Howell County News/ Amanda Mendez

School board candidates address WS Chamber

The four candidates for the Willow Springs R-IV Board addressed the Willow Springs Chamber of Commerce luncheon last Tuesday. In this race, there are four men seeking the three available seats. Incumbents Adam Webb, Brent Colley, and Matt Hobson are all seeking re-election. Challenger Larry Huitt is also running. 
Each candidate gave a short personal introduction to begin. Adam Webb spoke first. Webb has served on the school board since 2020. He is a lifelong resident of the area and graduate of Willow Springs High School himself. He has also had one son graduate as a Willow Springs Bear and has one stepdaughter who is a freshman. When he was elected, Webb led the ticket with more than forty votes over his closest competitor. He pointed to the development of the district’s Career Training Education (CTE) program during his time on the board. 
Brent Colley spoke next, briefly describing his 42-year career in the school district as a teacher and coach. His three daughters have graduated from the district, and he currently has one grandchild in Willow Springs Schools. Colley said the school board should represent the beliefs of the community. He said their role is to set policy and to hire the superintendent and hold him accountable. Also, mentioning the new CTE program, he said his goal for the students is to for them to lead a successful, productive life after high school. 
Matt Hobson introduced himself as a conservative Christian, who has two kids in the district and whose wife is currently employed there as a teacher. Like Webb, Hobson was also elected in 2020. He currently serves as the Vice President of the School Board. He wants to see the board stay focused on student achievement. Hobson also said voters do not have a bad choice in this election. All four candidates are capable, he said,  but he suggests voters to pray over their choice and asks that they pray for the school board, the school kids, and the teachers. 
Newcomer Larry Huitt spoke last. Huitt says he has a nephew who is a teacher in St. Louis, and the stories he hears about his experiences breaking up fights and confiscating weapons are ills he wants to keep far away from Willow Springs schools. Huitt said he wants graduates to have “real life skills.” For credentials, he gave his service as vice president of the Missouri district of the United States Tennis Association. He says he has a background in sports and that he is retired from a career in the United States Navy where he trained reservists in the medical field. 
After introductions, the floor was open to questions from Chamber members, and the discussion quickly turned to the economic and social hardships a significant number of students face. Colley mentioned the importance of increasing Pre-K attendance as a key factor to increasing students’ success. Hobson mentioned the resources the district does provide to address social issues, but said their impact is limited because the programs are voluntary. Webb agreed, commenting, “Parental involvement has got to be there.”
Webb also pointed out that the school district is very accessible to parents, and the resources are “just a phone call away.”
Huitt suggested that the school board should be actively involved in the community at large and a noticeable presence at social events. “The school board needs to be in your business,” he said.
From there, the conversation turned to the school district’s homeschool community. Specifically, the candidates were commenting on whether the rising popularity of homeschool is a problem or an opportunity for the district. 
Colley jumped in with a statistic that the district loses around ten students per year, and his opinion is that the trend is a national trend, and does not necessarily reflect on the local schools.
Huitt defined it as “an education” for the school board. “What are they doing that we’re not?” he asked. 
Hobson said that competition is a good thing, and that there is no adversarial relationship between the school and the homeschooling community. 
Webb attributed the increase in interest to families’ personal preferences about they way they want their kids to be educated, and he said that Willow Springs schools “holds firm” to good morals.
The school board election will take place on Tuesday, April 4. The three candidates who receive the most votes will take their seats on the board.
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