Nine candidates seek three seats on Mehlville Board of Education

Mehlville candidates provide their views on district issues.

Marea Kluth-Hoppe

Marea Kluth-Hoppe

By MIKE ANTHONY

Nine candidates are vying for three seats on the Mehlville Board of Education in the Tuesday, April 5, election.

Marea Kluth-Hoppe, John Roland Jr., Deb Langland, Elaine Powers, Rich Franz, Michael Doyel, Mark Stoner, Franchesca Gindler and David Wessel are seeking election to the three seats, which carry three-year terms. Incumbents Drew Frauenhoffer and Erin Weber, elected in 2008, did not file for re-election. The third seat formerly was held by Karl Frank Jr., who resigned in November.

This article will focus on Kluth-Hoppe, Roland and Langland.

Candidates responding to a Call questionnaire will be featured in upcoming issues.

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

• “The most important issue in this race is for the district to be able to continue to offer a comprehensive and challenging curriculum for all students to ensure academic achievement. Although simply stated, that goal is not easily attained. The first challenge is to prioritize the various components consisting of highly qualified teachers; support staff; various educational tools — computers/technology — and supplies — books; safety and security issues to formulate a Comprehensive School Improvement Plan that ensures success for children,” Kluth-Hoppe said. “The second challenge is to meet the demands of state and federal mandates and regulations. The third challenge is accomplish this goal within the limitations of available funding and/or work for additional funding.”

• “Budget cuts,” Roland said.

• “In order to move our district forward, I feel it is imperative that we have a board that is not only professional, but also has the knowledge of the community’s vision, budgeting and funding challenges, federal and state laws and the daily challenges our educators (and) staff (face) and the needs of our diverse student population. I think the most important issue of this and all races should be to elect the most qualified person(s) who will help achieve the goals of the district and community by keeping all decisions child-centered,” Langland said.

Kluth-Hoppe, 58, 5315 Oaklawn Drive, 63128, is a community volunteer and small-business proprietor. She and her husband, Ray Hoppe, have a grown daughter.

Kluth-Hoppe, who served on the board from 2002 to 2005, said she is seeking election because “I strongly believe that a quality public education should be available for all children in the Mehlville School District. I am a dedicated advocate for public education and the Mehlville School District and am running to promote the educational process for the children. An education is the most important tool that a person acquires. The process of learning is used your whole life …

“I feel that I can be a leader on the Board of Education because of my varied experiences of personal education, professional work skills, community volunteer experiences and my knowledge of the Mehlville School District and knowledge of educational practices and mandates. I believe that my experience can benefit all the children of the district.”

Roland, 45, 3715 Pinon Pine Court, is a financial adviser for Edward Jones. He and his wife, Holly, have two children who attend Oakville Senior High School.

Roland, who has not held public office, said he is seeking election because “I want to help the district live up (to) the standards of being a district of distinction.”

Langland, no age provided, 2823 Spring Water Drive, 63129, is a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Gundaker. She is married to Terry Crowley and has two children who are graduates of Oakville Senior High School.

Langland, who has not held public office, said she is seeking election because “I have long been a passionate advocate for providing high quality public education and the Mehlville School District. In light of the current budget issues and some negative perceptions by some of our community, I feel it is imperative that we have a board that is not only professional, but also has the knowledge of the community’s vision, budgeting and funding challenges, federal and state laws, and the daily challenges our educators (and) staff (face) and the needs of our diverse student population.”

The candidates gave the following responses to a Call questionnaire:

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

Kluth-Hoppe said, “In America each voter is entitled to a right of privacy. I supported proposals that promote improvement to the educational process so that students could be academically successful. Those proposals included attracting and retaining highly qualified staffing; updating computers and technology; curriculum updates; expansion of early childhood and full day kindergarten.

“I agree with the post-Proposition C survey results indicated that many of the proposals were deemed very important, but that the amount of increase was incorrect and that timing was bad with a struggling economy.”

Roland said, “I voted in favor of Proposition C. I believe there is a need for additional money for the district.”

Langland said, “I believe that voting is one of the very few private privileges that remain for American citizens. I have supported all community-engagement processes since my involvement with the Mehlville School District — approximately 18 years. I question the decision to place such a large tax increase before the voters in these challenging economic times.”

Are you satisfied with the leadership being offered by the district’s administration?

Kluth-Hoppe said, “Yes. Each year the staff goes through an evaluation process to recognize strengths and improve weaknesses. The superintendent also should go through a yearly evaluation process with the Board of Education.”

Roland said, “Yes, but as with any leadership, there is room for improvement.”

Langland did not respond to the question.

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

Kluth-Hoppe said, “The present pay formula for teachers includes steps and channels for additional education and tenure.

“Merit could be a part of the formula that determines teachers’ pay, but it is difficult to determine a method to evaluate ‘merit.’ Using children’s test scores may be a method to determine merit, but each year a teacher has different students with different skill levels and comparison based on test score improvement could not be easily determined.”

Roland said, “I do not believe teachers’ pay should be based on merit.”

Langland said, “I believe this is something we could research and discuss with our teachers as a way of retaining the excellent and dedicated educators in our district. Incentive pay in education is gaining in popularity, even with teachers, but some major challenges lie in the measurement of performance and fair implementation.

“Some schools have reported additional benefits such as more meaningful dialogue among staff, greater community support and very good working conditions.”

Did you participate in the district’s community-engagement program — COMPASS?

Kluth-Hoppe said, “I attended COMPASS community-engagement sessions. Over the years I have attended other community-engagement programs — Long Range Planning and Citizens Advisory Committee for Facilities. I believe that a community-engagement process is an important way to communicate with all the patrons of the district. It offers the community an opportunity to learn where the district stands. In turn, the facilitating team and district can prioritize the needs as seen by the community.

“It should be done periodically as a measurement of progress and evaluation for improvement.”

Roland said, “For a short time.”

Langland said, “Yes.”

If budget cuts are needed, what do you propose cutting? Would you support reducing busing and/or charging for it?

Kluth-Hoppe said, “The Board of Education is currently reviewing a contingency plan listing potential reductions. When the district’s approximately $100 million budget consists of over 75 percent salaries and benefits, some cuts to personnel must be made. Utilizing an early retirement incentive program helps that staff reduction situation. Reducing some support staff hours may be helpful. Reducing the expenditures for textbook and supplies has been done each year. Facility update expenses and capital expenditures can be extended over a number of years, but the district still must maintain its property. Reverting to a four-tier transportation system will save some money.

“The district can increase sport and activities fee, but that only generates a very minimal amount of income. As the state continues its battle over transportation funding for schools, the district might have to reduce some busing.”

Roland said, “There are too many variables to give one answer.”

Langland did not respond to the question.

How would you work to keep politics out of the board’s decision-making process?

Kluth-Hoppe said, “Politics — as in political parties — are not a part of the board’s decision-making process. I would not participate in such activity and encourage fellow directors to not participate in such activity.”

Roland said, “I am not sure.”

Langland said, “It is up to each board member individually and collectively to ensure that the board is governed in the most ethical manner. Board seats are nonpartisan.

“Additionally, school board member ethics state that board members will, ‘Refrain from using their board position for the benefit of family members, business associates or themselves’ and also ‘Avoid conflicts of in-terest or the appearance thereof.’ I believe a decision based on political affiliations would violate our code of ethics.”

What is your position on the use of the consumer price index tax-rate adjustment?

Kluth-Hoppe said, “By state law, the school district must use the CPI in the calculations for setting a school district’s tax-rate.”

Roland said, “I need to research more to give an answer.”

Langland said, “The district tax rate is determined by state law and can only reflect an increase no greater than the current CPI or 5 percent — whichever is lower. It seems incomprehensible that with our recent property tax increase that our most precious resource, our children, and our most valued asset, our school district, do not receive more of the benefit.”