There are four candidates — including one incumbent — who are running for two available seats on the Board of Education for Jefferson City Public Schools.
The candidates are: Steve Brown, incumbent Lorelei Schwartz, Jessica Green and Stephanie Johnson.
Candidates appear in the order they will appear on the April 2 ballot.
Name: Steve Brown
Why run? He's grown weary of talking to young people, asking them about American history — the 1941 Imperial Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Allies' 1944 D-Day invasion of Nazi German-occupied mainland Europe and the dropping of a second atomic bomb on Japan in 1945 — "and getting a blank stare" in response.
Brown's main goal is to have safe and productive classroom environments
Steve Brown said he's not like the other JCPS candidates for school board: "I am truly the yin of their yang."
Brown supports teachers with proper training being armed to protect themselves and their classrooms, if they want to be armed. The other three candidates said at a recent forum held by the Cole County Democratic Party they were not in favor or were against allowing teachers to be armed.
He also said he cares more about hiring the best teachers the district can than the diversity of the staff; hiring the best teachers will be enough for students' needs.
The biggest priorities for Brown, though, are about increasing JCPS students' reading abilities and effectively dealing with disruptive students in classrooms.
He said disruptive students should be taken out of classrooms — either to get the help they need, a stern talking-to or to go a remedial school. "You can't have children dragging down the entire class."
Brown is a former Marine. He was born and raised in Columbia, moved to Ft. Myers, Florida at the age of 13 and joined the Marine Corps there in 1966 when he was 17 years old. He served 18 months in Southeast Asia — not in heavy combat, though he said some shots were taken at him and missed. After three years in the Corps, he left as a sergeant, met his wife in Missouri and came back for a career in insurance; he lives just outside Holts Summit.
Brown said previously that he has a son who graduated from the Jefferson City school district, and his son's girlfriend has two children who attend JCPS.
In his spare time, Brown loves to read — especially historical fiction — and he hunts, fishes, shoots at a range, golfs and grows flowers, including black irises.
Name: Lorelei Schwartz
Occupation: Accountant with Schwartz & LeCure, LLC; incumbent Board of Education Treasurer
Hometown: Jefferson City
Why run? Wants a second term "because we've tackled many issues, but we (as a district) still have many more to solve."
Schwartz wants to build upon district's reading, behavior goals
Lorelei Schwartz said JCPS has the tools and plans it needs to be successful, but those things need to be continually monitored and adjusted as needed.
Schwartz said her biggest priorities on what would be her second term on the school board would be students' reading abilities and behaviors in classrooms, and to continue to think ahead in terms of school facilities.
She said the district has the reading assessment tool it needs in iReady. "I rely on the professionals to help guide those procedures," she said of what best practices should be, but it's the role of the board to ask questions about the effectiveness of things.
Responses to student behavioral issues depend on the behaviors, but Schwartz said the district needs to get consistent among its staff in how they handle student behaviors.
She added extreme behaviors probably should be addressed in an alternative setting, though not necessarily outside of school.
She has previously served on the district's Long Range Facility Planning Committee and said JCPS should continue to monitor what its need are once the second high school is open.
Schwartz is a 1986 Jefferson City High School alumna and has worked for Schwartz & LeCure for 12 years, in addition to the nine years before that when it was known as LeCure & Associates. She's also worked for DeLong's, Inc. and the state's Department of Revenue before that.
She doesn't have much free time during tax filing season, and she also serves as the chairperson of the Capital Region Medical Center Board of Directors. However, she's getting ready to watch her younger son, a senior at JCHS, play baseball, and she does tax work for the city-wide PTO.
Name: Jessica Green
Occupation: Administrative assistant in Lincoln University's Office of Student Financial Services
Hometown: Jefferson City
Why run? "Parental involvement and the emotional health of our students is important to me."
Green seeks to find better tools for addressing students' behaviors
Jessica Green values faith and action; she's active in the former, and has new ideas for the latter when it comes to discipline and addressing bullying in Jefferson City schools.
Green said she's not sure that in-school or out-of-school suspensions teach students anything. She said she's read about other districts trying out strategies such as meditation and yoga.
"It gets people centered," she said of those techniques — centered and able to focus on dealing with the root causes of issues that have led to discipline.
Green, a 2006 Jefferson City High School alumna, also wants JCPS to be more proactive about dealing with bullying at all levels of schooling — elementary, middle and high school. She wants students to be satisfied in who they are, and maybe that will help them not lash out at others.
She has two young children in elementary school in the district. In her spare time, she enjoys playing with them and reads a lot of faith-based books; her prayer life at home and church is important to her.
She is a youth leader at Jefferson City Church of God in Christ, and she directs the praise dancers there.
Name: Stephanie Johnson
Occupation: Executive Director of the Jefferson City Boys & Girls Club
Hometown: Jefferson City
Why run? "I am running for school board because my time working with the Boys and Girls Club has given me a passion to serve with children in our community, but especially the children of the Club."
Johnson seeks more help for students, school-community collaboration and positive workplaces
Stephanie Johnson counts her insights from her career at the Jefferson City Boys & Girls Club and elsewhere as assets to help address students' behavioral health, the diversity of JCPS' staff and the district's work culture and climate.
"If money and space were no object," Johnson would have each school in the district have a team of two to four behavioral health specialists, instead of one. Each school would also have one or two dedicated classrooms where students could receive comprehensive services over a longer term, but that would still allow the students to stay in their school.
"We need to start getting Lincoln (University) students into our (schools)," Johnson said of a way to diversify the district's staff. She added that a "grow your own" program for the district to recruit future teachers from its own graduates is a need; "Our students, we've got to bring them back here."
She said teachers and principals also ought to be working in positive workplace environments with open communication, and if teachers aren't happy, that impacts students' educations.
Johnson is a 1989 Jefferson City High School alumna, and her younger of two sons will graduate from JCHS in 2020.
Her career in nonprofits and service has included jobs with the United Way, Samaritan Center and March of Dimes. She said those gave her insights into strategic planning, community relations, direct service, fundraising and revenue development.
Since 2011, she's thrown herself into the Boys & Girls Club; she's technically CEO now, but though her title has changed, she still has the same job, and preferred her former title to avoid confusion. One of the reasons she's decided to run for school board is because "I'm finding myself with more spare time than I like" — being on the verge of "free-birding," also known as "empty-nesting" — but she's also enjoyed watching her boys play baseball.