Four candidates are running for two seats, each for a 3-year term on the Neosho Board of Education.
The candidates are current Board President Stuart Puckett, current board member Jonathan Russell, David Steele and Kevin Butler. The April General Election is next Tuesday, April 2. Polling places are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Voters who need to find their polling place should contact the Newton County Clerk's office.
The Neosho Daily News invited each of the candidates to answer the same six questions to help voters decide where to cast their vote. Here are the questions and each candidate's response.
NDN:What prompted you to run for a school board seat?
BUTLER: Several events in regard to leadership issues. These issues caused the following disservice to our students (just some examples) including paying of $300,000.00 to buy out two administrator contracts, rehiring of the individual that caused a major cost overrun (due to a math error) to finish the Junior High, the attempt to railroad an administrator out their job, the departure of an entire department which is a reflection on leadership, not the department and keeping quiet about cost overruns instead of being transparent.
PUCKETT: Three years ago I made a decision to run, out of a sense of responsibility to the community. Today, that sense of responsibility is even greater. Serving on the board has given me the ability to, pay back, a little bit to the community which I call home.
RUSSELL: The Neosho School District is at the center of our community. The success of our community and the future generations of Neosho and Goodman begins in the classrooms of our district. I want to be part of the team of board members and staff working to improve our district.
I started attending board meetings about two years ago to know more about what was going on in the district. Over time, my desire to be more involved has intensified. I feel like my contribution to the school board would be a great benefit to the school district.
NDN:What do you consider the current state of the Neosho School District?
STEELE: Last year’s MAP scores were disappointing compared to districts of similar size. The district is working hard to strengthen scores through new programs and cultural awareness. With anything, there will be ups and downs. The important part is acknowledging the negatives and setting goals to turn them into positives.
RUSSELL: Our district is currently in transition. Many changes have happened in the last few years including administration changes and construction. Among all that, the quality of education needs to be improved. Our students deserve the best education we can give them.
PUCKETT: The district is moving in a positive direction. Have we accomplished all of our goals? No we have not. Do we understand our objectives? Yes we do. We are resolved to make the Neosho School District, the School District of Choice, and Neosho a place where people are proud to call home.
BUTLER: At present, it needs a lot of work. The hiring of Dr. Jim Cummins is an excellent start to start the healing process. The past cannot be undone but we do need to learn from it.
NDN:What would be your priorities to address as a board member if elected?
RUSSELL: Improving the education our students receive is my top priority. Early childhood education is also very important to me. I would like to see our district offer more in that area.
Representing the taxpayers is also a priority for me. I am there to serve those who elected me.
PUCKETT: Facility improvement, educational rigor, staff commitment/development and community pride all play a role in the development of our students. A relentless focus on these priorities will help keep the district pointed in the right direction.
BUTLER: I will continue to remember that everything the board does is for the students as our main focus, establish a definitive chain of command, ensure that all administrators are on board and focused on the Mission Statement, much better documentation and much more transparency, better PR and re-establish trust in the system again.
STEELE: If elected, I would work on boosting test scores, staff retention, and preparing students for college or the workforce. I feel these are the biggest issues the district is facing right now, and each issue compliments the other if change were affected throughout.
NDN: What experience/expertise/education would you bring to the board if elected?
PUCKETT: I have over 25 years of work experience providing financial oversight. I have spent the last three years gaining a better understanding of the district. I have spent my lifetime in this community and understand the cultural dynamics which influence our decision making.
RUSSELL: I am the candidate with the most experience as a school board member. I bring a lot of knowledge of how the district runs and the finances. My other service experience includes chairing Bright Futures Neosho and doing constituent services in the Missouri House of Representatives.
STEELE: As a parent, I have a lot of experience with the schools—my children having received their education in Neosho. My background in management applies to budgetary expertise as well as problem-solving. Most importantly, I am passionate about our schools and want to be a part of their success.
BUTLER: Over my 20 years in the military, I served on several boards, committees, and ad-hoc groups. Their purpose was to ensure a smoother flow of work and regulations so that everybody was on the same page. After I retired, I continued to be on boards and committees assisting in the decision making process.
NDN: Give us a brief bio - tell the readers about you, as much or as little as you wish - your family, career, etc.
BUTLER:I am a Neosho native and I graduated from NHS in 1984. I joined the military in 1983 and I retired in 2004. During my time in the military, I got to see quite a bit of the world and experience many new cultures. In addition, I was also in the first Gulf War (Aug 90-Mar 91) with the 4th Marine Brigade as one of their Corpsman. I currently do IT work for individuals, businesses. I am married and my wife Sonya is a nurse at Freeman in Neosho. We have one son Joseph who is currently a junior at Neosho High School.
STEELE: I lived in Joplin for most of my life, but have called Neosho home for the last decade. My wife and I have four children-three are current students of Neosho school district, and the oldest attends Crowder College. I work in Carthage as a department manager for Schreiber Foods.
RUSSELL: I grew up in Neosho, graduated from NHS, and earned a B.S. from MSSU. I currently do sales for my family business. I have also served on the boards of Bright Futures, Neosho/NC Library and Lions Club. I enjoy traveling and reading and am a member of Canopy Christian Fellowship.
PUCKETT: I was a 1987 graduate of Neosho High School. I hold a BSBA from the University of Missouri and am a graduate of Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Georgetown University. My wife Rhonda and I reside in Neosho and have five kids four of which are in the Neosho School System
NDN: List one reason why a voter should cast their vote for you in the election.
STEELE: I intend to work for the community, especially the students, faculty, and staff. I want to be an advocate for the community to ensure that our students are receiving the best education and preparation for life that can be provided.
RUSSELL: Experience. I am running for my third term. We have several newer members on our board and having served already makes a difference. In the past our district has not typically had board members serve more than two terms, I believe we need more experience in leadership. List one reason why a voter should cast their vote for you in the election.
BUTLER: I will be a representative for the people and I will make things happen to ensure we have the best board possible to ensure our Mission Statement is fulfilled.
PUCKETT: Through the years I have developed the ability to be extraordinarily patient in the pursuit of building a better community. I recognize that the school district is a cornerstone of the community, and as such, improvements in the district have a ripple effect across our community. I have demonstrated perseverance through all sorts of professional and civic challenges, and I will continue to work, every day, in the pursuit of building a better Neosho.