7 vie for 3 open seats on J.E.B. board

Joel E. Barber School Board Candidates
By: 
KELLY MORGAN ◆ KELLY@LEBANONDAILYRECORD.COM

On April 4, voters in the Joel E. Barber C-5 School District will choose candidates to fill three available seats on the Joel E. Barber School Board. Incumbents John Sanwald and Tommy Huff will appear on the ballot, as will candidates Chris Cottongim, Patty McCulloch, Bob Hall and Melissa Wehner. Additionally, Judy Slaughter is a registered write-in candidate for the race, which means that her name will not appear on the ballot, but write-in votes for her will be counted.

Prior to the election, the Lebanon Daily Record asked each school board candidate the following questions:

What knowledge and experience do you bring to this position?

Cottongim: Business-wise, I bring a wealth of experience to the table. I have dealt with multiple regulatory government agencies. I am constantly working in human resources, where it is my responsibility to hire, manage and promote people. I am responsible for an expansive budget that covers payroll, product purchases and maintenance needs.

As a former board member, I am aware of the operations of the board and what it takes to perform the job in a proficient manner.

McCulloch: I am currently the Co-Owner of the Li’l Country Store and know what it is like to function on a strict budget, being able to separate the wants from the needs and prioritizing accordingly.

I am currently active in supporting our community along with the parents, students, faculty and staff of Joel E. Barber. I have 10 years of experience as a supervisor at a large venue in Denver, Colo., where there was a diverse staff of employees that taught me how to handle different personalities and different areas of conflict.

Hall: Having worked in the commercial printing industry for over 35 years, as well as being a minority owner of a company,  I have experience dealing with people and creating and executing multimillion dollar budgets, plus the privilege of serving on numerous charitable boards. Currently, I am very hands-on at my church, First Christian, in the shopping, packing and delivery of the Sheherd Back Packs.  Every Thursday I deliver to JEB approximately 80 bags of non-perishable food items for the kids to help with nutrition over their three-day weekend.

Wehner: My name is Melissa Wehner. I am a Joel E. Barber alumni who has lived in the district for almost 33 years. I am a mother of 3 children, and all have attended or are currently attending Joel E. Barber.  I have worked in the service industry for 16 years,  have been a member of Kiwanis club and Board of Directors and have served on many committees that serve the community and schools. I have worked with large budgets and dealt with conflict resolution and have a background in business. I am passionate and excited about students achieving their highest potential in a district where parents, teachers and staff can work collaboratively to make this happen.  The C-5 district, the children and this community are incredibly important to me. I would like to ask for your vote on April 4.

Huff: I bring a tenure of school board experience to our district. I have served on the board as Vice President for the last 10 years.

Sanwald: Having served on the JEB school board for the past 6 years I have gained a lot of knowledge. Also, I am currently serving as secretary of the Laclede County Fair Board, vice president of the Laclede County Farm Bureau Board, member of the Lebanon FFA Ag Advisory Board, and also serving as a co-leader of a local 4H group. Also, I have in the past served as vice chairman of the Laclede County University of Missouri Extension Council.

Slaughter: I have operated my own business for the past 20 years, giving me the firsthand experience necessary to keep an organization running efficiently and effectively. Accurately assessing situations, setting realistic goals based on those assessments, and operating within a budget to make those goals a reality are all skills that I will bring with me in service on the board.

In addition, because I have lived within the district most of my life, and my dad was one of the founding board members of Joel E. Barber, I know and understand the needs and wants of the patrons of our district. My roots have always been and continue to be here. I feel strongly that our school and community have great potential, and I am willing to invest whatever time and energy is necessary to help give every Joel E. Barber student the opportunity to become the best they can be.

In your opinion, what are the biggest issues currently facing your school district?

Hall: We have to get refocused on education. JEB is currently running  20 percent below the state average in overall  MAP test scores,  which from my viewpoint is totally unacceptable. In addition to the poor test scores for the school, a continual decline in enrollment has been experienced, with only 388 students to date attending JEB.

Wehner: In my opinion, the biggest issues the C-5 district is currently facing is achievement (low test scores) and technology support. I am excited about the opportunity to serve on the board to assist with a plan to work on test scores, achievement, and technology.

Huff: Our biggest issue is keeping up with ever-changing curriculum.

Sanwald: In my opinion, one of the largest issues facing our district is the lack of current technology. Current state standards for the student include end-of-the-year testing all being done online now. It is imperative that we have to the most updated computers and tools available for that. This technology needs to be in the hands of students and staff year-round so they can become fluent and proficient with its use.  Another large issue would be the uncertainty of state funding from year to year for our school; it varies a lot from year to year. 

I am proud to have been a part of the school board for the past 6 years, in which each year we were able to complete the fiscal year with a positive balance instead of a deficit.

Another issue is helping the teachers stay up-to-date on all the latest methods and models of teaching.  We have been able to resolve this with the four-day-per-week school week.  We are seeing teacher fidelity and effectiveness improve by being able to send teachers to other districts to observe other teaching methods as well as professional development within our district.

Slaughter: Right now, our overall MAP test scores are 20 percent below the state average, with some grades scoring significantly below that. That is, first and foremost, my greatest concern. Finding the resolution will require a team effort between the board, administration, teachers, parents and students, but I am confident that together we can get JEB back on track for education. The four-day week is a controversial issue that probably needs to be re-evaluated to determine their relation to test scores and declining enrollment.

Cottongim: Continuing to improve on our MAP test scores and continuing to offer our students the best possible education experience while remaining within the confines of a fiscally responsible budget is of the utmost importance to me.

McCulloch: JEB has many technology issues. I understand the school has several computers, but they need to be updated, as do the programs that are run. We also need more computers, iPads, tablets, etc., available to the students to prepare them to move on to the bigger schools once they graduate from JEB.

What do you hope that the school board will accomplish during your term if you are elected?

Huff: I wish to continue to improve the educational atmosphere and experience of JEB.

Sanwald: While I have been out campaigning and visiting with the patrons, I have heard the complaint of the communication gap between the school and the patrons of the district that do not have children at Joel E. Barber. I would like to see the district start sending out a yearly report, at minimum, of the prior year’s testing compared to the state average, a list of any major updates that were completed during the year to the school, a list of future updates that will be done the next school year and a school calendar for the coming year. This would be sent to every household in our district before the beginning of the school year. Since we have been approved for our SEMA shelter, I would like to see it started and finished in my next term. It will be a great asset to our district and community in the event of severe weather to keep our children and patrons safe.

Slaughter: First and foremost, to give each and every child the tools needed to be the very best they they can be. While not the entire goal, higher test scores would definitely be a part of that.

Another goal would be to establish procedures to make the transition between eighth grade and high school easier.

I’d like to see JEB be known as an environment conducive to learning and accomplishment, making it a place where students and staff alike feel fulfilled.

Better communication with the community would definitely be a goal, including full disclosure of what their tax payer dollars are accomplishing.

Cottongim: I would hope we would stand in unison and solidarity in support of our students and their families as well as the staff and district. It would be my utmost determination to finish the term leaving the district in better academic and fiscal condition than when I started.

McCulloch: Resolving the technology issues in the most cost effective way possible and ensuring the educational growth of the students of Joel E. Barber. I would like to make sure the parents know that we are here for their children and taking care of each of them is truly a top priority. I would like to see the board continue to be an asset in the community that we serve.

Hall: I would like to see the school board set clear and defined goals for the teachers and administrators. The first goal should be to get our MAP test scores at least back to the state average. The second goal would be to become a Missouri Blue Ribbon School. With our low student-to-teacher-ratio and full time administrative staff, this can be done. What a feather in our cap this would be for our kids, our district and our community to be a Blue Ribbon School. 

Wehner: My vision for the Joel E. Barber District is as follows: 1) Achievement and Success for all children 2) Technology Awareness and Resources 3) Team Building, 4) Staff Development

Editor’s note: Judy Slaughter did not provide the Lebanon Daily Record with a photograph of herself.

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The Lebanon Daily Record

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