the 1980s.”

Dorsey said, “It is important that the security of our students remain a priority. It is the responsibility of the district administration to identify necessary security upgrades and propose modifications as necessary.”

Haubrich said, “I am happy to see that Mehlville is working to improve security for the students and teachers. I believe security should always be on our radar and improvements should be made as risks are identified.”

Dorsey said, “The Public Schools Retirement System for the state of Missouri is a robust retirement system.”

Haubrich said, “I believe changes should be made to ensure solvency of the system for all retirees. No changes should be made for current employees, but future employees would participate in a modified plan.”

Dorsey said, “My priorities are student focused: Add resources to the classroom first and cut resources from the classroom last. Our budget should provide resources necessary to enable all areas of our district to support student success in the classroom and outside the classroom with extracurricular activities.

“With regard to busing, it’s important to review the current busing policies and procedures and make informed decisions about the impact of proposed changes.”

Haubrich said, “I do not think Mehlville should charge for busing, but the transportation system should be reviewed to see if there are changes that could be made to reduce the cost of the program. A thorough review of all costs should be made in search of cost saving efficiencies.”

Dorsey said, “None at this time.”

Haubrich said, “No, I think Mehlville should be proud of its nepotism policy.”

Dorsey said, “The district should provide out-of-district children the opportunity for a public education as resources allow and according to current policy.”

Haubrich said, “My understanding is that Mehlville was required by law to accept the Riverview Garden students.”

Dorsey said, “The district should provide out-of-district children the opportunity for a public education as resources allow and/or according to contractual agreements or laws.”

Haubrich said, “Since the program is voluntary, I believe Mehlville should completely phase out of the VICC — Voluntary Inter-district Choice Corporation — program. The revenue paid to Mehlville for VICC students should not be used to increase our revenue at the expense of the city school district. Additionally, we have not been successful in improving the scores of VICC students.”

Dorsey said, “I support the current district admission of nonresident students policy, which includes unaccredited school district student transfers.”

Haubrich said, “The Missouri Legislature should be focusing on ways to improve the unaccredited schools rather than force another district to fill the gap. It’s not fair to the parents, students or taxpayers of either district to allow the chronic problems of failing school districts to go unaddressed.”