Four candidates are seeking to fill three open seats on the Meramec Valley R-III Board of Education during the April 7 election.
The candidates are incumbents Sean Brinker, Dianna Meyer and Matt Trower, and newcomer Roger Wiersma.
Meyer was appointed to the school board in December 2018, and then elected in April 2019 to finish the last year of that appointed term. Both Brinker and Trower were elected to the board during 2017.
This school board consists of seven total members. Members serve three-year terms.
Following are profiles (in alphabetical order by last name) on each of the candidates:
Incumbent Sean Brinker, 31, of 1729 Meade Court, Pacific, said he’s running for re-election to the board for several reasons.
“First, I feel we have unfinished business as we work diligently to elevate our schools to be a district of choice,” said Brinker, who is an associate attorney at Zick, Voss, Politte & Richardson, P.C. in Washington.
“Every day, our district, led by the administrators, faculty and staff, is raising the bar and improving the education of our students,” Brinker added. “I firmly believe quality schools will not only greatly benefit our students, but will benefit our community as a whole, as people look to make our district their home.”
Brinker, who currently serves as board vice president, said he believes his skills, education and familiarity with the community make him uniquely qualified to serve its students, parents, faculty, staff and patrons.
“As a graduate of Pacific High School, I’m extremely proud of my roots and our community,” he said.
Coupled with his firm belief that knowledge and education are the pillars of a successful, rewarding life, he said the school board offers him the best opportunity to serve his hometown.
“Overall, I’m extremely satisfied with the progress we’ve made over the last three years while I’ve served on the board,” Brinker said. “We have caring faculty and staff throughout every level of the district and their tireless efforts provide the foundation for our students to receive a high-quality education.
“I believe our administration is unmatched throughout the state,” he added. “Their leadership has been a key component to our continued success in all aspects, including facility upgrades, technology improvements, and numerous enhancements to the curriculum and student resources.
“I simply want to continue our positive progress and do what’s best for the students,” said Brinker, adding he believes he’s one of the best candidates because he’s dedicated and committed to the community.
“I was born and raised in Pacific and the surrounding area and, although having left for seven years while attending college, my wife and I voluntarily chose to return home and raise our family here,” he said. “We have a vested interest in the success of Meramec Valley.
“Further, as an attorney I believe I bring several skills to the board of education which help us to analyze projects differently and think critically about each action we take,” he said.
If elected, Brinker said there are many guideposts for measuring success; however, the most important is student achievement.
“Are our students excelling academically, socially and emotionally? To me, that’s the key to measuring success,” he said.
Brinker earned a bachelor’s degree in management at Missouri State University, and his Juris Doctorate at the University of Missouri-Columbia.
He is a member of the Missouri Bar and serves as president of the Pacific High School Alumni Association.
Brinker and his wife, Kelli, have one son, Hudson.
Incumbent Dianna Meyer, 48, of 3206 Mossy Ridge Way, Pacific, said she is seeking re-election to the board because she has a passion to serve.
“I’ve learned that being on the board is a lot of work, and I have enjoyed it immensely,” said Meyer, who is general manager of the technology department at AT&T.
In the past 13 months, Meyer said she’s been able to leverage her analytical and financial skills to question and evaluate changes made in the district.
“I believe my perspective and individual contributions have added value to the decisions the board has made this past year, and I look forward to being able to continue my efforts to make our district the best we can be,” she said.
Regarding her degree of satisfaction with how the district is managed, she said she’s been impressed with Superintendent John Mulford and his impact on its culture.
“We’ve executed some large, complex changes in a short time,” she said. “Two examples are restructuring (combining fifth grade with sixth grade at Pacific Intermediate and combining the seventh- and eighth-grade students at Riverbend Middle School) and redistricting (adjusting the elementary school boundaries to address out-of-balance enrollment in the elementary schools).
“Under Dr. Mulford’s leadership, with his amazing communication skills, these changes were implemented very successfully,” Meyer said.
“We also introduced an alternative program and the JAG (Jobs for America’s Graduates) program at our secondary buildings,” she noted.
Meyer said she is energized and optimistic about the impact these changes will have on the school district.
“However, I feel strongly we need to maintain a solid focus on measuring and assessing the results of each of these programs and then adjusting, as needed, to ensure we are offering the very best to our students,” she said.
With the recent sale of two district buildings and an increasing district fund balance, Meyer said the district is in a position to make some investments in the schools.
“A key goal for the board of education will be to ensure those investments are made responsibly, so we balance the long-term solvency of the district with doing what is best for the kids of MVR-III,” she said. “Additionally, we have recently kicked off a Secondary School Re-Imagining Committee. This will be a yearlong effort to look at all aspects of secondary education in our district, and I’m excited to see what our efforts uncover.”
Meyer said she believes having a diverse school board expands the district’s capabilities.
“If everyone looks the same, has the same background or experiences, we lose out,” she said. “As a mom of two teenage students in our district and a female with more than 20 years of corporate leadership, financial and governance experience, I bring a different perspective, as well as some strong skills the district can leverage.”
If elected, Meyer said one way to measure the board’s success is by continuing and expanding the financial tracking of the investments made to ensure expenses meet expectations.
“Another way we’ll be able to measure success is to seek engagement and feedback from our district families and the public,” she said. “There are many metrics we review and discuss throughout the year, including enrollment data, achievement results and graduation rates. It’s important to keep an eye on the metrics, to make sure our efforts are yielding the expected results.”
Meyer earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Fontbonne College, St. Louis.
She and her husband, Randy, an English teacher at Riverbend Middle School, have two daughters — Maggie, a Pacific High School junior, and Sophie, Riverbend Middle School eighth-grader.
Incumbent Matt Trower, 41, of 933 Silver Lake View Drive, Pacific, said he’s seeking another term because he feels he’s contributed to many successes over the last three years during his time on the board.
“I think we have many more challenges to face over the next several years, and I think my experience can collaboratively help the district to move forward,” said Trower, who is director of risk management at Mastercard.
Currently serving as the education board’s president, Trower points toward several projects for which he said current district administrators have exceeded expectations in nearly every circumstance.
His list includes reorganizing grade levels at elementary and middle school buildings, redistricting to redefine the boundary maps for the district’s elementary schools, installing field turf at the main athletic complex, constructing the new Doris Hoffman Early Learning Center, installing a new roof at Riverbend Middle School, installing new HVAC and window projects across the district, managing the sale of two district buildings, and completing all projects from the 2017 bond issue.
“The district administrators have been nothing short of phenomenal in their short time with the district,” he added.
If elected, Trower shared three goals he has in mind: develop and follow-through on a long-range facility plan to identify and address the district’s facility needs; make the district’s staff a priority by ensuring the salary schedule enables the hiring and retaining of the best teachers for students; and continue to work toward developing a culture of excellence to increase students’ results so the district can become the clear district of choice for the local region.
Trower said he believes he and the other two incumbents running for re-election are great candidates, as the current board is a diverse representation that incorporates great insights as it collaborates to meet the needs of students and the community.
Regarding how to measure the success for 2020 district goals, he believes there are two key factors.
“To me, it isn’t about reading an Annual Performance Report score or a ranking from random websites, although we seem to do well with those also,” he stated. “First, it’s about preparing students for their next phase of life, whether it’s college or their careers. Not every student fits into the same bucket, and we need to make sure we’re allowing students to be successful in what they do best.
“Second, to best serve our students, we need to find new and innovative ways to find a connection between each student and the school,” he said. “Some students need to have a connection to care about school, and we need to make sure we’re providing every opportunity for students to connect.”
Trower earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management with a minor in economics at Central Methodist University.
His memberships include the Missouri School Board Association, where he has earned the Advanced Board Member certification; St. Bridget of Kildare Catholic Church; St. Bridget of Kildare Athletic Association board member; and Watch D.O.G.S. member.
He and his wife, Megan, have one daughter, Adyson, and one son, Gavin.
Roger Wiersma, 57, of 2432 Silver Lake Estates Drive, Pacific, said he’s running for an education board position because he wants to increase his involvement with school board policies and decisions.
“I’m satisfied with how the implementation of the applications, such as Tyler SIS (online 360 parent/student portal), the MVR-III cellphone app and MVR-III webpage and text messaging, has increased communication between students, parents and staff,” said Wiersma, who is a product development engineer with Husky Corporation.
“But the school district should be more transparent with funding and spending on projects,” he said.
If elected, Wiersma said he would like to bring back cursive writing, streamline spending to stay within budget and eliminate common core education.
He believes he’s the right person for the school board because he and his wife have five children receiving their education in the school district, so he knows how the district operates.
“As an engineer, my job is to solve problems,” he stated.
Wiersma said he would measure success for 2020 district goals by whether the staff, parents and students are happy with how the district is run.
Wiersma earned a bachelor’s degree in aerospace engineering from Iowa State University; and a master’s degree in engineering from California State University Long Beach.
He and his wife, Deborah, have five children — Luke, Isaac, Michaela, Philomena and Gabriel.
Wiersma is deputy grand knight of the Knights of Columbus 1335.
To adhere with current physical-social distancing guidelines, candidates opted to provide individual video clips rather than gather for the typical, in-person candidates’ forum at Pacific High School. The video was directed by Ketina Armstrong, MVR-III communications director and produced by PHS student Briana Hildenbrand.
The video was to be shared on the district’s Facebook page on May 26.