Interview with Eric Brown, candidate for the Macon R-1 School Board

by Benjamin C. Nelson

MACON, MO -- The Macon Home Press interviewed Eric Brown who is looking to be elected to the Macon R-1 School Board. There are three positions on the June 2nd ballot and voters within the district will have six candidates to choose from. The candidates for the Macon R-1 School Board are Carrie Bergfield (Incumbent), Bill Noyes (Incumbent), Kevin Linear (Incumbent), Eric Brown, John Wiggans, and Greg Bruno.

QUESTION #1: Introduction (tell me about yourself, bio, jobs you have held, school, college, etc.)

QUESTION #2: Why are you running (consider this your elevator pitch you would give someone if you were stuck in an elevator for 1-2 minutes)? What is your end goal as a potential board member?

ERIC BROWN (answer for both questions one and two): "I graduated from Westran High School in 1995. Upon graduation, I attended Moberly Area Community College. On March 15, 1997, I began working at the Randolph County Sheriff`s Office as a corrections and communications officer. In May of 1998, I graduated from the Moberly Area Community College Law Enforcement Training Center. Upon my graduation, I began my career as a Deputy Sheriff. While employed at the Sheriff`s Office I worked as a road officer, detective, and canine handler. When I resigned from the Sheriff`s Office to join the Missouri State Highway Patrol, I was the sergeant in charge of the night shift and a canine handler.

Upon my resignation from the Sheriff`s Office, I began my career with the Missouri State Highway Patrol as a trooper. I was appointed to the Missouri State Highway Patrol on January 18, 2004. Upon my graduation from the Patrol Academy in July 2004, I was assigned to North St. Louis County. I transferred to the Macon area on June 1, 2006, and have maintained a residence in the Macon R1 School district since that time. I have worked as an assistant supervisor as a corporal and as a primary supervisor as a master sergeant. I am currently a sergeant for the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and I am the Public Information Officer serving the 16 counties of Troop B. My current assignment allows me the unique opportunity to provide education not only to the public, but also to the many public, private, and home school students across Troop B.

My wife Annavee and I have been married for nineteen years. We have two boys and one girl. My oldest son will graduate from Macon R1 in June, 2020. With the help of his education and the opportunities provided by Macon R1, he will be continuing his education at Central Methodist University in Fayette, Missouri. He will also be a member of their golf team. Our daughter will be entering Macon Middle School as a sixth grader. Our youngest son will be in the second grade at Macon Elementary School.

In addition to my professional experience, I have served on committees for the National Wild Turkey Federation and Delta Waterfowl. I am a past board member of the Macon Country Club and was a board member of the Missouri State Troopers Association for approximately twelve years.

I come from a line of educators. My father taught at Moberly Area Community College, the Moberly Correctional Center, and worked as a bus driver for Westran School District before he retired. My mother was a teacher for twenty-five years. She spent twenty-three of those years as a teacher at Westran Elementary School, primarily as a second grade teacher. In addition to my parents working in public education, I have a grandfather, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great grandmother who all worked in public education. I understand the importance of public education and the work the administration, teachers, and classified staff do to help our students succeed.

With your help I would like the opportunity to help Macon R1 build upon its strong past and move into the future. Providing a quality education in a safe environment for each of our students should remain the focus of the board, administration, and staff. We must provide avenues for success to each and every student. In addition to focusing on our students success, a focus needs to be placed on the happiness and success of the entire school staff. Providing a professional work environment with career development paths should be a focus of the board, and administration, to maintain the high level of education expected by parents and tax payers alike. Staff retention, recruitment, competitive pay and benefits is something we should all expect of our school district."

QUESTION #3. What is the most pressing issue facing the Macon R-1 School District?

ERIC BROWN: "As far as the most pressing issue facing the school district depends on what point of view you are looking at. Are you a student, administrator, support staff etc. How to enter into the new school year is probably the most important issue for each of them. What is that going to look like physically, and financially. Many of those questions will be decided on a state and federal level with additional guidance from a local level depending on the amount of funding available from the current budgets, reserves, and grant money received from the federal and state level."

QUESTION #4. What makes our district unique compared to others?

ERIC BROWN: "Each and every district is unique due to demographics, population, culture, and their student body. Our identity as Macon Tigers and the pride in our school district makes us unique"

QUESTION #5. In a post COVID-19 World, what do districts need to do in preparation for the next global pandemic?

QUESTION #5A: What is something you think we have learned while navigating COVID-19? (The biggest lesson)

QUESTION #5B: Do you think Macon R-1 is prepared for more online instruction? Do you think we have adequate resources for online instruction for long periods of time?

QUESTION #5C: What online resources could you as a board member, advocate for (not only for teachers, but also students and parents)?

QUESTION #5D: If you are re-elected or elected, what is something you think the board/district needs to prepare for as we head into the Fall Semester of 2020? (A possible return from COVID-19)

ERIC BROWN (answer for questions 5A-5D): "We are not in a post COVID-19 world at this point and speculation as to what it would look like would be just that, speculation. Macon R1, their staff, and school board, are doing the best they can to move though these challenging and unique times. As a candidate who attended the most recent board meeting, I can see that the staff and current board are taking steps to move to a more modern technological era. They are purchasing technology to provide to each and every student. This will provide the ability to learn outside of the traditional school environment, and to help when they are in the traditional school environment. They are moving towards a new portal where teachers, students, and parents can actively observe a students progress as it occurs. We need to work as a board and school to continue these efforts. In the face of a new and challenging learning environment, they are working towards providing our students with the opportunity to continue curriculum based learning in a remote environment. Unfortunately, that ability is also based upon the action of the House of Representatives, Senate, and local internet providers. Lobbying for them to provide the needed technology to our community is an important step to the success of our students during challenging times such as these. As a parent, or a board member, this technological advancement is important to help our parents and teachers provide an avenue for our students to succeed."

QUESTION #6. What will YOU bring to the school board? What sets you apart from others that are running?

ERIC BROWN: "As we move into the 2020-2021 school year, every school across our nation will be forced to deal with new and unique issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. How to approach a new school year, funding issues, and other conflicts are sure to arise over the course of the next school year that will need to be addressed. I am willing and capable of helping Macon R1 move past these new problems and move into the future. I hope to provide a fair and impartial voice to the Macon R1 School Board."

QUESTION #7. If you could re-write the description of the Macon School Board, in one paragraph, what do you think the role of a school board should be in a district?

ERIC BROWN: "The role of a school board is specifically controlled by policy and law. Outside of what is described in policy and law, the purpose of the Board is to provide an avenue of success for the students, support staff, teachers, and administration."

QUESTION #8. With numerous improvement projects being completed throughout the district in the last year (or more), what is an area of our district that could use more improvements?

ERIC BROWN: "The district is addressing improvement projects appropriately based upon need and available funds. The current board and administration identifies needs appropriately and addresses them as needed."

QUESTION #9. Do you think the district is adequately handling mental health, student bullying, etc.? What could we be doing more; what could we be doing to make us stronger in those areas? What involvement do you think a school board should have with cyber-bullying?

ERIC BROWN: "Each and every school district across the state has specific policies in relation to mental health and bullying etc. School staff is trained and educated every year about various forms of bullying. Cyber bullying can be much more difficult for teachers, staff, and administrators to identify due to their lack of connection with the students in a cyber world. Students, teachers, and parents should be provided an extra opportunity to be educated on the topic of bullying, and cyber bullying, from an outside source. Those sources can be provided by an at profit source, or from a non-profit source such as local law enforcement or the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Who provides the training should be identified by school administration with the approval of the board if funds will be used. The importance of educating parents should be paramount, as they should be the first line of defense in identifying a child in need of services."

QUESTION #10. What could we be doing more to support our faculty and staff?

ERIC BROWN: " In addition to focusing on our students success, a focus needs to be placed on the happiness and success of the entire school staff. Providing a professional work environment with career development paths should be a focus of the board, and administration, to maintain the high level of education expected by parents and tax payers alike. Staff retention, recruitment, competitive pay and benefits is something we should all expect of our school district."

QUESTION #11. With Bible Literacy and LGBT+ Curriculum proposals in Jefferson City being a reality, what is your view on those proposals in relation to the Macon R-1 School District?

ERIC BROWN: "Bible Literacy and LGBTQ+ are significant civil rights issues and are being debated at a State and Federal level. They have a significant impact on our nation, but also on our community, our school district, administration, staff, and student body. As it directly relates to our school I do not believe my personal opinions should be stated. I believe if I was elected to the school board, I would be fair, impartial, and willing to listen to all sides of any argument to make a determination as to what would be the best decision to protect the best interests of our school, its students, and staff."

*See reporter's note below in reference of the proposals mentioned for Question 11*

QUESTION #12. In your own words, what does it mean to be a Macon Tiger?

ERIC BROWN: "I am the parent of three Macon Tigers. The Macon School District and their staff have always done their best to provide my children with a safe and secure environment to learn. I want to continue that tradition and help provide all of our students and staff the opportunity to succeed."

QUESTION #13. Please feel free to include a closing statement or any additional information.

ERIC BROWN: "On January 3, 2020, I filed to run for the Macon R1 School Board. I would truly appreciate your support in this endeavor. Due to the unique and challenging circumstances of the last few months, the election has been pushed back until June 2, 2020. I have spent my entire adult life in public service. I am looking forward to the opportunity to serve my community, and school district, in a new way."

*(Reporter's note for Question 11: The Bible Literacy bill (Missouri House Bill 267) in reference, would give school districts the opportunity to offer an elective course to students about the historical literature of the Bible while teaching students about the influence it has had throughout history. The Bible Literacy bill gives power to the local school boards to determine if they would like to incorporate the elective course within their district. The LGBT+ proposal (Missouri House Bill 2153) has not been heard/passed by either chamber. The proposal looks to give school districts the opportunity to offer students lessons on LGBT+ history, movements, and societal contributions by members of the LGBT+ Community throughout history. The LGBT+ proposal gives local school boards ultimate say in whether or not they would incorporate the instruction into their district. The Missouri Department of Education would create curriculum for either proposal if they were to become law.)

Headline picture of Eric Brown alongside his wife and children