1. Name: Lori Musser
2. Address: 3502 Baker’s Branch Drive, Joplin, MO 64801
3. Telephone: 417-439-0318
4. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education/Early Childhood Education
Master of Science in Guidance Counseling
Master of Science in Educational Administration
Specialist in Educational Leadership
C. Career History
I began my education career in Diamond, Missouri, in 1985, as a parent educator for the Parents
as Teachers program. I did that for two years and then began teaching kindergarten at Diamond
Elementary in 1987 and stayed there for three years. In 1990, I was hired in Joplin as a
kindergarten teacher and taught for seven years. I then became a school counselor and did that
for seven years. I ended my career as the principal at Columbia Elementary, where I served for
11 years. I also taught Summer School for several years in Joplin. I retired from the Joplin
School district in June, 2012, and began working at MSSU in August, 2012, where I am still
employed full-time. At MSSU, I serve as the Coordinator of Student Disability Services and also
teach an early childhood education class and college academic skills classes.
D. Civic/Community Activities
Currently I am becoming a Court Appointed Special Advocate where I work with a child in foster
care and also with all of the different agencies involved with the child. I then provide my input
to the Judge which helps him/her to make the decision on what is the best placement for the
I am a founding member and currently sit on the executive board of the Operation Fairy
Godmother program. This program has been operating for the past twelve years. We all know
how terribly expensive Prom can be for a teenager and their family. Some kids can’t afford the
fancy dress, shoes, makeup, tuxedo, etc. Operation Fairy Godmother takes that worry away and
provides all the “fixins” for prom for area young men and women so that they can go to Prom
and look and feel just as great as everyone else. We have expanded our services to provide for
students in area schools as well as our Joplin kids.
E. School District Activities
I have served as a Lunch Buddy at both North and McKinley within the past five years. I also
attend the Board of Education meetings as often as I can.
1. What factors led you to decide to run for the school board.
I had been thinking about running for the school board for some time. Things in the district are
changing for the better, thanks to the hard work of the current board, and I want to be a part of
making sure that our district continues to move forward in a positive direction. It is imperative
that we select the right person for the job of Superintendent. I want to ensure that a
Superintendent is selected that will foster a culture of respect, acceptance and transparency for
all stakeholders. I believe that I can bring a lot of things to the board such as common sense,
reliability, respect and experience. I want to make a difference for the community and district
that I love.
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 comparing state test scores, our students do not fare well in relation to the students’
scores in surrounding districts. Although, the state places a lot of emphasis on these test scores,
we all know that these scores are not the sole indicator of quality of education. I believe that
our students receive a quality education because of persistent and diligent teachers that refuse
to give up. Improvements can be made such as reducing the amount of “meetings” that
teachers are required to attend, thereby reducing their time out of the classroom. Another way
of improving would be to develop a solid curriculum based on developmental practice and then
getting out of the way and letting teachers teach. The last improvement that needs to be made
is to cut out all of the extra testing that takes place. I do believe the quality of education is
improving some and will continue to improve with solid, knowledgeable leadership in place.
3. What are the critical issues currently facing the Joplin school district? How would you
prioritize these issues?
There has been a culture of fear and mistrust that has developed over the past few years where
some teachers do not feel safe or respected within our district. This is beginning to improve and
needs to continue improving. The loss of many veteran teachers that have left for other
districts, is detrimental. I feel this is a direct result of the poor culture that has existed and lack
of raises in teachers’ salaries. The final critical issue that I want to address is the bulging budget.
So many unnecessary positions have been added in the past few years that have taken money
away from teacher salaries. We have to make some significant cuts to obtain a lean budget so
that emphasis can be placed on improving teacher salaries and make us competitive again like
we used to be. If I were to prioritize these issues, I would have to put an improved culture first,
improving teachers’ salaries second and teacher retention third. Needless to say, if culture and
salaries are addressed, then the retention issue will take care of itself.
4. In a district with financial constraints, how would you prioritize the following items (1-12)?
(2) Building & Grounds – Safety for students and teachers
(3) Class Size
(4) Curriculum Development – with teacher input
(5) Equitable teacher plan time and workload
(7) Existing Extra and Co-Curricular programs
(6) Financial Reserve
(12) New Programs
(8) Professional Development – presented by teachers and principals who know our
district, is based on data and research.
(10) Reducing local tax burden
(1) Salaries and benefits (maintaining) – I don’t want them maintained – I want
5. What factors do you feel will attract and retain a quality teaching staff for Joplin schools?
There are many factors that I feel will attract and retain a quality teaching staff for our schools.
A positive culture and salaries that are competitive with our surrounding districts are the two
most important factors in my mind. I would also add that support for the teacher in regards to
discipline and student behavior is also very important. Other factors such as equitable
responsibilities both inside and outside the school, greater teacher autonomy in the classroom,
increased funding for classroom resources and increased faculty control over school
policymaking are also very important in attracting and retaining quality teachers. Finally, a
strong teacher organization to advocate for teachers is an extremely important factor in
attraction and retention of a quality teaching staff in our district. I think sometimes that the
powers that be forget that teachers are the most important people in the school district and our
funding and support should demonstrate that.
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 teachers’ pay needs a lot of improvement. We are below most of our surrounding
districts and districts across the state in beginning salaries. Where it really goes downhill for
Joplin teachers is when you look at veteran teachers’ pay. Master’s level + 10 years of
experience is below every surrounding district except for Seneca and Diamond, which don’t
even come close to comparing with Joplin in enrollment numbers. Webb City has us beat in all
categories and we would need about 1.3 million to get our pay even with theirs. I believe we
can find that money in the budget with making some significant cuts at the upper administration
level. I would need a lot of input from stakeholders before I would support a tax increase. I am
not supportive of one right now because patrons have told me how upset they are with how
high their current taxes are. I believe we can raise our teachers’ salaries to be competitive
without a tax increase.
7. How do you view the respective roles of the school board, administration and employees in
determining the future direction of Joplin schools?
The school board plays a very important role in determining the future direction of the school
district by setting effective policies and through the hiring of an excellent superintendent. Of
course, the school board needs to do this with stakeholder input. They also need to make wise
decisions about the budget and make sure that they are fiscally responsible. Administration
then needs to implement the board policies in an effective and appropriate manner.
Administration needs to listen to the district’s employees by allowing their input, involvement in
decision-making and through providing feedback. The employees are obligated to do their part
in determining the future direction of the district by being willing to share their thoughts, views
and expertise. It is also vitally important that the employees put forth a positive attitude about
the district to the community.
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
I don’t feel they are as important as some other groups do. In a sense, they are important
because state and federal laws require the testing but I believe that standardized tests don’t tell
us the whole story of how successful our district is. Having said that, all of the other districts in
Missouri are taking the same test that our students are so I do believe that we should at least be
doing as well as other districts that are comparable to ours. DESE and our community compare
our district to others using these scores and make assumptions about our effectiveness. We
need to educate the community better about what standardized tests really measure. They
don’t tell us how engaged our students are in the learning process or how each individual
student is progressing towards their learning goals. Students know a lot of important things that
are not measured by the tests. The test can’t possibly measure everything our students are
learning. Children possess many types of intelligences and just because a student doesn’t do
well on a math test doesn’t mean the student isn’t going to be a successful, productive and
contributing citizen. There are also too many factors out of the control of the teacher such as
student absenteeism, behavior, ability level and lack of parent support. The test can’t tell us
what kind of instruction is occurring in our classrooms and it can’t identify the good and poor
teachers. Teachers impact students’ lives in ways that can’t be measured on a test. Therefore, a
teacher and/or district should not be evaluated on test scores at all. There are many other
factors and data that should be used instead.
9. What is your opinion of the Competency Grading system for elementary students?
To be completely honest, I would need to find out more information about this. I would be very
curious about what research is available on this type of grading system and what the research
shows. I know that it is a huge change for all involved and change is very hard. I am guessing
that parents may not be fond of it because it removes the grades that they are used to seeing
and it also removes honor rolls. However, it also lets parents know if their child has mastered a
particular concept or not. Teachers would have to be extremely organized and focused on the
success criteria to use this system. Students may not put out their best effort because they are
not getting an “A” or “B”. For this to be successful there would definitely need to be a lot of
communication and training taking place for all stakeholders. I am looking forward to hearing
what our teachers think about this.
10. How do you feel about efforts to repeal the current teacher tenure law in Missouri? What do
you see as the main purpose of teacher tenure?
I am totally against repealing teacher tenure and I believe the majority of Missourians are as
well. Tenure is a property right of teachers and should not be removed. Tenure provides
protection for teachers against unjust firings and it ensures due process. Tenure should not be
based on student performance on standardized tests either. Some critics feel that tenure is
preventing districts from removing bad teachers. This is absolutely not true. It takes a teacher
five years to receive tenure. If a teacher is not deemed as competent and effective, during
those five years, then tenure should not be granted to that teacher. If it is granted then that is
the fault of a poor administration and not the teacher’s fault.