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Voters will determine the direction of Springfield Public School board

By Samuel Knox,

UniteNews Staff Writer

 

On April 2, Springfield voters will have the opportunity to choose three new school board members, with seven candidates competing for the available seats, including three incumbents seeking re-election.

Currently, six out of seven board members are in their first three-year term.

The history of the board reflects a pattern of split votes, contentious debates, and divided approaches to leadership and board service. Among the seven candidates contending for the three open seats is Dr. Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, a sociology professor at Missouri State University.

UniteNews recently inquired with Dr. Wilkins about his motivation for running for the school board and the specific experiences or qualifications he brings to the table.

Wilkins: I am running for school board because my experience as an educator, researcher, and steadfast advocate for the institution of public schooling and all students makes me uniquely qualified to contribute to the Board of Education’s efforts to address the most pressing challenges facing our district. Moreover, I believe that a robust public school system is the bedrock of a healthy, vibrant community and that for many Americans, a quality education system staffed by dedicated educators who make up said system is the key to achieving the American Dream. My own story highlights the influential role of dedicated public school teachers in shaping a young person’s educational and career trajectory.  I was born to a single mom who lived paycheck to paycheck. Through her instilling in me the value of education, I was able to land my dream job as a university professor. This is the true power of public education: transforming lives. As I look at the educational landscape both in SPS and in districts across the nation, I am concerned that the quality of public education that I was blessed to receive is becoming less accessible to many of our students.  I do believe that my experience and expertise in analyzing both quantitative and qualitative data as a researcher, problem-solving, and consensus building, combined with my passion and commitment for educating our youth will be an asset to the board.

 UniteNews: What do you see as the most pressing issues facing our school district, and how do you plan to address them if elected?

Wilkins: I have identified three top priorities that I believe are among the most pressing issues our district faces. First, attracting and retaining teachers and support staff. To address this issue, I would work to ensure that our teachers are receiving competitive salaries and benefits. To that end, I would support examining the budget and prioritize higher salaries for teachers while rejecting moves to contribute to administrative bloat. Second, student discipline is a top concern. I am supportive of critically examining existing district discipline policy and replacing what is not working well with smart, empathetic, data-driven solutions that center on the well-being of the child. Lastly, I believe that issues surrounding student safety and a sense of belonging are of top concern. I believe that every child matters and deserves a safe and inclusive space so that they can thrive academically. I will work with my fellow board members and other stakeholders to craft a policy that allows us to meet the unique needs and challenges facing our most vulnerable students.

Existing board members:

  • Judy Brunner is a retired Springfield teacher and principal and chief education officer of Edu-Safe and Instructional Solutions Group. Elected in 2023, her term expires in 2026;
  • Kelly Byrne is the principal and managing partner of the Say You Can companies, which specializes in real estate investment and development. Elected in 2022, his term expires in 2025;
  • Steve Makoski is director of compliance for Rapid Robert’s Inc. Elected in 2022, his term expires in 2025;
  • Shurita Thomas-Tate, associate professor of Missouri State University. First elected in 2020, her second term expires in 2026.

Candidates running for the Springfield school board. The three elected on April 2 will join four existing members. The candidates include:

  • Danielle Kincaid, an attorney and partner with the Elder Law Group. She was elected in 2021;
  • Scott Crise, manager of gas plant operations, Associated Electric Cooperative Inc. He was elected in 2021;
  • Landon McCarter, a business owner and entrepreneur, is running for the second time;
  • Maryam Mohammadkhani, a retired pathologist who formerly worked at CoxHealth. She was elected in 2021;
  • Susan Provance, a retired Springfield teacher and coach, is running for the first time;
  • Chad Rollins, director of pharmacy and facility manager for Healthdirect Institutional Pharmacy Services, is running for the second time;
  • Kyler Sherman-Wilkins, associate professor at Missouri State University, is running for the first time.

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