Thursday, March 31, 2016

SNEA Recommends 2 Board of Education Candidates

Recently, a dedicated member-team devoted 8 hours of their weekend to the important work of screening school board candidates We met with all 5 candidates that are running for the 2 available seats. They are;

Charles Taylor
Alina Lehnert
Allen Kunkel
Michelle Gavel
Melissa Penkalski

Per our established process, each candidate had already completed our questionnaire, so these screening interviews gave us the opportunity to go even deeper into issues that are important to our membership. Time was also given to each candidate so they could ask questions of our team.

As we got to know each candidate it was clear that each one brought strengths to this leadership opportunity. This is a strong field of candidates, which bodes well for the continuing health of our school board.

Ultimately, our team decided to recommend support for 2 candidates;

Charles Taylor and Alina Lehnert

In his interview, Charles Taylor stated, “Teachers should be involved in establishing goals; they are closest to the kids.” He is aware of the underlying socio-economic complexities many students bring to their school experience and the impact that may have on their academic and social success.

In response to a question on the distribution of district resources, Charles responded that if the district can allocate resources that benefit teachers and students, then they, in turn, will benefit the district.
For more information on Charles’ campaign, see Charles Taylor for School Board on Facebook.

Throughout her screening, Alina Lehnert identified herself as a maximizer; a leader who can take things that already work and make them better. She advocates for increased collaboration of teachers and believes that everybody matters, so she is determined to listen to everyone.

She stated in her interview, “I see leaders at all levels; nurses, secretaries, cooks...because they all have influence. Leadership must be developed at all levels.”
For more information on Alina’s campaign, see Alina Lehnert, Public Figure on Facebook.

There are many ways you can support these candidates;
  • Encourage your colleagues, family and friends to vote for them
  • Contribute to their campaigns (see facebook sites)
  • Place signs in your yard (SNEA will have signs at our office)
  • phone bank
SNEA will keep you informed and up to date on more opportunities for you to be involved.

Most importantly, remember to vote on April 5!

A strong, wise, informed board of education will continue to be our partner as we work everyday to serve our community and our students at Springfield Public Schools.

Kittilu Maxson
Springfield NEA President
See the link below for the News-Leader article about SNEA's recommendations;

Monday, November 23, 2015

SNEA Hosts Q & A With Superintendent, Dr. Jungmann and Chief Learning Officer, Dr. Dawson

The Springfield NEA meeting room was packed with interested educators for the November 19 Question & Answer session with Superintendent, Dr. John Jungmann, and Chief Learning Officer, Dr. Mike Dawson. Also in attendance were district CFO/COO, Carol Embree, and Chief Human Resource Officer, Parker McKenna.

Educators representing some 35-40 buildings were in attendance and many presented questions for district leadership. SNEA president, Kittilu Maxson, led the meeting and presented questions on behalf of those who were unable to attend but had sent questions via email.

The meeting opened with brief statements from Dr. Jungmann, who reiterated his support for SPS teachers, crediting his family and caring teachers for having helped guide his path to the position he now holds. Dr. Dawson, who mentioned that he had been an NEA building representative while teaching in California, recognized that he had once been in the same position as the educators in attendance, and he appreciated their work.

For an hour, Dr. Jungmann and Dr. Dawson fielded an assortment of questions that ranged from student attendance policy to district finances. Here are some highlights:

Attendance Policy – A school counselor asked why SPS was one of the few districts in the region that did not have a student attendance policy. Both district leaders spoke to this issue, stating that approximately 88% of the students had 90% attendance or better, and that moving that 12% to have better attendance was the key. Dr. Jungmann noted that establishing consequences for poor attendance didn’t seem to have the desired effect, so the district should look at creating paths, options and programs for student engagement.

Student Behaviors and Alternative Programs – An elementary related arts teacher expressed concerns that many teachers shared regarding escalating student behavior issues. Should the district expand EBS programs or functional skills classrooms? Why did the district cut these programs? Dr. Jungmann noted that neither he nor Dr. Dawson were in the district when those decisions were made, but he did explain that the district is talking with a local mental health provider and that the director of special services is looking at possible options.

Technology – An elementary teacher from a building that has yet to implement iGNITE expressed frustration that her building (600 students) shares 30 PCs on a cart, while unopened new Netbooks sat unused because the IT department apparently has no HP-Certified technicians. Dr. Jungmann explained that the district needed to proceed with “intelligent buying” of Chromebooks rather than purchase devices that are more costly and less efficient to operate (like Netbooks). Dr. Dawson pointed out that as schools are deployed, these issues will be solved in real time. A related question, from a “year one” iGNITE high school teacher, was about inconsistent access to wifi “hot spots” in the building. Dr. Jungmann explained that the Board of Education will be discussing this in December and that these issues need to be fixed.

Summer School – It was pointed out by a summer school teacher that many teachers were reluctant to return for a second year due to the lack of any break or conference times during a long school day. Dr. Jungmann agreed that expanding summer school in such a rapid manner did create some issues that had to be addressed on the fly, and that the district will be looking into adding “specials” to vary the instructional day and provide more flexibility for educators in the schedule.

High School Schedules – A high school counselor raised the issue of inconsistent scheduling at the high schools. This creates a problem for transfer students who may have to delay their graduation due to scheduling conflicts for required classes. It was noted – from the floor – that the district spent a great deal of time addressing this issue a few years ago, and no changes were made. Dr. Dawson stated that 157 students were potentially affected by this issue due to transfers, and Dr. Jungmann explained that there was no current plan to issue an administrative order to change to one schedule plan or the other. After full deployment of iGNITE, the district will take another look at this issue.

Fremont, a Model iGNITE School – Teachers at Fremont were told near the end of last school year that they will be asked to reapply for their teaching positions at Fremont for the 2016-17 school year. This news came as a blow to some teachers who had invested their professional energy into building relationships in this school community. Dr. Jungmann explained that if Fremont “is to be what we hope it to be”, the district needs to be assured that the right people are there. He mentioned that teachers often move to different buildings in order to have the opportunity to grow in a different spot.

Veteran Teachers and Teacher Morale – There were two or three questions related to this topic. Dr. Jungmann recognized the importance of retaining experienced teachers in order to provide consistency and continuity. In response to a query about the sometimes overwhelming pace of change and how it affects teachers, Dr. Jungmann responded that the first year was a fast start to a new initiative and that district leadership will now be a position to offer more support as the shift is made. It was mentioned from the floor that building principals do not always “get it right”, or mix in their own personal ambitions, when implementing directives and new initiatives from district leadership.

District Budget – A teacher asked how the district was paying for all the new technology, building purchases and remodeling. Dr. Jungmann answered that some of the tech purchases came from the existing Bond Fund and the rest will come from the General Fund. Smarter purchasing has made it possible to purchase more devices (Chromebooks) for less than other devices would have cost. The state funding formula, though still under-funded, has increased the last couple of years, and the expansion of summer school has also generated increases in revenue from the state.

This was a lot to pack into one hour of discussion, and we’ve left a few things out. From an SNEA perspective, it was great to see so many dedicated teachers assemble on their own time to discuss and bring forward issues for district leadership to discuss. Typically, presentation of discussion items tend to move in the opposite direction, from administrator to teacher. For this opportunity, SNEA is grateful to Dr. Jungmann and Dr. Dawson for their professionalism and for their willingness to field questions in a wide open forum with SPS educators.

The discussion that followed the departure of Dr. Jungmann and Dr. Dawson was mixed. While the meeting was professional, cordial and provided some meaningful insights into how the administration views our district and the work of its teachers, many in attendance felt that specific answers to questions were somewhat elusive. Perhaps it was the constraints of time that limited the expansion of responses regarding some of the issues raised.

From an SNEA perspective, the sight of a crowded room of teachers attending a meeting on their own time was a thing of beauty. A sincere thank you to all who attended and contributed. We hope to sponsor similar events in the future and are always open to ideas from our members.

On a related note, SNEA will soon be entering into negotiations with the district regarding the 2016-17 contract for teachers, counselors and librarians. The bargaining team will be holding preliminary planning meetings in coming weeks. Be reminded that virtually every proposal SNEA makes at the bargaining table comes from educators like you, so please keep the lines of communication open.

The next SNEA meeting – December 10 – will be held from 4-5:45 at Big Whiskey’s on Battlefield. This will be our SNEA/Holiday Happy Hour with beginning appetizers provided and Happy Hour drinks on your own. Please drop in and celebrate with your SNEA friends.
Kittilu Maxson, SNEA- in collaboration with Ray Smith, MNEA


Wednesday, October 21, 2015

An Interesting Model of Tech Integration & Instructional Coaching at a PA High School

Take a look at this  YouTube video from Edutopia.

There were 2 intriguing take-aways for me.

1. The HS Principal stated that the instructional coach works "off the bell" and has no mandated time to meet with teachers. He is available when they need him.

2. The Instructional Coach models his work by stating that the idea comes before the technology. Educators should begin with the instructional goals and competencies the students need to explore and then choose the technology component that will best enhance those goals.

Please post your comments.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

  Springfield NEA Recommends School Board Candidates

Springfield NEA’s school board committee, composed of volunteer SNEA members, recently completed an extensive interview process for school board candidates and has issued the following three recommendations for the April 7 election (in alphabetical order):

Jill Patterson
Francine Pratt
Bruce Renner

Jill Patterson

Springfield educators are quite familiar with Jill Patterson as the face and voice on mandated reported training videos over the years. Her considerable experience working on behalf of abused and neglected children in our community was a strong factor in her decision to run for the school board and in SNEA’s recommendation. Patterson served as a prosecuting attorney with Greene County for 15 years. She has served on numerous boards relating to education and child advocacy. Governor Nixon appointed Patterson to the Child Abuse and Neglect Review Board in 2013. She has worked as a debate coach and has volunteered for numerous school-related activities, including PTA and Early Childhood tutoring. Ms. Patterson is the only candidate with children who currently attend Springfield Public Schools. SNEA believes she will make an outstanding school board member.

Francine Pratt

Francine Pratt is currently the Executive Director for Multicultural Programs at Missouri State University and was formerly Program Coordinator for Drury University’s Scholars Program as well as Executive Director for Isabel’s House, the Crisis Nursery of the Ozarks. Pratt also has served on the advisory committee for OTC Middle School program as part of a long list of civic activities and leadership. Ms. Pratt worked as a mentor in all five Springfield high schools to develop college preparedness for diverse students and is quite familiar with Springfield schools, having worked with many teachers, counselors, school nurses and principals. Pratt’s extensive civic activism leaves her uniquely qualified to serve on the school board.

Bruce Renner

Nobody knows the Springfield school district better than Bruce Renner, who has served for 21 years on the board of education. Renner has seen five superintendents come and go over the span of his volunteer work on the school board, and he has never lost his passion for making Springfield Schools a better place to teach and learn. SNEA knows firsthand through years of experience working with Renner that there is no stronger advocate for public education, teachers and students. He is considered the board’s in-house archivist, and he’s particularly adverse to watching the district repeat mistakes it has made in the past – nor is he adverse to speaking up about it. Renner graduated from Parkview High School and worked as a teacher and counselor at Central and Parkview before becoming Director of Admissions and Dean of Student Services at OTC. He currently teaches part-time at OTC. Some board members may become complacent with longevity, but such is not the case with Renner. SNEA heartily recommends another term for this dedicated educator.

Other Candidates

Patricia Ann Ingold

Patricia Ingold is making her first run for public office after being asked to run by friends in the community. She has taught in private and public schools in Virginia, California and Missouri and offers strong support for teachers. She currently works as a property manager. Ingold expressed concerns about the public schools asking parents and families to abandon their values. She also expressed concerns about top down social engineering by the government through public schools.

Swayne Loftis

Swayne Loftis chose not to participate in the SNEA interview process, but he did submit a partial questionnaire. Loftis was in the news last year, when he attempted to be on the school board ballot but did not submit enough valid signatures. At that time, he raised serious questions about the integrity of the process and those who counted the signatures. This year, Loftis is on the ballot. He describes himself as a conservative contractor working on contract with the US Forest Service and Missouri Department of Conservation. Loftis says that, as a board member, he would never tolerate any curriculum, teacher, or administrator to pressure or bully a child to sin against Almighty God in any way.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How Can You Help a Fellow Member?


Dear SNEA members,

I am writing to you to ask for your help for a fellow MNEA member and a friend of mine.

My friend, Lori Zanitsch from Special School District, is in need of raising S25, 000 for a service animal- a DAD?

What is a DAD you ask?

A Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) is trained to alert their handlers when the sugar is 80 and below or 180 and above. The dogs start training when they are 7-8 weeks old. The DAD will alert me or do "go tells". This is when the diabetic does not check their sugar or ignores the DAD; the Diabetic Alert Dog will go and find someone else to tell that the diabetic is not testing. The DADs will go and retrieve the meter bag, juice box, or other needed item. The DADs will go with the diabetic to any public place (if the public is allow by federal law so are Service Dogs). This includes work and school. If for some reason the diabetic has to be admitted into the hospital the DADs are able to stay by their side and alerting to sugar lows and highs.

Why does Lori need a DAD? Doesn’t she have a service animal?

Yes, Lori has a cat-Cosmo. He has been her service animal for many years. In October she felt a lump on Cosmo.  After surgery was performed and a biopsy completed it was determined that he had Feline Vaccine Associated Sarcoma.  The vaccines he was given during the summer had created the cancer.  1% of all cats vaccinated get this type of cancer.  This type of cancer does not respond well to typical cancer treatments so now he is going to have his leg amputated.  This is not a decision that Lori wanted to make but Cosmo has saved her life so many times it is now time to save his. Therefore she must replace him as her service animal.

How can I help?

Contact Melissa Albright at 417-343-2120, email or stop by the SNEA office purchase to raffle tickets for a 32 inch color TV. Tickets are:  1 ticket for $5 or 5 tickets for $20.

The drawing is Jan. 31.

Please act now. I would love for an SNEA member to win! But better yet, you will be helping a fellow member.

If you would prefer to donate and receive a tax deduction go to the following site and donate:

The best part about being an MNEA member is that we are family and family helps family. I hope I can count on you to help fellow member and friend Lori Zanitsch.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Springfield NEA is Proud of the Accomplishments of Our Highly Qualified, Educator-Members

Please click on the links below to read about 2 of our colleagues who have achieved National Board Certification and continue to grow as recognized leaders in their disciplines. Congratulations to Dr. Melissa Albright, who also serves locally on our Executive Board and to Lisa Lilley.

Monday, October 27, 2014

 A Word of Encouragement

To coincide with the most recent, education-profession-bashing, article in Time Magazine, I think it is important to send a clear message to all of you who have committed your lives and careers to positively impact the lives of your students on a daily basis.

It is too often a thankless task. I know that a majority of our members are elementary teachers and they are setting aside each afternoon this week and one really long evening, to meet with the parents of each of their students. Those conversations will be unique; pointing out the learning styles, strengths and challenges of every student. Each conference will be a living example of the 'Learning is Personal' vision our district strives to achieve.

Do you get the impression I could go on and on?

Thanks to the debate coaches, whose students engage in relevant, critical thinking at every turn.

Kudos to the vocal, instrumental and visual arts teachers who consistently provide opportunities for their students to engage in 'the arts' as a daily way of looking at and understanding the world around them.

A shout out goes to science teachers who use current events and ongoing projects like the Nautilus, deep-sea exploration to inspire their students to ask questions and to test theories.

Much gratitude goes to athletic coaches, of all sports, who foster a healthy understanding in their athletes about what it really means to participate as a team member and to work together toward a common goal.

Each of us knows that many of our students wouldn't come to school at all if these opportunities weren't available to them. It is the dedication and expertise of our educators that keeps many students involved in school each day.

Please know that it would have been easy to keep on writing; listing the amazing ways that counselors, nurses, librarians and all of you meet the needs of the students in our community.

Thank you!

Kittilu Maxson
Springfield NEA President