SMITHVILLE — In the April 2 election, Smithville residents in the Smithville School District will have an opportunity to cast their vote to determine which two of three candidates will help lead their schools.
Candidate and incumbent Sarah Lamer and candidates Len Matthies and Carmen Xavier are running for two available seats on the Smithville School District Board of Education.
To help voters educate themselves on the candidates’ priorities, each was sent a questionnaire asking about current issues affecting Smithville schools. All candidate responses were limited to 70 words per response.
Why do you want to be a member of Smithville’s Board of Education?
Lamer: “My goal is to make sure the students receive the best possible education with the funds available to the district. Serving on the Board of Education is about making the best decisions for the district.”
Matthies: “I feel being a teacher in the district for 15 years has given me insight into how the school functions, its problem, goals and needs.”
Xavier: “I have been blessed with a successful career. Community residence includes community participation. Therefore, in the winter of my life, I would like to give back to my community what I have been given through education and prior public service. My first goal would be to begin verifying and evaluating the financial well-being of the district. The reserve fund specifically needs attention.”
What special skills or training do you possess that makes you uniquely qualified to serve on the board?
Lamer: “As a board member for the past three years, I understand the need to listen and communicate with the faculty and community.”
Matthies: “39 years as a teacher, 15 years at Smithville. I’ve been on the other side of the table.”
Xavier: “My 30-plus-year career in health care, prior service on elected boards with budgets that have exceeded millions of dollars of taxpayer investment and experience in decision making based on facts, make me uniquely qualified to serve on the BOE. I have a trust-but-verify philosophy. I am retired, therefore, have the time to dedicate myself to my responsibilities.”
Are you for or against random student drug testing? Why or why not?
Lamer: “I plan on attending the forums and talking with the community to find out how they feel we should move forward. My personal feelings will be second to what the community wants. As long as the process is not rushed and the program is fully vetted, I am confident our district will make the correct decision.”
Matthies: “I am not sure I’m in favor of random drug testing. I think it could open up a lot of legal problems. I think administrators, if they have a good reason, should be able to perform searches of cars, lockers and the student. Hand out stiffer penalties for drug possession and check the contents of the cups coming into the building.”
Xavier: “I support a policy that has parental support, is not punitive, is empirically based and stands on its own under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution (regarding unreasonable search and seizures of personal property). I am asking that my judgment, which is based on evaluation of facts pro and con, be the measure of my backing. I would be intellectually dishonest to cast my vote at this time. My vote will be influenced by student welfare.”
What is your synopses of SSD’s financial situation? Do you think the district’s financial situation can and should be improved? If so, please provide details about how you would work to achieve those goals, if elected?
Lamer: “The district’s financial situation is improving and we are working to allocate the funds the best we can. The majority of our district’s funding comes from the residents, and until we bring in more commercial tax dollars, this will continue to be the case.”
Matthies: “I am very aware of our budget deficits and it is a priority to get it back in line. I don’t feel I have the information needed at this time to give any comments on what measures to take to fix it. I do know there have been retirement buyouts and we are looking at the need of some personnel. But, I feel positive we can fix it.”
Xavier: “The BOE’s self-imposed three-year policy of required financial recovery requires the district to return to the correct financial condition. The administration has the mandate to cut expenditures or delay capital improvement. My mandate is to ensure that those budget adjustments are on good financial footing and has little to no effect on the quality of education.”
In what area does the school district have greatest need for improvement and how would you as a member of the board work to make those improvements?
Lamer: “We have the best teachers and staff, and we need to keep the salary schedule and benefits competitive in the Northland. I want the teachers to know I am open to ideas and they can trust me to be their voice.”
Matthies: “I feel we need more programs for at-risk kids as well as more after-school programs. I would work to have a better relationship with staff and students. Communication between staff, administration, board, students and parents/guardians is essential for the school to move into the future and meet the needs of all students.”
Xavier: “Issues relating to bullying, drug and alcohol abuse, suicide prevention and the general well-being of the individual student need to be re-evaluated for improvement. I will support a mandatory mental health outreach with credit earned. It would include education about depression, mental disorders, physical effects of drug abuse, coping skills and ways to get help. Prevention of these conditions includes programs of connection and education.”
Does SSD adequately prepare students for multiple options following graduation such as entering the workforce or pursuing post-secondary education?
Lamer: “The district adequately prepares the students for post-secondary education and career preparation. In addition to our college preparatory courses, we have a variety of clubs and activities such as S.W.A.T. Robotics, Coding Club (Maple Elementary) and Northland CAPS (professional learning and mentorship program) to help our students and families make educated decisions on their future endeavors.”
Matthies: “I remember my daughter complaining to me a few weeks after she started college that she felt Smithville High did not teach her how to study. We need to work harder in preparing our graduates for post-graduate life. Maybe an after school program for students in college preparation, how to study, how to research, how to write a paper, anything that might help them.”
Xavier: “We are fair in preparation for vocational career prep, taking into account available financial resources. Academic performance must be measured by value-added achievement. The district could monitor post-graduation circumstances one year out and recognize successful job placement. Our ACT and SAT results are above average in Missouri. A primary focus on college preparation and admissions is not a complete picture of success.”