Seven candidates are seeking a pair of available seats on the Fox C-6 Board of Education in the April 2 election.
Both incumbents are seeking new three-year terms: Daniel (Dan) Kroupa, who has served two terms, and Carole Yount, who is wrapping up her first.
They are being challenged by Judith (Judy) Smith, James (Jim) Osia, Andrew J. Helgeson, Avery A. Fortenberry and Michelle Chamberlain.
SMITH, 60, lives at 3040 Crimson Oaks Drive, Fenton. She and her husband, Steve, have three children and three grandchildren. She is an adjunct education professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis and an instructor at Missouri Baptist University. She retired from the Fox C-6 district in 2015 after 26 years of teaching. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from UMSL in 1989, a master’s degree in education from Lindenwood University in 1992, and a certification to teach English for speakers of other languages from Southeast Missouri State University in 2009.
She is a member of the C-6 Educational Foundation and volunteers with the Arnold Rotary Club’s Thanksgiving meal distribution, Brenden’s Friday Backpacks, teaches Sunday school and directs the homebound meal ministry at her church.
She has two daughters employed by the district: Jennifer Smith, a special education aide at Seckman High School; and Stephanie Dace, a third-grade teacher at Sherwood Elementary.
OSIA, 44, lives at 2022 Essex Drive, Arnold. He and his wife, Gina, have a daughter. He works for True Manufacturing and attended classes at St. Louis Community College. He is a member of the Jefferson County Extension Council and the Comprehensive School Improvement Program committee and volunteers with the Watch DOGS program and Brenden’s Friday Backpacks.
YOUNT, 77, lives at 1417 Yount Drive, Arnold. She and her husband, Randy, have two children and two grandchildren. She is a retired human resources secretary from Fox C-6. She has also worked in banking and real estate appraising, helping her husband with their family business. She attended a year of college.
She is president of the Arnold Kiwanis Club and chairs its giving fair and car show. She organized the Fox Follies scholarship program for 15 years and was involved in Junior Achievement. When her children were younger, she was involved in Scouts, the Jefferson County Youth Association and school-parent organizations.
Her daughter, LuAnn Domek, is the principal at Lone Dell Elementary.
HELGESON, 32, lives at 4039 Sun Tide Court, Arnold. He and his wife, Megan, have two daughters. He is an information technology specialist for Brown and James PC. He is a high school graduate and has completed some college.
He served three years on the Bradley Elementary School District Board of Education in Illinois. He also volunteered for more than 15 years on the Bourbonnais (Ill.) Friendship Festival and was its site director for five years.
FORTENBERRY, 72, lives at 6604 Crimson Lane, Barnhart. He and his wife, Jann, have four children and six grandchildren. He is a retired account executive for the Southwestern Bell Telephone Co. (SBC Communications, now AT&T) and taught evening classes at St. Louis Community College. He owns a small business, Avery Contracting LLC. He received a bachelor’s degree in management with a minor in communication from Maryville University in 1982.
He is a member of the Jefferson County Planning Commission and the Board of Adjustment and has been a member of the Festus Special Road District and the University of Missouri Extension board.
CHAMBERLAIN, 44, lives at 301 Keystone Drive, Fenton. She and her husband, Eric, have three children. She is a second-grade teacher at Windsor Elementary School and an administrative intern in the summer school program. She has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis and master’s degrees in classroom teaching and elementary administration from Missouri Baptist University.
She has volunteered with the Arnold Food Pantry, Brenden’s Friday Backpacks, Ride On St. Louis, the Sunset Hills-Crestwood Rotary Club and at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church.
Her sister, Denise Bowler, is a special education teacher at Antonia Elementary School and her sister-in-law, Cherie McGowan, teaches sixth-grade English language arts at Antonia Middle School.
KROUPA, 68, lives at 2092 Kroupa Drive, Arnold. He and his wife, Susan, have two children and four grandchildren. He is vice president of finance of JEDMED Instrument Co. in St. Louis. He received an associate’s degree from Jefferson College in 1971 and a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1973.
He has been the Arnold city treasurer since 2010 and the school board’s treasurer since 2014.
His daughter is a librarian in the district.
What are the biggest problems facing the district and how would you address them?
Smith: The budget and having adequate resources to support and expand curriculum, increase technology and resources and being able to maintain competitive salaries and smaller class sizes. The needs of the facilities continue to be a major challenge. I would like to examine the budget and find ways to reduce costs efficiently to support these budget needs. Safety and security need to be a top priority along with the emotional and social well-being of our students, families and staff.
Osia: Transparency and honesty. Even though it is said that Central Office has improved, there are still serious issues going on behind closed doors. Favoritism, contracts being held over teachers’ and administrators’ heads and parent clubs being forced to promote Prop S. When speaking at board meetings, the superintendent has tried to dissuade my comments, stopping short of telling me what to say. If elected, I would have discussions addressing issues first privately, then publicly if necessary, in a manner that is productive and tactful.
Yount: Finances. We need to review salary schedules for all employees and determine fair pay for all. Our budget will need constant scrutiny and adjustments to educate our kids effectively.
Helgeson: Finances, compensation and buildings are what I am finding to be the biggest problems. I would work with the board, the district and the community to address these problems. We want to stay competitive with salaries so that we can attract the best staff while remaining fiscally sound. I will work to open the books and see how we can address finances with the least amount of cuts. As for buildings, vote yes for Proposition S.
Fortenberry: The safety and security of our students is paramount and financing future expansion and upgrades is essential.
Chamberlain: The students will always be the most important people when looking at the district’s needs. The students want a safe and secure place to learn. The passing of Proposition S is very important to me. The community wants adults in the school setting who can spot a child in crisis and feel comfortable taking action to help. The staff wants to feel valued and supported. I will propose more professional development in trauma and social and emotional learning.
Kroupa: Balancing the budget and returning the fund balance (reserves) to 20 percent of operating revenue. In the budget, we must provide the tools to educate children, we must maintain and improve the facilities for the safety of the children and staff and we must provide fair and equitable pay to the teachers and staff while ensuring that we do not spend more money than we receive.
Why should voters elect you to this position? List your goals, if elected.
Smith: I have a passion for students, educators, support staff and future educators. I have 26 years of classroom experience in the district and have witnessed the positives and negatives of five administrative teams. I have been involved with community organizations for 40 years and I feel that I know the values of the district. I am committed to:
■ Preparing students for successful and productive lives.
■ Responsible and effective use of financial resources.
■ Building trust with open and transparent communication.
■ Students, teachers and all support staff.
Osia: I will be the true voice of the community and parents. You will get open and honest answers and discussions. I am not here to be popular but to do what is right for the kids. My goals:
■ Continue to move forward.
■ Continue pushing for more transparency, provide safe and conducive learning areas.
■ Be fiscally responsible and spend on needs, not wants.
■ Make sure we are teaching and putting our kids on the right path after high school.
Yount: My three years on the board has prepared me for my next term. It was a great learning experience and I want to be involved in seeing ideas that have been introduced put into place. My main priority is to work on our buildings to ensure the safety of our staff and students.
Helgeson: I want to do the best that I can for the students, the staff, the teachers and the aides. Working on a school board will involve time and effort and some tough decisions will have to be made, but I will do my best to make those decisions in the best interest for the students and the district. This district has come out of some tough times and is moving forward. I want to join that effort and do my part for the future of all students of the district.
Fortenberry: Elect me to provide traditional values in the decision-making processes for board and curriculum.
Chamberlain: Working on the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan committee made me realize that I have a lot to offer. I have attended many board meetings and have always walked away with pride in our district. My goals would be to:
■ Make sure we are doing everything we can to address the social and emotional health of our children.
■ Encourage more students to take higher-level classes, which will require the district to hire staff with higher-level certifications.
■ Encourage all employees to feel valued and appreciated.
■ Help our community rally behind the board and central office staff.
Kroupa: A good school board should have members with different areas of expertise, such as information technology, construction, management, education, nursing, accounting, real estate and insurance. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only candidate who offers business management and accounting experience. To have a board with a majority of retired employees is a disservice to taxpayers. During my six years on the board, I have helped take it through some turbulent times. I would be honored to help the new superintendent keep the district moving in the right direction.
The district is asking voters for a $70 million bond issue to make improvements to schools around the district. Do you support this issue? Why or why not?
Smith: Our students, staff, families and community deserve facilities that are safe, secure, and well maintained now and in the future. Every item on the list, including new buildings, additions and improvements, plus more, is needed.
Osia: We do have issues with our buildings. Antonia Elementary needs to be replaced. Meramec Heights needs to be remodeled and made ADA-compliant, Fox High needs HVAC systems and windows replaced, to name a few. However, the district has no plan on how to spend the $70 million it is asking for, nor does it have bids on the actual work – just recommendations – and no plan if a school needs to close while being redone, such as Meramec Heights. If it does pass, I will watch every dime spent, elected or not.
Yount: I’m not in favor of raising property taxes, but if this is not done the district will be in dire financial trouble. If another $10 a month will help to ensure the safety of my grandchild for the rest of his time in school, I definitely support Proposition S. Our buildings are old and are in great need of repair and maintenance. The passing of Prop S will help us take care of those needs. We must realize the effect this will have on the education and safety of our students.
Helgeson: I support Proposition S. This bond issue is something that the district needs. The funds are allocated for certain areas, not to be used for compensation and benefits. The district has not requested a bond issue for 14 years while still maintaining what it has. District security should be most important to keep our children safe, and the bond issue supports this safety and security.
Fortenberry: Yes, and that is why you want me on the board – to assure that all money is managed diligently.
Chamberlain: I support Proposition S because our schools are not up to par with what our children deserve. They deserve safe and secure schools that are comfortable to learn in and the best labs to explore their interests in different sciences. They deserve to have libraries-media centers that are up to date. Our community wants schools that they are proud of. We can do better.
Kroupa: Yes. Many of the buildings, parking lots, playgrounds and equipment in the district are more than 60 years old. Maintenance of the facilities has been intermittent, at best, due to lack of funds. Safety and security is paramount in this day and age, and our buildings need to be upgraded for the safety of the children and to bring facilities to today’s standards to meet technology requirements.