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Rockwood Board Candidates: Last Forum

Saturday was the last chance for voters to attend a Rockwood board of education candidates' forum before Tuesday's election, however only one candidate participated. The forum was hosted in Eureka by the Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions coalition

Two director seats on the Board of Education will be decided during the April 3 election, due to the three-year terms of directors Peggy Devoy and Geoff Rigabar expiring. , as reported by Eureka-Wildwood Patch. Four candidates are running for the two spots. A fifth candidate, , filed but withdrew from the race in January. Rigabar was selected by board of education directors in November to fill the position left open by Matthew Fitzpatrick, who resigned in October.

Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions, a self-proclaimed watchdog group of the district and coalition of non-partisan taxpayers, hosted three candidates' forums last month. The first one was held March 3 at The Pointe in Ballwin. See related Patch article: . Three of the four candidates attended the first RS for RS forum:  Sherri Rogers, Jennifer Kelly and William "Bill" Brown. Candidates' profile summaries follow at the end of this article.

Rogers and Kelly also attended the second forum held by RS for RS mid-month in the Valley Park/Manchester area. However, Kelly was the only candidate to participate in the last RS for RS forum held Saturday in . Approximately 20 people were present.

RS for RS organizers said Saturday that candidate Victor Hieken "was in tax season." Rogers told Patch that her mother had just had surgery, and now was dealing with complications, which prevented her from attending.

Organizers also said Brown had "declined" to attend the forum, however an email exchange between him and RS for RS co-founder, Eileen Tyrrell, after the forum Saturday indicated a bit different perspective. Tyrrell wrote:  "You are missing such an opportunity to enage these citizens one on one. These are taxpayers who want change and need to understand the issues facing their district. Our Board members represent ALL taxpayer and need to have conversations with them. RS for RS and myself personally will continue strife to get these taxpayers engage and part of the decision making process. No matter what the results are Tuesday evening, ALL STAKEHOLDERS must be included and we all have to work together."

Brown wrote back:  "I am saddened by your email. At our first meeting I informed you that my campaign was all about the type of inclusion you describe. Your message illustrates the reasons for my not attending your group's forums after I was misled by you as spokesperson. Today, that is why I chose not to participate. I cannot and will not give much sympathy to a group or person that has as a stated goal creating STRIFE in a district I love and respect. I have two suggestions:  1. Choose a more effective spokesperson and 2. Change your goal to end STRIFE and work for solutions. Perhaps if those are not appropriate, you should change the name of your organization to Rockwood Strife Creators, Who needs Solutions? I personally prefer solutions over STRIFE."

Tyrrell then apologized, stating in a subsequent email:  "My sincerest apologies for typing the wrong word!! Goes to show you my fat thumbs are not always the best communicators. Of course it was meant to be 'as we strive...'. Many district officials and Board Directors know, through our conversations, and the solution reports presented to them, that RS for RS is working towards real solutions to the real issues facing our district."

Brown did have an identified supporter at the forum Saturday, sitting in the front row, taking notes.

For additional candidates' forum information, see Patch coverage of a on March 6.

Kelly told Patch just before the forum she thought a "great awakening" was occurring within the Rockwood district. "Rockwood parents were always aware, but empty nesters and parents of private school students now are really paying attention to what's happening in Rockwood."

She said she had a chance last week to sit down with Rockwood Superintendent Bruce Borchers to go through many detailed items. "He has great intentions and cares as much as we do about the students," she said. "The budget is a tough nut to crack, but it's a process and we're going to get there. Our (U.S.) economy has changed the way we must do things."

Kelly, who said her father was her motivator and catalyst for getting involved with community volunteerisum, said she was committed to transparency and accountability, if elected to the board.

The first question from the audience was about Kelly's stance on , a measure that also will be on the April 3 ballot. "Since 1993, bonds have been passed for Rockwood. We're in $295 million debt already. It's kinda' exhausting. My family made the choice to send our children to private schools, and the private schools have to keep up with what Rockwood does and compete with it," she said.

Kelly said she thought the $43 million requested through Proposition R was "a lot." She said she believed too much of the district's maintenance funding was wrapped up in these tax measures, and that those type of expenses really should be a part of the district's operating expenses. She also said she would not be voting for Proposition R.

Editor's Note:  For more details about Saturday's candidates' forum, come back for a second article. Board candidates follow in the order of filings and as their names will appear on the ballot.

PROFILE SUMMARY FOR CANDIDATE VICTOR HIEKEN

  • Life-long resident of Missouri and graduate of Southeast Missouri State University. Resides in Ellisville.
  • Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner.
  • Managing director for UHY Advisors, a national tax and business consulting firm. 
  • Six children, two of which are Rockwood graduates and four who currently attend Rockwood schools.
  • Stated he realizes Rockwood has a responsibility to everyone it touches.
  • Thinks his experiences as a student, parent and business professional will add a resource to the Board. 

PROFILE SUMMARY FOR CANDIDATE SHERRI ROGERS

  • Lived in Rockwood for 12 years with two children enrolled in the district. Resides in Chesterfield.
  • Earned a bachelor's degree from Southeast Missouri State University and a master's degree from Saint Louis University with emphases in Finance and Accounting.
  • 20-plus years of experience working in finance, accounting, operations management, human resources, and employee and customer relations. 
  • More than 10 years in small business and five in corporate finance.
  • Stated Rockwood has a long history of success, but the district should always strive to improve. 
  • Outlined student success, teacher support and fiscal responsibility would be her priority.
  • Experience working with diverse individuals.

PROFILE SUMMARY FOR CANDIDATE JENNIFER KELLY

  • Four children, three of which attend ; oldest child will be a freshman at next year. 
  • Relocated from Cleveland, OH, to Chesterfield three years ago; she is a St. Lawrence the Martyr and Pattonville High School alumnus. 
  • Completed her bachelor's degree at Missouri University in 1995 and a master's degree from the University of Akron in 2000.
  • Served as an Army officer and worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs for 10 years; resigned as a division level manager last summer to focus on family and volunteer in the community.
  • Stated her goals are to represent all stakeholders and to make the most fiscally sound budget decisions for the entire district with a long-term vision in mind.

PROFILE SUMMARY FOR CANDIDATE WILLIAM "BILL' BROWN

  • Rockwood graduate; four children who also graduated from  and two grandchildren presently attending Rockwood schools. Currently resides in .
  • Earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Southeast Missouri State and a master's degree in education from Southwest Baptist University.
  • Taught for 30-plus years in the Missouri public school system and served Rockwood on numerous committees and other volunteer positions.
  • Teach currently at Saint Louis University High School and serves as a Question Leader at the Advanced Placement/U.S. Government and Politics Grading.
  • Stated he encourages his students to become involved citizens in the community and is trying to repay Rockwood for what it has done for him.
David Miller April 02, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Wow, that Bill Brown is quite the over-reacting hothead! If he blows up this negatively with preconceived opinions over a simple typo, makes you wonder how he'll react to difficult controversal issues on the board. Will he be able to objectively listen to all sides of an issue from diverse groups and opinions? I think not. We need board members who will be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Michael Rhodes April 02, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Yeah, I thought that was a pretty agressive response myself. We do not know if that was all there was though as the email exchange was provided by Tyrrell and there may have been additional communications neither party is sharing. I took the time to review RS for RS recommendations to the district to cut costs and found it to be lacking. A majority of their savings comes from freezing wages for the next two to three years and eliminating upwards of 60+ high school teachers alone. There is also recommendatiosn to remove a middle school administrator at each school alog with a reduction is support staff. From reading their proposal it sure seemed they were more concerned with the cost of the eduction than the quality of the education. Based on that I don't blame Mr. Brown for steering clear of anything to due with this group as well.
Pam Lieber April 02, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I am having such a hard time understanding why simply INFORMING the Rockwwood taxpayers/citizens of what is going on in their own district is a problem?The message of RSforRS is one of fiscal responsibility and making things better for kid's in our district. It seems to many that what the "powers at be"....BOE...administration...Bill Brown..etc are having a problem with is that the public is being informed and as most people understand....knowledge is power. This is obviously unnerving and new to them as they have never really been held accountable for some poor decisions in the past. If the current BOE or administration....or Bill Brown refutes any of the information being sent out by RSforRS why don't they provide their evidence to the contrary?????Here is an example, I just found out that Rockwood sells our official "district directory" to political groups of their choosing. As a parent of 2 Rockwood students I think it's VERY sad that I would have to sign a Ferpa form so they will NOT sell my information to political groups....and then as a result of that my kids cant have our contact information in the buzz book so friends can contact them for birthday parties or play dates. This type of information is information that I want to KNOW as a parent and taxpayer.Why isn't Rockwood school district giving this information to parents if they are so "up front" about everything?Thank you to RS for RS for letting me know this information!
Eileen Tyrrell April 02, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Mr. Rhodes: The email exchange between myself as spokesperson for RS for RS and Mr. Brown was not provided to the Patch by RS for RS. You will have to ask Julie Brown Patton how she obtained this email exchange. RS for RS will post the entire email exchange on their facebook page later this morning. Yes, our recommended budget cuts are to elimination up to 60 plus high school teachers - as it relates to Block Scheduling - a very (well-known) unpopular tool among students, parents, teachers and guidance counselors. The elimination of Block Scheduling was on a proposed list of Y13 cuts created last spring during the Guiding Change process. In addition, you left out the portion of our report where it stated removing a middle school administrator while reinstating the middle school guidance counselors; as the loss of the middle school counselors has had a greater effect in the classrooms. As CoFounder of RS for RS I would be greatly disappointed and discouraged if any Director of the Rockwood Board of Education would steer clear of any citizens organization educating, informing and engaging taxpayers/citizens/stakeholders on the issues and decision-making process of their school district. I agree with Mr. Miller, we need board members who will be part of the solution rather than the problem. RS for RS is working to change the STATUS QUO.
William Brown April 02, 2012 at 04:13 PM
As a candidate for the school Board I am more than happy to provide the full background and explanation for my reply to Ms. Tyrrell. This reply was not just a "knee jerk" reaction to one incident. If you read carefully I explain it responds to numerous occasions of being misled by the "spokesperson" for Rs for Rs. I will be most comfortable helping reasonable individuals understand the total exasperation of my feelings.
William Brown April 02, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Mr. Miller??? Aren't you a member of RS for RS. If I am willing to honestly identify my comments,,,I would hope you would do likewise. Full information is fair and unbiased.
William Brown April 02, 2012 at 04:30 PM
One further comment calling me names is not informing,,,those are your opinions. You are welcome to your opinion of me and my comments but please be careful,,,I have found that RS for RS often mixes those two.
Lisa Hunt April 02, 2012 at 06:46 PM
As a co-founder of RS for RS I have purposely taken a no involvement back seat approach when it comes to the matter of the BOE candidates for fear of “political games”. Today my fears are validated, and I must step forward putting my personal feelings aside. I am disappointed with the recent communications that have negativity impacted all of our goals for a better district. RS for RS has always been about stakeholder involvement through the exchange of ideas and viewpoints. Will exchanges get overzealous and heated? The answer will almost always be yes when passionate points of view are debated. We are all human so mistakes and hurt feelings on both sides are going to arise. It's what we do and learn from those errors that truly matter. Isn't this what we teach our own children? Mr. Brown as co-founder of RS for RS I will “step up to the plate" an offer a personal apology on my behalf for any misgivings you may have felt dealing with RS for RS. Today I will take away the knowledge that we must all strive a little harder for compassion and understanding on both sides of the arena. I hope this will suffice and we can all rally together to get back to the important issues that face our school district. No matter who wins the election it is my sincerest wish that he or she remember it is our children that should come first. Respectfully, Lisa Hunt Earls RS for RS Co-Founder
William Brown April 02, 2012 at 07:50 PM
Ms. Earls, I am more than willing to meet half way. Your response was the type of interaction I was hoping for from the very beginning. I met with RS for RS very early in my candidacy. I attended the first forum and stated at that forum how much I appreciated RS for RS sponsoring that forum. I spoke directly with Mr. Miller and Ms. Tyrrell and thanked them. After that,,,numerous things happened that I was disappointed and misled by. I would be happy to discuss these issues with anyone interested enough to listen. I look forward to hopefully representing ALL patrons of Rockwood. I know in my heart I am a reasonable and fair minded person. I hate that eight weeks of campaigning causes people to judge me on issues upon which we may disagree. We can disagree without being disagreeable.
Paige April 02, 2012 at 09:54 PM
You ALL amaze me with your pettiness. Rockwood and other public schools have real issues to solve that require dedicated dialogue. Every moment you spend on this distracts from the real issues of funding, societal pressures, reasonable accountability, etc And I imagine as you read this, you will think "yeah, they need to stop." Look in the mirror......you are all part of the problem. If any of you had volunteered one hour today to help a child, you would have furthered the your cause more than all of this.
Sam Bufe April 03, 2012 at 01:04 AM
Mr. Miller, For the 2011-2012 school year, Mr. Brown has taught me AP U.S. Government and AP Comparative Government. In the seven months that he has taught me, I have never had an occasion in which Mr. Brown behaved like an "over-reacting hothead." Every day, he treats his students fairly. You don't know Mr. Brown nearly well enough to make such an accusation.
Michael Rhodes April 03, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Ms. Tyrrell: You are correct. I misread that part. It did just say the exchange was provided but not by who. Thank yu for pointing that out. I did read the proposal put out by RS and RS and as I stated found it to be lacking. There just isn't enough information to breakdown how RS for RS came up with the numbers. I also had trouble understanding some of the recommendations. In the example below RS recommends moving from hybrid to standard block scheduling while indicating this isn't effective. Why recommend a change that is ineffective? Was it meant to read that hybrid scheduling is considered ineffective? If so what is this based off of? Also, RS indicates that block scheduling results in less students per class causing a burden on teachers. This statement seems contradictory to everything I have ever seen and to what teachers will tell you. Less students translates to increased interaction between the teacher and student. More students decreases that interaction. "While this reduction will effect teaching positions, it has proven to be ineffective. The class enrollment trends show that the students prefer the standard schedule classes over the block classes. We understand the block schedule classes, on average (particularly the required courses) have a lower enrollment in comparison to the standard classes; causing a burden on the teachers."
Michael Rhodes April 03, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Paige: It is this kind of interaction that is helping me decide who and what to vote for. I am an active on these forums for that reason. Ms. Tyrrell and I have had a few discussions. I asked her to provide additional information; which she did. After reviewing those documents I personally was not staisfied that RS for RS matched up with my expectations. Using the information gleemed from here, PSO meeting, other parents, etc will allow me to make an informed decision tomorrow. I did like your statement about volunteering one hour. I did not today, but will be attending two PSO meetings over the next two weeks and then following that up with 4 hours of volunteer time later this month at a PSO function. I am very involved at the school level, but not at the district level.
Tom April 03, 2012 at 02:50 AM
For what it is worth, I was a student of Mr. Brown's AP Government class at SLUH. Never once have I had a teacher who cares as much about his students as Mr. Brown does. He cares about each individual student as a person, not whether or not they can get a 100% on a test or be a top scorer on the AP test, and I know that is why he is running for this position, because he genuinely cares for students. Mr. Brown has a very unique personality, and that is what makes him the great man and outstanding educator he is, he knows that being at school can be tiring, but he always has a way to make the lesson fun while still presenting the necessary concepts. I am not campaigning for votes for Mr. Brown, however, I feel he has been terribly misrepresented above. I really hope you consider Mr. Brown for the position. I have experienced first hand the great things that Mr. Brown has to offer, and I know that he is fully committed to making the Rockwood School District even better!
Paige April 03, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Mr. Rhodes I admire your initiative to understand the issues and seek clarification. My comments were directed more to those who spend what appears to be a large portion of their day on this and other sites (RS for RS, Facebook, etc) talking about what to do to help kids.....not sure when they ever get around to anything but their keyboard and a lot of talking. I coached my daughter's softball team tonight and am confident I did more to promote a positive, character-driven experience for children in those few moments than these folks have done in quite some time. There are people who complain about issues, whistle blow regarding issues, talk ad nauseum about issues......and then there are those that just work to solve them. Thanks for your time educating yourself on issues,,,,,,but thanks moreso for your time being active in your school in a positive, student centered way. All of our children will benefit from people like you who actually do the real work.
Paige April 03, 2012 at 03:03 AM
Tom...thanks for this post. As a student of Mr Brown's, I find your insights to be of great importance to me. I am also happy to see a young person involved in local political issues. Kudos to you.
Josh April 03, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Good Luck to all the candidates in the election...However, I'm disappointed in the Patch's coverage of the Rockwood Board election, no question and answer session of the candidates was presented and most of your comments and coverage seems to come from RS for RS (does Eileen get paid by Patch?). Let's be real this was not a real debate or a real event, it was a meeting of people with a certain political background and 20 people out of a voting district of nearly 100,000 showed up, so why treat it as more than a few people getting together type situation. Patch.com has done a good job in the past covering situations like this but in this case I must say that I'm disappointed. For people reading these comments, Bill Brown has the best background and intentions for Rockwood so vote for him. As for your second vote....it's up to you to look at the candidates closer, but I will put it in writing right here on Patch.com that Bill Brown will be elected to the board and will have the most votes......and he will do a great job!
Josh April 03, 2012 at 04:27 AM
Mrs. Tyrrell, You seem to blast the current board members as a whole, you don't seem to pick on anyone besides Mr. Smith.....who else on the board would RS for RS like to see gone? Curious who your group wants out? Pick a name, pick a member.....who you want out?
Josh April 03, 2012 at 04:43 AM
And by the way I will be voting for Prop R which will continue to make Rockwood one of the BEST districts not only in the area, not only in the state, but the central region of the country. It is a bond issue to upgrade our resources and general needs and helps to continue Rockwoods status within the area....a vote against Prop R is a vote to reduce Rockwoods status...
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 09:28 AM
For Patch readers and voters: As linked in this article, Patch had covered prior Rockwood BOE candidates' forums—including the independent forum hosted by the League of Women Voters—providing information along the way in this election cycle, and had looked at Saturday's forum as a chance to see the final stance from them all. When only one candidate attended the event, coverage obviously was affected. Quite a bit of details have been available about these candidates collectively, however. Months ago, EVERY Rockwood BOE candidate also was invited to blog on Patch; two of them took steps to do so but have been too busy to contribute in that regard. Thanks to everyone for the interaction here about the district, which is a very important factor for different reasons to all of us who live within Rockwood's boundaries.
Josh April 03, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Julie I wish the candidates had taken the Patch's chance to blog on their personal beliefs and stances but it seems it did not happen....however the Patch should have seen as the candidates did see that the last "debate" was a sham and not relied on it as a chance to do a thorough article on each individual.
Julie Brown Patton (Editor) April 03, 2012 at 10:44 AM
Thank you for the feedback, Josh.

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