The 5 Q's: Joplin School Board candidates (Part 2)

Mar. 14—What do you believe are the strengths of the school district?

Marda Schroeder: I believe the strengths of the school district are in its people: administration, BOE (Board of Education), teachers, students and families. Looking back, I see resilience as another strength of the district. Weathering financial crises, accreditation concerns, student crises, staffing issues, community tragedies, facility problems and a pandemic, just to name a few of the situations that have come up over the past 28 plus years. Comprehensive school improvement plans are developed and revised addressing identified problems. The district perseveres and continues to provide a quality education for Joplin students.

Derek Gander: I don't see any one thing as the strength because there have been so many positive changes. We have students in a new safer school, no students being taught in trailers any longer. We are in a much better place financially and have been more fiscally responsible than previous administrations and boards. I believe we have an administration team that is ready to tackle any and all obstacles to "right the ship." Joplin is moving in the right direction; we have increased teacher pay and better benefits as well.

Matthew Robertson: The school district does well with setting polices and processes and evaluating them annually to find ways to make improvements. This is happening both in academics and facilities.

Veronica Gatz Scheurich: Strengths of Joplin Schools include the many different course offerings to help students determine which career path to choose, the wonderful educators determined to help our children learn and the numerous partnerships formed with area businesses for the success of our students.

Michelle Steverson: I feel that the strengths in the district over the past 10 years have been building improvements. Several buildings in the district were starting to age, and the district has done well with providing new secure buildings for our students. I feel that new curriculum ideas and opportunities have improved.

Jeff Koch: We have regained our financial stability from single-digit reserve percentages to greater than 35%. The teacher/staff turnover has been cut in half. We have made significant improvements for the safety of the students and staff through new visitor management tools, entry screening, cameras in buses and renewed a cross-functional safety committee. We developed a five-year strategic plan that included insights from the teachers, staff, community and even from the students themselves. We now have a much leaner central office that empowers our educators to be much more responsible for the students in their care. We are making the most of our funding by making short-term investments for the times where we receive tax revenue before we need to spend it. As an example, in 2010-2017 the district earned $48,381; from 2017 to the end of 2022 we earned $2,001,966 in interest — just by being good stewards of our resources by earning money on our cash balances. Finally, we are returning the focus to academic achievements. We will celebrate both Academic All Stars again and those students that are behind but are showing that they are catching up (growth).

Michael D. Landis: First and foremost, I believe that our teachers and staff are the greatest asset we have as a district. We are blessed to have an excellent group of committed individuals who work diligently to support our students in the classroom, in the hallway and throughout their educational journey. Secondly, we have facilities that are second to none in the state of Missouri that allow our students to have an opportunity to learn in modern buildings with outstanding technology. All of these, along with the people that make up our district, will always be our greatest strength.