Illustration by Meg Wagler for the Springfield Daily Citizen.

This article is part of a series by Springfield Daily Citizen’s education reporter, Cory Matteson, comparing the school board candidates’ responses to topical questions.

Q: What about your life and work experience lends itself to being a successful member of the school board? 

Kelly Byrne: I have board experience, as I serve on the Ozarks Regional YMCA Board of Directors. I’m a 13-year businessman of the Springfield community and have spent that time reviewing data and bringing together all the pieces to accomplish a common goal. I review budgets and change orders and understand complex issues in order to make decisions. I’m a substitute teacher, as I have time in my schedule, and donate my pay to Care to Learn. I’m doing it to help fill the shortage of substitute teachers and as a way to better understand our district at the classroom level.  The purpose of the board is to provide oversight of the superintendent and to effectively do that one must be able to absorb a large amount of data, process it, ask tough questions, debate honestly with the intent of solving problems, and make decisions. This is exactly what I’ve been doing for 13 years as a real estate investor, developer, and business owner.

Chad Courtney: I am the most qualified candidate running this year as I am a parent, an attorney, homeowner, business owner and a citizen with a desire to put in the work necessary to see our schools succeed. In addition to meeting all the statutory requirements to run as a candidate for school board, my family has made Springfield our home for over two decades. I love the city of Springfield. It has everything a family with young children could desire for their children to experience while growing up and attending school here. My family made the conscious decision to remain in Springfield right before my oldest started kindergarten specifically because of the Springfield public school system and the quality of education we expected all three of our children to receive. We have not been disappointed. The educational experience all three of my children have had has exceeded our expectations. Further, across the experiences of my three children, I have interacted with nine different programs/buildings in the SPS system: Disney Elementary, Horace Mann Elementary, Cherokee Middle School, WINGS program at Phelps, Central Scholars, WOLF at Bass Pro, Health Sciences Academy, Kickapoo and Central. These experiences provide me with a diverse, first-hand understanding of varying approaches to learning on the program, staff and administrative levels.

I serve/have served on several boards involving programming for children which has provided me with the opportunity to gain the board-level experience I feel is necessary to guide the largest school district in Missouri.

Steve Makoski: To be a successful school board member, one must have clear vision of district goals and objectives established by our school board. This is followed by measuring the success of a district reaching its goals and the performance of the superintendent’s leadership which led to the district’s success. This formula of vision, setting goals and objectives are hallmark traits in establishing a path which led to my success in life. As for measuring life outcomes, I’ve traveled from poverty to foster care to 20 years of Naval Service, gaining world and global experience and finding my way to Springfield Missouri to raise a family in faith and become a businessman for the last 25 years. These experiences will help guide me in becoming a vital part of our school board to work as an effective team member to achieve successful outcomes.

Charles Taylor: As a career educator, I bring deep professional understanding of the strategies, structures and technologies that can promote student learning and teacher/staff commitment. As an academic leader, having served Drury’s VP of Academic Affairs for a decade, I bring an understanding of how to work effectively on and with a board, as well as an understanding of the importance of aligning always limited resources/structures to meet district priorities. As the spouse of a long-time teacher at a Title I school, I bring at least a degree of awareness of the special challenges that our district faces in assuring academic and personal growth for all children and a deeply personal commitment to seeking ways to meet those challenges. As a two-term board member, I bring a level of experience of helping lead during a period of turbulent change that, I believe, would serve SPS and our community well for the next three years. As a person who takes his work seriously, but rarely takes himself too seriously, I bring a reasoned and mission-focused decision-making approach to board issues. 

Brandi VanAntwerp: In addition to being a mother of SPS students and a PTA officer at both Pershing Elementary and Central Scholars, I have business experience that will be advantageous to my role on the board. I have more than thirteen years of experience in budgeting, audits, federal expenditure regulations and grant writing. I also have current and previous experience as a board member and as an employee of organizations under the guidance of board members. My experience on both sides of the board will be a valuable asset in understanding roles and the parameters in which a board should operate, and how to be empathetic and listen well when presented with new ideas for consideration. 

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson