David Collard

William Roderique

Jeanne Newby

Erin Taylor

School Board candidates answer questions during forum

Bob Foos

The Webb City R-7 School Board candidate forum on Monday was more of a love fest for school and community unity than a means to draw sharp distinction between the four persons seeking to fill three open seats.

Linda Uselmann, president of the Webb City Community Teachers Association, presented the questions to those on stage in the Ronald R. Barton Performing Arts Center.

The candidates are (as they appear on the ballot):

• David Collard, 11-term (33-year) member of the school board.

• William Roderique, 10-term (30-year) member of the school board.

• Jeanne Newby, 8-term (24-year) member of the school board.

• Erin Taylor, a 2001 Webb City High School graduate and former teacher at another district.

One particularly pertinent question was, “When is it time for the next generation to take over?”

By coincidence, it was Taylor’s turn to answer first. She noted that the three people she’s on the ballot with were on the school board when she was in high school. They’re part of the reason she’s proud to be a Webb City graduate and her kids are proud to be Cardinals but added, “It’s good to have new people occasionally with new and different perspectives.”

She said she has nothing against the current board members but has prayed about it and “feel it’s time for me to jump in.”

Roderique said he can especially appreciate the question because he remembers at age 27 being the youngest board member ever elected in the district. That was when the board was expanded to seven members. He had kids in school then, now he has grandkids.

He said Webb City is fortunate to have continuity on the board instead of multiple challenges every year. As transition happens, he said it should be smooth. 

He said he wants to stay on the board to finish the current building program “to offer more to our students” and be sure the district maintains adequate fund balances.

Collard said it’s good somebody wants to “join us.” However, he “wants to see us  continue” to work with staff for the students’ benefit. “We make our decision and we stand by it with large support from the public.”

He added that he won’t seek reelection “when I do not have something to contribute.”

Likewise, Newby said, “Each of the current board members has something they’re really good at. I feel like I still have something to offer.”

She added, “We all get along. Nothing against Erin. I believe we have an excellent school board.”

“We all love Webb City,” said Collard.

Several themes came up during the evening to which there was general agreement.

Collard brought up enhanced security measures encouraged by the board, especially in response to the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting. There is now a sensor on every outside door in the district that is monitored in the principals’ offices. A specialist conducted a review of the district’s security and is due to issue his final report, along with a crisis plan.

When it comes to managing the district’s growth, Newby said the district should be ready with adequate facilities without the board micromanaging.

“That means the world to me, that we trust staff,” said Taylor.

Roderique said it’s important to “maintain the good financial footing, which we’ve had for many years.”

Collard credited the “strength of our community” for the district’s success with passing bond issues.

In addressing the teacher shortage, Roderique said, “We better be more competitive.” Although the board prides itself on being one of the best, if not the best paying district in the area, he said the board could “work on the ending salary” to retain teachers.

“I hope the teachers feel we do them well,” said Collard. We pay as much as possible each year and we want to retain our new teachers.”

Newby said it’s a compliment to the district that she knows teachers who wait for an opening in Webb City.

“We don’t go into teaching for the money,” said Taylor. “We go into teaching because we care about kids. The best we can do to support teachers is to pay attention to their concerns.”

Support for students was also a topic. 

Newby said she hopes the desire to learn can be instilled in every student, and she wants to feel confident they are being taught well.

Taylor said she wants every student to feel supported, to know “there’s an adult in their building who believes in them. What really matters is that students are supported and believed in by adults.”

Collard said the district’s goal is to make a difference in kids’ lives, to be successful in their lives.”

Roderique said he wants all students to have someone special they want to hand them their diploma at commencement.

All candidates answered that they are not in favor of an effort in Missouri to allow open enrollment.

“I think it’s a detriment and very hard on public education,” said Collard. “I know Kansas City and St. Louis are pushing it hard, but it’s a whole different situation that we have right here.”

Roderique said it’s hard enough to plan for enrollment without open enrollment. “I think we would have more coming in (than going out),” but it would still be a disruption.

Newby said she worries the district would be open to students kicked out of other districts.

Although it could increase state funding if Webb City were to get an influx of students, Taylor said increased enrollment would be hard to plan for. “It would need guidelines or rules or it would be a disaster.”

The election will be Tuesday, April 4. Voters will have the opportunity to pick three candidates among four to serve the next three years on the school board.

Besides the three incumbents, the four other board members, their years of service and when their current term ends are:

Lisa Robinson, 14 years, 2025

Jason Woodmansee, 14 years, 2025

Stephen Crane, 4 years, 2024

Dan McGrew, 16 years, 2024

Current boards members have a total 135 years of service and an average of 19.29 years per board member.