Richard Gehring on the Issues
Experience is one strength I would bring to the board. I have served on the board before, so I know the time and effort required. It’s more than just making the meetings. It is imperative that I as a board member do my homework and be ready to address the issues at each meeting with knowledge and forethought. This is something I have done successfully before and will have no trouble continuing to do if elected. The second strength is that I have is a vested interest in making sure this district is the best it can be. My wife Nicole and I are both products of the SJSD. Nicole continues to be a part of this district as she is the secretary at Hosea Elementary. Our 3 boys are also part of the SJSD. Cade my oldest is at MWSU after spending K-12 in the SJSD. Kemper is a Junior at Benton and Cruz is in 5th grade at Hosea. So, it goes without saying that I want nothing but the absolute best for this district. We are lifelong St. Joseph residents and have no intentions of ever leaving. So even after my kids are older and graduated my passion will not go away for our public schools. They are absolutely vital to having a successful and prosperous city. Being able to work in a collaborative environment is another strength I have. When serving on the board you have to be able to work with 6 other individuals who have their own thoughts and ideas. You must be able to take into consideration their opinions as well as your own to formulate the best possible outcome concerning our educators and students. This is something I have done and will continue to do successfully if elected.
I really hope that we can achieve a greater sense of equality throughout our schools. I know our boundaries are a mess and I would like to help to be able to solve that problem. I think it starts with our schools being equal across the board. K-5 for all elementary, 6-8 for all middle schools and 9-12 for high schools. The second would be to really utilize Webster and have it fully staffed for the upcoming year. Our teachers deal with so much and I know that it takes away from them being able to teach when they are constantly dealing with kiddos who are disruptive and disrespectful. I also know it takes a special teacher who is willing to take on the challenges of teaching those students who can be difficult. So, I feel if we get a full dedicated teaching staff at Webster to help try and steer those students back to their home school we are on an excellent path. In the meantime, it helps our other teachers and students to accomplish their goals as well. If elected I really hope that our board will be thought of one that always had our teachers backs, that they felt we gave them the absolute best resources and teaching environment that we could give them. When they had needs or concerns, that we as a board were always there for them. It’s time that the board and district administration treat teachers like the professionals that they are.
Many schools in Saint Joe are falling into disrepair. What would you do to see schools maintained and upgraded?
We are fortunate to have a facilities committee made up of board members and community members. Continuing to meet monthly to help evaluate the condition of our buildings is important. It can be difficult to be cost effective when some of our buildings are so old and the upkeep can be very expensive. At this point unfortunately we are stuck with a fix a problem once it becomes an issue. There just aren’t enough funds available for preventative maintenance measures.
I felt that the mask mandate was handled the best that it could be. We were in uncharted waters when COVID hit, and every step of the way took the advice of our health professionals to ensure the absolute safety of our staff and students.
Would you be in favor of mandating face masks or vaccinations of students within the school district? Please elaborate.
Vaccinations should be a personal choice. Regarding a mask mandate, we have learned a lot about what was maybe wrong about masking the first time around. I would be very hesitant to vote in favor of masking our students and staff in the future. The Board did what they thought was right at the time, but now that we know more, I would really analyze what is truly best for our students and staff in their educational environments.
My top priorities are to ensure that Webster becomes fully staffed and fully funded. The second would be early childhood education. I was proud to be on the board when we voted to turn Lake Contrary into and early childhood education center. I was also encouraged to see we opened up another center. It is my hope that in the near future we can open even more early childhood centers. Getting kids ready to enter kindergarten is paramount and something a lot of children still struggle with. My third would be to continue to do everything we can to ensure our teachers and support staff are paid a competitive wage. Many teachers will tell you that they don’t do it for the money, but they are professionals. They need to be treated and paid as such.
I think attendance and behavior issues are huge challenges facing the district. I do however think that they are improving or are heading in the right direction. COVID was a great setback to attendance. Before COVID attendance was improving. I think that we will slowly start to see attendance rise moving forward. As well I think we will see behavior issues decrease as well once Webster becomes fully staffed. Having a school that is 3rd grade-12 grade with a dedicated staff to help work with students with behavioral issues is a huge step in the right direction. This will allow teachers and children in their home schools to teach and learn without as many distractions. Also, this will allow the students at Webster to get more individual attention which we hope would eventually get them back into their home school.
I feel we have a great group of SPED teachers in our district. I think they are doing fantastic things. We have to continue to help our students with disabilities feel included and have access to the same opportunities and resources that other students have.
How will you encourage community interaction and receive community feedback about the state of Saint Joseph Schools?
Surveys are a great way to encourage community interaction. Also, I think having open houses would be a fun way for the community to come visit schools in their area. Even if they don’t have children attending that school.
There are many ways you can encourage parental involvement. Create opportunities for engagement, which many of our Family Involvement Coordinators (FIC) do now. Make sure we are using effective communication. Whether it’s phone calls, social media, or newsletters sent home with students, we need to make sure parents are continuously made aware of activities the school is providing. Partner with parents, give them opportunities to have a say in different activities that go on at the school. Make them feel involved.
Do you support transgender-inclusive or lgbtq+ policies for schools such as bathroom and locker room inclusion based on someone's preferred gender?
Every student should be made to feel as safe and comfortable as possible. As a member of the school board, I would follow the legal requirements and obligations of the school.
Would you encourage the introduction of materials into the school system based on Critical Race Theory (CRT)?
No I would not.
I was very honored to be the only candidate to receive the endorsement of the St. Joseph MSTA. The endorsement of the MSTA is a significant vote of confidence in my campaign, and I am proud to have earned their support. If voted onto the Board, I will be committed to working closely with our educators to ensure that we are providing the best possible learning experiences for our students and preparing them to excel.