Part B. The Candidate’s Views

7th Ward Independent Democrats 2015 St. Louis School Board Candidates Survey Results

Part A. Personal Side of Candidate answers here.

Part B. The Candidate As School Board Member.
These are the Candidate views and goals questions.

In Filing order

B1) Describe your role as a St. Louis City Public School Board Member under the current Special Board situation. (75 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: In the Board of Education’s present form, I consider the current role of a Board Member to most closely resemble that of an advisory (non-voting) member of a charity or non-profit organization. That is, someone who brings energy, knowledge, guidance, and volunteers his or her time without having direct influence on policy. Given my passion for technology in education, I’m enthusiastic to get as hands-on as the position allows.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: Currently, my role as a member of the elected board of education, by State Law, I am charged with the responsibility to monitor and report to the community the operations and responses of the Special Administration Board. Also as an elected citizen of the City, I represent the people who elected me as a representative of the District to ensure all children receive a quality education.
Katherine Wessling: Right now as a Board member I primarily work as an advocate for the parents and students of SLPS and as liaison to the SAB. It is important for Board members to keep abreast of the status of SLPS and to continue to work toward the implementation of the transition plan we developed a few years ago. If board members who have been active and in leadership roles during the tenure of the SAB are not on the Board when the transition comes, the learning curve will slow things down. I am proud to be the only board member currently serving who has consistently been, by invitation, on district committees during this time. I have served on the Internal Audit Committee at the invitation of Rick Sullivan since its implementation.
Charli A. Cooksey: The St. Louis Board of Education must restore its own credibility, build bridges to the Special Administrative Board, regain parental trust, and re-engage business and civic leaders to return the people’s voices to the debate about a long-term, big, bold path for our young people. I would work relentlessly with the other board members to make this happen. I would also learn as much as possible so that when power returns to the local elected board, I was insightful and prepared to hit the ground running, fighting for our children.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B2) Describe your role as a St. Louis City Public School Board Member when the Special Board is gone. (75 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: With an elected Board, voters have a direct say in our children’s future. Parents and teachers are on the front lines of students’ development; it’s absolutely crucial that they are represented. Parents and educators know their schools and kids better than any appointed bureaucrat looking at graphs and spreadsheets. Should the SAB be dissolved, elected Board Members would become more accountable to voters for implementing solid policy, and have greater ability (and responsibility) to do so.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: As a current member of the elected Board, not too much would change, once the Special Administrative Board is terminated. The most positive point would be the elected Board would be in full governance of the District and will ensure community, parent involvement and transparency of its operations. As a current Board Member, I have stayed very active in the operations of the District, by monitoring what the current Administration and the Special Administrative Board implements and how they perform. We, the elected Board have passed Resolutions, made recommendations to the Superintendent, as well as the Special Administrative Board.
Katherine Wessling: A Board Member’s role is to govern the district by setting policy and to set the goals for the Superintendent. The day to day decisions are not in the Board’s realm. A Board Member must listen to the community and make sure that SLPS serves all members of the community so that all city families feel that SLPS is an option for their children. Policies must be in place to ensure education happens and that graduates are able to move on to either work or higher education. Start times, curriculum choices, and early childhood education are areas I feel strongly about.
Charli A. Cooksey: Board members are the voices of families and the students, who must provide not just a vision, but also a reality-based plan for every child to succeed. To move forward together, we must create a collective vision and plan, improve transparency and accountability, and produce results that involve all high school students graduating prepared to excel on post-secondary paths. We must empower SLPS to ensure that students are academically, financially, socially-emotionally, civically, and healthily prepared.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B3) How should public schools be funded? (100 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: While in more affluent districts, property taxes may adequately funds schools, lower income districts often rely on state and federal funding to operate. Missouri has one of the largest funding gaps between high and low poverty schools in the nation. In St. Louis, unfairly assessed property tax rates abound in economically depressed neighborhoods. The LRA turns low-income families’ homes into vacant board-ups “maintained” by the City at the further expense of taxpayers. We must set affordable tax rates for low/fixed income and middle class homeowners to keep more houses occupied, and reallocate funding for “upkeep” of City-owned properties to education.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: As they are now, but fully funded. With the Real Estate Tax, the District receives approximately $15,000 per year, per child. This in my opinion is an adequate amount. In addition, with the gambling revenue the District receives, it would be more than adequate, if the Legislature could prevent the Governor from withholding any budgeted educational dollars.
Katherine Wessling: They should be funded by taxpayer dollars equitably distributed.
Charli A. Cooksey: The level of funding should grow comparative to the level of concentrated student poverty. Potentially, government finance systems should provide more funding to districts serving larger shares of students in poverty.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B4) In the event that power was returned to the St. Louis City School Board, describe one specific funding priority in the Budget that you would champion. (50 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: Access to enhanced early childhood education- around the clock. Reading and verbal interaction from an early age are crucial to development and aid in early detection of learning disorders, such as dyslexia. Many parents below the poverty line work non-standard schedules and must choose between basic childcare or quality preschools.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: Wow, don’t know if I can just look at one particular area, there are so many: Transportation, Safety and Security, Teacher’s Pay and Support Services are just a few that immediately come to mind. I would have to concentrate on the areas where the District is losing funding at a fast rate, such as the Teacher’s Retirement Fund, Charter School Payments, Transportation and Personnel.
Katherine Wessling: Every school should have a functional library with a librarian.
Charli A. Cooksey: I would prioritize funding wrap-around support services and educational experiences that prep our young people to be productive, healthy, and engaged citizens upon high school graduation. Specifically, this funding would support: Increased access to financial literacy programming. Increased access to mentorship programming. Increased access to social services that support families living in poverty. Increased access to STEM and arts-based programming
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B5) The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Ferguson-Florissant School District regarding the at-large election of the School Board, alleging at-large election violates Section of the Voting Rights Act. Should the St. Louis City School Board be elected by districts instead of at-large? Why or Why not? (75 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: In general, anything the powers that be in Ferguson-Florissant are doing is absolutely the wrong path to take. St. Louis is the most segregated city in the nation. We must strive for inclusion, not further divide ourselves.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: My opinion is that City School Board members should be elected at-large. My first thought is the District is a City Wide agency, what happens at one school affects the other schools. Also St. Louis is still listed and looked at, as the most segregated City in the United States. Dividing the School System up in Districts furthers the perception of segregation.
Katherine Wessling: No.  It would encourage board members to only care about their own little area and not the district as a whole.  Board members need to care about every student, not just a few. 
Charli A. Cooksey: No, St. Louis City is much more diverse than Ferguson-Florissant. Also, to elect by districts could actually create more issues than solutions. Ferguson-Florissant and the city are hard to compare as it relates to the circumstances surrounding the ACLU lawsuit.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B6) Describe one St. Louis City Public School Policy you would change or you would vigorously defend against change. (50 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: I would remove some of the restrictions SLPS teachers face, so that they are able to address individual students’ needs and nurture different learning styles. Far too often, the teacher — not the administration — is blamed when a student is underperforming.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: This Policy would be the Student Conduct Handbook. Some of the policy is good and works, but overall, many principals and schools aren’t following it by the book and sometimes institute punishment that don’t fit the situation or violation.
Katherine Wessling: I do not like social promotion.  We need to ensure students get the skills they need before just passing them along.
Charli A. Cooksey: I believe that the school suspension policies are counterproductive to educating our youth. Every day a child spends out of the classroom increases their likelihood of not succeeding. We must come up with more innovative solutions to replace the tradition of suspension for long periods of time and frequent in school suspension (of “problem kids”). We should focus less on punishment and more on interventions that empower the students to be successful.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B7) Describe your position on Common Core Standards. (100 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: The spirit of the Common Core Standards is to uplift schools which aren’t able to provide the same level of education as better funded schools. Again, teachers are on the front lines, and when independent educators as well as the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association demand revisions, we must take their input and insight very seriously when setting these standards. However, at this point SLPS faces so many more urgent issue that discussing Common Core is like polishing the deck of the Titanic.
Thomas R. Oldenburg:
Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: Common Core Standards is a needed process and structure, however I believe Districts and teachers should be given the latitude and flexibility in achieving these standards.
Katherine Wessling: I have no problem with standards.  I have a big problem with excessive testing and with trading local curriculum choices away in exchange for money. 
Charli A. Cooksey: I see a lot of positive potential in transitioning to the Common Core Standards. They are rigorous and will likely increase critical thinking and problem-solving skills among students.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B8) Describe your position on the issue of teachers carrying concealed guns into St. Louis City Public Schools. (50 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: While there are certainly instances in which firearms are used successfully to protect innocent lives, they don’t belong in schools. This could open the door for possible complacency in gun safety- which could lead to easier access for troubled teens and more school shootings or other tragic misuse of weapons.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond

David L. Jackson, Jr.: I do not support teachers carrying concealed weapons in schools.
Katherine Wessling: I think this is a horrible idea.  I would not send my child into a school where this was allowed.
Charli A. Cooksey: I totally oppose ALL teachers and administrators carrying concealed guns into St. Louis City Public Schools.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B9) Describe your position on the issue of teaching creationism or intelligent design in St. Louis City Public Schools. (50 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: If philosophy becomes part of the standard curriculum, I would love students to learn more about the beliefs of ALL religions and cultures. However, creationism/intelligent design does NOT belong in a science course. Creationism is best left out of the classroom and taught at home, if parents see fit.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: I would need more time to think this through, being its the first time I really have been posed this question. I do know this would be an issue which definitely need to be explored, research and voted upon by the Board of Education. I actually do not know if there is a policy in place as of today on this issue, but I will definitely be looking at our polices and regulations for preparation.
Katherine Wessling: I do not agree with teaching religious doctrine in place of science.  They could be taught in social studies class if they fit into the curriculum.  Those topics can be taught in places of worship or at home.
Charli A. Cooksey: To honor the diversity of thoughts, religions, lifestyles, and ideologies among our students and their families, I do not support teaching creationism or intelligent design in the St. Louis Public Schools.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B10) Describe your position on Public School District Anti-Bullying Policies that include bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. (50 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: At age 11, I protested- and persuaded administrators- to repeal gender-biased dresscodes at my elementary. In high school, Campaign for Human Dignity hired me as a pianist for fundraisers. I applaud our public schools working with Team Bully Response Squad, taking a direct approach to preventing bullying on all fronts.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: I believe in zero tolerance in regards to bullying of any type or nature. I also believe in assisting any and all students who bully with counseling for them and their family.
Katherine Wessling: These policies are necessary and I support them. 
Charli A. Cooksey: I believe that the district should continue to focus on Anti-Bullying efforts. They are doing a great job at providing purposefully experiences and programming around anti-bullying. I also believe we need to focus on understanding root causes and what compels a student to bully another student. It is possible that many of the students who are being labeled as bullies are also being bullied and facing hardship that needs to be addressed holistically and productively. The more we address the root causes of bullying the greater our chances are of decreasing the frequency of it occurring.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B11) Describe your position on public funds being spent on private education (vouchers, tax credits, direct appropriation). (75 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: A resounding NO. It would be wonderful if more citizens willfully donated to education, but it is unfair to extract compulsory funding, typically from low/middle class tax payers, to pad the pockets of private schools. This also raises the question of separation of Church and State, as some non-secular schools may end up receiving some of this funding. We need to strengthen our schools- not give them over to private interests.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: I do not support public dollars being earmarked or spent on private education in any manner. There is never accountability if funds are utilized by private organizations.
Katherine Wessling: I do not agree with this at all.  Those who wish to not use the gift of free public education, for whatever reason, can opt out.  But investment in public education is an investment in the human resources our country will need in the future, and all children must be educated.  Vouchers are simply welfare for the well-to-do, and tax credits are inappropriate because they link use of tax dollars to personal choice rather than for the greater good.  If we all wanted our money back from government services we don’t use (like a highway we never drive on) we neglect our duty to our country and communities.
Charli A. Cooksey: I oppose public funds being spent on private education.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

B12) Grade the Special Administrative Board for the St. Louis Public Schools on a Scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest score. Describe why you gave the Board that score. (100 words or less)

Natalie A. Vowell: It must be a difficult job for 3 unelected people to determine what is best for 24,000 students. We must restore the democratic process and hear the people most directly impacted by it- the parents and teachers. They are the best possible advocates for our children.
Thomas R. Oldenburg: Did Not Respond
David L. Jackson, Jr.: I would give the Special Administrative Board a grade of 6 at this point. They were successful in stabilizing the district as far as retainer of a superintendent. They were successful in balancing the budget for several years, however the academic achievement of students in various grade levels were disappointing. The Special Administration Board also has spent quite a lot of money on legal and construction processes, which could have been prevented. The most disturbing was when the Special Administrative Board approved passing students who could not read at grade level, which violated State Law and was just morally wrong.
Katherine Wessling: 5.  They mean well and have tried.  None of them have children in SLPS so they don’t see how the policies are playing out in the classroom.  If the choices in governance they were making were popular with city families, we would not have seen thousands of families leave the district since the SAB was put in place.  They have focused on the business of running the district and not on the educational outcomes. 
Charli A. Cooksey: I value and appreciate any group of people who come together to dedicate their time, energy, and ideas towards improving the lives of our region’s young people. This is hard work. I think steady progress has been made under the Special Administrative Board’s leadership. There is great room for improvement and I would love to see more transformative results, but I value the contributions they have made. However, I do believe that power should return to the local elected board when the time is right.
Joey C. Hollins: Did Not Respond

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