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Lindbergh School Board: Sartorius and Weiss

Joseph Sartorius and Leslie J. Weiss respond to a questionnaire about their candidacies for the school board. The election is April 5. This is part two of three.

Editor's note: A questionnaire was sent to each of the six candidates for the Lindbergh School District Board of Education. Here are the responses from Joseph Sartorius and Leslie J. Weiss.

Candidates are running for three open spots on the school board. Terms last three years. The election is April 5.

JOSEPH SARTORIUS

Age: 51

Address: 10315 Grants Forest Lane, St. Louis

Occupation: Assistant Professor of Education Graduate Studies

Education: Ph.D. St. Louis University

Family: Wife, Ellen, and children, Andrew (in law school at UMKC), Emily (teacher in Wentzville), Madeline (senior at LHS), Ben (sophomore at LHS) and Hannah (eighth grade at Sperreng).

Years lived in the Lindbergh District: 43

Background/Experience: I am a 1978 Graduate of Lindbergh High School attending all 12 years in the Lindbergh School District. I was privileged to serve the district as principal of Sappington Elementary School for 15 years and one year as the director of student services. Community involvement activities include: Governor’s Council on Disabilities; chairman Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Special Education Advisory Panel; chairman Missouri Task Force for Blind Student Academic and Vocational Performance; board member of Delta Gamma Center for Visually Impaired Children; Missouri State Teachers Association; Boy Scouts of America, scoutmaster and membership chairman, Gravois Trails District Committee; commission member of the Claire Gempp Davidson Memorial Conservation Area; president of Crestwood-Sunset Hills Kiwanis; and coach in the Lindbergh Athletic Association.

Reasons for running: Since retiring with the Missouri Public School Retirement System I have attempted to give back to kids, the community and to the education profession. I feel my background, experience and leadership will benefit the Lindbergh School District.

What do you currently see as the biggest issue facing the Lindbergh School District?

Academically we need to help all of our students achieve and find the resources to continue to attract quality professionals and be responsible to our citizens.

How would you address the continuing uncertainty over state funding for schools?

Lindbergh will need to watch and be active in discussions on school funding to keep as much of our local tax dollars here in our school district. We are a hold harmless district which means money we pay to Missouri for education does not all come back to our schools. We must keep aware of legislation and other measures that would siphon money from our local district and send it elsewhere. 

In what areas does the Lindbergh School District need to improve? Are you satisfied with the way the district has been operating?

Lindbergh has focused on buildings and the infrastructure of the district. I feel the students and the professional staff could benefit from the same focus. More specifically we need to assure all students can benefit from the education they receive and teachers are supported and provided necessary resources to continue the process of education.

Assume you win the election. What single thing do you want to accomplish during your three years on the board?

I have always felt that parents, community members and educators working together to help each child be successful is my primary goal. Providing leadership to foster this partnership will provide a key foundation for student learning and an exemplary school district.

LESLIE J. WEISS

Age: 45

Address: 10757 Roanna Lane, Sunset Hills

Occupation: Volunteer at Lindbergh schools, Concord Trinity United Methodist Church and St. Catherine Laboure Athletic Association

Education: Graduate of the University of Missouri, St. Louis, Master of Education degree in Secondary Education Reading and graduate of Eastern Illinois University, Bachelor of Arts in English

Family: Married for 20 years to Lance Weiss, (Class of 1981) and three children: Kelly, a junior at Lindbergh High School; Conner, an Eighth Grader at Sperreng Middle School; and Kara, a Fourth Grader  at Truman Elementary School.

Years lived in the district: 20

Background and Community Involvement:

Lindbergh Activities

  • 2010 Yes for Prop L Campaign Co-chair
  • 2010-2011 Middle School Redesign Committee
  • 2009-present Spirit Festival Steering Committee
  • 2010 Budget Reduction Committee
  • 2010 & 2011 Lindbergh Leader Selection Committee
  • 2009 Lindbergh Leader Award Recipient
  • 2009 Controversial Issues Task Force
  • 2002 & 2007 Missouri School Improvement Program Committee
  • 2006 & 2009 Principal Search Committee, Truman Elementary
  • 2007 & 2009 Assistant Principal Search Committee, Truman Elementary

Concord Trinity United Methodist Church Activities

  • Vision Team
  • Sunday school teacher
  • Children’s Education Committee
  • Liturgist

Former Occupation

  • 7th and 8th grade English teacher, Brentwood Middle School
  • Additional School Instructor, Sappington Elementary School

Reasons for running: I am a passionate advocate of public education, especially the way Lindbergh does education. As noted above, I have a degree in education, I taught 7th and 8th grade English for several years, and I volunteer extensively in the Lindbergh Schools. I have a very good grasp of Lindbergh’s elementary, middle and high school programming. I love working for kids and classrooms and I would welcome the opportunity to do so as a board of education member.

What do you currently see as the biggest issue facing the Lindbergh School District?

The biggest issue is the smooth and successful transition to two middle schools and to the realigned elementary schools (implementation of the district’s new boundaries). A significant percentage of the district’s teachers and staff will be moving to new buildings, new grade levels, and/or new subjects for the fall of 2011. Approximately 850 elementary students and 700 middle school students will be in a new school in the fall (Those numbers do not include students moving up into 6th grade and 9th grade). Transition activities aimed at making this challenging process as smooth as possible will need to be designed and implemented. As teachers, staff, students, and families begin to take pride and ownership in their new schools, learning can then be the primary focus of the school community.

How would you address the continuing uncertainty over state funding for schools?

Addressing the continuing uncertainty over state funding for Lindbergh Schools should be considered with the following in mind:

  • Lindbergh Schools gets 90 percent of its operating revenue from local sources.  Less than 10 percent of operating revenue comes from the state.
  • The passage of Prop L in the fall of 2010 gives Lindbergh Schools a much better position to handle fluctuating state revenue than many other districts.
  • If state funding does fall in the near future, cutting expenses that would have the least impact on student learning would be recommended.

In what areas does the Lindbergh School District need to improve? Are you satisfied with the way the district has been operating?

  • Level of cash reserves–The district’s level of reserves has been spent down to offset the $14 million cumulative loss in revenue the district has seen in the last three years. Building the reserves back up to a more comfortable level to avoid borrowing money to cover expenses at the end of the calendar year is vital.
  • Lack of commensurate pay for teachers–The district lags behind our benchmark districts in offering commensurate pay for teachers.
  • Class size–Core curriculum classes at the middle school level could reach 29 students in the 2011-12 school year. The last two Missouri School Improvement Program Committees found that smaller class sizes were a high priority for the Lindbergh community

I am very satisfied in the way the district has been operating.  Dr. Simpson, his central office cabinet, and the board of education have steered the district well during difficult times of expanding student population and shrinking revenue.  Remarkably during these difficult times, the Lindbergh School District was ranked #1 in the state of Missouri.

Assume you win the election. What single thing do you want to accomplish during your three years on the board?

Teachers are the lifeblood of the district. If elected, I would work diligently toward attracting and maintaining the best teaching staff possible. To meet that goal, the district would need to find ways (without adding any additional tax burden to the community) to pay teachers commensurate salaries to those of our benchmark districts.

Right now, based on DESE statistics for total average teacher salary for 2010, Lindbergh ranks fifth of the seven benchmark districts (those being Lindbergh, Mehlville, Kirkwood, Rockwood, Parkway, Pattonville and Webster Groves) that compete for teaching talent in St. Louis County area. Without commensurate pay, Lindbergh will be hard-pressed to attract great teachers. Without commensurate pay, Lindbergh Schools will lose great teachers to those higher-paying districts. My goal would be to move Lindbergh’s total average teacher salary into the top half of the benchmark districts.

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