Sponsored by the Marshall Comm-unity Teachers Association, the forum allowed each candidate two to three minutes to speak and then opened the floor to questions from the audience. After introductions from moderator Dave Nelson, the candidates spoke in an order determined by random drawing.
First to speak was incumbent school board President Ed Kays. Kays told those in attendance that he had served on the school board for nine years and has 21 years of business experience. These skills will help him to guide the school district, which is essentially a $19-million business, he said.
Kays said the school has a commitment to educate not only his three children, but everyone's children. Education is the single most important thing parents can give to their children, he said.
For his top three goals, Kays named establishing a plan for the development of new facilities for elementary and middle school students, reducing the size of classes in kindergarten through second grade to a range of 15 to 18 students and making the salaries of Marshall teachers even more competitive.
"We are now in the top 10 percent," Kays said in reference to the district's ranking in terms of salaries. "I would like to see us in the top 5 percent."
Jay Barton spoke next, telling the audience that when asked why he had returned to Marshall after several years' absence he replies that he did so for his children.
"I wanted to put them through the same school system I had the fortune of going through," he said.
Barton also cited the need for new facilities as one of his primary goals if elected. He said he is currently serving on the district Facility Committee and as such is working toward presenting a plan to address the district's facilities needs. Barton said he believes the plan presented will be one the community can get behind.
Barton's goals also included bolstering teachers' salaries and benefits. He said his children now have some of the same teachers he learned from and that these teachers who stay with a district for the long term have a stabilizing effect.
Mary Williams, the evening's third speaker, said she had a passion for children and wanted to see a healing within the district which would allow its students to be the best they can be.
"I am sick and tired and sick and tired of excuses," she said. "We need to get on and forget about the past. We need to move on and do what is best for our children."
Williams said one of her first goals would be to make community members feel more welcome in the schools. She said this would include changing the sign which reads "All visitors must report to the office" to something more inviting.
Williams also said she would put an emphasis on making sure all children, regardless of initial ability, are given the skills they need to succeed in core areas of learning such as reading, writing and arithmetic. She said if a student wants to stay in Marshall after graduating that is excellent, but that should not be their only option.
"They should be able to go anywhere in the world and be successful," she said.
David Hayes spoke next, telling the audience that if elected he would bring a common-sense approach to the school board. He said in administrating the Marshall Housing Authority, he has developed a skill for taking complicated problems and breaking them down with common-sense solutions.
A member of the first Facility Committee formed by the school district in 1999, Hayes said he still feels strongly about seeing new facilities built within the district. He said one of the reasons he chose to run was to get that message to the public. In addition, by constructing new buildings, the district would bring its facilities up to the quality of its teachers.
Larry Godsey, a father of three, said being a father is one of his greatest qualifications for office. He noted that he also holds a master's degree and has taught courses at Missouri Valley College and the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Quality of education in the local schools was one of Godsey's main concerns. He said that while teaching at Missouri Valley College he had senior students who could barely write a sentence. Godsey said that none of the students were Marshall graduates, but seeing them made him want to serve on the school board to ensure Marshall schools would not turn out such students.
Godsey also said he felt that the district definitely needs to do something about its facilities.
"My oldest daughter is in the third grade in the same room I had," he said. Anthony Gossett said his primary reason for running for the school board is that he likes children. An active member of the MHS Booster Club, Gossett said he is already known to many Marshall students and their parents.
"I enjoy kids and that's probably my biggest asset," he said.
Gossett said he agreed that the district should address its facility needs. He said he would like to see the recommendation of the Facility Committee before deciding on how to best do this.
Another area of concern for Gossett was the quality of all school district employees. He said the district should demand the same high standards of administrators, coaches and activity sponsors that are asked of teachers.
Incumbent board Vice President Raymond Thompson said his business experiences have taught him to look at the long term when it comes to decision making. He said his other qualifications include being a good mediator, even when the opposing sides have diverse ideas.
Thompson said education is the greatest equalizer in society. Given the right educational opportunities, he said, anyone can rise above their initial station.
Thompson said he would like to see an increase in character education programs in Marshall. He said the program begun in the elementary schools and expanded to the middle school should be brought up through the high school. Thompson said character and ethics are important to the development of future members of the community and foster unity. This training would also be extended to extracurricular activity sponsors to help them with sensitivity and respect for the needs of the students in their care, he said.
Thompson also noted the district's need for improvements to its facilities. He said even if no action is taken immediately, the school board should still develop a plan of what to do once action is taken.
By projecting forward, the district could give its patrons an idea of what will be done in one year, five years and even as far into the future as 10 to 20 years, Thompson said.
While seven candidates were present for the forum, twelve names will appear on the ballot.
Candidates Doug Fangmann, Michael "Ernie" Hammer and David Kemm were not in attendance for the forum and Bob G. Stewart and William Smith have both officially withdrawn from the race.