Seven candidates file for School Board positions, will also participate in forum

Current+Rockwood+Superintendent+Mark+Miles+begins+the+school+board+meeting+on+Aug.+6%2C+2020.+During+the+meeting+the+board+decided+that+Rockwood+would+proceed+with+a+all-virtual+start+to+the+2020-2021+school+year.

Sophia Scheller

Current Rockwood Superintendent Mark Miles begins the school board meeting on Aug. 6, 2020. During the meeting the board decided that Rockwood would proceed with a all-virtual start to the 2020-2021 school year.

Sophia Scheller and Janka Gerber

Voters will choose between seven candidates to fill two seats on the Rockwood Board of Education when they vote on April 6, 2021. The term for each member elected is three years. To help voters make their decision, a Meet the Candidates forum will be held on March 1 and moderated by the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization. The event will be live-streamed on the Rockwood YouTube channel.

Rockwood constituents are invited to submit questions for the candidates by Feb. 28.

Editor’s Note: The following candidates were interviewed to provide more insight into their experience and qualifications for the school board position. Their responses are taken directly from those interviews.

Jaime Bayes

Jaime Bayes (photo courtesy of Rockwood Communications)

Bayes has served on the Rockwood Board of Education since 2015. During her time in Rockwood she has been active serving as a PTO co-president, vice president of Caring Schools Community, co-vice president of President’s Forum, Girls on the Run coach, and has served on many other committees and forums in her children’s schools as well as the district. She has lived in the Rockwood School District for the past seven years and has three children. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from St. Louis University. 

Q: What made you decide to run for the Rockwood School Board?

A: I have served two terms already, and just decided to run again, primarily, because I think that consistency and a team approach right now is super important, for a number of reasons. One of them is just the fact that we are still in the middle of a pandemic. I still have kids in the district. I still believe in what a great district this is and so I just felt like I’ve got more work to do. I would like to just see us through it. 

Q: What would you hope to accomplish by being on the Board of Education?

A: I’m motivated by our kids. I think that the role of the Board of Education has become a little bit muddy in the eyes of some of the patrons in the district. I think that it helps to be able to clarify what our role really is, and ultimately, our primary role is to hire and support and evaluate the superintendent. It’s up to him and his team of people to carry out the daily duties in the district, so I think being unified in being able to support them and communicate well are really important. 

I think one of our big focus areas should be making sure that we are looking at everything with a lens of equity and access and inclusion for all of our students and so on. There’s always work to do, no matter how many great programs you may have in place. I think we’re doing a great job, even in the middle of a pandemic, to develop a beloved community, to have programs this entire time, such as, say the book studies. Being able to connect with our larger community in those ways are all very important pieces to our district. I also am really involved and active in supporting the social and emotional needs of our students and things that we can do to help kids succeed in every way.

Q: What separates you from the other candidates?

A: My background in education, my undergrad and graduate degrees both give me, obviously, the education perspective. And then, as well as my work history and quality management, I’ve also got experience on the board. So, I bring six years of experience, coming up on ending my sixth year, and just seeing us through a lot of different things. I’ve been through hiring a new superintendent. I’ve been through this pandemic, thus far. I know how our budget works and how things are working in terms of all the amazing people we have in our finance department and the ways they’re able to look at our district from a really fiscally responsible way of spending taxpayer dollars and keeping us right on track through this entire thing. And, I’ve been active this entire time in learning as much as I can, even outside of just board meetings, I love to be invited to listen in on learning council sessions, or things like that. So I just bring a long history of being very active in this district, even before I was on the board, whether it was in PTOs, or through the President’s Forum, and just always being supportive of moving things forward in a positive way.

 

Sean Conover

Sean Patrick Conover (photo courtesy of Rockwood Communications)

Conover has an associate of arts and a bachelor’s degree from Western Kentucky University. He has two daughters in the Rockwood School District and he has been living in St. Louis County since 2012. He has been working in the business industry for over 25 years as well as served in the Children’s Ministry at Fellowship of Wildwood Church where he said he learned skills of adaptability, leadership, cultural awareness and communication. Conover wants to focus on seeking continuous improvement and collaboration and act with intent for the students of Rockwood in order to execute the Rockwood Vision. 

Q: What made you decide to run for the Rockwood School Board?

A: [I chose] to run for Director on the Rockwood School District Board of Education for the focus of continuous improvement of our children with the community. The pandemic has taught us that the community and world we live in is very dynamic. We must continue to work to improve our current state, give students equal opportunities and embrace curiosity. Each Board Director brings certain characteristics and ideas to the organization. I have learned in my sales career to lean into differences of opinions, to understand and then develop an action plan. A leader rooted in values, principles, passion, strategic planner and encouragement of others are a few characteristics that would support the direction of the Board.

Q: What would you hope to accomplish by being on the Board of Education?

A: There are several opportunities within the Rockwood community. First, the diversity of the educators does not meet the demographics within our community. Second, there is an opportunity with virtual learning. Students have less course time than if they were in the classroom setting. The gap in time can be directed to additional courses, more assignments for student understanding and scheduled one-to-one sessions with the educator and student in 10-15 minute intervals. Third, consistent course teachings from one school to the next for the same grade level. Finally, when reflecting on the Rockwood mission, vision and core values, are we truly measuring these with course correction as needed?

Q: What separates you from the other candidates?

A: Each Board Director brings certain characteristics and ideas to the organization. I have learned in my sales career to lean into differences of opinions, to understand, and then develop an action plan. If elected, the end of my tenure would show improvement to the end of the status quo, the embracement of change and emotional value added back to our students.

Q: Do you have anything else you would like to add?

A: The Board of Education is the foundation that sets the standard or vision of the school district. It is the responsibility of the Directors to adopt sound practices, set goals, maintain ethical and legal guidelines and help develop the culture of learning. A Director should possess a high level of characteristics which include communication skills, lead and model professional behaviors, strategic thinking, passion and inspire others. I have an understanding of what is important to our community since I am a parent of two children within the Rockwood School District. However, to stay connected with Rockwood it is important to continue to listen to the community, have an open-door (with faculty, staff, administration and parents) and PTO involvement.

 

Terrie Desloge

Terrie Desloge (photo courtesy of Rockwood Communications)

Desloge is a graduate of Belmont University where she earned a degree in political science and psychology. She has lived in the Rockwood School District for eight years and has three children. She has stayed active through being the founder of a St. Louis based non-profit organization called The Synapsory that designs and implements sensory and motor spaces for children with special needs. Desloge sees herself as a Creative Pioneer and an advocate for the disadvantaged. She believes she would be able to use her expertise in advocating for children and parents on the Board in order to be a voice to all Rockwood residents. 

Q: What made you decide to run for the Rockwood School Board?

A: Because I have a passion to see. Really, Rockwood School District has a whole ‘be the leader and state-of-the-art education.  I want to support Rockwood in providing innovative instruction and collaborative community involvement to really want to cultivate the fullest potential in all types of learners, and always strengthening partnerships between parents and teachers, partnerships between teachers and students, and with the community as well.

Q: What would you hope to accomplish by being on the Board of Education?

A: Well, I think as a special needs parent, I bring an understanding and compassion for different learning styles. I think to me, [being a] special needs parent, I have developed a strength over the years of advocacy for students, and being able to work with teachers to understand student’s needs, while understanding teachers, abilities and resources that they have. I’m the executive director of a nonprofit and I bring key ability and experience of connecting with the community.

Q: What separates you from the other candidates?

A: I have served on the Junior League Board, and we have decisions to make on that board. I had to really consider my responsibilities above what I really wanted. I think serving on the board of directors to the Junior League of St. Louis really helps me from a board responsibility perspective, because I also have volunteered and I know, the other candidates have volunteered as well.

Q: Do you have anything else you would like to add?

A: I would like to say this quote: “Everyone who remembers his or her education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. A teacher is the heart of the educational system,” Sidney Hook.

 

Jackie Koerner

Jackie Koerner (photo courtesy of Rockwood Communications)

Koerner holds a master’s degree in student administration and a PhD in higher education, both from St. Louis University. She has a bachelor’s degree in German from Southern Illinois University. She is a St. Louis native and has two daughters in the Rockwood School District. Koerner has stayed active working with international students, students with disabilities, studying experiences of minority populations, including military veterans. She has also traveled and been invited to speak around the world to present her research which focuses on bias, disability and equity. She said no student should be left without the support that they need in order to be successful in the Rockwood School District. Koerner believes she would improve educational support for gifted students as well as students with disabilities if elected to the Rockwood Board of Education. 

Q: What made you decide to run for the Rockwood School Board?

A: I have two daughters. My oldest is 15 and a freshman at Summit. I got involved with school way back when she was in kindergarten. Going through with her the gifted program was very difficult because there were a lot of issues. Teachers didn’t have the support, or they didn’t have the materials they needed from the administration, or the program didn’t support them in the way they needed. And then also my daughter’s bestie. She has autism and a girl going throughout the school system and seeing what her she and her mom experienced trying to get the services she needs was very frustrating. It just really made me think, ‘Okay, this is a time where I have the opportunity to get involved and I need to do more.’ I have the saying that, if not now, when? So, if I don’t do it now, you know, nothing’s gonna change for other people. And also, right now, experiencing and seeing what the different equity groups are doing, you know, Miss [Brittany] Hogan and all of her work that she has really pioneered and I want to be able to take that further. I want to be a person on the Board of Education to be able to encourage that growth in regards to equity and inclusion as well. 

Q: What would you hope to accomplish by being on the Board of Education?

A: I hope to connect community members who are in the community, but have felt like they have not been able to be heard, or who are really struggling to get the needs of their kids met, I really hope to be a voice for them and amplify those voices and put us in a position where we can effect change instead of saying, well, we have policies supporting it actually want to support it.

I think that we need to be more accessible for the community members, I think there’s a little bit of a disconnect between the processes and the opportunities for the community to get involved with our meetings, they might be a difficult distance for folks who drive maybe the Zoom sort of situation that we learned over the past year, could it give students and teachers and parents and administrators the opportunity to, you know, dial-in potentially into meetings and present or engage within that sphere that they might not have been able to maybe actually hold more town halls, and have people connecting with us on a human level that I don’t think has been as accessible in the past. 

Q: What separates you from the other candidates?

A: There are some amazing candidates on the list. But there are some that really concerned me to be honest. What sets me apart is I have done bias research, I’ve done equity work, I’ve done advocacy work. I have my PhD in higher education from St. Louis University. And I’ve traveled the world working on equity issues and education and presenting my research. So I think that I have the background to support the encouragement and engagement that we need our community to go further. 

 

Charles Messmer

Charles Keith Messmer (photo courtesy of Rockwood Communications)

Messmer is a police officer and has been serving for almost 15 years, staying involved in his community, many local charities, as well as schools and education. He has lived in Eureka since 1999 and has three children in the Rockwood School District. Messmer believes the transparency between the Board, the superintendent, teachers and parents needs to be improved and that through the events of 2020, a change in leadership is needed for Rockwood. He believes in better relationships being built between the Board of Education and the teachers in order to create a more cohesive environment. 

Q: What made you decide to run for the Rockwood School Board?

A: I don’t think the board has been very effective this year. I think they’ve made some horrible choices. I think they have put people’s health at risk. I think over the summer, they had time to plan for this pandemic and they didn’t plan very well. So I’m tired of it.

Q: What would you hope to accomplish by being on the Board of Education?

A: I want to just be the voice for the regular parent. I’m not a PTO president. I’m not selling Girl Scout cookies. I’m not that guy. Because I worked overnight shifts and I am a police officer, I was lucky to be able to go to my children’s choir concert or to even be off on a certain day because [of my] schedule. There are a lot of parents that are upset for various reasons, some I agree with and some I don’t, but they’re not being heard at all. There are a lot of students that are upset that are not being heard. And there are a lot of teachers that are upset that are not being heard by the board. The board runs Rockwood almost like a business and reading the bios [of the other candidates], you can tell that, and this is not a business. This is a school district and it needs to be run as such. We need to protect our teachers [and] we need to protect our students. And I feel like that is something that I would be good at because I’m not coming at it like a business or like politics. I don’t believe in instilling any kind of political agenda into a school district at all.

Q: What separates you from the other candidates?

A: What sets me apart is the fact that I do believe in debating, and I do believe in being as transparent as possible. If there’s something that we are talking about doing, we need to let the public know about it as soon as possible, not just all the sudden during email. If there are decisions that need to be made, you need to get the public’s opinion–whether you like the opinion or not doesn’t matter.

Those are the people who vote. This is who you’re supposed to represent. You need to have their opinion. So my whole goal is to represent the people who don’t feel like they’re being represented, which, honestly, I think are a lot of people. I think that the board has become disconnected to their constituents in general.

Q: Do you have anything else you would like to add?

A: I don’t really anticipate being the candidate that people are expecting. I’m kind of like the dark horse. I’m just a lot different than the other ones. So it’s, this whole thing’s just gonna be interesting because I don’t really know how to campaign the way others do. I’m just kind of going at it saying, you know what, I’m just unhappy. I’m trying to represent the other people that are and looking out for everybody in the process. So this should be a fun campaign for sure.

 

Tamara Jo Rhomberg

Tamara Jo Rhomberg (photo courtesy of Rockwood Communications)

Rhomberg has been in education for 50 years and received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southeast Missouri State University. She has served as an appointed director on the Rockwood Board of Education since 2017 and has been active as the Missouri Literacy Association President, serving on the St. Louis Suburban Reading Council, and being a member of the International Literacy Association. Rhomberg spent six years in the Lindbergh School District, 10 years as a reading specialist at Kellison Elementary and 13 years as a language arts coordinator, OASIS coordinator and Title I coordinator in the Rockwood School District. She is a grandmother and two of her children, as well as two of her grandchildren, graduated from the Rockwood School District. 

Q: What made you decide to run for the Rockwood School Board?

A: I’ve been on the board for four years, and made a conscious decision to run for another term. Because I’m committed to the Rockwood School District. I have a long history in the district. I was a teacher for 10 years, administrator for 13 and have lived in the district for over 40 years and so feel committed to seeing that Rockwood maintains its status as a premier district in the state. We’ve come a long way in the Rockwood School District. We’ve met many challenges, and particularly this latest with the pandemic. The board is in a good place. We are a cohesive group and I really felt that running for another term would add consistency and continuity to the district to keep it moving forward.

Q: What would you hope to accomplish by being on the Board of Education?

A: Well, obviously, the first thing is rebounding from the pandemic, which is facing many districts right now. We know that there are going to be knowledge gaps for our students. And so meeting those gaps and meeting students, not just where we want them to be, but where they are, and moving them forward is going to be a priority for us in the district. There are going to be financial challenges because of funding that’s been reduced across the state. And so making some tough decisions budget-wise is going to be another something that we’re going to need to stay focused on. Hiring and maintaining and securing diverse staff in our district is another goal and priority for our district. So that all of our students feel that they see themselves in the staff that they’re experiencing. And then the last thing would be to really establish a safe and secure social-emotional environment for all of our students so that they have access to opportunity and equity in everything that we do in our district and staying focused really on those issues, social justice issues.

Q: What separates you from the other candidates?

A: Well, the first thing is, I have over 50 years in education. So I have been both a teacher and administrator. I’ve also worked in the public sector, as a national consultant for a publishing company. I understand both sides of the issues, I can understand the teacher side, the patron side, because, as I said, a resident with two children who graduated from Rockwood schools. But, I also understand now the business side of it– that we have responsibilities, fiscally to run that district, so that it is there for the long term for the future children of the future. I believe I bring to the board, my years of education. I have years of leadership, where I have been president of state and local organizations, and know how to work with people to get the best out of them and to reach compromise. That doesn’t always mean that you just do you give in, but you realize what it’s going to take to move forward. That isn’t an I, but it’s a we. And, I am a really good listener. I listen to be objective so I can make decisions without being judgmental.

 

Tamarah Wagner

Tamarah Wagner (photo courtesy of Rockwood Communications)

Wagner has a bachelor’s degree in history from Bradley University and she has lived in Chesterfield for 10 years. Her previous work was in Human Resources for a biomedical company in St. Louis. She has been active as a PTO president from 2017-2019, organizing the Girls In The Know program and serving as the treasurer for the Junior Lancers Cheerleaders from 2017-2019. Wagner has eight children, six who currently attend Rockwood schools. Wagner’s goal for the school board is to make sure Rockwood has the most qualified teachers and quality resources for instruction.

Q: What made you decide to run for the Rockwood School Board?

A: I am running for a Director position on the Rockwood Board of Education as an engaged constituent, who has lived in the district for 10 years, and feel that the mission and agenda currently set by the Board does not reflect the values of the majority of the residents. As a well-informed and active member of the district, I believe that I can bring a fresh perspective and voice to the Board to help guide the mission and agenda to better serve the people of the district. As a middle child, and a former human resource representative, I function well as a consensus builder and mediator to facilitate positive change.

Q: What would you hope to accomplish by being on the Board of Education?

A: Clearly, the most consequential issue facing the district is the pandemic and the suboptimal response from our elected leaders. The rollout of virtual learning has been disastrous for far too many Rockwood students and families. The plan developed by the current Board, for optimizing the educational development of all Rockwood students, lacked transparency. I believe I can bring a fresh perspective and a voice for those parents whose voices were left out of the conversation on how we could help all students reach their intellectual potential in this difficult time. Outside of the pandemic, the most critical issue facing our schools today is how to provide a fact-based, unbiased, propaganda-free educational foundation to our children.

Q: What separates you from the other candidates?

A: As a Director, I will bring the perspective of a primary educator, the mother of eight children. Mothers spend more time and energy educating children than anyone else. I am dedicated to ensuring that my children are getting everything they can out of the educational opportunities afforded them by the Rockwood School District. I want to see that all children within the district are getting the most out of their education. 

Q: Do you have anything else you would like to add?

A: I would also like to include an invitation to my website, wagnerforschoolboard.com, my Facebook page, Tamarah Wagner for Rockwood School Board and email, [email protected] Feel free to contact me with any further questions. I look forward to continuing to serve the people of Rockwood.