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Meet the Board of Education Candidates

Seven eager candidates hope to lead Ladue in the right direction.

Leslie+Tolliver+responds+to+a+question+that+was+posed+by+the+audience.+
Leslie Tolliver responds to a question that was posed by the audience.

Leslie Tolliver responds to a question that was posed by the audience.

Photo by Max Baker

Photo by Max Baker

Leslie Tolliver responds to a question that was posed by the audience.

Cindy Wang, Writer

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Many concerned students and families attended the Meet The Board of Education Candidates conference Mar. 27. In the cafeteria, teachers, principals, substitutes and students wrote questions for the candidates.

Andy Bresler, Carolyn Jaeger and Steve Spratt terms will end in April which will open up three spots on the Ladue’s Board of Education. The seven candidates running for the positions attended the meeting to discuss their plans for the district. Incumbents Andy Bresler and Carolyn Yaeger are running for reelection.

The candidates other candidates are Kisha Lee, Lolita Flinn, Patrick Coughlin, Chris Zoellner and Leslie Tolliver.

The conference was organized and moderated by the Ladue Speech and Debate Team.  Aramis Rickey and Edward Wu facilitated the discussion while students Patrick Naughton and Levi Dyson organized the questions from the audience. The candidates gave opening and closing statements and had one minute to answer each question.

From questions about the achievement gap between students and Ram days, the candidates all provided eloquent responses on what they would do as board members to fix all problems.

The first candidate to speak, Kisha Lee, is a passionate and persistent woman who is firmly set on improving the lives and educations of Ladue students.  Lee wants to make sure that all decisions are made in an “equitable fashion,” and so that all families and students are treated equally.  Lee believes that all students should be given equal opportunity despite race, gender and sexual orientation.

“[Transgender students] like all other students who enter our building deserve to be respected and protected while in the walls of our school district,” Lee said. “[I want to] make sure that all these students feel safe and are able to get an equal quality of education.”

The second candidate, Andy Bresler, the current Vice-President in the Board of Education, is a very experienced and well-put-together man who wishes to continue to improve the school’s finances and maintain equal opportunities for all students.  When asked about prioritizing the school’s reputation while making decisions about controversial issues, Bresler stated that the students were the main concern.

“Sometimes [issues] are popular, sometimes not popular, and sometimes they’re popular with some people but not with others,” Bresler said. “In my experience, the best thing to do is to think of what’s right for the students, and then what’s right for the district.”

After Bresler, Carolyn Jaeger, another board member running reelection, spoke to the audience. Jaeger has served on many committees within the Ladue district including the Ladue Education Foundation Board. Jaeger believes that a secure environment is something the board should be sure to provide.

“We want [the district] to be an environment free from bullying and discrimination,” Jaeger said. “We have to create the culture of tolerance and respect… every child deserves to walk in the building and receive the same valuable education.”

Then, Chris Zoellner, a statistical real-estate businessman wants to address the rapidly expanding student population. Zoellner also believes that the school must ensure the student’s confidence in the school and district.

“[We] have to set expectations, historically, we’ve seen in society, that if women or our students here aren’t confident to have a place to go and report it, the consequences are tremendous,” Zoellner said. “[We need for students] to be confident and be able to have a place to go to report.”

The fifth candidate to speak, Lolita Flinn, hopes to improve diversity and inclusion in the district.  In a response to a question about the achievement gap between students, Flinn stated that there may be implicit bias that restricts students from having equal opportunity.

“[Our solution] would be to properly train our staff and administrators. To train them in diversity and equity and inclusion issues, and also to train the Board and anyone who is going to have interactions with our students on a daily basis,” Flinn said.  “We have to make sure the opportunities are equal for all students in the district.”

The subsequent candidate, Leslie Tolliver is a concise, clear speaker who is passionate about giving students equal opportunity and opening up the district to more input from all student families.  Tolliver hopes to use her experience as an attorney to ensure equal education for all Ladue students.

“Some of the tension that we have experienced is learned at home, and we can’t legislate that,” Tolliver said. “But here as school board members, it is our responsibility to teach tolerance and love within the district doors here.”

And the final candidate, Patrick Coughlin, hopes to continue and expand all education while maintaining a high quality and equitable education for all students.  When asked for his stance on fostering the arts in education, Coughlin revealed that his children were all involved within the arts at the district.

“Art, theater and choir should have the same seat at the table as STEM because for kids that’s something they can get passionate about and there is a future in that,” Coughlin said. “It’s hard, but so are a lot of other topics, it’s just part of a curriculum and should receive the same treatment as other courses.”

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Meet the Board of Education Candidates