Three vying for two Mehlville seats

Mehlville candidates address issues facing school district

Three vying for two Mehlville seats

By Mike Anthony

Two incumbents and a political newcomer are vying for two seats on the Mehlville Board of Education in the April 5 election.

Incumbent Larry Felton, newcomer Kevin Schartner and incumbent Lori Trakas are seeking election Tuesday.

The seats carry three-year terms.

• “Electing two school board members who will continue to maintain the forward progress and unprecedented cooperation between the community and the school district,” Felton said.

• “I believe that continuing to build trust between the community, school board and administration is the most important issue in this race. We have an excellent start with high community engagement stemming from Prop R, the current superintendent and most of the school board. We need to continue this by meeting the Prop R commitments, ensuring clear communication with the community and continued transparency,” Schartner said.

• “Fiscal transparency and accountability. Why? With the passage of Prop R, the community is holding the district responsible to use increased revenues as promised,” Trakas said.

Felton, 69, 5949 Briarmist Place, 63128, is an information technology consultant for Technology Partners Inc. He and his wife, Martha, have five grown children. All graduated from Mehlville High School.

Felton, who has served on the board since 2007, said he is seeking re-election because “I originally ran for the Mehlville school board because I wanted the children in this community to have the same opportunities that my children had. I am running for re-election because I am still as committed to that purpose today as I was then. My experience on the board, and my background in planning and process improvement will be an asset to the board as it maintains the unprecedented cooperation between the community and the school district.”

Schartner, 45, 3081 Woodbridge Creek Drive, 63129, is program manager for continuous improvement at Ameren. He and his wife, Beth, have two children who attend Mehlville schools.

Schartner, who has not held elective office, said he is seeking election “to continue the positive momentum in our district that started with Prop R, pursue academic excellence in our schools for all children from early childhood education through college and career readiness, and fiscal responsibility to ensure effective stewardship with taxpayer funds.”

Lori Trakas, 48, 3900 Butler Hill Road, 63129, owns a certified court reporting business, Verbatim Reporting Inc. She is married to Ernest and has a stepdaughter, Allyson, who attends Belmont University.

Trakas, who was elected to the school board in 2013, said she is seeking re-election “to be a voice valuing academic excellence, fiscal responsibility and traditional values.”

Felton said, “I voted ‘yes’ on Prop R. I supported it because a clear financial need was documented and explained to the community, and the community came to the board and asked us to put this measure on the ballot. As a board member, I had seen firsthand the impact that reduced spending was having on the operation of the school district, including student achievement.”

Schartner said, “I voted for Proposition R. The data I gathered indicated we did not have the revenue to provide our children with a high-quality ed-ucation. I believe that if we did not correct this, we would see academics fall and our community would see a decline in property values …”

Trakas said, “I voted ‘no.’ I questioned the integrity of the financial information that was made available to the public, the district’s debt of $60 million was not addressed, and no long-term facility and infrastructure vision was casted.”

Felton said, “I will vote ‘yes’ on Prop A because it starts the process of providing capital funding to pay for capital improvements as-we-go. It’s a no-tax-increase transfer of a 4-cent tax from the debt fund to the capital fund. If approved, it will help fund the replacement of aging roofs, old furnaces and air-conditioners with high-efficiency units.”

Schartner said, “I will vote for Proposition A for the following reasons: Proposition A maintains our current tax rate and is not an increase in rates. Proposition A is a pay-as-you-go process that will repair and/or replace roofs, heating and air conditioning each year based on a schedule that has been posted on the school district website. With this pay-as-you-go method, the district is able to spend all of this money on capital improvements …”

Trakas said, “No. Official Prop R ballot language called for restoring, repairing and upgrading HVAC systems.”

Felton said, “Yes. Dr. Gaines is providing educational, planning and evaluation leadership that is moving this district forward. He has used his expertise with data and continuous improvement to provide the district with a clear understanding of where we are — the State of the District presentation — and the steps needed to implement the priorities of the Strategic Plan.”

Schartner said, “Yes. Dr. Gaines is a thoughtful, strategic and tactical thinker who is effectively leading our district through the Prop R commitments, Choice School of Innovation and a waste identification and reduction program. Dr. Gaines is the right leader at the right time.”

Trakas said, “As a member of the board, I am currently in the process of evaluating Dr. Gaines’ performance for the past eight months.”

Felton said, “The successful Prop R campaign explained the current financial state of the district, and requested a reasonable revenue increase. Our first objective is to effectively spend and track Prop R revenue according to the Prop R plan.

“We know that additional funds would be needed to fully fund the Strategic Plan, and to take care of identified capital needs. The process to determine if additional revenue is needed would be based on a collaboration between the school district and the community to discuss, prioritize and decide whether operational or capital revenue should be pursued.”

Schartner said, “My approach will be to first assess the true need for additional revenue and causes for this. If we realistically need additional revenue, I would begin communicating the need with the community, explaining the situation and listening to the community’s thoughts on how to proceed. If there were a need to cut any programs to meet a budget shortfall, we need to be up front about it and engage the community with where they believe cuts should be made.

“As we look for additional revenue, I would first look for any waste we could eliminate and would then look for low value programs that don’t support our strategic plan. If we could not find a way to cover the cost without hurting academics or cutting programs, I would ask the community if they would be willing to support the financial need.”

Trakas said, “The focus should be on better management and use of existing resources, not on securing additional funds.”

Felton said, “Yes. As a board, we have a responsibility to maintain the community’s investment in school facilities. Expenditures for roofs, air conditioning and furnaces need to be seen as a part of the maintenance budget so that a nearly fixed dollar amount can be set-aside each year. A philosophy of pay-as-you-go is a better approach that waiting for major failures that require passage of a bond issue incurring long-term debt …”

Schartner said, “Yes, if we do not replace outdated HVAC systems and roofs then they will eventually fail and we will be in an ‘emergency’ situation of needing to replace them quickly and not necessarily being able to get the best price. There is another benefit of improved efficiency with new HVAC that will result in lower utility costs. We should start funding HVAC and roof repairs/replacements with Prop A, which is a pay-as-you-go method that avoids the waste of interest charges.

“As much as we can copy the Prop A pay-as-you-go model, we should. As our debt is retired and we know of recurring capital costs, we should work to set up a Prop A type pay-as-you-go model so we don’t have any of this money being wasted on interest payments.”

Trakas said, “Official Prop R ballot language called for restoring, repairing and upgrading HVAC systems and roofs.”

Felton said, “Yes, I support the planned Innovation School. This will provide another way in which to engage students and encourage learning. It will also provide professional development opportunities for members of the teaching staff. Operating expenditures for the Innovation School will be included in the 2017-2018 budget just like expenses from the existing 10 elementary schools.”

Schartner said, “Yes, I support the Choice School of Innovation because it has the potential to drastically improve how we teach children across our district, not just at the initial Problem Based Learning elementary school. We are starting to train teachers for this new style of teaching and what we learn will be shared across our district.

“A Choice School of Innovation has the potential to make Mehlville a destination district. I believe it has a likelihood of increasing the number of parents moving to our district with a corresponding rise in property values.

“We need to be pragmatic during the next 12 months while we are scoping this new program to ensure we have a workable and affordable plan to proceed with the Choice School of Innovation. Logistics, implementation and cost need to be constantly assessed with the goals of making this effective and efficient. This is a specific area where I believe my years of project management experience will prove useful. I have experience scoping projects and managing budgets upwards of $50 million that can be directly applied to helping our district scope this program.”

Trakas said, “Though in the beginning optimistic, I have concerns that the School of Innovation may be another federal education program wrapped in a new package, designed to enhance the U.S. Department of Education’s control over decisions that should be made locally.”

Felton said, “I am an independent. I vote based upon the merits of an issue or a candidate. I look for people who can solve problems — not promote an ideology. The impact on public education is a major factor in how I conduct my evaluation.”

Schartner said, “Due to the school board being nonpartisan, I’m going to limit my answer to saying I am a fiscal conservative.”

Trakas said, “Republican.”

Felton said, “I view politics as an individual being driven by personal priorities rather than the common good of the school district. I don’t think politics can be entirely removed from the process, but I believe they can be managed. To reduce the impact of politics, I would continue to work with all school board members to support the strategic plan by making student-centered decisions leading to improved student achievement. I would also continue to work with board members to establish a common set of goals for the board.”

Schartner said, “I will focus on data, process, the Strategic Plan and the Board Goals. There are two sayings I routinely use to help keep teams on track. The first is: ‘The main thing, is to keep the main thing the main thing” — used many times during Prop R. The other saying is one I learned in continuous improvement that describe the process for root cause analysis. It states: ‘It’s the five Why’s, not the five Who’s.’ I will focus on the goals and process and will work to take the personal politics out of the decision making process.”

Trakas said, “A board member’s decision-making process should include the voices of an informed constituency.”

Felton said, “Sunshine laws currently allow elected officials to meet in private to discuss a limited set of subjects. Any votes recorded on those subjects are made available to members of the media. I respect the advocacy of the media for these sessions to be recorded, but I also believe that there are allowed topics where complete candor is needed between board members. Not only is it needed to ensure topics are fully discussed, but the exchanges between board members are an important part of board development.”

Schartner said, “The Sunshine Laws determine what items can be discussed in closed session, including contract and personnel issues. I believe these should continue to not be recorded.”

Trakas said, “No.”

Felton said, “Yes I do. I have supported the Mehlville School District for the last 23 years. I moved to Mehlville for the schools. I sent my kids to Mehlville High School because I valued the student diversity and depth of courses available. I served as a parent volunteer to support the activities my children chose.

I have served the last nine years on the Mehlville Board of Education because I want all of the children in this community to have the same opportunities that my children had. I am not just an advocate for the Mehlville School District, but I am a strong advocate for public education. I work with school districts across the state to exchange information about common issues and best practices, and use that knowledge to improve my contribution to the Mehlville School District. I believe in the words of Thomas Jefferson: ‘Public education is the foundation of democracy.’”

Schartner said, “Yes, because education is the foundation from which people lift themselves out of poverty, achieve their dreams, develop the next innovative products, create businesses and actively participate in and improve government. High-quality public education plays a critical role to ensure people of all socioeconomic levels are able to participate in the American Dream. The dissolution of public education would lead to increased poverty, class warfare and decreased GDP (gross domestic product).”

Trakas said, “I support public education. Public education provides a tool for a community’s youngest citizenry to cultivate knowledge.”

Felton said, “A charter school is considered to be an independent public school. They currently operate in the St. Louis city and Kansas City school districts. In most cases, a charter school is sponsored by a university. A charter school receives public funds, but is not subject to the reporting and regulations placed on a public school. I do not support the use of public funds for charter schools unless a board elected by the public, such as the local school board, is held accountable for those public funds.”

Schartner said, “I believe the original concept of charter schools was good. However, I have concerns with the implementation, specifically how charter schools receive public funds but do not report to a local school board. If public funds are used for education, then there should be full accountability and transparency of their use.”

Trakas said, “I have no opinion.”

Felton said, “I do not support the unrestricted use of public tax funds for private or parochial education.”

Schartner said, “I believe the voucher system can be a useful program in underperforming school districts, but there are major questions that would need to be answered before vouchers could be a viable alternative to our current system. In our situation, there is no need to pursue a voucher system and I would not do so as a board member.”

Trakas said, “The voucher system would likely be subject to federal government regulations and restrictions, so in the end it would not be a viable choice alternative.”

Felton said, “As part of the Prop R effort, a detailed list was produced with Prop R expenditures that would be funded with Prop R revenue. This list is the document by which Prop R expenditures will be recorded and reported to the board. While the board is responsible for tracking and approving these expenditures, the existing Finance Committee will serve as the review committee that will confirm that the monies are being spent according to the plan. Public discussions will take place if there is a stated request to deviate from the plan.”

Schartner said, “I have been attending Finance Committee meetings starting in January. They have set expected budgets against which to measure spending that is consistent with the promises communicated during the Prop R campaign. This will be the benchmark against which we will measure spending and the Finance Committee has plans to report results to the community, ensuring transparency.

“I will work with Dr. Gaines to ensure the Prop R promises are being met and will work with the finance committee and (Chief Financial Officer) Marshall Crutcher to monitor the Prop R budget actual spend against the expected spend set by the Finance Committee. I will follow up to understand any discrepancies and ensure the Prop R promises are met.”

Trakas said, “All district and Prop R funds should be posted on a tool that mirrors the Mehlville Fire Protection District Transparency Portal found on their website. The community can then ensure the revenue is spent as promised.”

Felton said, “I believe there are five areas where corrective actions are needed. 1) Lack of classroom support. Prop R will fund classroom specialists that will improve this situation. 2) Professional development. The priority for professional development funding should be raised, with additional budget funds allocated for PD. 3) Supplies. Building supply budgets will be increased with the 2016-2017 budget. 4) Differences in salaries between districts. A revised salary schedule could be developed that would increase the starting salary to district teachers, but still be at the current budget levels. 5) Concern over long-term district funding. Passage of Prop R was an answer to this issue.”

Schartner said, “I believe we need to compensate our teachers at a reasonable market rate and create a culture that draws and retains great teachers. I do not believe it is in our best interest to be the training ground for teachers and administrators. Those who prove themselves are often approached by surrounding districts with higher compensation rates. We need to retain our proven teachers and administrators if we want to compete at a high academic level. I believe that if compensation is reasonable compared to market rate, and our culture supports teachers and student performance, we will retain our proven teachers and administrators.”

Trakas said, “Building a system of success, providing teachers the opportunity to reach their full potential, will afford them a satisfying career in the Mehlville School District.”

Felton said, “No.”

Schartner said, “My mother-in-law is a teacher at Bernard Middle School.”

Trakas said, “No.”

Felton said, “Safety and security are the top two areas of concern in school climate surveys. We may be satisfied with the current security efforts at each building in the district but we must continue to look for improvements that can be made. As an example, consideration for more school resource officers, and changes in building entry security should be discussed by the Facilities Committee with funding changes, if appropriate, included in budget planning.”

Schartner said, “I am, but I would want to review them in more detail if I am elected to the board. Building security and child safety needs to be a top priority.”

Trakas said, “Yes, as I have not heard any concerns, complaints or violations.”

Felton said, “At the current time, there doesn’t appear to be any need to change PSRS and PEERS.”

Schartner said, “I don’t believe the current system is causing financial distress to the district and it does not place any unfunded mandates on the district. Because of this, I would not initiate any changes. The current system has teachers putting 14.5 percent of their salary into the retirement system, which is their own money. The district matches with another 14.5 percent. This match sounds high ,but we need to keep in mind that teachers and the district do not pay Social Security tax — 6.2 percent apiece — and teachers will not draw from the Social Security system when they retire.

“There is also no teacher 401(k) plan or 401(k) matching funds. Teachers and the district put away a good amount for retirement, but when looking at the numbers and comparisons with Social Security and 401(k) plans, he district only pays a couple percent more than the cost of Social Security taxes and a 401(k) match.”

Trakas said, “With the instability of financial markets and institutions, all benefit plans should prudently be strategized with a focus on long-term viability.”

Felton said, “Yes I do. I have supported the Mehlville School District for the last 23 years. I moved to Mehlville for the schools. I sent my kids to Mehlville High School because I valued the student diversity and depth of courses available. I served as a parent volunteer to support the activities my children chose.

I have served the last nine years on the Mehlville Board of Education because I want all of the children in this community to have the same opportunities that my children had. I am not just an advocate for the Mehlville School District, but I am a strong advocate for public education. I work with school districts across the state to exchange information about common issues and best practices, and use that knowledge to improve my contribution to the Mehlville School District. I believe in the words of Thomas Jefferson: ‘Public education is the foundation of democracy.’”

Schartner said, “Yes, I moved here twice — 1995 and 2006. I was born in Wisconsin, but south county has been my home for many years. I have pride in Mehlville-Oakville, have many friends here, and I want us to continue to be a great community.”

Trakas said, “Yes. As a proud resident of this community and alumni of MSD, I have expended numerous volunteer hours in support of the district,”

Felton said, “One of the key factors in student success is quality instruction from a high-quality teacher. Before talking about extending the school year, I would focus on the efficiency of the classroom — that is, are there duties or responsibilities that impact the time for quality instruction in the classroom. If this is a budget issue, staffing issue or supplies issue, then we need to resolve them so the time available for instruction is increased.

“I would also make sure that each teacher has the professional development that will help them in their teaching. When the quality instruction time is maximized in a classroom, then it would be time to discuss extending the school year to increase the number of teaching days.”

Schartner said, “I do not currently plan to extend the school year. Before I would support extending the school year, I would first need to understand what problem this would be trying to solve. If it were a problem that could be solved by working more efficiently during our current school year, I would favor making these improvements over continuing an inefficient system that runs longer.

“I would be open to extending the school year if there were well understood and agreed upon goals that are aligned with the Strategic Plan, and could not be accomplished in our current school year. We then would need to weigh the benefits with any increase in costs to make the right decision.”

Trakas said, “Undecided.”

Felton said, “No, in fact the news media used the Mehlville School District’s nepotism policy as an example of how it should be done.”

Schartner said, “No.”

Trakas said, “No.”

Felton said, “Mehlville NEA (National Education Association), South St. Louis County Labor Council.”

Schartner said, “Mehlville NEA, South County Labor.”

Trakas said, “Tesson Ferry Republican Club.”

Felton said, “The chief financial officer — CFO — works with the Finance Committee to solicit their insight and advice regarding district financial issues. The CFO takes this information under advisement as he provides financial summaries, projects and budget views to the Board of Education. I have attended the Finance Committee both as a board representative and as a spectator to hear financial professionals interact with the CFO.

“The more data the board has about a financial decision, the better the quality of that decision will be. The information provided by the CFO, on behalf of the Finance Committee, is a vital part of any financial decision, but it is not the exclusive source of data. The strategic plan, past and projected trends and current budget expense and revenue information must also be considered as well.”

Schartner said, “The board should consult with the Finance Committee on major financial decisions. This group is comprised of financial professionals who have a deep understanding of the district finances. The final decision needs to rest with the board because it is the elected body that is given this responsibility.”

Trakas said, “The district is fortunate to have volunteer financial professionals lend their advice, but recommendations on major decisions should be submitted to the board by the CFO.”

Felton said, “By following the Prop R spending plan, the board will be able to fund additional math and reading intervention teachers in elementary classrooms, along with additional professional development, supplies and materials. The key metric in this process will be measures of third-grade reading levels and fifth-grade math levels.”

Schartner said, “We know if children are at grade level by third grade, we have a high probability of keeping them at grade level through high school. Therefore, one of my primary focuses will be on early childhood education. This is where we set the base for a successful academic career. I will also focus on college preparedness and career readiness by working with the administration to ensure we have the programs and classes that best meet these goals.

“Measures are necessary to understand how we are doing and where we need to improve. I believe state testing plays a role so we can compare our performance to peer and aspiration districts. I also believe measures of key leading indicators are necessary to understand how our children are doing with the important concepts in each grade. I would work with the administration to understand the most effective leading indicators, determine how we can collect these and utilize them to improve academic performance.”

Trakas said, “I would explore best practices outlined in Lindbergh’s Learning Report posted on their Oct. 6, 2015, Board of Education meeting.”

Felton said, “Yes, I did, but it was a difficult process, especially the choice of setting fees for local bus transportation. If we had to repeat the process, I would focus on expense reductions that would be as far away from the classroom as possible. I don’t think I would consider reduced busing again.”

Schartner said, “I do support last year’s budget cuts. To continue operating with a projected $8.5 million shortfall would be irresponsible. I would engage the community up front to understand areas where they see waste that can be eliminated and what budget items they believe would will have the lease detrimental effects. As a board member, I would propose cutting in areas that least effect academic performance.

“I would not support reducing busing or charging for it because our experience in 2015 showed this action generated much less revenue that was expected, and it proved to put more strain on the schools and local streets during school drop off and pickup times.”

Trakas said, “I did not support all cuts. Increasing our reserve levels and committing funds to finance the School of Innovation indicates no need for future cuts.”

Felton said, “I believe it is proper to name facilities for community members who have significantly contributed to the well-being and success of the Mehlville School District. People who have been honored were pioneers who actually helped build the original Mehlville High School, administrators who had a positive impact on the district, teachers who were recognized by their students, and community members who have served the needs of the district.”

Schartner said, “We should name school buildings and rooms after people who have sacrificed their time and energy, and have had a large positive impact on the district. Let’s acknowledge their dedication to our children and community and use the building name as a way to teach our students about the character attribute of community service.”

Trakas said, “My opinion is neutral as it relates to naming rights.”

Felton said, “This is a difficult question because I consider the school board to be a team effort. The success of a school board is based on the skills, experiences and perspectives each board member brings to the team. My contribution is based on arriving at good answers the best way possible. I provide a process-oriented perspective that is based on planning and preparation for board meetings. My experiences with school boards across the state gives me a unique perspective on effective school governance.

“Accomplishments are where knowledge, preparation and contribution make a difference in how a problem is solved or a decision is made. In contrast, there is no long-term benefit when one board member decides to dominate a board conversation at the expense of a collaborative decision-making process.

“With one exception, I’m going to focus on my last three years on the board. I believe my biggest accomplishments on the board are: 1) Implementing full-day kindergarten. My knowledge of early childhood made a difference in this discussion. 2) Hiring Dr. (Norm) Ridder. I have a strong background in planning and continuous improvement. In my years on the board, a consensus for planning did not develop. With Dr. Ridder, I was able to contribute because I understood his work to develop a Mehlville Strategic Plan. 3) Adopting a Strategic Plan for Mehlville. During the development process, I was able to analyze focus group results and survey results to identify strengths, weaknesses and trends which I shared with Dr. Ridder. During public discussions of the plan I was able to use my planning expertise answer questions about content and format. 4) Hiring Dr. Gaines. This may have been the most challenging accomplishment of my three terms on the board. My experience working with school districts, especially their experiences searching for a superintendent, was extremely important in the search. That knowledge was used as I contributed to the discussion that resulted in the selection of Dr. Gaines. 5) Voter approval of Prop R. I’m proud of this because it was the culmination of individual contributions in items 2, 3 and 4 coupled with a nearly unanimous effort from the school board to put this on the ballot and work for its passage.”

Schartner said, “My biggest accomplishment for the district is the role I played to help our community pass Prop R. My role was through Mehlville-Oakville United where I was the treasurer, part of the leadership team, the data researcher and one of the many communicators with our community. The results speak for themselves with 18,000 ‘yes’ voters, a 72.5 percent approval and a highly engaged community. We proved that we do support our public schools, our children and our community. When there is a real need and community help is needed, we will step up.

“Personally, the Prop R accomplishment allowed me to take on responsibilities that utilized my experience, but stretched my prior limit and allowed me to grow. I worked closely with many great people during this effort, creating new friendships and opportunities that will last my lifetime. There are many members of MOU and our community that who dedicated their time and effort to passing Prop R. The accomplishment of Prop R belongs to all of us.”

Trakas said, “Bringing visibility, transparency and integrity to the decision-making process, commitment to academic rigor, compassion for the challenges of the modern child/family, and, lastly, being a voice for traditional values.”

Felton said, “To make a decision that would change the number of high schools in a district, a school board would need a lot of information before this choice could be made. First, you would need past, current and projected enrollment numbers as well as demographic and real estate data. An enrollment drop would create the need single high school, while a surge might be the driver for an addition school. Second, the age and status of school buildings need to be considered. Does the cost of maintenance exceed the value of the building as a teaching facility?Finally, what would be the impact to the community, bus transportation, and the way in which the elementary/middle school feeder arrangements would be established?

“At this time, the board does not have any enrollment, maintenance or redistricting data that suggests that any high school construction is needed.”

Schartner said, “Our current attendance trend is declining slightly which indicates we should not build a third high school. There are many logistical and financial considerations to building a third high school. Even if our enrollment was increasing, we would need to weigh all of our options before deciding to build a third high school.”

Trakas said, “No. Enrollment numbers and geographical locations do not dictate the need for a third high school.”

Felton said, “Please see the answer to (the previous) question.”

Schartner said, “No. Logistically, this would be a very difficult. The first big, and potentially insurmountable issue, would be finding and purchasing enough land with surrounding roads equipped to handle the traffic volume.”

Trakas said, “No.”

Felton said, “I don’t think board members should be apologists and always agree with the administration. On the other hand, they shouldn’t be contrarians that always disagree. That predisposition smacks of political ideology — not good governance.

“Board members should make decisions that are pertinent to the strategic plan. The agenda item for the discussion should include the reasons for consideration — legal, financial, policy, et cetera — data that explains or supports the problem/opportunity including trends and impacts, and a suggested course of action. If the board doesn’t think it has sufficient information or cause to make the decision, then the item should be tabled for clarification and discussed at the next meeting.”

Schartner said, “Board members should consider problems from all angles. Decisions should be made after considering factors such as how it fulfills the Strategic Plan and Board Goals, how it affects academic performance, the budget and community.

“Board members and the administration have to work as a team, but board members have an additional oversight responsibility. Board members ensure the administration is effectively pursuing the right goals and helps realign the board/administration team when actions are inconsistent with meeting the goals.”

Trakas said, “Recommendations of the administration are just that and must be considered by the Board, but the board should not be a rubber stamp for administrative initiatives. Board member decisions should be driven by what is best for the student body and reflect the interests of an informed constituency.”

Felton said, “I believe that the Board of Education has adhered to the Sunshine Law statutes. To maintain that level of compliance, I would continue the district’s current procedures for publicizing meeting dates and meeting agendas to the media and to members of the community. I would also continue to review and enhance the eBoards website to improve public access to meeting agendas, meeting minutes and meeting attachments.”

Schartner said, “I know there has been at least one incident in the past where Sunshine Laws were not adhered to by the letter of the law. I do not have reason to believe any violations of the Sunshine Law have occurred in recent years. I would ensure the board complies with the Sunshine Law.”

Trakas said, “For the most part, with a few exceptions. I would require administration to hold high the responsibility of following the laws of the state of Missouri.”

Felton said, “Yes, I do. VICC provides an opportunity for St. Louis City students to attend an accredited public school. I believe the district should maintain the current level of participation.”

Schartner said, “I do support VICC. I believe education is the basis for people to work their way out of poverty and too many of our St. Louis children live in poverty. A program like VICC has the potential for multiple generational change as a person who pulls themselves into the middle class is going to ensure their kids have every opportunity to be successful. My understanding is that VICC children start with our local children in the early grades and are able to advance with their classmates.”

Trakas said, “Mehlville should end its participation in the VICC program. Fewer students will require less revenue. St. Louis city students should not be financing our budget.”

Felton said, “Sex education is best taught to children in the home by their parents. The state of Missouri requires the Mehlville School District to offer age-appropriate health education to students in fifth grade and older. The district allows parents to have their children ‘opt out’ of the classroom discussions if they wish.”

Schartner said, “State law says this has to be offered and that parents can opt their children out. I attended a Catholic grade school and was taught sex education in eighth grade. We learned about everything that can go wrong and negatively impact a young person’s life. Personally, I believe that knowing these consequences helps children make better decisions. I believe the various types of birth-control methods should be taught with the inclusion of what can go wrong and what they do not protect against. I believe it should be taught that abstinence is the only 100-percent way to assure against pregnancy and disease, because this is a medically accurate statement.”

Trakas said, “ No. Sex education should be between parent and child.”

Felton said, “I believe that school libraries should provide age-appropriate information that can be used by an individual to form their own opinions.”

Schartner said, “We will need to follow state law and all library materials need to be age appropriate. Through the lens of age appropriateness, I would question any material on sexual subjects in a K-12 school library.”

Trakas said, “It depends on the content of the information, and systems should be in place to guarantee parental oversight.”

Felton said, “The inclusion of creationism as a course in the school district would be governed by decisions made by the state School Board and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education — DESE. The discussion point with creationism is whether it is considered as a science course or as a theology course. To the best of my knowledge, Missouri does not consider it to be a science, but it could be included in a humanities or theology course.”

Schartner said, “We are subject to state law on this topic and I know there have been legislative attempts to include creationism in public school science classes. At this point, creationism is not part of the science curriculum. I believe creationism could be taught as part of a theology class on general religion, and I would not have any issues with this approach.”

Trakas said, “Evolution is a theory, not a scientific law, and, as such, evolution, creation and/or intelligent design should be offered as electives.”

Felton said, “At this time, there are very few state laws and very few school policies that discuss this topic. There are several things to consider. Federal law, including Title I, has requirements for the choices a transgender person can make. There is also the consideration of providing a safe and secure environment for students who are not of an age where they could make their own decision about the appropriate locker room for a transgender person. To arrive at a decision, our legal counsel would be consulted.”

Schartner said, “Our district is subject to federal and state law on this topic and there is currently a lot of disagreement at the state level. If we face this situation, our approach needs to follow legal requirements and treat individuals with respect. At this point, I believe state law allows a transgender student to use single occupancy or unisex bathrooms if they want. I would explore this option, and would be open to any other ideas that meet legal requirements and respect the individual rights of our students.”

Trakas said, “For safety and concerns of the rights of all children, K-12 students should not be required to share restrooms or locker rooms with students of a different gender.”

Felton said, “No.”

Schartner said, “No.”

Trakas said, “No.”

Felton said, “The board has set 13 percent to 18 percent as the balance range to be maintained. Fund balances are part of the financial strategy of the school district.The balance is highest right after local and state funding is paid. During the rest of the year, it drops as expenses are paid. I favor maintaining a balance in the 18 percent to 25 percent range so that we can react to opportunities such as expanding local police presence at the elementary schools, or providing additional teaching resources.”

Schartner said, “I am OK with the recent increase and believe we should target closer to the 17 percent side of this range. The reserve target should be set to ensure we do not dip into deficit spending near the end of the year, and this needs to be monitored to ensure we are also not reserving more than we really need.”

Trakas said, “Thirteen percent to 18 percent.”