Monett School Board questionnaire: Ken Gaspar
1. Why do you want to run for a seat on the school board?
I am seeking reelection to the Monett Board of Education because it matters. Educating our children is the single most important thing we can do to ensure progress. The world changes so rapidly and preparing our children for the future gives them the tools to make differences. Also, serving the community has been a hallmark of mine for many years, this is just one way I can give back to the community that has given me and my family so much.
2. What, if any, previous experience do you have?
I have been blessed to have served on the Monett R-1 Board of Education for three terms. I have lost some elections in my past, one as the seated Board President. But my determination to return to the Board was strong as education is important to me and my family. It is crucial to building a strong community and economic base. The business we conducted, the policies that we have enacted, the improvements we have made, and the decisions made that didn’t work out as intended all provide the very experience needed to ensure the next three years will have careful and thoughtful considerations.
3. What is your field of employment, and how does it contribute to your qualifications as a potential school board member?
My professional career while living here in Monett has been entirely with Jack Henry & Associates. We moved here in 1992 but my “banking” career began in 1986. My 35-year career is not limited to just banking and banking technology. I have served in many roles at the company and moved through various levels of management. My current position is that of a Solutions Architect. While I have transitioned away from a leadership position, a leader of people, leadership skills are continually used. The experiences I have had over these years, the problems that I have helped solve, the people that I have met and worked alongside allowed me to gain knowledge of many topics, styles, and approaches. I am an active listener and steady learner. All of what I have learned at JHA and serving our community all these years have given me numerous qualifications to continue service.
4. What are your priorities for the district?
This question is asked often of all candidates. My response, hopefully, has been consistent over the years. The priorities for the District are numerous; not because of any failure in systems, processes, or people but because there are many facets to a school District. So, a simple answer includes student and staff safety, the construction of the new Middle School, proper and effective curriculum, educator and student success, and ensuring we have a strong leadership team to be great and expect greatness. But a more realistic answer is, there are so many priorities because everything related to the District is extremely important.
5. What would you change, if anything?
As a Board member, you are just one of seven helping to lead the District. No one Board member changes anything unilaterally. We all work together with the Administration to ensure we all are doing what is best for our students — pure and simple. So I will continue to collaborate with my fellow Board members and Administration to ensure that any changes are made with the students in mind while also being considerate of the community’s wants and needs, and to be fiscally responsible, all while following school laws.
6. In light of COVID, what are the biggest challenges facing the district moving forward?
Due to the massive effects, this answer should be lengthy but sadly brevity will be in effect. First a huge amount of praise and appreciation needs to be given to the District Administration, staff, parents, and students. We have heard the phrase “at no fault of their own” countless times over the past year. The pandemic’s impact was, is, and will continue to be enormous. This will be studied for many years to come. There was no way to prepare fully for what we faced. Our teams got together and made some very tough decisions. Chief among them was to return to the classroom, even when many had no idea what this would mean. I recall the many long, deep, and thoughtful conversations around the Boardroom table. While Monett had the foundation with technology already in place, it was never thought to be in force for weeks or months… sick days, snow days, or in the case of a longer-term absence was all we considered. We just knew, for ourstudents to be educated in the best way possible, we needed to be in the classroom. Parents told us how difficult it is to ensure their students remain focused on a computer screen… when previous to this, they had been limiting screen-time for their children. No one was prepared. Our educators, who love children immensely, were missing the very faces and souls they love and love to teach. Monett had learned a lot at the end of the 2019-2020 school year and this allowed us to improve the 2020-2021 school year. Nothing has been perfect, we are still learning and adjusting. My honest answer about what the biggest challenge is, it is the one not yet known.
7. What are your personal goals you would like to accomplish, if elected?
My goal is shared by the entire Board, Administration team, and Staff - we want to educate our students better tomorrow than we did yesterday. My goal is to assist the District in being the best and to represent the greater Monett community to the best of my ability.