Candidate: Steve Makoski
Occupation: Director of compliance at Rapid Roberts
Education: Graduated from high school in Herington, Kansas; bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix.
Campaign funds raised as of Feb. 22: $31,703
Q: What about your life and work experience lends itself to being a successful member of the school board?
A: 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.
Q: If elected, your first full school year as a board member will begin next fall. What measures need to be in place for staff and students to return to school safely, and where will you look for guidance on any future decisions the board will have to make regarding COVID-19 mitigation?
A: Decisions regarding COVID-19 mitigation are an ever-fluid situation. Board members will need to consider any number of sources to aid in their deliberation for the safety of students, staff and visitors. What we’ve learned or should have learned from the onset of this pandemic, is that no one really had answers on how to combat or protect against this virus. Everyone has their resources and opinions over how to address pandemic fallout and finding a common denominator that would provide for the best outcome is a major challenge. As a board member, I will be guided by science from reputable sources, and my deliberations would be all-inclusive involving parents, students, staff, and stakeholders. With that said, if two reasonable people view the same data and come to a different conclusion, then my deliberation weighs heavily in favor of the parent.
Q: ACT and MAP assessment average scores have declined in recent years, and in many cases SPS student scores fall below state averages. Superintendent Grenita Lathan’s Entry Plan released in December listed several steps to address both college testing (improving access to test prep skills for students) and MAP assessments (monthly math collaboratives for teachers and the use of MasteryConnect to analyze students’ areas of need in advance of testing). Is the school district taking steps in the right direction, and what else do you think should be done?
A: Dr. Lathan’s entry plan is a move in the right direction; however, measuring the outcomes will be a true testimony of Dr. Lathan’s leadership! I am encouraged by Dr. Lathan’s skill sets and experiences she brings to our district. The Entry Plan is a plan. Now we engage to execute this plan and begin measuring and adjusting as the data and student academic performance reveals. I could write a book on how and what should be done in moving our school district in the right direction. The right direction is moving the needle upward for academic excellence. Academic achievement within our district has been in a downward spiral for the last 10 years! When does this stop? Like many plans, we need to consider other mitigating factors that impede our progress in achieving successful outcomes. Factors such as discipline, violence in the classrooms, drugs in our schools, poverty, busing, outside influences such as politics entering our classrooms, bringing back respect for our teachers, and balancing textbooks with technology. One can surmise that a plan is just a plan, and if we are to aid in addressing other factors to support Dr. Lathan’s Entry Plan, we need to make changes to our school board with new and fresh ideas. This is our opportunity to make that difference and move that needle to improve academic excellence through fostering change and breaking barriers for the future of our kids and community.
Q: A survey of SPS parents and teachers last year found that a majority of parents believed the district’s current staggered start times for their children’s schools were not meeting their needs. Given that the staggered starts are tied to bus driver staffing issues, what is a path forward that works for SPS and parents?
A: First and foremost, my hat’s off to Dr. John Mulford, Deputy Superintendent – Operations for his leadership to address busing issues. Dr. Mulford arrived at SPS in July 2021 and hit the ground running to get ahead of transportation and human resource challenges in staffing transportation. Though busing is a nationwide problem, SPS is not immune to staffing issues and staggering start times for our schools. My assessment is that Dr. Mulford and his team are on the right path to return our transportation and scheduling back to some sense of normalcy. Transportation’s mission is to provide safe, efficient, and economical transportation in which that mission continues. Currently SPS offers an excellent menu of benefits, i.e.:
- Starting pay $20/hour
- Up to $4,000 training incentive
- Paid CDL training
- Paid medical benefits
- Paid holidays
- No nights or weekends
It is my impression that SPS is on the right path and should stay the course. Eventually, we will return to some sense of normalcy or learn to adjust to what might be a new norm to SPS busing.
Q: Teacher staffing is an issue of nationwide concern, at a time when many are retiring earlier in their careers or leaving the profession altogether. What would you do on the school board to encourage teachers to join the SPS system and then to stay there?
A: We must prioritize competitive compensation for educators. SPS made a great move to increase starting pay to $39,946, which is above the state minimum of $38,000. Educator compensation must be evaluated yearly and remain reflective of market conditions. Other retention tools are evaluating teacher satisfaction and the overall culture within SPS. I have spoken to several educators who are overwhelmed by the disciplinary issues and distractions created that impede their ability to transfer knowledge to their students. Reviewing policies from a “bottom up” approach will be a priority. As a board member, I will be listening to evaluate how SPS can best augment staffing needs.
Q: Does the Springfield Public School District need to be run more like a business — why or why not? What role should Board members play in day-to-day operations?
A: There are crossovers between a large organization such as SPS and a large business. SPS employs 3,500 staff members and has operating revenue over $300 million. SPS produces a product, educated graduates, and their success can be measured by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) such as student achievement. Employee retention, budgets and KPIs are all components of running a business. Where SPS differs from a business are “wrap around” services provided; these activities align more with non-profit organizations. The most granular aspect of board operations are budget and policy review. The board’s overall role is to provide support for Dr. Lathan and advocate for SPS through community leaders and legislators. The board plays a vital role in building community support.
Q: If you have school-age children, are they enrolled in the SPS system or are they enrolled in private schools, and why?
A: My wife and I have two well-accomplished sons that are graduates of Kickapoo High School.