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

Mehlville school board candidates field questions from voters

CRT, charter schools some of questions asked at forum
Ben Droney, Scott Huegerich and Sarah Grace Wright

Three Mehlville Board of Education candidates answered questions ranging from critical race theory and equity in education to school district funding and charter schools at a forum March 15 hosted by the League of Women Voters and The Call. 

Candidates for the April 5 school board election are Ben Droney, Scott Huegerich and Sarah Grace Wright. Up for election are seats held by Board President Kevin Schartner and Director Larry Felton, both of who did not file for reelection. The seats carry three-year terms. 

Close to 100 people attended the forum at Andre’s South in Oakville. 

Attendees were able to submit questions for the candidates prior to the forum, as well as at the forum. 

All three candidates agreed that teaching critical race theory did not have a place in K-12 education. Droney said he was opposed to any curriculum that paints one student as an oppressor and another student as the oppressed.

“I don’t support any curriculum or teaching method that … essentially says the United States was set up as a racist system,” Droney said. “I don’t think that’s going to benefit anybody.’ 

 Huegerich and Wright agreed that it should not be taught and that it currently isn’t being taught in Mehlville. 

“Teachers teach with lesson plans and I have not found a lesson plan related to critical race theory,” Huegerich said. “I do not believe that it belongs in public schools.” 

Wright said that critical race theory is not being taught in public K-12 schools including Mehlville, and agreed that it should not be part of the curriculum due to not being age-appropriate. However, Wright added that she believed in teaching history from “all sides of the story and not just one.” 

“Representation matters. Twenty percent of our children are nonwhite students, so teaching from the white perspective might not be the 100 percent right thing to do all the time,” Wright said. “If they’re represented in the classroom, they will feel more welcome … and do better in the classes.” 

The candidates differed in their answers to a question about if state Attorney General Eric Schmitt had the right to sue over 50 school districts in the state, including Mehlville, for implementing mask mandates and other COVID-19 mitigation measures. The lawsuits from the attorney general claimed that school boards cannot issue public health orders despite being elected officials. 

Huegerich said that he believed local elected officials had the best knowledge to make the best decisions for their communities, while Wright said the lawsuits were a waste of money.

“I can just say sort of holistically, do we want … to have decisions made locally or do we want to have decisions made by the state,” Huegerich said. 

‘The one thing I’m most passionate about is the waste of money it was,” Wright said. “We have to defend ourselves against that. We have to pay people to defend against that.” 

Droney said he felt the school district could have made different choices during the pandemic, which is part of why the attorney general filed the lawsuits. 

“There are a lot of suits that go to court that we probably don’t feel they have the right. I’m not a legal expert so I can’t say whether or not he had the right, but I do feel we could have made some different choices during the pandemic,” Droney said. “I think that was part of his frustration and people were contacting him.”

On a question about school vouchers and charter schools, both Huegerich and Wright agreed that those schools should not pull funding away from public school districts. 

“We should not do anything that’s going to pull money away from public schools. Again, I’ll reiterate, public schools admit everybody. They care for those students who are having a hard time finding education. … Well-functioning public schools basically help with future crime, with future drug and alcohol abuse,” Huegerich said. “We simply have to keep public schools funded.” 

Droney said that if he was elected to the board, he would work to make sure private or charter schools don’t appear like a good alternative to Mehlville. 

“I like to worry about things that are under my control. And things that are under my control is working with the board members that are there to ensure that our school is the best it can possibly be,” Droney said. “I do have some influence on how well our school does so that those (charter/private schools) don’t become an attractive option.”