Two three-year phrases on the Kirkwood School District Board of Education will likely be determined throughout the April 5 municipal election.
The seven candidates, so as of their submitting, are Matthew Losse, Judy Moticka, incumbent Mark Boyko, John Chong, Jason Baker, John (David) Sanders and Jeffrey Mintzlaff. According to Kirkwood For Educational Integrity, Chong and Baker have dropped out of the race.
Matthew “Matt” Losse is a lifelong Kirkwood resident and 1994 graduate of Kirkwood High School. A youth sports activities coach for over a decade, Losse has three daughters within the district. He was a senior account supervisor at a household HR consulting enterprise for over 20 years and is presently a monetary consultant at Northwestern Mutual.
Losse has been a volunteer for Flags of Valor, Big Brothers Big Sisters, KirkCare and within the classroom. His major priorities embody empowering college students and oldsters, strengthening educational excellence, in addition to selling transparency and accountability.
“I will bring a fresh perspective, provide leadership to meet the educational needs of all students and ensure they are prepared upon graduation for their next step in life,” mentioned Losse. “We will work together so that Kirkwood schools will be the best schools again.”
Judy Moticka is a 31-year resident of Kirkwood. Now retired, Moticka taught highschool English for greater than a decade, the final six of these at Kirkwood High School. She served two mayor-appointed phrases on the Kirkwood Human Rights Commission, serving at varied factors as vice chair, secretary and commissioner.
Moticka’s platform contains making certain the wants of every little one are met, implementing the district’s strategic plan, defending the integrity of Kirkwood colleges and accumulating enter from neighborhood members.
“At the end of the day, my priority will always be what is best for the children,” she mentioned.
Incumbent Mark Boyko has served one time period on the board of schooling, and has two kids within the district. Boyko has served on the board of administrators of non-profit Places for People, and can be the secretary for the Embark Foundation. He works as an lawyer.
“We’ve hired a new superintendent. We’ve increased capacity so students don’t have to study in closets and stairwells, we’ve navigated COVID, and we’ve made improvements to the areas of diversity and transparency,” mentioned Boyko. “There’s still work to be done, and that’s why I’m running for a second term.”
John “Jack” Chong is a senior mission supervisor for development firm Performance Services, and has labored on tasks for varsity districts throughout the state. He has two kids and has lived within the Kirkwood School District since 1999.
Chong mentioned he’s very captivated with college amenities and schooling, and wish to carry his expertise in planning, budgeting, executing and overcoming obstacles to the district. He intends to make sure Kirkwood schooling requirements stay excessive whereas sustaining a excessive degree of fiscal accountability and transparency to taxpayers.
Jeffrey “Jeff” Mintzlaff moved to Kirkwood along with his household in 2015. He has a baby at Nipher Middle School with extra “future Pioneers” on the best way within the type of grandchildren.
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force, Mintzlaff retired as a colonel from a profession as a pilot in 2012 after 28 years of energetic army responsibility. He beforehand served on the O’Fallon School District Board of Education. Today, he’s the director of mission planning at Tapestry Solutions. Mintzlaff mentioned he’s operating to re-focus the Kirkwood School District on academic excellence, and fascinating and empowering kids to assume critically.
“There are many challenges facing the district,” he mentioned. “I can sit on the sideline and watch what other people are doing, or I can put my pragmatic skills to good use for the children of the community.”
Mintzlaff was lately within the information after his church, Grace Church St. Louis in Maryland Heights, posted a flyer on-line encouraging help for Mintzlaff and a candidate for Ritenour School District Board of Education. As tax-exempt entities, church buildings will not be permitted to formally endorse candidates for any election.
Kirkwood School District Board of Education candidates Jason Baker and John (David) Sanders didn’t reply to questionnaires from the Times or the Kirkwood School District.
Though all candidates have been invited to attend, solely Losse, Moticka, Boyko and Mintzlaff appeared at Kirkwood High School on March 3 for a college board candidate discussion board, which was moderated by the League of Women Voters. During the discussion board, the 4 candidates fielded questions from neighborhood members and the League of Women Voters.
The candidates got time in the beginning to introduce themselves and share their high points. Losse mentioned his two largest considerations are how one can go about getting extra income for the district and dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic going ahead.
“Our kids need to be in schools and in front of teachers,” he mentioned.
Moticka mentioned the largest challenges are closing the achievement hole and serving to kids who’re falling behind because of the pandemic.
“We need to meet our kids where they are. They’re not behind — those lines have all been redrawn,” she mentioned. “We need to intervene as soon as a child is struggling and get them the help they need. That’s the only way they won’t feel defeated and will be ready when they need to be.”
Boyko mentioned whereas the district did an “admirable job” in navigating the pandemic, his precedence helps college students thrive within the aftershock of COVID. Another of his objectives is to assist college students flourish throughout the district.
“While our students improve during their time in Kirkwood, many come into kindergarten without being prepared to succeed,” he mentioned. “How can we get those children to come along and get that sense of belonging that makes them feel like they’re a part of Kirkwood and feel comfortable learning here?”
Mintzlaff’s priorities come right down to academic excellence.
“We’ve taken our eye off the ball when it comes to core academics,” he mentioned. “We have outstanding teachers. I know if we give them the time and let them focus, we’ll address both the academics and the achievement gap at the same time by raising everybody’s standards at once.”
The 4 candidates have been requested to handle whether or not they consider sure insurance policies, comparable to the choice to require masks or change to digital lessons, ought to be left within the arms of oldsters or college district management.
Losse mentioned it ought to be the dad and mom who resolve, and that the district “waited a little too long” to take away masking mandates.
“The kids, especially in the early childhood and elementary ages, need to be able to see their teachers’ faces and the expressions of fellow students,” he mentioned. “Kids belong in school. That’s where they learn best. Parents are the ones who should be making that choice, not the administration.”
In distinction, Moticka mentioned the varsity board has a accountability to each little one within the district and should make choices for the better good.
“It’s important to have kids in schools, but to be there safely we have to consider what’s safe not just for your own child, but for other students, staff, faculty and the immunocompromised,” she mentioned. “That decision can’t be made on an individual basis.”
Boyko mentioned that the varsity board ought to make such choices, including that the choice to increase masking helped the district because it navigated results of the pandemic comparable to instructor shortages.
Mintzlaff agreed the choice ought to relaxation within the arms of the board.
The candidates have been additionally requested to weigh in on one other hot-button problem affecting Kirkwood colleges — the district’s e-book evaluate coverage.
Moticka reminded the viewers that oldsters have already got entry to what books can be found in a kids’s classroom and may, at any time, ask that their little one not be permitted to learn sure books. While she agreed it is a dad or mum’s proper, she added that oldsters shouldn’t be capable of make that call for different kids.
Boyko agreed, including that the district segregates books based mostly on age on the elementary degree and marks books for older college students on the center college degree. He mentioned though dad and mom can management what their little one reads, the last word accountability to find out what’s applicable for varsity libraries and school rooms rests within the arms of librarians and lecturers.
“Just because I’m responsible for the safety of my child, that doesn’t mean when I put my child on a plane, the FAA allows me to pilot it,” he mentioned.
Mintzlaff mentioned he believes the present coverage itself is okay, however the problem comes right down to adhering to these insurance policies.
“There’s some books there that don’t necessarily belong in an elementary school,” he mentioned. “Keep those books aligned to age groups where they should be.”
Losse mentioned following the district’s insurance policies is paramount to make sure that inappropriate books aren’t getting into college libraries, and pressured the significance of permitting dad and mom to make selections on books for their very own little one. He added that oldsters and neighborhood members should be concerned in refreshing insurance policies or making certain present procedures are being adopted.
Equity and Inclusion
The candidates have been additionally requested how they might construct fairness and inclusion throughout the district. Boyko’s response centered on bettering literacy in early grades to shortly carry all college students as much as a degree the place they really feel like they belong. He added that it’s necessary for younger college students to have publicity to non-white lecturers.
“What I hope to do in the next three years is work toward making sure that all our students have at least one non-white homeroom teacher before they get out of elementary school,” he mentioned.
Mintzlaff mentioned college students should be held to increased requirements in core teachers to keep away from falling behind.
Losse warned in opposition to being divisive. Building fairness and inclusion, he mentioned, contains valuing all college students within the district and never simply sure teams.
Moticka mentioned illustration is the important thing to fairness and inclusion in Kirkwood colleges.
“Kids need to feel like they belong,” she mentioned. “If you’re a minority in race, gender, sexual orientation … you need to feel you belong and see people who reflect you whether it’s in books, teachers or artwork. We have to include everybody.”
Critical Race Theory
Candidates have been additionally requested about their understanding of Critical Race Theory and their positions on how historical past ought to be taught in colleges.
Mintzlaff mentioned he was “not a fan” of Critical Race Theory, however agreed that matters involving race like slavery should be taught in colleges.
“Right from the beginning, CRT breaks things down on race and divides into the oppressor and the oppressed, and you’re in those categories for life. It’s ridiculous,” he mentioned. “I think America has a proud history. I’ve spent my life defending it, but we’ve had our issues and we need to teach history the way it is.”
Losse agreed that CRT serves to additional divide the neighborhood. While he acknowledged that race ought to be addressed in its historic context from all views, he added that lecturers shouldn’t impart their very own private views onto college students.
Moticka dismissed considerations about Critical Race Theory, however pressured the significance of educating historical past precisely.
“CRT is a graduate-level legal theory. It isn’t in our schools. What we need to teach is our history,” she mentioned. “If we can’t talk about slavery, racism and the repercussions of that, we’re not teaching history. Our kids deserve to know how our country came to be — the good, the bad and the ugly.”
Boyko added that discussions on racism transcend what’s thought-about historical past as a result of “we still see it today.”
“Our children, whether we teach it or not, see who lives north of Delmar and who lives south. They see which neighborhoods we’re scared to go into. They see which shopping malls are nice and which aren’t,” he mentioned. “If we don’t teach them the history that brought them to that point, they’re going to make their own assumptions and that’s going to be a real loss for the community.”
Candidates got a possibility to make a remaining assertion on the finish of the discussion board.
Mintzlaff mentioned from his time as a pilot and father of a particular wants little one to his expertise as a senior resolution maker, he has the expertise to drive change and enchancment in Kirkwood colleges.
(*7*) he requested. “If the answer is no, you need someone new.”
Boyko used his time to tout the district’s educational successes and request a spherical of applause for lecturers. He mentioned 75% of the district’s college students are at or above the benchmark fortieth percentile in studying, and in half of all grades, the most recent take a look at scores present that college students are doing higher than instantly earlier than the COVID pandemic.
“That doesn’t mean we’re perfect. It doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement,” he mentioned. “There’s big things we’re planning including the work we’ve done in early childhood literacy and now a focus on middle school math. We can’t do it without our parents, teachers and our students.”
Moticka strengthened her priorities of making certain that the wants of every little one are met, defending the integrity of colleges and dealing to hearken to neighborhood members.
“I’ll work to recruit and retain the very best teachers. Our kids need to be met where they are to achieve their academic and socio-emotional goals,” she mentioned. “We have to listen to one another to understand our differences and try to find common ground. At the end of the day, I’ll do what’s best for the children.”
Losse mentioned the district was nice when he went by it and retains its greatness as we speak. He mentioned a part of why he’s operating is to be a part of that custom.
“We can always do better and my plan is making sure we tackle those issues,” he mentioned. “I’m ready to get to work for the community and strengthen academic excellence, ensure transparency and accountability and empower students and parents.”
A full recording of the candidate discussion board could be considered on the Kirkwood School District’s YouTube web page.