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Webster Groves Board of Education Candidate Q and A: Amy Clendennen

Webster Groves Board of Education candidate Amy Clendennen responds to several questions from Kirkwood-Webster Groves Patch.

Editor's note:Kirkwood-Webster Groves Patch sent the following questions to each of the four candidates for the Webster Groves School District Board of Education. Friday we ran responses from candidate and Tuesday we ran responses from candidate . 

Candidates are running for three open spots on the school board. Board members serve three-year overlapping terms. The election is April 5.

Please provide a brief description of your educational and professional background.

I am an attorney for school districts. My firm represents many districts (excluding Webster Groves) in the St. Louis area and across the state. I graduated from Washington University School of Law with honors in 2003. Prior to that, I earned a master’s degree in English from Ball State University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Truman State University.

How long have you lived in the district?

My husband, Andy, and I have lived in the district since 2003. We moved here when our twins, Allee and Owen, were three years old, because we wanted to live in an area with strong public schools.

If you would like to, feel free to provide a brief description of your family and where your children attend, or attended, school?

We enrolled the twins in the , because we wanted them to attend the public school preschool so that we could get involved in the district right away. The twins are now fifth graders at Clark Elementary, and we have a younger daughter, Jensen, who goes to the .

Please provide a brief summary of your reasons for running.

I am deeply committed to public education. I was raised in a family of educators, and I know how dedicated teachers, administrators and staff are to working with our kids. Schools really do make a difference for all children, including those who might not have the opportunities that money and parental involvement provide.

I am extremely grateful for the work the Webster Groves School District does for all kids in this community, including mine. I also believe we are morally obligated as parents and community members to support our schools in any way we can. For me, that means volunteering my time to serve on district committees and, if elected, on the board of education.

I spend my professional time helping school districts solve problems ranging from financial issues, to personnel concerns, to student discipline. Because of this, I know what school boards do, and I know what issues they face. I believe that experience and perspective would be tremendously valuable to the Webster Groves School District and I would be thrilled to help contribute to the district’s success.

What role do you think the Webster Groves Board of Education should play in the community?

Board members should be both listeners and leaders. As someone who is naturally interested in the district’s challenges and successes, I am always excited to talk to people about their experiences in the Webster Groves School District. I love comparing stories with other parents about teachers who have gone above and beyond, or administrators who are trying something new, or staff members who show a personal interest in every kid. I also know people sometimes have concerns or frustrations. It is critical that those concerns are communicated to board members and administrators who will seize the opportunity for improvement.

What do you currently see as the biggest issue facing the district?

The Missouri Supreme Court’s decision in Turner v. School District of Clayton, et al. could significantly impact Webster Groves and all public school districts in the state. The Turner decision essentially holds that students who reside in an unaccredited district can attend any school in any accredited district in the same or an adjoining county, and the unaccredited district must pay tuition to the receiving district. The receiving district has no discretion as to how many students it must accept.

Both St. Louis and Riverview Gardens school districts are unaccredited. The Turner decision permits students who reside in those districts to attend Webster Groves or any other public school in the county, and the receiving district has no discretion as to whether to accept those students or not. There is currently no mechanism to determine how many students a receiving district might receive, or to limit how many students must be accepted. Needless to say, this creates a great deal of uncertainty regarding enrollment, staffing, facilities and, obviously, funding.

There are currently proposals in the state legislature to curtail the effects of the Turner decision, however these “solutions” are being offered in exchange for legislation such as open enrollment and expansion of charter schools, which would negatively impact public schools. Missouri schools face many challenges in the coming years. I worked on the Turner case on behalf of another school district, and I know the state legislative climate well. Now, more than ever, the Webster Groves School District would benefit from having board members who are experienced and knowledgeable about the issues facing our schools.

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

It would not be appropriate to bring an agenda to a board that works well as a group, has moved the district forward in terms of leadership and academic achievement and has earned tremendous community support. I am seeking election because I can contribute to the success the district has already achieved, and I can help guide it through the challenges that lie ahead. I would be proud to serve the Webster Groves School District, and I ask for your vote on April 5.

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