During election years when there is a contested race, the Mexico chapter of League of Women Voters sends a questionnaire to candidates. These are the responses from candidates for the Mexico School District 59 Board of Education. There are three open seats on the board with four candidates. Incumbent responses are listed first. All responses are presented as written with minor edits for style and clarity. The municipal election is June 2.

Kelli Teel — incumbent

What are your qualifications for a position on the Mexico school board?

What I believe qualifies me to serve on our School Board first and most importantly is I have been a member of the board for the past 3 years and am dedicated to my position. I believe the quality education we desire for our children cannot be reached without support to our administration, teachers and staff from a solid well rounded School Board.

I have been involved in many decisions made by the district, with the most recent of the selection of our new Superintendent. I also have represented our district and served on the regional executive board for Region 17 with the Missouri School Boards Association. I have duties as the legislative representative. With this committee, I am kept informed of legislative issues that arise which affect our schools and students and assist in passing the information to our regional schools.

I have two students in the district and am heavily invested in both the financial and educational health of our district to assure our students are provided the highest quality education possible. I am present in the community and have many opportunities to speak with the public and be a great liaison for concerns or new ideas to help this district grow.

What do you see as the 2 major issues confronting the Mexico School Board?

I believe two issues confronting the board at this time are transitioning a new superintendent, and continuing to grow our programs to develop and support our teachers and assist with student behavior.

The role the board will play in the transition of the new superintendent will be that of experience. The job expectation and performance requirements that was mandatory to be a candidate during the interview process need to be clearly defined to the candidate chosen to be the district’s new superintendant. These expectations are what the superintendent is evaluated on each year to determine positive progress in the District.

Growing and developing our teachers is the most important thing the board can support at this time. Our educators are the integral part of giving our students in the District the very best education possible. Our teachers and administrators need resources, staff, and further education to provide our students with mental and physical support to be successful in the classroom. It is the Board’s responsibility to ensure these programs are funded and staffed to better the education of our students.

Dustin Pascoe — incumbent

What are your qualifications for a position on the Mexico school board?

As it has been in the past and continues to be, the first qualification I have for the school board is that I know education – as a Professor of Language and Literature for MACC in my twenty-first year, I know about planning, summative and formative assessment, classroom management, maintaining high expectations, and the acquisition of useful skills.

I bring a unique vision to the board as an "end user" of the students we produce. Additionally, I remain an advocate for the idea of public service. I serve on the Unified Board of the Mexico United Methodist Church and as the Communications Department Chair at the college and I also contribute in many other less formalized ways.

As a parent of three children, two of whom are now graduates of MHS, and patron of the school district, I have many immediate needs and expectations of the school system because the success and happiness of my family depends upon its well-ordered functioning. Finally, I have served on the board for the last nine years, the last two as the Board president, and the confidence my colleagues have shown in me demonstrates that I have the wherewithal and skills to help the District flourish.

What do you see as the 2 major issues confronting the Mexico School Board?

The two major issues are improving educational performance and expanding our educational offerings, specifically in pre-kindergarten and in social-emotional learning.

Mexico continues to hover close the state average for reading, math, science, etc. We need to be one of the school districts setting the curve; let us let other districts aim to replicate what we have.

The whole point of a district is to educate the students so they are ready for whatever comes next, and we don’t want them to "merely" be ready but be ready to excel. To that end, we must embrace results-based best practices; we must be willing to change things where necessary and keep things where they’re working – and we’ll know they’re working because we have actual evidence of it.

Second, our community will flourish if we can get as close as possible to 100% of kids into a pre-K program, and in addition to the Y or Head Start or a private preschool, we should ensure we have the capacity to service as many students as practical. At the same time, our students increasingly have social-emotional needs that must be met so they can focus on their learning; our efforts in that direction should be broadened.

Lisa Ovaitt

What are your qualifications for a position on the Mexico school board?

My life experiences provide many qualifications for a position on the School Board. I have been a student; a parent of four students who attended many different schools in several different towns; a teacher; and a substitute teacher.

I hold a BS in Education, with a Lifetime Teaching Certificate from the University of Missouri; and attended graduate school at Rutgers University in Public Policy and Administration.

What do you see as the 2 major issues confronting the Mexico School Board?

The first is security. Security for all involved in our school system should be of utmost importance, and in this day that can present new challenges. I have some specific ideas where the safety of teachers and staff should be strengthened, and perhaps consultation with a professional firm is warranted.

The second is staff retention. From my unique perspective as a substitute teacher, I see that sometimes faculty and staff are surveyed or asked for comment, but do not see follow-up nor that their input was appreciated.

It is important for everyone involved administration, faculty, and staff to be valued and to know that fact. Mexico has outstanding administrators, teachers, and support personnel who should be retained by the district for their skills and contributions. I look forward to working with the new superintendent to assure that everyone involved knows they are a part of the success of the district.

Our school system, along with all others in the state of Missouri, finds itself in an unforeseen conundrum. It will take level-headed creative thinkers to pioneer this situation, and I bring experience in finding solutions to a variety of issues to the table.

Todd Yager

What are your qualifications for a position on the Mexico school board?

I possess many qualifications to hold a position on the Mexico School Board. Above all, I care deeply about Mexico and the school system. Working at Arnold Funeral Home the last 21 years has given me the opportunity to develop many relationships in Mexico. Many have become like family and I desire nothing more than to explore every option for their path to success. My caring mentality will assist in this unrelenting approach to help each child reach their potential.

Another qualification is I come from the business world. My daily challenges and experiences of running a business assist in strong decision making. Some are easy and many require you to step back, but you learn to always be prepared. When children's safety and success is your job, you must make a solid decision every time

Finally, I have an unbiased attitude that would benefit the Mexico School Board. I do not have an agenda and plan to approach each decision with a clean thought process. This impartiality will allow sound decisions to be made once all information has been gathered.

What do you see as the 2 major issues confronting the Mexico School Board?

I believe the two major issues confronting the Mexico School Board during the upcoming term are communication and the evaluation of grade centers.

Communication will always be the top issue for any organization, especially when it regards children and tax money. There have always been complaints about school system issues and most have centered around not being informed. Mexico is fortunate to have a Public Relations Coordinator that is extremely qualified to handle the task. We must trust and empower them to get every bit of information out into the community.

Evaluation of grade centers is another issue needing attention. Making changes, like grade centers, can be a great decision if we continue to evaluate and improve. "Do teachers have class sizes at a level that help kids?" "Are teachers getting adequate prep time to maximize their talents?" "What benchmarks are we using to verify these centers are working?" There are countless questions to be asked and getting honest feedback from teachers, parents and staff is critical for improvement. Whether it is another town hall meeting or a survey, finding an avenue for candid answers is a must.