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Six seek three spots on school board

NEW BLOOMFIELD — Six candidates are seeking three positions on the New Bloomfield R-3 Board of Education in the April 5 election.

Of the three openings, two current members have filed for re-election and one has decided not to file for another term. Board President Leroy Wade, who has served on the board for 16 years, has decided not to seek re-election. Two current board members — Gracia Backer and Suzie Mattern — have filed for another three-year term.

The other four candidates are: Craig Abbott, an environmental specialist; Patsy Suttles, a retired teacher; Debbie Cuno, a retired teacher; and Michele Heuman, a cattle auction and county road maintenance employee.

The three candidates with the most votes will be elected.

Gracia Backer

Backer has been a member of the New Bloomfield School Board since April 2008. She grew up and has lived all her life within two miles of New Bloomfield. “I was born and raised here. It’s the town I love, and it is a great honor for me to serve on the school board. Membership on the school board requires a lot of work and it is an extremely important board in our community,” Backer said.

A 1968 graduate of New Bloomfield High School, Backer attended Missouri State University for three years and has a 1993 bachelor of arts degree from William Woods University.

Backer served 18 years as a member of the Missouri House of Representatives from Callaway County from 1982 to 2000. She was the first woman to be named as majority floor leader of the Missouri House. She is now employed full time as director of the Missouri Division of Employment Security.

Backer said in order to retain good teachers, she would like to see a mentoring program for first-year teachers established by veteran teachers at the school. Backer said she also wants to foster better communication between the school and local residents.

Suzie Mattern

Mattern has been a member of the board since 2008.

A 1983 graduate of Fayette High School, Mattern is a graduate of William Woods University with a degree in computer information management. She is employed full time by the Missouri Department of Economic Development as a computer information technology specialist.

Mattern is married with three children and has lived in the New Bloomfield area for the past 20 years. “I have a son who is a senior this year, and I have an eighth-grader in New Bloomfield Junior High School. My oldest daughter graduated from New Bloomfield High School in 2004,” Mattern said.

Mattern said she filed for re-election because “the last three years have been a lot of work and a bit of a challenge at times. But I think we are making great progress. The school is going in the right direction. I want to see that continue. I also want to have a chance to face both our opportunities and challenges head-on.”

“We have made a lot of progress in the district,” she said. “The board directed the administration to implement a Positive Behavior Support system. We were one of the first school boards to direct the administration to start the Positive Behavior Support system.”

Craig Abbott

Abbott said he filed for the school board for the first time in order to give back to his community.

Abbott said his parents are graduates of New Bloomfield High School. He is a 1992 New Bloomfield graduate and his wife, Kim, is a 1993 graduate. He also is a 1997 graduate of Lincoln University.

“I have a vested interest in New Bloomfield. My wife and I have two children in elementary school in New Bloomfield,” Abbott said.

Abbott is in charge of environmental compliance at Allied Waste and Republic Services. He supervises environmental issues involving millions of dollars in Allied Waste property throughout Missouri and Kansas.

“My highest priority as a member of the board would be to increase student achievement at the school. I also would like to get more members of the community directly involved. People are a little dissatisfied with the way things have been going and the resignations of the superintendent and other administrators,” Abbott said.

Debbie Cuno

Cuno, a retired New Bloomfield teacher, said she is a lifetime resident of New Bloomfield.

A 1974 graduate of New Bloomfield High School, Cuno received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education in 1978 from William Woods University in Fulton and a master’s degree in library and informational science from the University of Missouri.

Cuno said she is a candidate for the school board because she cares deeply about the students of the district and the community as a whole. “I feel my background can bring a different perspective to the board,” Cuno said.

Cuno retired recently from the New Bloomfield School District after teaching 31 years in the district. She taught high school speech and junior high English. After receiving a master’s degree in library science from the University of Missouri, she became the district’s librarian.

“The major issues facing the school board are going to be financial matters. Because of what is going on at state and federal levels, money is going to become a major issue. Important decisions are going to have to be made for the education of our children,” Cuno said.

Michele Heuman

Heuman is a graduate of Glasgow High School and said she has held two full-time jobs for several years.

Since 1998, she has worked at Callaway Livestock Center where she checks in and loads livestock. She also is employed by the Cole County Road and Bridge Department where she works on road maintenance, including laying asphalt, road repairs, plowing snow and spraying for mosquitoes.

This is her first time filing for the New Bloomfield Board of Education. “I am unmarried and I have no children, but the board has a lot of issues that need to be taken care of. They had a superintendent on administrative leave for a long time, and that is not acceptable. It’s also unacceptable to have security that locks parents out of the school, and they have to be escorted into the school to pick up their children. The score levels that the kids have in school also are not acceptable. Basketball should not be a priority over education, and that’s the way it is at New Bloomfield,” Heuman said.

Patsy Suttles

Suttles is another former New Bloomfield school teacher who has filed for the school board. She had served as a member of the board for 11 years until she was defeated in the April 2010 election.

Suttles taught for 30 years in the New Bloomfield School District, teaching students at all levels.

A 1962 graduate of Poplar Bluff High School, Suttles is a graduate of the College of the Ozarks and also Missouri State University in 1966.

“One of my major concerns is achievement of students. I believe we need to work especially hard on student achievement,” Suttles said.

In seeking a new superintendent, Suttles said she believes the district needs a good leader. “We need someone who will get the district going in the right direction,” she said. “It seems as though all schools in Callaway County have had problems this year. We need to get our schools back on track.”

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