Three candidates – Jennifer Scheets, Jeff Gettys and Tim Malam – for two seats on the Houston R-1 School District board of education answer questions in their own words. The election is April 2.
•Scheets: I graduated from Plato in 1999, attended SMSU-Springfield for two years and then graduated with a double bachelor’s degree in business and human services from Drury University. Went on to attend nursing school at MSU-WP, where I graduated with honors as a registered nurse.
I am married to Jarid Scheets, HHS graduate, of 15 years, mother of five daughters (all of who are enrolled in Houston Schools) and am very active in our community. I reside on several committees through our community and school including: Celebration for Life, Bright Futures, Wellness Committee, Career/Technical Education Program Advisory Committee, and Awana Leader at First Baptist Church.
I am currently holding the Executive Director position at Houston Housing Authority (2 years); Realtor with VIP Properties; Registered Nursing PRN; and co-owner of Miller’s Grill with my husband.
•Gettys: I am an alumnus of the Houston School District, as well as my wife, Jessica, and hopefully someday our two children. HHS prepared me to continue my education at the University of Missouri, where I obtained my bachelor’s degree in business management and was a four-year letterman for the Tiger football team. Later I continued my education at Missouri State University, where I acquired my master’s degree in business administration. I currently am an administrator at Missouri State University for the College of Agriculture. I have had the opportunity to work multiple positions within state government, including five years in the governor’s office as his director of operations. I also oversaw his Southwest Office during his second term and served as Missouri’s regional project manager for the Department of Economic Development.
•Malam: I was born and raised in the Houston, Mo., area. I attended Houston Schools from kindergarten through senior year. Following high school, I then, attended Linn State Technical College in Linn, Mo. I obtained my certification in heavy equipment operations. I am married to Darci Malam, and we have three children: Brennan, Braxton, and Tinli. I am employed by MFA in Houston, Mo. In addition, my wife and I operate a small beef farm in the Bucyrus area.
What motivates you to want to be a board member?
•Scheets: I was appointed to the School board in 2015, when I filled a vacancy. In 2016, I had the privilege of being re-elected and earned the title of Vice President. While in my first term, I completed and earned the Advanced Board Certification and am currently working to attain the Master Board Certification.
With that being said, I am a mother of five and I am highly invested in the school system for the long run. I can say that I am very passionate about the public education that not only my kids are receiving, but the kids in our community. I am motivated to work with our kids, school administration, public officials and community to ensure our children are receiving the best education that they deserve. I believe that our district is going in the right direction to make these things happen and I want to be a part of that.
•Gettys: I want to be Houston School’s next board member because I want to see our district prosper. I want to be a part of the change occurring within our school system, rather than sitting on the sidelines watching that change take place. I believe our district can be more than just competitive. I believe we can lead the way for others throughout the state and set the tone for future change in the surrounding areas. I am excited for the opportunity to get involved, and eager to contribute to the success of a school district that played such a fundamental role in getting me where I am today.
•Malam: I am running for Houston School board because I feel I could help make a difference in the school system. As a father of Houston School students, I want to do what I can to help ensure my children, and all of the students, receive the best possible education in a safe environment.
What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?
•Scheets: I believe the role of the school board is to ensure that school districts are responsive to the values, beliefs and priorities of their communities. We work for our community to make the best decisions for our children to provide them with the right tools to become productive individuals in society. We set a direction; we establish an effective and efficient structure; provide support for our teachers, administration, students, and parents; we ensure accountability; and most importantly, we are advocates for our students, teachers, administration and community.
•Gettys: The board’s responsibilities are to set short and long-term objectives for the district and determine the proper pathway to achieve those goals. They should have a strategic focus on student excellence and fiscal responsibility. The board establishes the direction for the district, then it is the responsibility of the administration and staff to determine the appropriate means to reach those objectives. I also believe the work of a board member goes beyond the four walls of the boardroom. The board member should be actively involved in and supportive of numerous activities within our community. Whether that means attending choir concerts or chamber luncheons, the district should be represented by members of its governing body.
•Malam: The board’s roles and responsibilities are to be the voice of the community as well as the ones who help to ensure that the school is operating in the best interest of the community that it serves.
What do you believe are the district’s strengths?
•Scheets: Some of our district’s strengths include having a strong shared belief and value about what is possible for our students and their ability to learn, and of the system and its ability to teach all children at a level to see them succeed. Our district has an open door policy… if there is a problem, we want to know about it so we can address it. We want families to feel welcome to come and discuss their children. We have a strong group of dedicated staff that work hard to make sure our children get the education they deserve.
•Gettys: One of our district’s core strengths is the competent leadership demonstrated by our administration. They have taken great strides to make improvements to the campus, while ensuring minimal impact on the taxpayers. It is this strategic fiscal decision-making that will further enhance our district, keeping it competitive with others throughout the state. This is only further amplified by our knowledgeable staff in the classrooms preparing our students for the roads ahead. These individuals are the ones responsible for developing the current generation to become the workforce of tomorrow. As new ways of instructing students have evolved, our educators have learned to adapt their teaching methods. They have eagerly embraced technology, using it to instruct our students in new and interactive ways.
All of this is made possible by our community’s commitment to the district. One of the reasons my wife and I moved back to the area was our district’s sense of pride and responsibility that is widespread throughout our community. Our community truly supports and contributes to the district’s fundamental success and is the underlying foundation of its strength.
•Malam: The strengths of Houston School is our community backing. The people of Houston are always willing to help the school. In addition, another major strength is the school staff. I believe they all do a great job representing Houston schools.
What improvements would you like to be made in the district?
•Scheets: Increased teacher pay; increased trade school options; improve our facilities; academic success (increase test scores); after school programs; improve our college/career readiness program; and a stronger community/school relationship.
•Gettys: Houston has much to offer and we have the ability to attract teachers from all over the country, but we have to be competitive with other states and neighboring districts in the ways we support our teachers and students. If we actively foster a collaborative relationship between administration, staff and the school board, we can improve our competitive advantage. This kind of cooperation can create a flourishing educational environment that will only help our students thrive.
As a district, we must continue to look for new and innovative ways to improve our district. As a board, we need to take a strong look at:
Curriculum offerings: Are we offering courses that will benefit students for the careers of tomorrow?
Instructional technologies: Are there ways that we could better connect with our students?
Capital improvements and repair: Are we providing a safe and productive learning environment?
•Malam: I feel a major area that needs improvement is the middle school building as it is in dire need of being replaced.
What kind of relationship should a school board member have with school personnel and the community?
•Scheets: The school board is tasked with making good decisions for the school district, in the best interest of our kids. At the same time, we also have to make some of those hard decisions to ensure we are spending our taxpayer’s dollars and allocating those tax dollars effectively and honorably for the good of our students. As a school board member you have a responsibility of knowing what is going on in the school, being involved in those activities/festivities, and keeping the community informed and involved. In short, we are the bridge between the community and the public school system… you have to work together to keep our system effective.
•Gettys: I believe that the board’s core responsibility is to work with the district’s administration to improve student achievement and success. A board member should be a reflection of the community’s interests in the boardroom. Members should be open and receptive to conversations with all stakeholders that have a vested interest in our district.
•Malam: I believe that as a board member, my relationship with school personnel would be to listen to their needs and to consider all options to resolve any issues. A member will have the same commitment to the community and its members.
How can you contribute to a successful board meeting?
•Scheets: By being attentive, open, and honest with everyone involved is one key aspect that I have come to appreciate to having a successful board meeting. You need to be educated and informed on what is going on in the public school system to help you make decisions to benefit our kids. I am capable of working with other school board members and the district leadership team to make those decisions, while keeping our students first and foremost in my mind.
•Gettys: My unique employment experience has allowed me to be involved with each aspect of the workforce development cycle our students will face. During my time with the governor’s office, I worked closely with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education where our primary focus was K-12th improvements. I went on to work for Missouri State University, where I have become familiar with the challenges and demands placed on institutions of higher education. I have also gained experience identifying the workforce needs of companies while working in the Department of Economic Development. Each of these opportunities have provided me with a unique perspective when dealing with the obstacles our district may face. Whether it be working through the legislative red tape at the state and federal level or understanding the financial difficulties school districts are faced with each year; I have seen what works and what does not. I believe I can make a beneficial contribution to our district, and I have a vested interest in this community.
•Malam: I can contribute to a successful board meeting, due to the fact that I am the kind of person who wants to get all the facts before I make a decision as well as explore all options to find the best solution.