Four seek two Mehlville school board seats

Mehlville candidates respond to newspaper questionnaire

By Kari Williams

Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Mehlville Board of Education in the Tuesday, April 3, election.

Kathleen Eardley, Ron Fedorchak, Fred Padberg and Mike Wainz are seeking election. Seats held by Fedorchak and Tom Diehl, who did not file for re-election, are up for election next week.

Fedorchak was appointed to the board to fill a vacancy when former board member Micheal Ocello resigned.

Asked to identify the most important issue in the race, the candidates responded:

• Eardley said, “The biggest issue in this race is navigating through difficult economic times without destroying the quality of education. Taxpayers are being stressed by every level of government, and they are questioning why every penny is being spent.

“Turning away from education without investing destroys property values and future generations of learners. What we need is intelligent financial management that navigates us through these difficult times without jeopardizing the quality of our education and the future of our children.”

• Fedorchak said, “Budget. Currently, the debate in Jeff City over funding and the disparity of the plans is concerning. We have prepared for the worst, but long-term solutions will be necessary if Mehlville loses in the final plan. Also, the impact of the Turner v. Clayton case looms over the district. We could see an influx of students from St. Louis without sufficient additional funding.”

• Padberg said, “The close scrutiny of expenditures and a ‘watchful eye’ on the taxpayers’ dollar.”

• Wainz said, “To ensure that every decision is based on what’s best for the students and making sure they have every opportunity to excel. Strong public schools are positive for everyone.”

Eardley, 26, 3515 Cabernet Way Court, is a stay-at-home mom. She and her husband, Garrett, have three children, one of whom attends John Cary Early Childhood Center. Eardley said she is seeking election “to help make Mehlville a destination school district.”

“I want to work to maintain high quality educational standards, ensure students are succeeding at a level that is meaningful, increase community involvement and understanding of Mehlville schools, as well as create a public perception of Mehlville schools as stellar, not just adequate, in order to match the reality of a fine school system,” Eardley said.

Fedorchak, 45, 3715 Woodbrook Court, is an account manager at PJ Cobert Associates. He and his wife, Michelle, have two children who attend Oakville Senior High School and one child at Blades Elementary.

Fedorchak’s only public office has been with the Mehlville Board of Education. He said he is seeking to retain his seat to continue the current board’s work.

“We are committed to improving student achievement; hiring, developing and retaining the best teachers and administrators; improving facilities, being good financial stewards for the taxpayers and increasing community involvement,” he said. “We have made progress, but more work is still needed.”

Padberg, 70, 4750 Mehl Road, is the owner of Padberg Graphix Design. He has four grown children.

Padberg said he is seeking election “to afford support for improved/effective education and tighten controls on fiscal matters.”

Wainz, 43, 3508 Hidden Stone Court, is a stay-at-home dad. He and his wife, Laura, have three children in the district.

Wainz, who has not held public office, said he is seeking election because he wants to “make sure kids’ education is first priority, also to represent the community and be in tune with taxpayers’ expectations.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

• How did you vote in the November 2010 election on the district’s tax-rate increase measure Proposition C? Why?

Eardley said, “Proposition C was a misconceived, shoot-for-the-stars ballot measure that was doomed to fail from day one. The board should be ashamed to have put it on the ballot in the first place. If the funds were truly necessary, the measure would have succeeded.”

Fedorchak said, “I did vote for Prop C because I felt the facilities, specifically at the high schools, were so lacking compared to our neighbors. Rockwood, Lindbergh, Eureka and Hillsboro all have auditoriums and new construction. Some Mehlville schools have conditions that actually deter children from hearing their teachers and put them to sleep due to poor ventilation.

“Our fine art students are some of the best in the state, but either spend money on outside facilities or perform in basements or gyms. I did feel the measure was an overreach, but we, as a community, had put things off for a long time. I also felt these new facilities would also be utilized by the community. The new track at OHS is a good example.”

Padberg said, “Against. There is no end to their hunger for your dollars. When does it stop?”

Wainz said, “Voted no. A few years prior, a 97-cent increase was proposed and that failed. I believe a more modest levy or bond issue would have been more prudent. Then the district and the board could show the community what they did — with a lower increase — with it, and how it benefited everyone.

“I am not against asking for levies, I just believe there were too many projects tied to the most recent one — Prop C.”

• Are you satisfied with the leadership being offered by Superintendent Eric Knost?

Eardley said, “I have no issues with the superintendent’s leadership. I believe he brings good stewardship to the district and, with clear direction and cooperation of the Board of Education, he is certainly capable of leading this district to a bright future.”

Fedorchak said, “I am very pleased with Dr. Knost. He has shown great vision and an ability to get things done. Morale appears to be positive with the staff. The community also appears to be responding positively to him.”

Padberg said, “Yes.”

Wainz said, “Very satisfied. I believe he is a positive face for the district and for the community.”

• Do you support Superintendent Eric Knost’s proposal for full-day, tuition-free kindergarten?

Eardley said, “Early childhood education is the building blocks for all learning, however, there is no such thing as free kindergarten. I am fully supportive of tuition-free, full-day kindergarten if it is within the district means to provide this programming and does not pull funds away from other essential curriculum. I am skeptical that the state foundation formula will provide enough ongoing funds to make this program sustainable long term on a free basis.”

Fedorchak said, “I fully support full-day kindergarten. It will improve student achievement and generate more revenue than it will cost.”

Padberg said, “It’s a good idea, but can we afford it on an ongoing basis?”

Wainz said, “I do, although the details are still forthcoming like (a) half-day option, transportation and space requirements at Oakville and Trautwein elementaries.”

• Do you support the Board of Education’s decision to proceed with the construction of a district auditorium?

Eardley said, “Once again, this school board needs to demonstrate that it can show good judgment between what is needed and what is wanted and to communicate to its taxpayers why any project is necessary. I feel this Board of Education has failed to show the necessity of this project, but has expounded on how they have wanted this auditorium for 25 years. The question is, is this the right time, during hard economic times, to fulfill a long-desired want?”

Fedorchak said, “I eagerly await to see my daughters perform in the new auditorium. The whole community should benefit from the new auditorium, as it will be available to everyone. The timing is great because costs of construction and labor are extremely affordable. I only worry that we, again, are putting off a few maintenance items to do this. It appears to be worth it though. For the record, I amended the motion to build the auditorium with a $6 million cap. This will ensure costs will not get out of control.”

Padberg said, “No.”

Wainz said, “Yes. There is lots of positive support for it. As long as it doesn’t exceed its budget so as not to go into reserves.”

• Do you believe that teachers’ pay should be based on merit?

• Eardley said, “On the surface, meritbased pay is the way to go. The question is, how do you determine merit? This is a serious question, and one that, in the near future, will have to be addressed, not only by Mehlville, but as a nation as a whole, and I would like to be a part of that discussion.”

Fedorchak said, “As a state, Missouri is moving toward some sort of merit-pay system. The difficult question remains how to determine merit. As a board, we agree we want experienced teachers to cooperate and mentor young teachers. Individual merit systems would diminish this teamwork.

“Therefore, I would love to see increases tied to each building’s improvement or overall grade-level improvement. Either way, I look forward to working with the NEA and Dr. Knost on this issue.”

Padberg said, “Yes.”

Wainz said, “Absolutely. Positive student proficiency trends in at least reading and math should be taken into account. Science, history and physical education, as well.”