All six candidates running for a seat on the South Callaway Board of Education agreed that the most pressing issue facing the district next school year is the budget.
With federal and state funding cutbacks, financial concerns weigh heavy on the minds of all who filed for the April 5 board elections. Three board seats, each with a three-year term, are available this go-around. Board Member Gary Jungermann chose not to refile, leaving his seat open. Members Kit Glover and Brent Woods are both running for re-election. Four other candidates have filed as well.
Kit Glover, who lives just outside of Mokane, has been a board member for two terms. She's a 1972 Fulton High School graduate and has a masters in curriculum and instruction from the University of Missouri-Columbia. She taught at both the middle and high schools at South Callaway for a total of 19 years and has two children who graduated from SCHS. She's currently a a coordinator at the State Office of Autism Services for the Department of Mental Health in Jefferson City.
Glover said she wishes to continue to support the superintendent and follow through with the objectives the board has worked for during her time on it.
"I think that the board and the administration has put into place some important initiatives," she said.
Glover added that she believes the current board has a "good mix" of people, saying it has those who are business savvy, those who know construction and those who understand the instruction aspect. She said, as a former teacher, she falls into the latter category.
Glover touched on how if a second reactor was added to the Callaway Nuclear Plant, the board would have to plan for an influx of students as it did in prior years. She said finances was the most important issue the board faces in the upcoming year as "everybody's concerned because of budget issues."
Brent Woods, who lives near Reform with his wife and two children, has also served on the board for two terms. Originally from Overland Park, Kan., he has lived in Callaway County since 1999 and works as facility coordinator at Harmony Hill Youth Camp. He is a 1988 graduate of Overland Christian High and a sergeant in the National Guard.
Woods said during his time on the board, he's seen the district's MAP scores improve and the district be named several times among DESE's list of districts that attain "Distinction in Performance."
"I like the challenge of presenting an educational environment for our kids ... As a Christian, I think we should have that influence in our public schools. We need that influence to better our public school systems," he said.
Woods said one of the biggest challenges the district has faced in recent years and will continue to face is making budget cuts without affecting the education of the students.
"People think that South Callaway has an excess of dollars," Woods explained, saying people take this view because of the nuclear plant's location.
He said this view is "far from the truth" and the district is just as concerned over finances as others around the state.
Mark Laughlin, who lives in Mokane, is entering the school board election for the first time. He was born and raised in Mokane and is a 1987 SCHS graduate. He worked as an electrician until three years ago when a back injury left him disabled. He has a daughter in SCMS and said he decided he wanted to join the board to make sure she and the other students at South Callaway "have the best education possible."
"I just wanted to give back to the community a little bit," Laughlin said.
He said with the economy being in a "downfall," he understands that the district is going to be making cuts, but he doesn't want to see the board withhold necessary items from the students.
"I don't want to see them take away education from the children," Laughlin said.
Nancy McCarthy, also a resident of Mokane, has run for school board twice previously but has never served on the board. She is a 1980 graduate of SCHS and obtained a bachelor's degree in accounting from Missouri State University. She currently works as operations manager for Missouri Packaging Services and president of Work Rite, both of Fulton. McCarthy said her entire family has attended or are currently attending South Callaway schools, and she has been a "committed volunteer" at the district for many years .
She said she would like to be elected to ensure the district maintains its good reputation and continues to provide "quality education."
"I just want to do what I can to make sure we maintain a good school for
the children in the area," she explained.
McCarthy sees managing the budget as one of the challenges ahead and said she believes her accounting background will help in this area.
Penny Miles, who lives in the rural part of the district, is running for a school board spot for the first time. Originally from Steelville, she has lived in Callaway County since 1991. Miles is a 1985 graduate of Steelville High School and received her bachelor's degree in business from Missouri State University. She has two children currently in South Callaway schools and volunteers at the schools through different programs such as Booster Club.
Miles said she would like to see some changes made with the way the district is spending money and also in regards to curriculum.
"I just feel like the school board members right now they don't seem to be listening to the concerns of a lot of the parents that are there, and I just feel like there needs to be a change," she said.
Hoping to be a part of the change she says is needed, Miles went on to say she thinks the district should maintain its teaching staff to keep class size the same.
"I don't want them to have to get rid of programs just to try and ease budget constraints when there are other areas they can look at that might be more beneficial."
Miles said she's been talking with teachers and parents to hear their opinions.
"My main concern is that I feel that there's a problem with communication," she said.
Bob Peneston, who lives in Fulton, was a school board member about six years ago and decided to throw his hat in the ring again. He is a 1981 graduate of SCHS and has worked at Missouri School for the Deaf for 24 years. He's currently the MSD dormitory director. Peneston has three children who attend South Callaway schools and said he's "pretty passionate about the kids at South Callaway."
"Kids have been my life," he said, referring to how he's been actively involved with summer coaching programs in the district.
Peneston said he had many people approach him about being on the board again, and he decided to go ahead with it to "keep the board strong."
Agreeing that budget concerns are top of the list, Peneston said, "We've really got to watch what we've got, but make the right decision for the right reasons, not mainly because of money."