Con­nie Matchell

Siloam Springs Herald Leader - - FRONT PAGE -

1. Tell me about your per­sonal back­ground and your fam­ily.

My hus­band and I just fin­ished our 40th wed­ding an­niver­sary, and all that time we’ve been here in Siloam. We have two chil­dren, Brian and Korri, and all of us are ed­u­ca­tors. Most of my ca­reer has been at the Siloam Springs School District. I have 29 years of ex­pe­ri­ence there, work­ing ev­ery­thing from mostly high school math­e­mat­ics for half of that time and then the rest of that time spent at ei­ther the mid­dle school level or the district level.

I am orig­i­nally from the Chicago area and it was ac­tu­ally John Brown Univer­sity that brought me to Siloam Springs when I came to school there, and we just stayed and raised our fam­ily here.

2. What do you feel qual­i­fies you to serve on the school board and what strengths can you of­fer the com­mu­nity?

I think my years of ex­pe­ri­ence in ed­u­ca­tion qual­ify me. I ac­tu­ally have a li­cense that would al­low me to be a su­per­in­ten­dent, so you know I am aware of what hap­pens with the board and have made mul­ti­ple pre­sen­ta­tions to the board in the past. I’m aware of the schools and I know the com­mu­nity well, be­cause I’ve been here a long time. I’ve had two chil­dren that grad­u­ated through the schools and my hus­band and I have taught in the schools.

I have a bach­e­lors de­gree in sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion — math­e­mat­ics. I have a master’s de­gree in ed­u­ca­tional tech­nol­ogy, and I have a doc­toral de­gree in ed­u­ca­tional lead­er­ship, it’s ac­tu­ally P-20 (prekinder­garten through col­lege and grad­u­ate school) ed­u­ca­tion lead­er­ship. It is a big spread, but it’s un­der­stand­ing the big picture. And I think one thing that I didn’t men­tion be­fore, is that I do have the higher ed­u­ca­tion back­ground now that does add to my picture of ed­u­ca­tion. I’m the head of the teacher ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment (at JBU) and the di­rec­tor of the grad­u­ate teacher ed­u­ca­tion pro­gram.

I think my strengths would be prior knowl­edge of hav­ing worked in the district for a long time, as well as, I think just knowl­edge of schools in gen­eral. I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity ac­tu­ally to visit and see lots of schools across the state through work­ing with the Arkansas Depart­ment

of Ed­u­ca­tion, and do­ing things like school au­dits, where I saw some of the schools that were in im­prove­ment. I came in with a group of peo­ple that made sug­ges­tions that might help those schools, as well as go­ing around and look­ing at mid­dle schools that were up for an award. So I got to see some of the very best schools as well as go­ing around on ac­cred­i­ta­tion vis­its. Part of what I did was work with what they called north-cen­tral and did ac­cred­i­ta­tion vis­its for schools too. 3. Why do you want to serve on the school board?

Well I think the com­mu­nity has been good to my fam­ily and I, and the district has been good, and this is just one way that I could give back. That’s what I’m look­ing at, just a way of try­ing to help. 4. What do you feel are the school district’s strengths, and what do you think needs im­prove­ment?

I think strengths are that they are al­ways try­ing to look to “how can we get bet­ter;” al­ways look­ing ahead to what’s the next thing that is go­ing to make us a bet­ter school district. As well as look­ing at all stu­dents, try­ing to make sure they are help­ing each sub-pop­u­la­tion of stu­dents, the ESL pop­u­la­tions, the spe­cial needs pop­u­la­tions, and not just those kids who are go­ing to col­lege, but those kids that might want a ca­reer that doesn’t take a col­lege de­gree and so the CASS pro­gram they’ve come up with helps ad­dress some of those needs.

The ca­reer tech­ni­cal ar­eas are im­por­tant as well, and I think they do a good job of try­ing to sup­port all kids. I love the fact that they’ve even tried to work with kids through the Pan­ther Well­ness Clinic and try­ing to meet the needs of kids that aren’t just aca­demic needs, but the phys­i­cal needs too. What about im­prove­ment?

Well, there’s al­ways places that you can im­prove, and I think our test scores show that we’re not the top schools of the state, so I would say, I mean, you’re al­ways try­ing to chase that be­ing in the top. We need to look at maybe what we’re do­ing in the class­room, not just to sup­port kids but what are we do­ing aca­dem­i­cally to make sure kids are chal­lenged. I think the idea that we want rigour in a cur­ricu­lum, so I think we would go that di­rec­tion. 5. What are your con­cerns with K-12 ed­u­ca­tion in Siloam Springs?

I think over­all I get con­cerned that we are do­ing too much as­sess­ment on the state level, and of course that’s a push from the na­tional level. I think ac­count­abil­ity is good, but we need to look and make sure what we’re do­ing is worth­while.

I think that we are prob­a­bly at the point in ed­u­ca­tion that as­sess­ment is driv­ing ev­ery­thing. It may be it takes so much of the time and the ef­forts on the part of the teacher, that it’s driv­ing ev­ery­thing. We want to make sure that it has it’s place, but it’s not over­pow­er­ing ev­ery­thing and I think that maybe there is too much em­pha­sis right now on that. But I want to make sure we’re not say­ing we want it to go away. It’s just a lit­tle bit overem­pha­sized at the mo­ment. 6. What changes would you like to see made?

I think con­tin­ued fo­cus on the needs of all chil­dren. I think it’s im­por­tant to con­tinue to look at ways we can cut costs. You know, one of the things the district has im­ple­mented is… a pro­gram that watched how much elec­tri­cal use we use, that the com­put­ers are turned off and the lights are turned off, that we’re not waste­ful, and so look­ing at those things we can con­stantly be aware of how can we not be spend­ing funds on things that are not ben­e­fit­ing kids.

It’s cut­ting costs in lit­tle ways that can add up to maybe hav­ing more money for field trips and ex­tra things that are im­por­tant to a kid’s ed­u­ca­tion. I think look­ing in ev­ery way pos­si­ble that we’re not waste­ful and then look­ing for how bet­ter we can meet the needs of ev­ery kid. 7. What do you feel should be the school board’s pri­or­i­ties over the next term? I think maybe, again, look­ing for where we can be care­ful with the bud­get and make it go as far as it can go. I think there is a need for con­stantly look­ing to see where we might be hav­ing growth that we need to add on a build­ing. You know, if we’re go­ing to need to look at new build­ings or if we’re go­ing to need to look at a new school.

And then al­ways look­ing to hire the best teach­ers. I think that’s real im­por­tant. We com­pete with the big schools along the 49 cor­ri­dor and we want to make sure we’re hir­ing the best, and get­ting first pick in­stead of com­ing later. 8. Is there any­thing you would like to add? I guess it would just be a real priv­i­lege to be part of the board, and I’ve en­joyed the cou­ple times I’ve been there the last few board meet­ings. But to me it would be a real priv­i­lege to serve on the board. And I re­al­ize it is serv­ing the com­mu­nity, it’s not my in­di­vid­ual ideas. Although I do bring back­ground to the job, it is the com­mu­nity’s voice.

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