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School board Q&A: Four vying for two spots on R-6 school board

Posted Date: 03/31/2022

School board Q&A: Four vying for two spots on R-6 school board

Credit: Standard Democrat

When voters in the Sikeston R-6 School District step up to the polls on April 5, they will choose two of four candidates to serve three-year terms on their local school board.

To help voters with their decisions, the Standard Democrat has compiled a question-and-answer session with the candidates (as listed on the ballot): incumbent Rebecca Steward, Lori Caldwell, incumbent Matthew Drake and Allison Lauren Cox.

Full name and background information:

Steward: “I am an attorney at law. I am married and have one child, a daughter, 16, attending Sikeston High School. I graduated from Sikeston Public Schools and from University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Science degree in business management and a Juris Doctor degree.”

Caldwell: “I am a lifelong citizen of Sikeston, married to Ronald Caldwell. The mother of one child, daughter Mikala, and the daughter to Betty and the late Larry Williams. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in social services from Hannibal-LaGrange University and have been employed with the State of Missouri for 18 years at the Sikeston Job Center, of which the last 10 years in the capacity of the office supervisor. I’ve served on countless committees including the Job Center of the Future Taskforce with the Office of Workforce Development, Business Advisory Committee of the Sikeston CTC, the Advisory Council member committee of the Southeast Missouri State University-Sikeston Extension, served as a mentor in the Sikeston City Council Chambers Bridges program and participated in numerous community groups over the years.”

Drake: “I am chairman and CEO of First State Bank and Trust Co. Inc. and a lifelong resident of Sikeston. My wife, Sarah, is a teacher and we have two kids (Lindsay and Ella) in Sikeston Public Schools.”

Cox: “I was born and raised in Sikeston. I graduated from Sikeston High in 2004. I graduated from Southeast Missouri State University in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in the exceptional child/elementary e ducation and in 2012 with a master’s in secondary education administration. I am a former Sikeston High School special education teacher from 2008-2012. I am currently employed with the State of Missouri Department of Mental Health Division of Developmental Disabilities at the Sikeston Regional Office as an inquiry coordinator.”

What is your vision for education in the community?

Steward: “My vision for education in the community is to have the educational and employment needs of every student met through the unification of and cooperation between our school, community, local government, local colleges/universities and area businesses.”

Caldwell: “My consideration for the educational process is from the end to the beginning. My vision involves ensuring that our graduates are prepared and equipped with the necessary skills and abilities to obtain gainful employment as well as satisfy the need of the current workforce. This is needed to be productive citizens, but how it’s achieved is dependent upon the educational foundation and processes established in the earlier stages of learning. This foundation along with a collaborative effort from employers and those within workforce development will strengthen the outcome for success in the end.”

Drake: “My vision is to make Sikeston R-6 an engine, producing good citizens in the future. Education is the backbone needed to have and sustain a successful life. The pathways to this goal will look different for many and that must be recognized, however, we must strive to build an education system that can handle those differences and still produce graduates that are good members of their community.”

Cox: “My vision is to equip and prepare our students to become contributing, successful and productive members of society.”

What do you see as the primary work of the school board?

Steward: “The primary work of the school board is to represent the people in our community and be the voice of that community to ensure that all children in the school district are getting the best education that can be provided to them through all avenues including good leadership, policies, curriculum and teaching staff.”

Caldwell: “I believe the primary work of the school board is to manage the basic affairs, policies and budget of the school district always keeping the best interests of the students in the forefront.”

Drake: “I think the primary work of the school board can be bifurcated into two major functions. One is to establish and amend policy as needed and to govern through the process of policy making which serves as the guiding path for our professional educators. Secondly, as a representative of the citizens of the district, I think it is the job of the school board to provide a voice for the community to the administration and serve as a watchdog over the tax dollars that are entrusted to them.”

Cox: “I see the primary work of the school board to make certain checks and balances are applied to all aspects of the district and serving as a liaison to the community.”

What are the current challenges facing education/school boards?

Steward: “While this list is non-exhaustive, the current challenges facing education/school boards in general include recruiting and retaining teaching staff; addressing the particular educational needs of all students ranging from low to high functioning and including those with special needs; and maximizing the effectiveness of taxpayer funding of our children’s education while maintaining local control over what that education looks like in practice.”

Caldwell: “I’m certain the current challenges facing education today rest in the various factors which impede the educators’ abilities to effectively teach to the satisfaction of ensuring every student achieves the level of understanding in any given subject matter. These factors directly affect the student’s ability to actually learn and retain the information being taught.”

Drake: “The most obvious current challenge is how do we rebuild after what was lost through the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. I feel like our educators are currently doing ‘double-duty’ trying to catch up what was lost through school closures and the disruption in the learning environment. The other most pressing challenge outside of the pandemic is the challenge of recruiting and retaining quality, experienced educators to apply their craft here in Sikeston. I think our path toward improving the education our kids receive lies in the ability to keep quality educators in the Sikeston R-6 district.”

Cox: “I believe the current challenges are the recruitment and the ability to retain qualified staff.”

What is the most important responsibility of a school board?

Steward: “The most important responsibility of a school board is to lay the foundation for student achievement through implementing board policy, approving curriculum and hiring leadership and teaching staff that will form the framework for student success.”

Caldwell: “The most important responsibility of the school board is to put the educational, social and emotional learning of our students first and foremost in order to produce healthy, productive members of society. Consideration must also be given to the educators working on the front-line because without them, this type of success wouldn’t be possible.”

Drake: “The education system in this country is equivalent to a huge multi-faceted conglomerate coming from the U.S. Department of Education and down through Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Yet, all school districts in the country still have a local school board. This was done to provide local control to the local schools and accountability to citizens and taxpayers of that district. Therefore, the most important responsibility is to provide that accountability and be a voice for the citizens to the school and make sure that the school is reflective of those who make up the community around it.”

Cox: “I believe the most important responsibility of a school board is to provide a quality education in an excellent learning environment.”

Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m Election Day.