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The Lake News Online
  • School board candidates discuss teacher, administrator retention

  • When Camdenton School District voters go to the polls April 2, there will be several candidates seeking two open positions.
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  • When Camdenton School District voters go to the polls April 2, there will be several candidates seeking two open positions.
    Five candidates have filled to fill the positions currently held by Nancy Masterson and Jim Besancenez, both of whom are running to keep their seats.
    Other candidates are Darin Keim, Bill Moulder and Tom Williams.
    The Lake Sun submitted several questions to each candidate, and their responses are as follows.
    *Editor's Note: The Lake Sun did not edit responses in any way. One response was cut off because it exceeded the 250 word limit.
    QUESTION: How would you develop and retain the best teachers? Best administrators?
    Jim Besancenez:
    As a teacher of 29 years in this district, I can say that the number one thing to do is to create a great working environment. This environment is one where true collaboration is exchanged freely focusing on student achievement. Teacher input must be valued highly because they are in the trenches every day.They KNOW how to best reach the kids they teach. Training all teachers involved in any new program is imperative. They need to know the material and feel comfortable with it before teaching takes place. For our district to be the best it can be, we must place the most value on teacher input. In our district, the teachers have not seen more than a 1% raise for many years. To show them the gratitude they deserve, we must be more aggressive to make sure their pay is competitive with other districts our size across the state.
    Our district must aggressively seek out administrators who are not afraid to lead. We need to show solidarity to our administrators who see value in a challenge, and make the conscious choice to greet a tough situation head on rather than run from it. We must encourage administrators who value teacher input and allow them to truly be a part of every important decision the district makes. An administrator who welcomes the diversity of opinions inevitably found on an elected board, while somehow taking them all into consideration in a meaningful way, is an administrator to be valued.
    Darin Keim:
    You must clearly outline the district's vision of education and then allow the teachers and administrators to create a path to that vision. Teachers must feel comfortable discussing every aspect of the learning strategy knowing that input, positive or negative, will be used constructively. They are on the front line in the classrooms putting the strategies to work and their advice is paramount to adjusting them for the students. In other words, let the teachers teach. Our teachers need a workplace that is free from distractions created by boards or administration that take away from the task of education.
    Page 2 of 3 - Finding a great administrator is best accomplished by promoting from within, if at all possible. A person that is familiar with your school and community is already familiar with the direction of the district and hiring such a person is a vote of confidence in the current personnel within our schools. An administrator must be told clearly what is expected and must understand that they will be held accountable if expectations are not reasonably met. A relationship with the board that allows for open and constant communication must be maintained. We must remember that both parties have the best interest of the school in mind. A great administrator must be allowed to feel comfortable with leading when faced with adversity while knowing that the board trusts their leadership and direction.
    These things, along with competitive wages, benefits and heartfelt appreciation, are the keys to keeping productive teachers and administrators.
    Nancy Masterson:
    The Camdenton District strives to develop and retain the best teachers and administrators in many ways. Employees work best when they feel appreciated and feel empowered to make a difference in students' lives. We have done well over the years retaining talented teachers and administrators. To ensure teachers are successful in the classroom, the district provides time for teachers to collaborate with their fellow teachers, and offer many in-service training opportunities. Moreover, teachers have avenues to input decisions made that affect them by serving on committees such as Career Ladder, Vertical/Horizontal Curriculum teams, Salary/Benefits, Strategic Planning, and many more. We celebrate individual success in the classroom with the Excellence in Education Award. Each month exemplary teachers are recognized by the building Principals, the Superintendent and School Board. The Blair and Laurie Trust Funds allow our district to recognize Teacher of the Year and Educator of the Year nominees from each building. Teachers can apply for a Blair Classroom Grant or the Education Foundation Classroom Impact Grant. They can apply for a Foundation Educator Scholarship to help pay for advanced degrees.
    Administrators are given time to collaborate with their peers and superintendents. Achieving the Distinction in Performance Award is proof administrators and our district staff is doing a great job. We need to support them.
    Needless to say, promoting great teachers to administrators is another way to retain excellence.
    Finally, a competitive salary schedule with other benefits is necessary so staff feel they are doing what is best for
    Bill Moulder:
    The best way to develop and retain the best teachers and administrators is to have clearly defined policy and guidelines and allow them to do their jobs within those polices and guidelines. I believe you offer your employees access to advanced training and encourage them to grow in their jobs, and you also challenge an employee to go beyond their comfort zone and stretch their abilities. Frank discussions between administration and staff are important to address issues and reach solutions. It's not a question of having the highest pay, but of offering competitive pay for a satisfying career in a supportive district. Happy employees are successful and long-term employees.
    Page 3 of 3 - Tom Williams:
    Teachers take learning to "the ground" – directly to the students. Teachers, not a board, have the greatest ability to directly influence the learning of our students. It is essential to our district's success that we work diligently towards developing and retaining the district's most valuable player – our teachers. I believe that retention begins with rebuilding our teacher's faith in a cohesive, supportive board that does not micromanage how they deliver exceptional learning. I believe that the board must encourage administration to continually seek feedback from teachers and to work collaboratively with teachers to insure that they have the ability to influence decisions that directly impact how they deliver learning to the students. I also believe that the district must remain competitive with teacher pay and benefits. Painful talent loss must be avoided through carefully maintaining competitive pay and benefit structures.
    The board must set clear strategic direction through policy and then must provide clear feedback to the superintendent specific to meeting that course. Retaining administrators starts with a board that believes in the fundamental truth that they set policy and administration implements that policy, free from day-to-day micromanagement of their duties. A relationship of mutual trust and collaboration between the board and administration is essential to an environment that is conducive to a high level of energy and growth for administrators. I believe this serves as the core to retaining the talent that we have within the Camdenton R-III School District.

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