Three people are vying for two open school board seats on the Newburg R-II Board of Education in the Tuesday, April 2, election.
Two of the three candidates with the most votes will win the election. This year’s candidates are incumbents Clay Austin and Carol Fletcher and newcomer Dennis Mesplay.
All three candidates responded to questionnaires by The Rolla Daily News about why they are running and their answers are below:
1. Briefly describe your background, including your education, work experience, organizations you are or have been involved in or volunteered with, previous public service experience, family or other related information.
Austin: “I’m a 1992 high school graduate from Willow Springs High School (Missouri). I married my wife Melissa in 1996 and have two children Kelsey and Caleb who both attend Newburg School. I graduated from Drury University in 2004 with a bachelor’s in general studies with an area of concentration in elementary education. I’ve been employed at Central Dispatch Inc. in Rolla for over 15 years and have been operations manager since 2002. I’m involved in MSTA, Newburg Booster Club, PTO and youth athletic programs in Newburg, Rolla and St. James. The last six years I have served on the Newburg Board of Education.”
Fletcher: “My name is Carol Fletcher and I’m running for my second term as a member of the Newburg R-II School Board. I’m originally from Plato, Mo., but have made Newburg my home for the last 30-plus years. My husband is Larry Fletcher and we have a daughter, Janelle, who is a graduate of Newburg High School and MU, and now lives and works in St. Louis. We are members of Newburg First Christian Church. I have degrees from Missouri State and Drury University. I took my first teaching position with Newburg schools and stayed for 31 years. I retired from teaching in 2007.”
Mesplay: “I graduated high school and went to Linn Tech College for one year at which time I went to work for the Department of the Army as an engineer technician. I worked as a draftsman and construction inspector. I also worked at car dealerships and salvage in sales and service. I live on a farm with my wife of 39 years, a daughter and a grandson. I like working on old Mopar muscle cars.”
2. Why are you running for this office?
Austin: “To continue to watch and be a part of students’ achievement, success and lead happy, productive lives as a result of an environment that Newburg educators, NBOE and I have provided.”
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Fletcher: “I would like to continue as a board member because I have a unique perspective to offer. As a former teacher I can offer insight that other board members may not have on certain educational issues.”
Mesplay: “I want to make sure we keep improving our education system. The school has made great improvements and I hope they can maintain the progress in the direction we are going.”
3. What experiences or qualities do you possess that qualify you for this position?
Austin: “My background and knowledge of the educational process and previous 6 years of experience on the Board.”
Fletcher: “I have 31 years of teaching experience.”
Mesplay: “Having been a manager for a business, I have experience with working with employees and finances.”
4. How do you differ from your opponents?
Austin: “I don't know if I do or do not differ. All I know is as a board member you have to strive to provide the best environment for a quality education.”
Fletcher: No answer provided.
Mesplay: “I would like to hear more from the students and secretaries of the school firsthand. As a parent and grandparent, I know how things can get misinterpreted from one person to the next. So I would like to be someone the student could come to directly with any issues.”
5. What do you think are the most important issues facing the Newburg R-II School District and how do you plan to handle those issues?
Austin: “Educational dollars - budget cuts coming down from the federal and state levels. I want to continue to try and get the most for your dollar by providing quality components to the educational process so our staff and students can succeed by collaborating with the NBOE, administration, school staff and community in order to accomplish this.”
Fletcher: “The major issue facing our district has been the same for several years, lack of money to implement additional requirements from the state and federal governments. Our district is small and we lack financial resources. We have a dedicated staff that works hard to make up for that lack of money in many ways. Our improved state test scores reflect the dedication of our staff. Another issue is to keep our school updated in the area of technology. Technology is constantly changing and it is a challenge to bring that technology into the classroom, not only for our teachers to use; but also for our students to learn about and use in their lives.”
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Mesplay: “Finances - it seems state and federal finances are down so all concerned are going to have to work together to see where you can tighten the belt.”
6. What, if any, improvements or changes do you think could be made at Newburg R-II School District?
Austin: “In the last six years there have been great changes made to student achievement, salaries and facilities. It is my goal to continue and build on these in cooperation with the NBOE, administration, school staff and community.”
Fletcher: “Improvements and changes are a given in any school setting. We all want what is best for our students. As a board member I will be diligent in overseeing the finances, policies and staff to ensure that the Newburg School District continues to offer the best education for our students.”
Mesplay: “I don’t know of anything per se that stands out. The current administration has been doing an excellent job. I think there will be some changes that have to be made down the line due to budget cuts. I hope to be able to help in any way.”