Monett School Board questionnaire: Maella Blalock
1. Why do you want to run for a seat on the school board?
I believe in serving my community. It is who I am. I want to use my leadership training and experience to support the most important structure we have in our society – education. My parents were both educators. My mother taught elementary school for years in Springfield. My Dad, a WWI veteran, received two years of business school education and taught in a one-room school in Arkansas before turning to business. My parents believed so strongly in the importance of a good education that they paid for my brothers and I to attend Greenwood Laboratory school, then paid for our college educations. They sacrificed. Now I want to serve by listening to the parents, teachers, counselors and students, and speak up for them. I want to help Dr. Mark Drake accomplish his goals and look forward to the growth of our school district.
2. What, if any, previous experience do you have?
I taught Junior ROTC here in Monett at Scott Tech for 6 years. I have a degree in Education and before my years in the military, I taught elementary music in the Springfield Public School system. I taught JROTC in a diverse inner-city school in Muskegon, Michigan and in Clinton, Missouri. In all three JROTC locations I expanded the program, accomplished many goals, and developed leadership skills in young people, many of with whom I am still in touch. I substitute taught every subject K-12 in Department of Defense Dependent Schools (military base schools) overseas. Another strong skill is budgeting and finance. I have a Masters Degree in accounting and served in the military for 26 years as a Finance and Accounting Officer. I worked with training foreign militaries, maintaining large military base infrastructure budgets, payroll accounting, and foreign currency banking. My other military skill was as a Foreign Area Officer. It required foreign language skills and an interest and appreciation for other cultures. As a military advisor to eastern European countries I learned to be a strong advocate of diversity in education and in life. I feel Monett has many opportunities to celebrate our diversity.
3. What is your field of employment, and how does it contribute to your qualifications as a potential school board member?
Currently I am retired. But as my daughter said, I really don’t understand the meaning. I love my Monday job working at the food pantry, teach private piano to numerous Monett students am the Regent of Monett’s Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Chapter, and Vice-President of the Four-States Chapter of Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). I am very active at my church, First United Methodist, Monett, playing keyboard for the contemporary service and in the bell choir. I am one of the founding leaders of the Caring People, a support group for single Moms in Monett. When I find time I play golf, and it looks like I’ll be coaching my granddaughter’s T-ball team this summer. I’m busy but I have time to listen and I care deeply about our young people.
4. What are your priorities for the district?
The short-term priorities are fairly well established by the current board. I hope to support Mark Drake as he takes the reins as superintendent. We have a fantastic building plan we are working on that moves Monett ahead. But “COVID Catch-up” is my number one priority. As individual as learning styles were prior to COVID, they are all over the map now. We have to asses where students are, what deficiencies need to be addressed, work on the mental health issues, ensure stability in our faculty, provide for teacher’s needs as well as students, use our money wisely and fight for rural school issues in Jefferson City.
5. What would you change, if anything?
I have no hot button issues. That’s not why I am running. Monett is a great school district. I want to put my shoulder to the wheel to keep it focused on priorities while still moving forward. The board has many challenges ahead. I want to use my leadership to give the district support.
6. In light of COVID, what are the biggest challenges facing the district moving forward?
We are playing COVID-Catch up. We learned a lot about isolated education. Now we have to work to incorporate the lessons learned and accelerate, when possible, to ensure the benchmarks for grade levels are met. It will take time, money, and community involvement. Mental health is one of the big areas that needs addressing. Students and teachers have all suffered under a hardship, not to mention parents. We need to expand counseling to all groups, including parents. We need to include community leaders more – our library, our chamber of commerce, business leaders, area churches. We have family economic problems, both old and new, that need to be addressed. We have to stretch our resources and find new solutions. I believe Monett can and will make sure our students receive a top-quality education, in spite of the many challenges. That has to remain our focus.
7. What are your personal goals you would like to accomplish, if elected?
I would like parents and families to feel their children received a great education in Monett. I would like students to feel they have a board member on their team and for parents to feel they can talk to someone who will listen. I want teachers to know without a doubt that they have my support and admiration. I want to serve.