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Rockwood Board Candidates No-Show But One

Saturday was the last Rockwood board of education candidates' forum, but only one candidate participated. Summary of each of four candidates at bottom of article.

Two director seats on the Board of Education will be decided during the April 3 election, due to the three-year terms of directors Peggy Devoy and Geoff Rigabar expiring. .

Four candidates are running for the two spots.

A fifth candidate, , filed but withdrew from the race in January. Rigabar was selected by board of education directors in November to fill the position left open by Matthew Fitzpatrick, who resigned in October.

Rockwood Stakeholders for Real Solutions, a self-proclaimed watchdog group of the district and coalition of non-partisan taxpayers, hosted three candidates' forums last month. The first one was held March 3 at The Pointe in Ballwin. See related Patch article: . Three of the four candidates attended the first RS for RS forum:  Sherri Rogers, Jennifer Kelly and William "Bill" Brown. Candidates' profile summaries follow at the end of this article.

Rogers and Kelly also attended the second forum held by RS for RS mid-month in the Valley Park/Manchester area. However, Kelly was the only candidate to participate in the last RS for RS forum held Saturday in . Approximately 20 people were present.

RS for RS organizers said Saturday that candidate Victor Hieken "was in tax season." Rogers told Patch that her mother had just had surgery, and now was dealing with complications, which prevented her from attending.

Organizers also said Brown had "declined" to attend the forum, however an email exchange between him and RS for RS co-founder, Eileen Tyrrell, after the forum Saturday indicated a bit different perspective. Tyrrell wrote:  "You are missing such an opportunity to enage these citizens one on one. These are taxpayers who want change and need to understand the issues facing their district. Our Board members represent ALL taxpayer and need to have conversations with them. RS for RS and myself personally will continue strife to get these taxpayers engage and part of the decision making process. No matter what the results are Tuesday evening, ALL STAKEHOLDERS must be included and we all have to work together."

Brown wrote back:  "I am saddened by your email. At our first meeting I informed you that my campaign was all about the type of inclusion you describe. Your message illustrates the reasons for my not attending your group's forums after I was misled by you as spokesperson. Today, that is why I chose not to participate. I cannot and will not give much sympathy to a group or person that has as a stated goal creating STRIFE in a district I love and respect. I have two suggestions:  1. Choose a more effective spokesperson and 2. Change your goal to end STRIFE and work for solutions. Perhaps if those are not appropriate, you should change the name of your organization to Rockwood Strife Creators, Who needs Solutions? I personally prefer solutions over STRIFE."

Tyrrell then apologized, stating in a subsequent email:  "My sincerest apologies for typing the wrong word!! Goes to show you my fat thumbs are not always the best communicators. Of course it was meant to be 'as we strive...'. Many district officials and Board Directors know, through our conversations, and the solution reports presented to them, that RS for RS is working towards real solutions to the real issues facing our district."

Brown did have an identified supporter at the forum Saturday, sitting in the front row, taking notes.

For additional candidates' forum information, see Patch coverage of a on March 6.

Kelly told Patch just before the forum she thought a "great awakening" was occurring within the Rockwood district. "Rockwood parents were always aware, but empty nesters and parents of private school students now are really paying attention to what's happening in Rockwood."

She said she had a chance last week to sit down with Rockwood Superintendent Bruce Borchers to go through many detailed items. "He has great intentions and cares as much as we do about the students," she said. "The budget is a tough nut to crack, but it's a process and we're going to get there. Our (U.S.) economy has changed the way we must do things."

Kelly, who said her father was her motivator and catalyst for getting involved with community volunteerisum, said she was committed to transparency and accountability, if elected to the board.

The first question from the audience was about Kelly's stance on , a measure that also will be on the April 3 ballot. "Since 1993, bonds have been passed for Rockwood. We're in $295 million debt already. It's kinda' exhausting. My family made the choice to send our children to private schools, and the private schools have to keep up with what Rockwood does and compete with it," she said.

Kelly said she thought the $43 million requested through Proposition R was "a lot." She said she believed too much of the district's maintenance funding was wrapped up in these tax measures, and that those type of expenses really should be a part of the district's operating expenses. She also said she would not be voting for Proposition R.

Editor's Note:  For more details about Saturday's candidates' forum, come back for a second article. Board candidates follow in the order of filings and as their names will appear on the ballot.

PROFILE SUMMARY FOR CANDIDATE VICTOR HIEKEN

  • Life-long resident of Missouri and graduate of Southeast Missouri State University. Resides in Ellisville.
  • Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Fraud Examiner.
  • Managing director for UHY Advisors, a national tax and business consulting firm. 
  • Six children, two of which are Rockwood graduates and four who currently attend Rockwood schools.
  • Stated he realizes Rockwood has a responsibility to everyone it touches.
  • Thinks his experiences as a student, parent and business professional will add a resource to the Board. 

PROFILE SUMMARY FOR CANDIDATE SHERRI ROGERS

  • Lived in Rockwood for 12 years with two children enrolled in the district. Resides in Chesterfield.
  • Earned a bachelor''s degree from Southeast Missouri State University and a master's degree from Saint Louis University with emphases in Finance and Accounting.
  • 20-plus years of experience working in finance, accounting, operations management, human resources, and employee and customer relations. 
  • More than 10 years in small business and five in corporate finance.
  • Stated Rockwood has a long history of success, but the district should always strive to improve. 
  • Outlined student success, teacher support and fiscal responsibility would be her priority.
  • Experience working with diverse individuals.

PROFILE SUMMARY FOR CANDIDATE JENNIFER KELLY

  • Four children, three of which attend ; oldest child will be a freshman at next year. 
  • Relocated from Cleveland, OH, to Chesterfield three years ago; she is a St. Lawrence the Martyr and Pattonville High School alumnus. 
  • Completed her bachelor's degree at Missouri University in 1995 and a master's degree from the University of Akron in 2000.
  • Served as an Army officer and worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs for 10 years; resigned as a division level manager last summer to focus on family and volunteer in the community.
  • Stated her goals are to represent all stakeholders and to make the most fiscally sound budget decisions for the entire district with a long-term vision in mind.

PROFILE SUMMARY FOR CANDIDATE WILLIAM "BILL' BROWN

  • Rockwood graduate; four children who also graduated from  and two grandchildren presently attending Rockwood schools. Currently resides in .
  • Earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education from Southeast Missouri State and a master's degree in education from Southwest Baptist University.
  • Taught for 30-plus years in the Missouri public school system and served Rockwood on numerous committees and other volunteer positions.
  • Teach currently at Saint Louis University High School and serves as a Question Leader at the Advanced Placement/U.S. Government and Politics Grading.
  • Stated he encourages his students to become involved citizens in the community and is trying to repay Rockwood for what it has done for him.

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