Two incumbents will face three newcomers next Tuesday for three seats on the Union R-XI School Board.
Incumbents Virgil Weideman, 26 Longwood Drive; and Teresa Connelly, 2144 Bachelor Creek Road, both of Union, are each seeking another three-year term on the board.
Newcomers Tinecia Schuttenberg, 621 Highway UU; Aaron P. Bockhorst, 767 Crider Lane; Tamara “Tammy” A. Weinhold, 7 Hoffert St., all of Union, are seeking a seat.
The election is Tuesday, April 8. The terms of Weideman, Connelly and Kate Jones end this month. Jones did not seek reelection.
The Missourian sat down with each candidate to discuss their goals as school board members and issues the district should address. Following are comments from the candidates who are listed in alphabetical order.
Bockhorst, 33, is a 1998 graduate of Union High School. He is married with two children.
He is employed by the city of Ferguson Fire Department and the director of fire science/EMT at the Jefferson College Area Technical School.
He is a graduate of the St. Louis County Fire Academy and attended East Central College for fire and EMT training. He received a paramedic technician certificate.
Bockhorst said that he would like the district to better address testing standards, as well as bullying in the district.
He said that bullying is often ignored within the district.
“I don’t feel they put enough emphasis on it,” he said.
Bockhorst has two children who attend Union schools, which he said is important to patrons.
“I have a vested interest in the district,” he said.
Bockhorst added that the school district is behind smaller districts in respect to what teachers are paid.
“We need to take care of all of the staff,” he said, “nNot just teachers.”
Bockhorst, who is a director of a tech school program, said the district needs to focus better on preparing students for after school.
“I don’t think they are being prepared for college,” he said. “Students aren’t told what to expect — they aren’t being prepared for the next step.”
He explained that after speaking with graduates, he learns that some were unaware of options like the Four Rivers Career Center.
“We haven’t had the career/tech push and I’d like to see that,” Bockhorst said.
As a shop steward, Bockhorst said he is familiar with the workings of fire and ambulance district boards.
He noted that he also is familiar with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) because he has utilized $400,000 in grants for his department at Jefferson College.
Bockhorst said that improvements to the district through the bond issue approved last year are important.
That includes new sports facilities.
“I think that’s huge,” he said. “The only reason some people stay in school is because of sports. It is very important to keep kids occupied with after school activities.”
Bockhorst said the district should operate its own buses, instead of contracting services to First Student.
He further added that he would provide “change” and “fresh ideas.”
“We need new ideas to come in,” he said.
Bockhorst said teachers can approach him with issues within their schools.
“There’s nothing that says they can’t talk to us (board members),” he said. “If it can be handled internally, great, but they have another option.
“Teachers live here — they elect the board too,” Bockhorst added.
Connelly, 58, is seeking her third, three-year term for office. She is married with one daughter.
She said she is a good fit on the board and has enjoyed serving the community for six years.
“I get a lot of personal satisfaction out of it,” Connelly said. “There are a lot of good things in the district and I like to be part of it.”
During her tenure on the board, district patrons approved a bond issue to improve sports facilities and maintain the schools.
“That really showed that the community trusted our judgment and moving forward we’re able to replace roofs and windows,” she said.
Connelly also serves on the Foundations for Franklin County board and the Labadie Environmental Organization (LEO) board of directors.
She noted that the district has made great strides advancing technology, including the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative.
“We let the kids bring devices and they are very excited,” Connelly said. “I think the program is moving in a positive direction.”
The district is in the process of introducing “common core standards.”
“I happen to be a fan and teachers are excited to use their own creativity to present information,” Connelly said. “It encourages kids to think in a bigger way and utilizes whole brain teaching.”
According to Connelly, the district is sound financially and there are funds in reserve for when they are needed.
She explained that the district’s “intern program” has been effective. Under the program, assistants to administrators are interns.
“It offers assistance to principals and serves as a catalyst to let them stay in the district as other positions open up,” she said.
Connelly has served as the legislative delegate for the district, and has kept tabs on what moves in Jefferson City affect the district.
She noted that the state does not fully fund the district as it should, and there should be changes at the state level to fully fund the foundation formula.
Connelly added that drugs are an issue for children in schools regardless of where they are located.
“It is an issue with kids in Franklin County,” she said. “I don’t know any school that doesn’t have a problem with drugs.”
School board members should serve all of the patrons of the district, according to Connelly.
“We all say that this is about kids, but it also is about teachers, parents and taxpayers of Franklin County,” she said.
Connelly said she would like to have an open door policy for teachers and parents to speak their minds.
“So there is no fear of losing their jobs or a detriment to their job,” she said.
Schuttenberg, 40, is married with two children. She is studying psychology at East Central College.
“I have children in the district and I would like to help make a change in school,” she said. “I want to ensure every child has an opportunity to get a great education.”
Schuttenberg explained that she would like to make more textbooks available to students, particularly at Union High School.
“There should be books available for every classroom and every student,” she said. “Now some students have to share books, or they make photocopies.”
She added that in other classes there are no textbooks and students rely on note taking.
Schuttenberg explained that students often are expected to use the Internet to find information for homework.
However, there are many students who live in more rural areas and who do not have access to high speed Internet. Others may not be able to afford Internet service or electronic devices.
“They may not be able to get the same quality of education,” Schuttenberg said. “There is a large percentage of students who are on reduced lunches, and who don’t have Internet access.”
Another issue that the district should better address is bullying. She noted that some district officials don’t recognize many incidents as bullying.
“I know there are a lot of programs to prevent bullying,” she said. “I’d like the schools to acknowledge it when it occurs and stop it when it is brought to their attention.
“We need to have an open discussion and accept it,” Schuttenberg added.
There also should be more drills so students and teachers have a better grasp on how to react if there is an intruder.
“It’s like a fire drill,” she said. “It needs to be fresh in their minds.”
If she is elected, Schuttenberg said she will be open to hearing concerns from others within the district.
“Board members don’t have any easy job, but I’d like to be a voice for parents and teachers,” she said. “I don’t want teachers to feel they are jeopardizing their jobs by voicing an opinion — I’d like them to feel like they can come to me.”
Schuttenberg added that as a parent, she will make decisions based on what is best for children.
“I’m a parent, and like most of them, I want what is best for children in the district,” she said. “I offer a fresh perspective and I have a passion for children’s education.”
Weideman, 64, said he wants to continue his work on the Union R-XI School Board. In total he has served 27 years on the board.
He is a member of the Union Sons of the American Legion, the Union Area Chamber of Commerce and the Immaculate Conception Parish.
Weideman is married and the owner of Doc’s Imports, LLC.
He said his primary reason to seek re-election is to speak for people of the district.
“To be a voice on the board for the people and taxpayers of the district,” he said. “I want to do my best to assure them their voices are listened to and that they have clear access to the board in order to express their opinions.” Weideman noted that the district must address low test scores. Union scored a 75 in the Missouri School Improvement Program standards. That is compared to the Washington School District, which scored a 91 on the state test.
Any district with a score of 70 or less is considered “provincially unaccredited.”
“There is no reason we shouldn’t be in that same category,” he said. “Every district in the county beat us — that’s totally unacceptable.”
According to Weideman work must be done to get raised scores.
“It’s up to the administrators to figure out and formulate a plan,” he said. “We need scores to improve.”
Weideman added that locally the district is in “good financial shape,” but there needs to be more state funding.
“The foundation formula needs to be fully funded as promised,” he said.
The passage of last year’s bond issue indicates that locally people are supportive of the district.
“The voters were good enough to pass the bond issue that allowed us to repair roofs and address other needs,” he said. “It really allowed us to provide the work to maintain our buildings.”
Weideman said teachers of the district deserve applause for the work they do.
“We have an excellent teaching staff,” he said. “I am always impressed with what they do for and with our kids.
“Teachers are the core,” he added. “If they don’t learn from teachers then nothing else matters.”
According to Weideman, the district should use the teachers to better prevent bullying.
“They are the best prevention we have,” he said. “They watch kids and they are aware of those type of situations.”
He added that he would like to see the district continue to move forward technologically.
“We have been progressing very well,” Weideman said.
He would like the district to continue to address security in the schools and consider some “highly trained” staff carry concealed weapons, and promote that as a deterrent to a school shooting.”
“That could happen here and I want to say that we did everything we could to prevent it,” he said.
Weinhold, 47, told The Missourian that “student learning” is her No. 1 priority.
“I feel I can make a difference and have a positive impact on education in the Union R-XI School District,” said Weinhold.
Weinhold is currently the director of advising and counseling at East Central College. As a 26-year employee of East Central College, she said she is committed to our community and education.
Weinhold noted that her goals as a board member would include continuing the district’s technology plan and to attract and retain the best teachers for the district. Weinhold said if she is elected she will work with administrators and other board members to continue improving the district, and will welcome input and inquires from district patrons.
She added that it is important to maintain a budget without “negatively impacting teaching and learning.”
“Once I understand what the district’s resources are, I will work to help balance the budget responsibly,” Weinhold said.
Weinhold is a Union High School graduate. She has a master’s degree in education from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.
She has served on the parent committee for the Union R-XI bond issue that was approved in 2013. She also serves Union’s A+ advisory board. Weinhold is on the advisory board for building trades at the Four Rivers Career Center and is in her second term on the Union Area Chamber of Commerce executive board. She also serves on the Wildcat Boosters executive board as well.
She has been a long-standing member of the Missouri Community College Association (MCCA) and served on the board of directors. MCCA is an organization that follows legislation and how it affects public two-year institutions.
Weinhold, her husband Steve and their two children all attended Union High School and are members of the St. Joseph-Neier Church.
“There are fantastic things that happen in our schools, but there is always room for improvement,” she said.