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story.lead_photo.caption Connie Epperson, left, and Joe Davis, are two of four candidates seeking positions on the Fulton 58 School District Board of Education during the June 2, 2020, municipal election.

Four candidates are competing to fill three seats in the Fulton 58 School District Board of Education during the June 2 municipal election.

The election was previously scheduled for April 7 but was postponed in response to COVID-19. Candidates include Joe Davis, Connie Epperson, Todd Gray and Emily Omohundro.

This is the first of a two-part series of Fulton candidate profiles and includes Davis and Epperson. The second part will run in Friday's paper.

Joe Davis

Joe Davis is a lifelong resident of Callaway County and has served as a staff member, teacher and school administrator in Fulton Public Schools. Davis is committed to the Fulton community, a member of Callaway 200 and the Kingdom of Callaway Historical Society, and a ruling elder at the First Presbyterian Church. He has two sons, ages 3 and 6, who will be starting as Fulton Hornets, and his wife teaches art at Fulton High School.

Davis currently serves as the chair of undergraduate education programs at William Woods University and is completing his doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri.

Why did you decide to run for this position?

Serving on the board of education would allow me to be a strong advocate for our students, teachers, and administrators and would be a natural extension of my work in educator preparation. My current role as a teacher educator at WWU has given me a chance to develop a better understanding of the art and science of teaching and also affords me the opportunity to visit classrooms and schools across the state. I believe these perspectives and my experiences would be valuable assets to the board of education as we consider critical issues of policy and practice.

What are your qualifications?

In addition to the years I served Fulton Public Schools as a teacher and school administrator, I hold degrees in elementary education and education administration and am completing a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri. I am also an associate level instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute and a graduate of the Missouri Leadership Academy. I recently became the chapter counselor for the Kappa Delta Pi International Education Honor Society at WWU and am a member of the Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education.

What do you see as the biggest issue facing your school district, and how do you plan to solve it?

Our school district, like all other educational institutions, is tasked with confronting some of society's most difficult challenges. These issues include the increasing mental health needs of our students, school safety and cybersecurity/digital citizenship. I believe our district is doing an outstanding job addressing these issues by adding additional mental health support staff and making plans to increase safety standards in our facilities. I am also an enthusiastic supporter of digital citizenship curriculum, which is designed to help our students better understand how to be safe and respectful online.

What is your strategy for attracting and retaining quality teachers in your district?

Many school districts have begun developing "Grow Your Own" programs which help attract and support students who want to stay in their community as teachers. In my role at William Woods, I have had an opportunity to work with districts who have successfully implemented these types of programs and am excited about potential partnerships between FPS and teacher education programs in Mid-Missouri.

Connie Epperson

My name is Connie Epperson. I have spent my entire career in the Fulton School District. Upon graduation from college in 1989, I moved to Fulton for my first job. I began my career as a physical education teacher and coach at Fulton Middle School and ended my time as an assistant principal at FMS. I then moved into a new role as an assistant principal, split between McIntire Elementary School and Fulton High School. After serving one year in that capacity, I was hired as the Bartley Elementary School principal. I remained there for 17 years and retired this last May.

Why did you decide to run for this position?

I believe my experience as a parent, teacher and administrator gives me knowledge into the daily needs of students and staff within our district. I see how hard our employees work to ensure all students' needs are met and are successful. Teachers and support staff need someone that can relate to the daily demands of their position and make decisions that will further support their work with students.

What are your qualifications?

I devoted my entire career to Fulton schools at all levels, Pre K-12. Throughout this time, I have developed many personal relationships with families and feel this will be helpful if elected to the board. I know first hand the needs of our community. I currently hold two master's degrees, one from MU and William Woods University, and an educational specialist degree from William Woods University in educational leadership.

What do you see as the biggest issue facing your school district, and how do you plan to solve it?

Mental health support, resources and training are an overwhelming need and issue in our district. While we have seen modest improvements with the social workers added to our district, our schools continue to see more and more students and families in need of support for mental health assistance. Our community lacks enough medical professionals in the area of mental health.

What is your strategy for attracting and retaining quality teachers in your district?

Teachers are the cornerstones to our district. Over the course of my career, I have observed a number of teachers leave our district for better paying positions in neighboring districts. While competitive pay is essential, additionally, creating environments that support and encourage creative teaching strategies and limiting what expectations as a district we place on teachers is critical. Staff often have too many initiatives/expectations on their "plate." Analyzing what is really essential versus nice to have is important. I would also say how we address the mental health needs and behaviors within our district is paramount as well. The workload doesn't seem so heavy if staff have the resources and tools in place to address these needs and not allow the behaviors to disrupt their teaching. I am all for thinking outside the box and working to find solutions for addressing pay and processes for handling mental health and behavior needs of students.

This article was edited at 10:38 a.m. May 14, 2020, to reflect that Joe Davis' sons are of the age to start public school, not high school.

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