Incumbents, critic want R-3 Board spots

The Platte County R-3 School District’s Board of Education decided not to place a tax levy increase question on the April ballot. But that issue, which was shot down by voters in 2012, is still at the forefront of the April 8 election, which will see three open spots filled by voters. When R-3 officials made the decision earlier this year not to seek an estimated 58-60 cent tax levy increase this spring — which would be the District’s first operating levy increase in nearly three decades — they cited an uncertain economy and a lack of enough patron support for a tax increase as key reasons. They also said the need for the levy increase to fund a new elementary school and additional classroom space at existing buildings isn’t going away and pledged to focus on building support for placing the issue on the April 2015 ballot. All four candidates vying for the three Board spots — incumbents Lenora Miles, Sharon Sherwood and Julie Vanover and challenger Kirby Holden — said managing a growing student population and the levy increase were key issues for the District as is student academic performance. Following are profiles of each candidate: SHARON SHERWOOD Sherwood, 67, is the current Board president and she has served two three-year terms. She lives in Platte City and is a graduate of Platte County. She is married, the mother of three grown children and grandmother to six children, four of whom are or will be R-3 students. Sherwood said as a graduate of the school district, she holds a deep commitment to the success of the District. “I want to ensure that we make wise decisions regarding every aspect of the future needs of our district,” she said. “Academic performance of our students through appropriate, rigorous learning experiences that meet student needs is of utmost significance. Educating our students is why we are in business.” Sherwood said addressing district growth, providing necessary space and meeting recommended teacher-to-student ratios, while honoring a commitment to stewardship with district funds are the essential duties of the Board of Education. Sherwood also said her Board experience and training, as well as her background in teaching and administration make her a good choice. “I have attended many hours of training as a school board member, earning the designations of Certified Board Member, Advanced Member Designation, and Master Member Designation,” she said. “In preparing for these designations I spent countless hours in training and conferences addressing the very concerns we have at our schools. I possess and utilize 23 years of experience in the field of education, 11 of which were spent as a school principal. I have earned a B.S. in music education, M.S. in school administration, and specialist in school administration.” Sherwood, who has also been a recipient of the Northland Chamber of Commerce Award for Excellence in Education and Missouri Distinguished Principal Award, said addressing growth is the biggest issue facing the District. “We must clearly determine how we will address growth,” she said. “This must be done effectively and appropriately. If we are unable to secure the funds to address our need for more space, it will be necessary to develop a plan to provide space in alternative ways. Student safety will be a concern if we add more mobile units, sending them outside the main buildings with less security than if they were to stay in the main buildings. Larger class sizes will also be a concern, and have the potential to affect opportunities for student learning.“ LENORA MILES Miles, 61, is a 35-year education veteran who taught for 19 years at Platte County High School before retiring in 2010. She ran unopposed for the R-3 Board of Education in 2011 and is seeking re-election to a second term. Miles, of Platte City, who holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from Northwest Missouri State University, is the mother of three grown sons and currently works in the office of local insurance agent Dan Demory. She said the top reason for seeking re-election is a desire to continue her involvement in the community. She also said she understands the teamwork and collaboration of not only District officials, but teachers and staff. “Reason No. 2 is the teaming and collaboration that is essential among Dr. Reik, Dr. Gardner, Dr. Brown, other Central Office members, administration, teachers and Board members,” she said. “I feel so very fortunate to have a voice representing the teachers and working with such incredible, dedicated people. “I also understand how dedicated teachers are. They teach seven hours a day, answer 20 to 30 e-mails daily, grade papers, prepare for the next day and attend after/before school meetings. Many are coaches or club sponsors who are involved in evening events. Our teachers are so dedicated to being the best they can be so they can offer the world to their students.” Miles said she also understands what it takes to be a dedicated school board member. “I understand that the school board member is a professional who supports the administration, has a high level of integrity, is responsible for the fiscal health of the district, is willing to learn, employs the most highly qualified staff, hires quality leaders, are student-focused and have high expectations,” she said. Student population growth is definitely a pressing issue, Miles said. She said she is impressed with how teachers and administrators are “being so innovative in making certain that every student is receiving a quality education.” JULIE VANOVER Vanover, 42, of Platte City, also ran unopposed and was elected to the R-3 Board in 2011. She is married to Joe Vanover and is the mother of two R-3 students, Alex, 12, and Lindsay, 10. Vanover works as a physical therapist for St. Luke’s Home Health and recently completed a master’s in business administration degree in healthcare leadership from Rockhurst University. Vanover also cited a desire to remain involved in the community and says in addition to her experience on the board, there is a simple reason she is a good candidate. “I can sum it up in two words: I care,” she said. “I care about the kids in the community. I have two children in the district, and I know the education they get here will be the foundation for their future college ambitions and careers. I care enough to stand up for what I believe in if I disagree with a proposal. And I care that the district makes decisions that are fiscally responsible while serving the best interests of our kids.” Vanover knows that managing growth is the No. 1 issue facing the District and she said working towards getting the tax levy increase approved by voters in 2015 will be a challenge for the District. “Platte County Schools are growing and will continue to grow in the foreseeable future,” she said. “Even conservative enrollment projections show enrollment increases of over 100 students per year. Growth presents us with the challenge of engaging the support of the community to pass the levy next year. We need to build another school and add to Pathfinder so kids aren’t in overcrowded classrooms. We need to ensure they are getting the attention they need from teachers. We somehow have to reach the patrons that disagree. Hopefully time has healed some of the wounds of the first attempt to pass the levy, and people will see that the needs are real and are not going to go away.” KIRBY HOLDEN Holden, 51, is a Springfield native who resides in the Platte City area with his wife, Paula, and two R-3 students – Rachel, 15, and Lillian, 9. He is retired from a career in management and construction equipment sales. Holden has been an outspoken critic of the District the past few years and started a website to voice those concerns. He said he is challenging for a Board spot because he feels “the 56 percent of taxpayers who voted against the levy are not represented as they should be.” “After volunteering for several R-3 sponsored community groups I saw a need on the board for someone who would take the time to do their homework, challenge R-3 administration, hold them accountable for the information they present to the public, how they present it and what they are doing to make our district one of the best in the area,” Holden said. Holden also said that he was concerned about what he says are “mediocre or poor” state test scores and feels this has to be the number one priority of the R-3 Board. “Our kids do not deserve another six years of focus groups and data analysis which has not worked to get our academics to the ‘high achieving’ level mentioned so often by school administrators,” he said. Holden said he is also a good candidate because he has volunteered at the District in a variety of capacities and that his management background is also a plus. He also said that he has “hundreds of hours analyzing different aspects of this school district and others.” Holden said academics are his top concern, as well as addressing growth at the Barry campus. “The district should not be putting all of their eggs in the 2015 levy basket, but they should have had a plan to make sure these schools’ growth is taken care of in a permanent fashion,” he said. “Maybe the time was not right two years ago for the district to spend two million dollars on a swimming pool when you have young kids eating lunch in their classrooms and using temporary trailers. My belief is that to get future support from the 56 percent of voters who voted against the levy last time the District has to start spending on what is needed, not on what is wanted and prove to the voters they can tighten their belts as the majority of Platte County taxpayers have the past seven years.”