Job description:

CEO of a nonprofit organization designed to advocate for the 918,000 children attending Missouri’s public schools by supporting those elected in local communities to govern our schools.

Years lived in Columbia:

27.

Original hometown:

Springfield, Missouri.

Education:

BS in economics and accounting from Missouri State University; JD from MU.

Favorite volunteer/community activity:

Of course, school board service is at the top of my list. The Caring People is a group that also has a special place in my heart. They serve single moms and their children through support groups in a faith-based environment. Karen Stone and Ava Summers are remarkable leaders of the Columbia chapter of this organization. PTA is another great organization any member of the community can be a part of to stay involved in our schools. (You don’t have to have a child in school to be a member of PTA.)

A favorite recent project:

If children don’t feel safe, they can’t learn. MSBA administers Missouri’s Center for Education Safety, or CES. The CES supports all Missouri schools with preventive measures to ensure that our schools remain the safest place for children in our society. We offer training and resources addressing behavioral health support, school bus safety, sexual predator prevention, active shooter prevention, and bullying prevention, just to name a few. The past five years, we’ve been supporting school safety at a national level. Recently, Governor Parson asked MSBA CES to work with Lieutenant Governor Kehoe, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of Mental Health to craft a strategic plan for Missouri addressing school safety from the executive level.

A Columbia businessperson I admire and why:

Jan Mees, the president of the Columbia Board of Education and the immediate past president of MSBA. Jan is an extraordinary leader who uses her skills to benefit her community and state through a variety of volunteer roles. She is someone who has found her fire and uses it to live inspired.

Why I’m passionate about my job:

MSBA is a continuous improvement organization in an environment where the stakes are high because our work is impacting the future of our community, our state, and our nation.

Why I’m passionate about MSBA:

I have the honor of representing individuals who willfully donate their most precious assets, their time and talents, to benefit the lives of individuals they may never meet. School board members are non-partisan elected officials who are unpaid for their service. In my opinion, they represent the bedrock of democracy.

If I weren’t doing this for a living, I would:

Still find ways to advocate for children.

What people should know about being an executive director for MSBA:

MSBA has the best staff, hands down. Working with our staff makes my job a lot of fun. We have a significant number of services we provide school districts, and they’re delivered with commitment to excellence and passion for our public schools from all of our team members.

The next challenge facing the school board association:

Expanding opportunities for quality, voluntary early childhood education throughout Missouri. Research is clear that quality early childhood education opportunities improve school readiness, reduce the need for remediation, improve high school graduation rates, and reduce incarceration rates. Every dollar expended on quality early childhood education yields a $6 to $16 return on the investment. Boone County has done a good job addressing this issue, but Missouri is still behind. In fact, we are currently in the bottom tier of states for providing funding and other support to early childhood. We need to change that in order to improve societal and economic development opportunities long-term for our state.

My next professional goal:

Continue learning and growing. My parents often said the purpose of life is to find your gift and the meaning of life is to give it away.

Biggest lesson learned in business:

To achieve our full potential, we must step out of our comfort zone. We must celebrate the successes, fix the failures, and ensure that we have policies and processes in place so that we always strive to improve and remain relevant.

How I want to impact the education community:

We need to get the accurate message out about the awesome job our educators are doing in Missouri’s public schools. Columbia is blessed with some of the best schools in our state and in our country — we have more Presidential Scholars in our high schools than over 90 percent of the public and private schools in the country. One of Missouri’s public high school robotics teams recently designed a part to fix a flaw in the cockpit of the B-2 Stealth bomber. They designed the part in 72 hours and saved the Department of Defense tens of millions of dollars with their design that is now installed on all B-2s.

Greatest strength:

I’m a “mama bear” — tenacious, resilient, and focused — when it comes to working on issues impacting children.

Greatest weakness:

I have a hard time disconnecting from technology.

Accomplishment I’m most proud of:

Without a doubt, it’s my five children. My husband and I are thrilled that our children are all self-supporting adults making their way in the world. We recognize that raising successful children involves a community — we are indebted to our family, neighbors, friends, educators, school board members, church members, and others who played a role in shaping these amazing young adults.

Most people don’t know that I:

Have one of only 35 dogs in the world with a sacral nerve device installed in his spine, thanks to Dr. Mauler at MU’s vet school. The device allows Howie to survive with a disease that initially left him paralyzed.

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