by Stephanie Eaton
Four candidates are in the race for three open spots on the Platte County R-3 School Board.
Voters will head to the polls on Tuesday, April 8.
The four person race at R-3 includes three incumbents--Sharon Sherwood, Lenora Miles, and Julie Vanover--and newcomer Kirby Holden.
Voters can vote for three or fewer candidates. While the top three vote-getters will be elected, there is no requirement each voter select three on their ballot.
Platte County resident Kirby Holden said he is concerned about the current state of the Platte County R-3 School District.
According to Holden, over recent years he has seen test scores for students across the district decline, while the paycheck for one top level school official goes up.
Holden is not taking his concerns lightly and is running for a seat on the Platte County R-3 School District Board of Education.
Holden, 51, who has two children in the Platte County Schools, said he decided to run after attending several board of education meetings and noticing the lack of discussion over important topics.
“The final decision came when I checked the voting history by the school board for almost the past two years and I saw that with the exception of one dissenting vote for the swimming pool, every vote looked at has been unanimous. These votes include large expenditures by the administration, along with support for fee increases at the schools.”
Holden said another item that concerned him was Platte County R-3 Superintendent Dr. Michael Reik's pay increases.
“Our current superintendent's salary has increased about $20,000 since he was hired while many of our test scores at our schools are lower during that same time period.”
If he is elected, he hopes to challenge R-3 administrators and hold them accountable for the information they present to the public.
“While doing research for the Community Advisory Committee, I became aware how mediocre or poor some of the Missouri test scores were in our upper grade levels and feel this has to be priority one and addressed quickly. As a parent, I was not aware of the academic problems at some of our schools, which is what led me to start the website PlatteCountyR3facts.com. Our kids do not deserve another six years of focus groups, misleading information and data analysis which has not worked to get our academics to the "high achieving" level we have been led to believe we are at by our school administrators.”
Holden said academics will be a main item he would focus on if elected. He said instead of Platte County school officials using new and unproven techniques, he would like R-3 school officials to look at school districts who have high achieving students and copy their techniques.
“Academics is currently my number one concern. We have a great place to start, with many good teachers and noncertified staff along with a wonderful program at Northland Career Center but you cannot continue to have test scores in math for our Barry School eighth graders that have dropped four years in a row, or Algebra I scores at the high school that are below the state averages. This has to be addressed quickly by our administrators and school board.”
Holden said he also sees the job of the school board being to oversee the administrators who spend tax dollars. Holden said the school board is the board of directors for the school district.
“I think the job of school board member should be treated as such and our superintendent needs to have at least one board member who will do their homework, ask questions about what is being done financially and academically in our district and speak out if they do not agree or see a different way to arrive at the same goal,” Holden remarked.
Holden does not feel the current board is being effective in serving the taxpayers of the district.
“Barry and Pathfinder schools needed attention for their growth now, not next year or the year after. The district has bonding capacity to do the addition needed but is holding out for a new school in Platte City. And now they are holding out another year due to the fear of a levy vote failing, holding out while the kids at our southern schools are overcrowded. Someone has to speak out to make the board realize how unhappy many of the citizens are with how funds are being spent. This is what I believe--along with a poor economy--is the reason voters are currently not ready to give the district more funds. If past history means anything, I am the only candidate running who will speak out on this.”
Since April 2008, board member Sharon Sherwood said she has been helping the Platte County R-3 School District address the challenge of growth. Sherwood said her work is not done.
Sherwood was elected to the school board April 8, 2008. Sherwood is a graduate of the Platte County School District and has grandchildren currently enrolled in Platte County Schools. Prior to serving on the Platte County R-3 School Board, she served 23 years in the education field. According to Sherwood, 11 years were spent working as a school principal.
“As a school administrator I served as both leader of instructional practices, and manager of the business of the school. I have experience with school finance and federal programs, and exploring and implementing best practices in instruction. I have planned, implemented, and evaluated professional development. I have a B.S. in Music Education from the University Missouri in Columbia, M.S. in School Administration from NWMSU, and a Specialist in School Administration from NWMSU. As a lifelong educator I have been recognized as a recipient of the Northland Chamber of Commerce Award for Excellence in Education Award and Missouri Distinguished Principal Award.”
She said she decided to run for office six years ago to help with the challenges facing the community.
“I held a sincere desire to participate in guiding the district through addressing the challenges of growth. At that time positive changes were also being made in meeting academic needs, and I wanted to be a part of the decisions surrounding these issues.”
She said she feels like she has accomplished a lot during her time serving on the board. She said she has helped provide relevant and rigorous professional development to school officials.
“We have tremendous teachers, and it has been important to support them in this way.”
She said since being in office the board has developed a long range plan that will guide the school district through the next few years and address the needs of the district in a systematic way. She said she also feels that the community and patrons of the district have been able to provide input, participate in discussions and provide recommendations while she has served in office.
“As a graduate of Platte County R-3, I hold a deep commitment to the success of our schools. I want to ensure that we make wise decisions regarding every aspect of the future needs of our district. 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. In order to provide these experiences, we must maintain a high-quality staff and provide opportunities for relevant and timely professional development. 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 components to meeting our promise to our students and community ‘to prepare individual learners for success in life…in a safe and caring environment.’”
Current R-3 board member Lenora Miles is no stranger to the world of education. Miles has worked in the education field since 1975 and began serving on the Platte County R-3 School Board three years ago.
Miles began serving on the Platte County R-3 Board of Education in April 2011.
“I had retired from teaching high school English in May 2010; in the fall of 2010, fellow teacher Kyle Perkins, who teaches math at the high school, suggested that I run for the opening on the school board,” Miles said. “It planted the idea. I agreed that teacher representation would be healthy.”
Miles said she is proud of the work she has been able to do while working as a member of the board. She said working on the district's Comprehensive School Improvement Plan was a rewarding experience. She said the goal of the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan was to improve the individual student's academic performance.
“This plan creates district academic leadership teams representing different grade levels and contents. The coordinator of curriculum and instruction creates and deploys a systematic plan to align common core standards across the grade level and/or content area curriculum. Also established are common scope, sequence, essential learning targets, assessments, homework, and grading practices for all grade/content levels.”
As for the future, Miles said:
“I would like to continue my involvement in the community. At Platte County High School I worked with approximately 3990 students in English and ACT classes. I met many parents and have built a close relationship with so many people in our district. I have been in almost every classroom in every building.”
Miles said she is the best candidate to serve on the board because she understands so many different aspects of education. She said she understands the dedication of teachers, understands that school board members are continually learning and understands the importance of being a 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, is student-focused, and has high expectations.”
Miles moved to Platte County in 1991. She has two sons who graduated from Platte County High School and she has two grandchildren currently enrolled at Siegrist Elementary School.
Miles said the Platte County R-3 School District has been a great district to be a part of.
“Every teacher that I know, administrator that I know, staff friends that I know are working in the PCR-3 district because this is the best place to be. It is progressive. It is challenging. It is rewarding.”
Julie Vanover has served as a member of the R-3 board since 2011. She said the reason she serves on the board is to guarantee that children get the best possible education.
Vanover said she first decided to run to be a member of the school board because of her involvement in the schools. She said before running for office, she served as the PTA president of the Platte County Schools PTA from 2009-2011. She also has served on the district calendar committee and the public relations committee.
“My involvement with PTA and district public relations and calendar committees brought me to be interested in the bigger picture of the district. I like knowing what is going on in the schools and enjoy serving the community,” she said.
“Professionally, I have worked as a physical therapist in schools with special needs children in several rural school districts north of Platte City. I also recently earned my MBA from Rockhurst, which gives me a better understanding of the business aspect of the district.”
According to Vanover, she has been a strong leader while in office.
“I think I have led by example in trying to ask more questions and have more discussions at board meetings.”
Vanover has lived in Platte County for 11 years and has a son in seventh grade and a daughter in fifth grade.
Vanover hopes her work is not done and hopes to accomplish more if she is reelected.
“I'd like to be able to say we successfully passed the levy and allowed for a new elementary school to be built and renovations to Pathfinder.”
Vanover said there is one reason that voters should support her and allow her to continue her work on the school board. The reason is because she cares.
“I care that kids receive the best possible education. I care that district dollars are spent wisely. And I care enough to speak up if I disagree with something.”