The Stockton Community Teachers Association hosted a Facebook Live event for the Stockton R-I School District board of education candidates at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, May 15.

This online event was in place of the traditional public forum setting the candidate event usually is held in. 

All candidates were given an opportunity to express their views on current issues related to the R-I district.

Each respective candidate response was supplied to the Cedar County Republican by district staff and they appear here in their entirety, as submitted. 

Dr. Rodger Campbell, candidate for Stockton R-I school board

As a potential board member, what is your highest priority?

As an elected official, my highest priority is to ensure a quality education system producing students at graduation who are able to become independent adults within five years of graduation, giving the youth of our community the best opportunity to be successful in life. Other priorities include maintaining school safety, a four-day school week, advocating for all sports programs and extracurricular activities and a voice for our area home school children. I have absolutely no hidden or personal agenda, just an investment in helping our district grow.

•The governor supports increasing teachers' salaries, but does not plan to increase funding for this initiative. Where do you stand on this issue, and how do you plan to keep teacher salaries competitive?

I think it would be extremely fair to say that teacher salaries are nowhere near adequate for the priceless services they provide to our children and community-therefore, increasing teacher salaries is always a good thing. That being said, it would require some difficult decisions, reviewing the budget line by line to find the monies needed to increase salaries since we won't have additional revenue from the state. Finding the place where monies can be safely rerouted to meet the mandate of increased teacher salaries without undue harm to other fields or requirements requires patience and balance and work, something I am absolutely willing to do. Federal tax credits and grants can be used to our advantage in helping increase our teacher salaries and we have to make sure those are absolutely maximized to our advantage.

•Stockton school district has seen a steady decline in enrollment during the past few years. Moving forward, what do you see as fiscal priorities as the enrollment budget decreases?

Teaching staff would be a high priority, as education does not go forward without quality teachers-they are the backbone of our district! Following after, equipment/facilities and administration. With decreasing enrollment, there is decreasing funding, so that always requires careful review and updating of budgets. However-increasing home school children's participation in activities and drawing in and keeping quality teachers with competitive salaries and incentives is a way to directly combat declining enrollment and I am a fierce advocate for both!

•How do you feel about home school students participating in Stockton school extracurricular activities?

I am a fierce advocate for it. The school and home school students and families absolutely both benefit from finding a way to incorporate them into our extracurricular activities. As of current, the board or district has not published or established a specific agenda of how to get this accomplished. For sports participation, there are specific guidelines that have to be met. My thoughts on the criteria needed to be established for our home school children are as follows: at least two hours of in class participation (as this is what MSHAA requires), be enrolled in and participating verified home school curriculum, periodic grade checks of both in school and home school grades and classes to confirm eligibility. Home school kids shouldn't be punished, they should be welcomed into our district. This not only helps increased participation for student activities, but also helps socialization and increased parental involvement!

•What could be done to increase parent involvement?

Parent involvement in crucial in the building the success of your child. This being said, school communication is the glue that holds it all together. A school wide focus on communication with parents is what's needed, and I believe elementary, middle school and high school can all work together to establish the connection on what works best for them. Each building needs to pick a tool of communication and someone in charge of it, to keep parents informed of specifics happenings in their child's building and classroom. Parent-teacher committees, parent workshops, apps, social media, parent surveys, home visits, events bringing parents into the school and publicizing all of these are all ways to keep parents in the know and involved. To start bettering this, I would first start by asking parents what they would like to see improved in our district's communication.

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Dr. Rodger Campbell, candidate for Stockton R-I school board. 

 

Emily Mehl, candidate for Stockton R-I school board

•As a potential board member, what is your highest priority?

The best interest of the students, staff and school.

•The governor supports increasing teacher salaries, but does not plan to increase funding for this initiative. Where do you stand on this issue, and how would you plan to keep teacher salaries competitive?

I definitely feel that teachers are underpaid, no matter what their salary!  Not knowing the full budget, I do not feel as though I can honestly say where budget cuts should be made.  I do however believe in working with our state budget and to lobby our Governor’s office and make a case pushing for additional funding. 

•Stockton School District has seen a steady decline in enrollment during the past few years. Moving forward, what do you see as the fiscal priorities as the enrollment and budget decreases?

I really do NOT want to see a drop in activities or extracurricular activities in our school, as I believe that is instrumental in forming well rounded children.  I also would NOT want to have to let any of our staff go. I believe we could be strategic using retirements and as staff move to different districts when rehiring and restructuring for positions as they arise.  Additionally, I think it would be great to form a board partnering with the city and Chamber [of Commerce] to see what we, as a community, can do to attract families and students to our district.

•How do you feel about homeschool students participating in Stockton school extracurricular activities?

I believe if this is something the district decides to pursue, it needs to be fair and same regulations across the board. If one child cannot compete in an extracurricular activity because they were not in attendance the required four hours on a given day, I feel the same attendance requirements need to be in place for the home schoolers enrollment. 

Further, it needs to make sense financially for the school which means breaking down the actual expense and time requirements, versus the budget allotments.

•What could be done to increase parent involvement?

I feel as though effective communication through modern means; examples: Facebook, email, PowerSchool, DoJo, and the school App are in place and are highly accessible for parents. I do not believe we need to reinvent the wheel and come up with new sources. Rather, we should use what we have, fine tune those social media sources and follow through consistently and steadily to provide information and engagement of parents and guardians. As a steady drip of information is passed and consistently visible to the majority, the involvement should naturally increase merely by the parents being more informed.  

 

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 Emily Mehl, candidate for Stockton R-I school board.

 

Vic Kennedy, candidate for Stockton R-I school board

 

•As a potential board member, what is your highest priority?

The Stockton R-1 school district is the largest employer in this area and has the most influence in determining the growth which can be expected which can lead to a better quality of life for the whole county. Notwithstanding past performance, I would like to make the Stockton school system into an educational hub for the area emphasizing an excellent K-12 education, a strong education program for adults 18-25 and a technical training program which leads to certification and/or a degree. I want children to want to come to school ready to learn. I want teachers to want to come to school secure in the knowledge they are valuable and I want the taxpayers of the district to know they are getting their monies worth. If we can attract business because of our educational reputation, we can realize more funding which can trigger increased business activities and all that will follow.

•The governor supports increasing teacher salaries, but does not plan to increase funding for this initiative. Where do you stand on this issue, and how would you plan to keep teacher salaries competitive?

I believe teachers should be paid what they are worth. I would work for increased total compensation consistent with performance. It is probably more important to eliminate any and all programs, assignments and projects which take up the teacher’s time.

•Stockton School District has seen a steady decline in enrollment during the past few years. Moving forward, what do you see as the fiscal priorities as the enrollment and budget decreases?

There is only one funding priority. Excellence in education. There may be hard decisions relative to the total school environment but nothing should detract from that goal. There may have to be cuts, but my view is we can, and should, cut out fat but not the muscle. We can, and should, spend the taxpayer money wisely and responsibly. I am convinced this can and should be done as soon as possible.

•How do you feel about homeschool students participating in Stockton school extracurricular activities?

I have no particular objections to homeschooled students participating in school programs. However, my focus is to create a positive learning environment in which parents will see the wisdom of sending their children to Stockton R-I schools. This will take much work to change attitudes. I am sorry to say many parents do not see Stockton R-I schools as a desirable environment to send their children.  

•What could be done to increase parent involvement?

Stop assuming parental responsibility and get back to fundamentals.

 

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Vic Kennedy, candidate for Stockton R-I school board.

 

Dianna Saathoff, candidate for Stockton R-I school board

 

•As a potential board member, what is your highest priority?

The Stockton R-1 Board of Education mission statement is, “A board which values education, engages the community, and effectively works together to prepare the next generation for a rapidly changing world.” I am proud to have worked with our board members to draft and adopt this mission statement.  It is not just a statement, I believe in it. It is my highest priority.

The face of education is rapidly changing public and private. Technology is reshaping the way in which an effective education can be received. We need to be assessing how we can utilize technology to provide a relevant education for our students. We need to continue to focus on upgrading our technology offerings. We need to put in place resources for our students and parents to connect digitally to classroom information. The world is changing and we need to adapt.

As a district, I believe we should be focusing on ways to draw in students and high-quality teachers while engaging our community. Our school board needs to work with our administration, staff, parents, students and community toward remaining the best choice for an education in Stockton. United we can serve our students best. 

•The governor supports increasing teacher salaries, but does not plan to increase funding for this initiative. Where do you stand on this issue, and how would you plan to keep teacher salaries competitive?

Our teachers are the superheroes educating and helping mold our children.They should be paid for this valuable contribution. It is troubling the governor, who is up for reelection, is pushing for raising teacher salaries, but not offering a way to provide the raise. A push to raise teacher salaries must be funded for the long term. As a district, we are facing declining enrollment and a growing deficit as we move into the future. The state has not fully funded education for quite some time. The state should be properly investing in the education of our students for they will be leading our nation someday. As a district, I believe our focus should be on increasing our enrollment, since higher enrollment increases the funds our district receives from the State. We need to be marketing our school in a way which makes the parents in our district want to send their children to Stockton School.  

Stockton School District has seen a steady decline in enrollment during the past few years. Moving forward, what do you see as the fiscal priorities as the enrollment and budget decreases?

Keeping our balance sheet in the positive is my main priority. In doing so, tough decisions will need to be made. I believe Dr. Shannon Snow has worked hard to maintain the fiscal health of our district by keeping our budget in check and our expenses under control. We need to use our funds efficiently and continue to look for ways reduce overhead expenditures that aren’t directly benefiting our students. I believe Dr. Crawford will continue to keep our district fiscally responsible. Salaries are one of our biggest priorities and our largest expense. We all want to see the teacher/student ratio remain low. The education we provide to the children of Stockton cannot be diminished as we work through our financial decisions.  

How do you feel about homeschool students participating in Stockton school extracurricular activities?  

Stockton schools take great pride in their students and the extracurricular activities it provides.  Stockton students work hard to be eligible and ready to participate in these activities. I think nontraditional students in our district should be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities.  My hope is that all students representing Stockton School District will desire to reflect the district’s pride in our school.

•What could be done to increase parent involvement? 

In my previous term on the school board, I have worked to emphasize the need for communication with our families and community. Our school has made many improvements in this area utilizing our new cell phone app, website, one call system, various social media platforms and other communication resources. I want to push our teachers and staff to now work to build better interpersonal relationships with our families and community. Stockton is a school which cares deeply for its students and staff. We have made great strides in these areas, but I think the key to parent involvement is at the interpersonal level.

Parent involvement in the school is part of the overall relationship and all good relationships need maintenance. Traditionally, schools have focused on reaching out to parents because of problems arising with their child, such as bad behavior or concerning grades.

What if our school put the same focus on proactively notifying parents of their child’s successes? I think teachers should be letting parents know when their students are making personal improvements in grades, behavior or attitude more routinely. This connects the parent to the child throughout the school experience, making them more appreciative and relieves the anxiety of school contact.

•Considering the national pandemic, what are your ideas for keeping students, faculty, and staff safe for the return to school in August?

The health and wellbeing of our students, faculty, staff and parents are of utmost importance to me. It is important to remember that we are looking ahead to starting the school year during an unprecedented time of uncertainty. I believe our school leaders need to be vigilant in keeping up with updates to COVID-19 medical precautions and social distancing measures. We need to actively work alongside of our state and county health departments as well as DESE to ensure we make educated decisions for all involved. I will work with the Board and administration to assess the risk factors for our school and weigh them against the recommendations from the Governor and necessary health organizations.  

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 Dianna Saathoff, candidate for Stockton R-I school board. 

  

 

Mickey Brown, candidate for Stockton R-I school board 

 

•As a potential board member, what is your highest priority? 

I want our students to have a positive learning experience. We need our students in school every day they are supposed to be there, all the way through graduation. A student who enjoys coming to school will be there every day, and learn more because of it. Whatever I can do for parents and teachers to help make this happen, this is my priority.  

•The governor supports increasing teacher salaries, but does not plan to increase funding for this initiative. Where do you stand on this issue, and how would you plan to keep teacher salaries competitive? 

I agree we should do all we can to make sure our teachers are fairly compensated. It will help with hiring the best and retaining them in the future. I am not sure this is the right time to talk about increasing teacher salaries. So many of our families are without work, or working part time right now. This is going to have a tremendous effect on state tax revenue. The state budget is going to take a hit from this, plus all of the extra costs it has now. All of this will impact school funding. The school is going to have extra costs. 

I am concerned about keeping all of our great staff employed for right now. 

•Stockton School District has seen a steady decline in enrollment during the past few years. Moving forward, what do you see as the fiscal priorities as the enrollment and budget decreases? 

As stated above, keeping our great staff employed. Making sure the students have what they need to learn. We may have to forego projects which are not absolutely necessary.  •How do you feel about homeschool students participating in Stockton school extracurricular activities? 

I would like to see it, just not sure how this happens. Part of the school’s funding comes from student attendance. How do we make this work? Perhaps MOCAP could be part of it. Maybe partial attendance. Getting the homeschool families involved with our school could be good for everyone.  

•What could be done to increase parent involvement? 

The elementary is using the Dojo app to keep parents informed and for easy contact one-on-one. Anything we can do like this for the whole school is a plus. The school app has been a plus. I hope parents will be more involved due to what we have just experienced. Our community has done a great job helping the students get through this and I pray it continues.  

•Considering the national pandemic, what are your ideas for keeping students, faculty, and staff safe for the return to school in August? 

The school maintenance crew does a great job with cleaning and having everything ready for the students to use. There may have to be some extra cleaning, figuring out where everyone is going to sit, etc. I have no doubt we can make it work. There will be guidelines coming from the state, I’m sure. We will have to look at them and decide what works for Stockton.  

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Mickey Brown, candidate for Stockton R-I school board. 

 

 

Bill Bruce, candidate for Stockton R-I school board

 

•As a potential board member, what is your highest priority?

My top priority is to ensure we are providing the best education to our students and molding them into successful citizens. I applaud the administration, teachers, and board of education for taking pride in providing high-quality instruction. I want the students of Stockton R-1 School District to graduate with an education that competes at the highest level with other graduates. 

Another top priority is the safety and security of the students and staff. We are currently witnessing the uncertainty of tomorrow. I believe in being proactive rather than reactive to negative and unpredicted circumstances. The administration has done a great job taking action and making changes to ensure safety across all campuses.  I will continue to support improving and updating school safety and security. 

My final priority is improving and advancing technology. Over the last few months, one of the many changes we have witnessed has been an increased dependence on technology. I would like to see the district get ahead of the game and make sure we are constantly updating our systems and protocols. Moving forward, I believe technology will take a larger portion of the budget but I believe it is a vital component to the school district. 

The governor supports increasing teacher salaries but does not plan to increase funding for this initiative. Where do you stand on this issue, and how would you plan to keep teacher salaries competitive?

I support Governor Parson’s statement to increase teacher salary but I also support the Stockton R-1 School District maintaining a balanced budget. This brings me back to one of my top priorities, which is proving a high-quality education. I believe this is done through teacher retention. High teacher turnover will slow down the process of providing high-quality education to our students.  The board and administration have done a great job pinching the budget to provide opportunities to increase salary and insurance benefits to retain staff. I support paying more when we can but I’m also a strong supporter of a balanced budget.

•Stockton School District has seen a steady decline in enrollment during the past few years. Moving forward, what do you see as the fiscal priorities as the enrollment and budget decreases?

The decline in enrollment is a concern but we must find ways to trim the budget and tighten down when needed. The top priority is to educate the students and to do that we must keep the doors open and retain the staff. 

•How do you feel about homeschool students participating in Stockton school extracurricular activities?

I am a strong supporter of public education, but it is most definitely a choice. You do not have to bring your children here who live in the district, you can homeschool. The public education we provide is more than just an education, it is interaction with fellow students, teachers and staff which help mold them into becoming a young, successful person. Public education is more than an education piece, we offer a variety of extra-curricular activities which help shape well-rounded children and young adults. This is a privilege and a bonus to attending the school district. I stand behind students attending school to reap those rewards. I will continue to promote and highlight the benefits of public education while focusing on attracting good families and students to the district.

•What could be done to increase parent involvement?

The recent pandemic events have created a new level of appreciation and revealed the importance of involvement between parents and teachers. I support the continued use of current communication methods and outlets. I encourage the administration and teachers to explore and find ways to improve and increase parent involvement and communication in their buildings and classrooms. 

•Considering the national pandemic, what are your ideas for keeping students, faculty, and staff safe for the return to school in August?

Looking ahead, I want the decisions regarding the protocols and steps we take to be based on factual information, scientific data and to have a commonsense approach. I do not want it to be based on fear. Many pre-actions to this point, regarding the virus, have been based off fear and few facts. The number one priority is the safety of our students and staff. I want to move forward based on factual information and not fear. We must be present to learn at the highest level. 

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 Billy Bruce, candidate for Stockton R-I school board.

 

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