Thank you for the opportunity to once again address the JNEA and continue the dialogue we started last year when the JNEA supported my campaign for a one-year seat on the Joplin Board of Education. I am hopeful the JNEA found my service to the school district worthy of its ongoing support as I make a bid this time for a three-year seat. As you know, my name is Jennifer Martucci. I live at 3824 Red Fox Circle, Joplin, MO 64804. My cell phone number is 417-540-3538; my email address is email@example.com. By way of background, my husband, Patrick, and I have been married for 25 years. Together we have 4 children; Chris, a freshman at Ashland University in Ashland, OH; Meagan, a senior at Joplin High School; Caroline, an 8th grader at Thomas Jefferson; and Marisa, a 5th grader at Thomas Jefferson. We moved to Joplin 15 years ago and are proud to call this community our home.
I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Nutrition with an emphasis on Health and Wellness from Kaplan University in 2010. My professional experience includes 11 years of combined years working for Stanford University, Fresno Community College, and Clovis Unified School District. In these positions I developed a broad range of experience in all fields of education from curriculum development, budgeting, human resources, grants and contracts management, accreditation and state compliance reviews, facilities acquisitions, and procurement. My background in education has well prepared me to make sound, sensible decisions for Joplin Schools.
As a member of the Joplin Community, my civic involvement includes a seven-year term on the Joplin Swim Team Board of Directors where I served as member, President, and Past President. I am a current member of the Joplin City Parks Board. I have been Vacation Bible School Director at St. Mary’s Catholic
Church, volunteer coach for various sports at the Joplin Family Y, and I assist Johnson, Vorhees & Martucci with addressing the needs of children in our community by organizing distribution of winter hats and sweatshirts to area school districts.
In support of Joplin Schools, I have participated in the classroom as a room parent, math tutor, and teacher aide. I currently serve as a member of the Board of Education and committee member on the Policy Committee and the Data Team. I contributed to the Snack Pack program at Cecil Floyd for two and a half
years. This year I worked with the district to offer healthier foods to our students. I have represented the Cecil Floyd community on several district committees for facilities and the bond issue. I served as Treasurer for the
JHS Athletic Booster Club for the past two years, organizing the Senior Powder Puff Game last year and the
Sports sign up/Physical activity. I was instrumental in starting a Men’s Swim Team at JHS in 2012, which has grown into a strong program over the past few years.
Turning now to the questions posed by JNEA regarding my desire to serve on the Board of Education:
1) What factors led you to decide to run for the school board?
The education of my four children is extremely important to me. In the past several years, I have grown increasingly concerned with the District’s direction and my inability as a parent to advocate for my children with the district administration. Teacher morale has been at an all time low owing in part
to the district leadership’s failure to provide the needed level of support. I do not believe the district is working with a realistic budget, and its financial stability is too dependent on the outside chance FEMA delivers additional funding. The district needs to be better stewards of the money taxpayers entrust to it. As a school Board member I will continue my mission of refocusing our district on 1) standards of high student achievement, 2) preparing college and career ready graduates, 3) being the employer of choice with high retention of quality teachers, 4) earning high patron/parent/student satisfaction, and
5) financial stability and responsibility.
2) How do you see the quality of education for Joplin students when compared to surrounding districts?
Do you believe the quality of education provided for Joplin students is improving?
When I look at data comparing Joplin Schools to surrounding districts, I see we have the largest class sizes, lowest math scores, and the lowest number of experienced teachers. This tells me we need a stronger curriculum to raise math scores, need to increase teacher retention so that we keep strong, experienced teachers educating our students, and need to hire more teachers to improve our student to teacher ratio. To improve the quality of education in Joplin, we need to address student behavior, overuse of technology, and lack of clear direction in curriculum. Students require supervision, guidance, discipline, and structure in order to learn effectively. As a district, we need to 1) allow teachers time for class preparation along with support from the district; 2) encourage teacher feedback
and collaboration, with initiatives that are driven from the teachers; 3) use less technology and more student-driven instruction methods; and 4) emphasize quality of education over graduation rates. I see Joplin Schools making strides toward this improvement, but we still have a long way to go.
Students must learn to be accountable for their behavior starting at the elementary level. Investing in their own success through the choices they make will make a discernable difference in how kids learn.
If we can make these topics a priority in our district, we will truly place the educational needs of our students first.
3) What are the critical issues currently facing the Joplin school district? How would you prioritize these?
Finances are always a concern, especially when the district is so dependent on being reimbursed for money already spent. Right now the district is facing a June, 2016 deadline to payback loans, but we are unsure if FEMA reimbursements will come through to meet that deadline. Timely receipt of FEMA funds is therefore a major concern for the district’s financial stability. Other issues for student success include achievement in terms of not only test scores but actual student readiness, both academically and behaviorally, for the next level of learning. Pushing kids through without the fundamentals and
basics they need to be successful does them a disservice. Empowering and supporting teachers to provide the structure and discipline needed to promote high achievement is an area of concern. We
continue to lose good quality, experienced teachers because of a lack of support from the district leadership. As we work to improve in these areas, I see us commonly taking one step forward and two steps back. Strides are being made toward improvement. All of these issues are intertwined in their
importance to the success of the school district. If our finances are not stable, then we do not have the resources we need to properly compensate our staff and provide quality learning for our students. As the current board works on the strategic planning, these will be my top priorities.
4) In a district with financial constraints, how would you prioritize the following items (1-12)?
1. Salaries & Benefits (maintaining or increase)
2. Curriculum Development
3. Financial Reserve
4. Class Size
5. Equitable teacher plan time and workload
6. Professional Development
7. Existing extra- and co-curricular program
8. New Programs
9. Reducing local tax burden
10. Building and Grounds
5) What factors do you feel will attract and retain a quality teaching staff for Joplin Schools?
Factors I feel will attract and retain quality teachers in Joplin Schools include:
1) Equality in pay to neighboring districts. Joplin has the highest percentage of teachers with advanced degrees yet we continue to be one of the lowest paying districts in the area. There is a vast disparity between the ranking of our teachers and our district leadership compared to other districts in the State of Missouri. Offering more competitive salaries will go a long way in attracting and retaining the high quality teachers our students deserve.
2) Support of teachers. By providing clear and concise objectives in the classroom and providing access to interventions when students are not reaching grade level standards, teachers will feel supported with clear direction. Discipline is also a huge area of support that our district lacks and I often hear from teachers. Having administrators who have your back goes a long way in instilling discipline and structure in the classroom.
3) Allow teachers to teach. This can be effectively accomplished by reducing the administrative demands placed on teachers, which should be shouldered by the administration and provide a stronger academic curriculum. In the last year the Board attempted to relieve some of the burden of testing on both teachers and students to provide better and more instructional time. Finding the balance between instruction and assessment is always a struggle, however, teachers go into the field of teaching because they are passionate about learning, not testing. When teachers are given the tools to teach and left to do what they do best, they can build relationships with their students and enhance the learning experience, making their jobs much more rewarding. Feeling accomplished and appreciated through the success of their students will give teachers the desire to stay In Joplin Schools.
6) What are your thoughts in comparing Joplin teacher salaries to those in surrounding districts and in other parts of the state? Do you favor a tax levy election campaign that would focus on competitive salaries to attract and retain quality educators in Joplin?
Joplin schools teachers are the lowest paid compared to neighboring districts, and according to the DESE website Joplin teachers make $7000 less per year than the state average. In comparing these two points, it is not surprising that many talented teachers are leaving our district to go elsewhere. I do not believe a tax levy is the answer. My feeling is that unfortunately, voters have lost confidence in the district’s ability to manage taxpayer money and would not likely support such an effort. I do feel, however, that it is the district’s responsibility to find the money in our current budget constraints to increase our teacher salaries to more competitive rates. I believe the district over-utilizes General Fund monies on programs which should be grant funded. By requiring programs to be grant funded, this would free up sustainable funds in the Operating Budget for salaries. In my opinion, the JNEA’s representation of the teachers and position with the collective bargaining process will help in this regard.
7) How do you view the respective roles of the school board, administration and employees in determining the future direction of Joplin Schools?
Working collectively toward a common goal of student success takes that cooperation and input of
everyone involved who impact student learning. In order to offer an exceptional education and develop the best vision for our district, employees, administration and the school board must work as equals to accomplish this. Teachers and staff who interact with the kids on a daily basis witness the struggles and obstacles that children face and are able to make suggestions as to interventions needed
to overcome these. These can include personal needs, educational interventions, or overall school related issues that need to be addressed by educational programs, services, or building projects. It is the job of the administration to bring together the community, parents, employees and board members to work to address these issues and make a plan for the future that can be implemented to move the district forward in a manner that not only meets but exceeds the needs of our community and students. The school board has the role of making policies and decisions that support this vision and holding the administration accountable for implementing the plan.
8) How important are student standardized test scores in determining the success of Joplin Schools?
How much of a percentage should student test scores be in the evaluation of teachers?
Standardized tests are one of the many indicators the State Department of Education can use to compare our students and district to other districts across the state and with Common Core, across the nation. Standardized tests only show a small snapshot of how well a student was able to navigate and take the test on any given particular day. They do not reflect the amount of learning that child has had over the course of the school year, nor the impact the teacher may have had on that student. Our instructional time has been limited because of an inordinate number of assessments required by the administration. I am hopeful that this is improving, but still puts an undue burden on teachers to meet standards that have not yet even been set yet. I feel that student test scores should be considered as a small part of a teacher’s evaluation, which should be more heavily weighed with professional commitment, professional practice and professional impact based on classroom observation, parent/student satisfaction and supervisor input.
9) What is your opinion of the Competency Grading system for elementary students?
Just as kids need concrete information to learn, they need concrete information on how they are learning and progressing. The competency based grading system in our elementary schools is too isolated with regard to skills. I have very competitive kids who understand that 90% is an A, 80% is a B, etc. The competency based grading is too subjective and not grounded in any concrete information. A child can completely master a subject, but if they don’t give the exact answer that the teacher has to look for in order to say they have mastered it, then the student doesn’t get credit for mastery. If a student receives a 95% on an exam, they have obviously mastered the material. My feeling is that the
competency based grading misses a lot of soft skills, as well, that kids need to be successful. Through this means of evaluation parents and teachers miss out on a lot of teachable moments that make for better students. Growth is important, however, such subjective means of reporting it is unfair to our students.
10) How do you feel about efforts to repeal the current teacher tenure law in Missouri? What do you see as the main purpose in teacher tenure?The purpose of teacher tenure is to provide due process and promote longevity in the profession.
Teachers who receive tenure are considered a “permanent employee” and as such are given seniority
and priority when issuing yearly contracts. One misconception that I think exists about tenure is that if a bad teacher receives tenure there is no repercussions if they are failing their students or district in their methods or outcomes. This is not true. Tenure simply means that there is a process by which the
District needs to go through to allow time for remediation and correction. If this does not happen within the timeframe given, that teacher can be let go. Repealing the tenure law, in my opinion would deplete the pool of future teachers and promote an environment of distrust and discontent among the