Sean on the Issues
What can be done to address the poor English proficiency and Math Proficiency scores that are being generated by kids in our school system? English scores reflect that students are only 32% proficient and math scores are coming in at 38% proficient --- both below the state average.
The board is not tasked to be professional educators. Our task is to support the actual professional educators as the experts they are. If you want scores to improve, we need to do all we can to let teachers teach, without bureaucratic interference. We need to improve the morale of our teachers, make sure they feel supported and that they have all the resources and the instructional time they need to effectively teach. This question is not applicable to the board.
I have been very vocal about this subject. I am not a fan. I believe students should be in school 5 days a week for academic, social, and practical reasons. This issue will most likely be decided before the election so my opinion isn’t worth much. Whatever the current board decides, I will support. I do understand why the district is considering it because of teacher retention and recruitment. I think that if the board puts forth a levy specifically for teachers/staff salaries, that would be a better incentive than go to a 4 day school week. I understand that other districts have done it and they like it, but the smaller districts do it to save money on building maintenance and staff.
Do you understand the District's Annual Budget, and what are your plans to get your arms around the details of that budget and evaluate where and how Tax taxpayer dollars are being spent?
I do understand the District’s Annual Budget. The SJSD currently spends 68.52% of their budget on Salaries and Benefits.13.28% is for Purchased Services which includes mandated services like interpreters, special support staff, and other non employee services. I get my arms around the details of the budget by going to the committee meetings and asking questions. I would say the area we need to look at is the contract for the foreign teachers. They fill a need, but that was a bad and expensive contract that we’re stuck in for multiple years.
Where do you stand on the proposed Bond Renewal of $20 million when the District Administration has no impactful plan to utilize that money to better educate our children? Passing that bond issue would cost the taxpayers 26 cents per $100 of access property value- approximately $3.2 million annually.
No impactful plan? I believe putting money towards safety, facilities, and fine arts are impactful. Oak Grove and Carden Park need parking lot improvements. Sidewalks for various schools are in the plan. New artificial turf at the three High Schools will help the sports programs stay competitive and provides opportunities for soccer and band to play/practice on the fields. I’m especially looking forward to Fine Arts across the district to receive some funding for improvements with instruments, auditorium improvements, and classroom enhancements. I’m in favor of this bond initiative.
What is your position on general levy Tax increases to increase the school district's annual budget?
St. Joseph is known for its low taxes and low services. You get what you pay for. I am in support of a tax levy to increase staff salaries. Do you know that some of our support staff/para-professionals make the state minimum wage of $12.30 an hour? They are with our children day in and day out. They have to navigate state/national standards and some of them have degrees. That is why so many people are getting out of teaching because you can work at Target for a guaranteed $15 an hour and none of the headache. They can work at McDonalds flipping burgers for more than the district pays. I’m okay with raising a general levy tax increase for staff salaries. I find it abhorrent that the state will not follow the governor’s request to raise the base salary of our teachers to $40K. Why?
The can has been kicked another year. I believe the SJSD needs to do something about the boundaries. Of the three options, I thought option 1 was the most equitable. Instead, for next year they are moving the boundary for Limbergh further east to move 60 students to Eugene Field to take the overcrowding off of Limbergh. Those students who moved will still follow their middle school feeder pattern through Robidoux.
What is your position on the proposal to build one or two new high schools replacing the three older facilities that currently exist?
I believe the best option for St. Joseph is to build two new high schools and repurpose Central as a middle school. Then you can close down Bode (over a 100 years old and it still has asbestos in the ceilings) and possibly Robidoux to Central. Our two smaller high schools are underutilized. Both are a little over 600 students. In their hey day, they were pushing 900+. Central is at 1700. Back in the 70’s and 80’s CHS was over 2000. Benton and Lafayette were built in the early 1900’s and Central was built in 1932. All have inefficient boilers and cost the district a lot of money in upkeep for under utilized buildings. I do music directing in area musical productions. For two years, I was contracted with Gladstone Theater in the Park. We rehearsed at Staley High School. Their facility was amazing! Modern classrooms with technology in every class, A/C everywhere, efficient utilities, fantastic sports facilities and the list goes on and on. I went to the SJSD from K-12 as well as my kids. They would frequently visit other schools for competitions and such and would wonder why St. Joseph’s schools were not comparable. We have people in our schools now that their great grandparents went to these schools. They haven’t changed much in over 100 years. If St. Joseph wants to be competitive in drawing talent to our businesses and not have them live in KC, Liberty, Platte City, etc, then we need to update our schools. Benchmark cities like Atchison, KS that moved their middle school to the old high school and then built a new high school on the edge of town. It can work here too!
What is your approach to school safety? What is your position on metal detectors, security guards, and safety training for our teachers and administrators?
I think the schools have implemented safeguards for the kids with the locking of all doors and funneling visitors to one point of entry. The high schools have implemented metal detectors for their games and we have SRO’s assigned to each school. I do not think bringing guns and arming teachers is what we need to do. The SJSD has frequent lock down drills for active shooter training. I hate that we have to go to these lengths, but I am against arming teachers/staff in our schools.
I’m not sure how to answer this question? By current approach, do you mean servicing everyone with a free, quality, public education? We employ the administrators who hire the teachers and staff to carry out the vision of the superintendent.
My oldest son, who is a teacher in the district, says his most significant challenge is teacher pay. I believe that is one large challenge, but I think one just as challenging is student discipline. Teacher pay needs to be hit on multiple fronts. A tax levy specifically geared for teacher pay and pressuring the MO legislature to increase the base pay for all MO teachers to $40K.
As for discipline, that will take coordination with the parents/guardians of the kids, the school administration, and the classroom teachers to partner and have some candid discussions regarding student discipline. In the mid 90’s, I worked for the SJSD as a paraprofessional in the Behavior Disorder classroom. There was a K-12 school specifically for behavior disorders. I believe it was finally disbanded by the early 2000’s. We may need to look into this option again. The alternative school at Webster is doing good things for those who are struggling in the classroom, but I don’t know if it deals with younger aged kids with disciplinary issues.
I would approach working with the school district administration as partners. They need us and we need them. Together we can make a lot of good decisions that is best for our students and staff.
Do you support transgender-inclusive or lgbtq+ policies for schools such as bathroom and locker room inclusion based on someone's preferred gender?
Would you encourage the introduction of materials into the school system based on Critical Race Theory (CRT) and other "woke" ideologies?
CRT is not taught at the SJSD in the K-12 system. It is being taught on a collegiate level and I am in full support of that as a humanities/social studies type class.
I use the definition of woke from the Merriam-Webster dictionary: “aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice).” Just like Jesus.
What is your position on notifying parents if a child is considering something harmful to their bodies – whether it is gender-related or other? What will you do about the current movement to limit a parent's involvement?
There are already policies in place to notify parents if a child is thought to be wanting to unalive themselves. If you’re asking about gender confirming surgery, there are so many steps that have to happen before that is even an option. It would take parental involvement to go to a doctor / psychiatrist for counseling, beta blockers, testosterone/estrogen, up to including surgery. I don’t think any changes need to occur to the current policies regarding medical care. https://www.sjsd.k12.mo.us/departments/health-services
I love Jesus, but I drink a little