Four candidates, including both incumbents, are running for election to the Fort Osage Schools Board of Education.
Voters go to the polls next Tuesday. Polls in Missouri are open from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Floyd Hawkins, a former longtime teacher and coach and currently the board president, and Diana Rice, a logistics planner at Hallmark, are being challenged by John Yocum, the Fort Osage Fire Protection District chief, and district mother April Flowers. Voters in the school district will vote for two on April 3. The Examiner posed a series of questions to each candidate, and below are their responses to those questions (edited in part).
Q: What made you decide to run for the school board (or for re-election).
Floyd Hawkins: My experiences as a parent who put my sons through the Fort Osage School District as well as my experiences as a teacher, administrator and lifelong supporter bring a unique mix of ideas and a deeper understanding of the school district. I understand the larger systems that the district depends on as well as the nuts and bolts of what needs to happen every day to keep the district running.
Dr. Snodgrass and I have many similarities in that we both have chosen to raise our families in the district as well as work for the district. My support for him and the other administrators in the district will be based on the trust that I have in the district administrators ability to make these hiring decisions. These men and women have consistently made sound choices when hiring building administrators. Continuing with my support will be the quality I want to bring to the table.
April Flowers: I want to be more involved in the district.
John Yocum: Throughout my life I have been committed to helping make our community better, through my career, volunteering, being a good neighbor and giving to charity. With two children in the Fort Osage school system, I see firsthand the challenges they face, and I feel a sense of responsibility to help them and their peers achieve success. State and federal government is not going to send unlimited resources to our community. As a member of the board, I would seek alternative funding sources and initiate long-term planning to sustain our district into the future.
I believe it is the board’s job to make sure our schools have everything they need to educate our children. At Fort, that means additional staff and resources so each teacher can help our children learn, prepare for their future and achieve short- and long-term goals. My professional and nonprofit board experiences have prepared me to bring valuable insights and proactive solutions to our school district.
Diana Rice: I have always been involved in our school system either as a parent, PTA leader or a volunteer. I believe that serving on the board will allow me to give back to our children and to be a strong and encouraging voice for our children. I want to ensure that our district is a best-in-class educational experience by encouraging innovation, but teaching the basic that every child needs.
I want to continue to be that person that can always ask the question: Is this best for our students, and will this experience positively shape their future? I would like to continue to see our student learn in an open, positive and SAFE environment. I would like for our amazing staff continue to seek new and innovative opportunities for our students.
Q: What is going well with the district that you want to make sure continues to progress?
FH: The bond and levy issues that were approved in 2017 are very important to the current and future growth of Fort Osage. We must fiscally maintain a balanced budget while keep district reserves at an appropriate level.
We need to prepare the students for their future, not our past. In order to do this, the district made the logical decision to embrace a 1:1 technology by distributing chromebooks to all middle and high school grades. I have seen first-hand how much more engaged students are in the classroom. Teachers have taken on the challenge and done an excellent job of reexamining how they deliver instruction. These improvements to instruction will have an impact on local assessments as well as decreased disciplinary actions in the buildings.
Our teachers and staff continue to be some of the best in the area. We must work hard to maintain and improve our staff that works with our students each day of the school year.
I believe we provide an outstanding education. The Fort Osage school family gives our district a common identity out of several geographical areas that make up the district. We must always work to keep this family atmosphere at Fort Osage while providing the very best education.
AF: Genuine passion for ALL things Fort from the top down.
JY: Fort Osage has taken care of programs and facilities for our sports teams. Now it’s time to do right by the arts and academic programs.
The district has also obtained qualified, caring educators to teach, guide, and mentor our children by offering pay that is competitive for our region. This needs to continue. I also advocate for excellent benefits. For example, adding an employee assistance program would give teachers and staff access to professional help for dealing with emergencies in their own lives.
DR: I would like to see three major initiatives continue for our district: continuing to strengthen curriculum, technology and finances.
Our students will be facing a very challenging world and by providing a relevant curriculum they will learn the basics but will also be introduced to innovation and the confidence to think outside of the box.
Show our children ways that technology benefit our world and the possibilities are endless. We must continue to expand our methods of teaching to each student individually as each student process and learns differently.
The reality is that the district has to operate within the federal and state funding, and so continuing to be diligent with all spending decisions. We could see our funding challenged in the future with the vouchers and charter schools, and as a board we need ensure that our tax dollars are wisely spent and that each dollar spent is to enhance their education.
Q: Are there areas you believe could stand to see some change or improvement? If so, what?
FH: Fiscally, the school district has been traditionally conservative and that should continue. Even though our district does not have a large tax base, we have been able to accomplish much. That is due to support from our patrons, sound financial planning of district administrators and the Board of Education. This is something the board and district must always work to improve while maintaining the quality of the education we provide.
Fort Osage Schools have increased security measures in the last several years. We must continue to review safety policies and guidelines. The safety of our students must be continually monitored and improved.
AF: There is always room for improvement in all aspects of life, so the school district is no different. However, as of this time I am unaware of things that need to/could be changed.
JY: Our school district is a community unto itself, and needs all the resources a small city would have. With 28 years of public service, I will bring a new perspective in leadership to help improve this community. First, security must be improved in our schools. I want to see trained professionals put in place to protect our children. It is no longer an option to pretend a locked entrance and one dedicated law enforcement officer for a district with 11 schools and thousands of students is reasonable protection. Our children deserve the same level of safety provided at other local districts.
Second, infrastructure at many of our school buildings is outdated and in need of repair. I know these are challenging issues. But I also believe with innovation and hard work, we can get it done.
DR: As a district we will always have need for improvement, and I feel that we should continue to seek improvements in student safety as our student deserve to go to school in a safe and healthy environment. Also, continue to enhance our curriculum and leadership opportunities.