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8 candidates face off for 5 spots on Moniteau school board

Voters in the Moniteau School District will see eight names on the ballot for the board of directors in the May 16 primary election, with some seeking another term and others hoping to sit on the board for the first time.

Incumbents Jennifer Rottman, Mark E. DeMatteis and Matthew Zietz will face off against one candidate who has previously held a role on the board and four others who are first-time candidates. Current members Michael Baptiste and Randy Armagost are not seeking another term.

Candidate Kathy McBride has served, but not currently. Todd Minnear, Scott “Howie” Dittman, Brittney Beachem-Larimore and Travis Beachem, if elected, would be new to the board.

All eight candidates have cross-filed for a chance at one of five available 4-year terms.

On May 16, the five who receive the most votes from Republicans and the five who receive the most votes from Democrats will proceed to the November ballot, where the winners will be determined.

Like many school districts, Moniteau also faces issues with disruptions and bullying related to social media as well as vaping in the student population. Asked about these topics, the candidates were united in their desire to educate students and parents on the dangers of vaping and being proactive in mitigating the threat of social media by examining policies and implementing programs to lessen the risks associated with it.

Jennifer Rottman
Jennifer Rottman

Rottman, of Hilliards, has resided within the Moniteau school district for 24 years. She is an active volunteer in her community and is a member of several extracurricular boards and booster clubs. She is employed part time as secretary of Eau Claire borough and holds an associate’s degree.

Initially elected to the board in 2019, she said she is qualified to continue based on her experience and knowledge as a director, having served on many committees.

During her time on the board, Rottman has aided the district throughout the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and the purchase Chromebooks for each student. She also is proud to have been able to increase the number of school police officers and provide them with resources that enable them to continue to protect the students, staff, property and assets of the district.

She decided to seek a second term because she said she thinks that, despite the challenges she has been able to help overcome, there are many areas that still need improvement.

Rottman said it’s important to focus on students as a whole.

“The board has a hefty responsibility of meeting the ever-changing needs of students, constantly examining security policies and ensuring that our district prepares our students for life after school,” Rottman said. “We need to provide them with opportunities to excel in academics, extracurricular activities, athletics and life skills.”

She supports partnering and developing strong relationships with local colleges and universities, and continuing to support teachers and staff by providing them with the best resources available in order to combat the teacher shortage.

Mark E. DeMatteis

DeMatteis, a lifelong resident of Boyers, graduated from Moniteau High School and the Sharon School of Broadcasting. He also attended Butler County Community College.

He retired from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers after 30 years of service.

DeMatteis has three children in the district and is active in several booster clubs and a scholarship board, and he is a member of the church council at St. Faustina Parish. He is seeking reelection to “contribute to all the children's well-being endeavors.”

He has been able to help accomplish renovations to the auditorium and air conditioning systems, as well as the building of a greenhouse. He would like to see other projects the district has undertaken through to completion. He said being a public servant in a board position is something he truly holds close and considers an honor.

His goals are centered on students, believing that having the best teachers and staff is the best goal for a district to have while continuing to provide a quality education and respecting taxpayers.

He said the district faces a shortage of teachers and bus drivers as well as mental health issues among students and unfunded mandates. He said that at the local level, teachers and staffing, food service workers, maintenance and custodial staff, and administration need support.

Matthew Zietz
Matthew Zietz

Matthew Zietz has four children in the district and is a member of the school board.

He said his focus always has been on the community, students and staff, which are his first considerations in any decision he makes. He prides himself on having looked out for community members struggling during recent economic problems by voting against raising taxes for the district.

“I have a vested interest in the success of our schools and students,” Zietz said about choosing to run again. “I’m aware of the many issues we have in both the elementary school and high school and the need to better support our staff and students. I am running for my children and the community members who believe Moniteau can become a top school once again.”

He has goals of refocusing on bullying issues among students and offering more support to staff members, including paraprofessionals, janitors, cafeteria monitors and teachers.

He said he believes anti-bullying needs to be more of a focus, saying that bullying is very real in the schools. Zietz said people need to be held responsible for getting the bullying under control and having consistent consequences when it happens.

He also wants to bring academic standards back up.

“In 2011, we were a high-achieving school, but over the last decade we have been falling behind. We need to make resources available to our kids and remember the most important job we have as school board members is making our kids and staff successful,” he said.

Zietz also said he believes in hiring the most experienced and qualified workers for any position.

He said that in order to combat the teacher shortage, more needs to be done to not overload staff and allow teachers to focus on what is important, which is educating children and preparing them for the future.

Scott ‘Howie’ Dittman

Dittman, a resident of West Sunbury, is vice president of a Florida-based national health care software company after 24 years of senior leadership positions in military system development, including 12 years of running his own business.

He said he believes his experience in cultural transformation, management of multimillion-dollar budgets, goal determination/achievement, and process enhancement would be an effective addition to the school board.

He is founder of Helping Butler County, a volunteer program with 6,000 members, is serving his second term as an executive board member of the Butler Collaborative for Families, and is actively involved in the Butler County Prevention Coalition. He said he and his wife established the largest annual fundraiser for Butler County Special Olympics.

He said he is running because of his desire to add his voice and experience to a passionate group of public servants tasked with ensuring the brightest possible futures for the children of the district.

His goals include working with the board to ensure it validates and revises — when necessary — the comprehensive district roadmap on a regular basis. He said the board touches everything, from technology accessibility to school safety to athletic and academic resources.

He is passionate about the influence and interpretation of state and federal standards, which he claims have “crushed” teachers’ individualism and creativity over time.

“We need to work with cross-functional teams to find ways to meet those standards while reinvigorating, celebrating and empowering the passions that inspired teachers to teach in the first place,” Dittman said. He also said this will help combat the teacher shortage.

Other issues he wishes to address are the collective and individual mental health of the students and apathy in the student body, believing it is important to ensure that the scholastic culture reflects the greatness of the community and reinforces to every student that being a Moniteau Warrior means something.

Kathy McBride

McBride is a resident of Marion Township who graduated from Moniteau High School. She and her husband own a small business in Boyers and are active members of the community. Though not currently a board member, she previously served 12 years, five of them as president.

She said that any accomplishments during her time on the board didn’t belong to herself alone. One of her main focuses was helping to write policy and keeping current with new or changing Pennsylvania School Boards Association recommendations.

She said she believes her knowledge and experience make for an effective board member, as well as her commitment to the community. If elected, she said her goal is to achieve and maintain good working relationships with administration, staff and community members.

McBride said three issues that she would like to address may be “less obvious than ones facing all school districts consistently.” She wants a more amicable board of directors and would like the need for a social worker at the schools to be filled in the near future, or at least be on the forefront of discussion. She also would work toward less perceptions of hidden agendas and more reality of working together to achieve goals.

She said she believes transparency and open communication are key in confronting these issues.

“Finding common ground, building trust and being willing to agree to disagree at times is necessary. Recognizing the fact that ‘we’ are all on the same team is a good building block to start with,” McBride said.

To ease the teacher shortage, she said she would start by having a conversation with the administration and current teachers to identify immediate needs.

Todd Minnear

Minnear, of Clay Township, graduated from Moniteau in 1996. He received a bachelor's degree in science in 2001 and a master's degree in physical therapy in 2003 from Gannon University. He worked in health care for 15 years, specifically in physical therapy for a little over 10 years.

Currently self-employed, he has been involved in coaching youth athletics for 10 years, including baseball, softball, basketball and football. He is a volunteer assistant junior high baseball coach at Moniteau.

Minnear said he is running because he said he thinks the education system and public school system in general are heading in the wrong direction. He wishes to help make a positive difference in the school district and community.

He has the goal of bringing the education of Moniteau students “back to an exemplary level,” as well as finding ways to promote student involvement in extracurricular and community activities such as sports, academic and social clubs, chorus and band. He wants to help teach students to make a positive difference in the community and become leaders.

“As an outsider looking in, I don't know the details or behind-the-scenes reasons for decisions that have been made or what the roadblocks are to making the necessary changes,” Minnear said. “I want to be a part of the solution as opposed to just complaining about it.”

He still sees students behind from education missed during the pandemic and said the board needs to recognize these deficiencies and get the children caught up so that they cannot only advance, but thrive.

He also said he believes the board must find a way for parents to have structured involvement in their child's education, especially in the primary school years.

Minnear also is unsatisfied with what he called “good enough” culture at the school, saying there doesn’t seem to be an urgency to be “great.” He wants to reestablish pride in the school and community, encouraging the children to strive.

He said he believes the teacher shortage to be nationwide.

“I think you first need to ask the questions and then be humble enough to listen to the answers. Once you have a grasp on the problem, then you can help come up with solutions,” Minnear said.

Brittney Beachem-Larimore
Brittney Beachem-Larimore

Beachem-Larimore is a resident of Cherry Township and has children attending school in the district. She said she cares for them as well as their friends, peers, acquaintances and the entire student body.

She has considered running for the board for a few years, she said, and, if elected, is willing to ask the “tough questions” and dig into issues that matter to the community.

“I am not running for school board with any preceding ill feelings or agenda,” she said. “I am running as a community member who is wholeheartedly encouraged toward the betterment of Moniteau School District.”

She was prompted to run because she feels pride for the district and is encouraged to help the district advance, improve and be a force forward in all areas, and to meet the needs and desires of the entire student population.

As for goals, she said she would want to encourage a sense of pride among the community, claiming students, faculty and families need to be proud of where they are from. She wants Moniteau to be positioned in a manner that will assist all students, of all abilities, to have the resources they need to reach their full potential.

She thinks the issues that face the district are comparable to others, believing in a proactive approach to ever-changing times rather than a reactive one.

Beachem-Larimore said she thinks the teacher shortage is a discussion for the commonwealth, believing an earlier classroom introduction to education majors than their final semester may help the situation.

“I think it’s possible there is a disconnect between what is being taught in the college classroom versus what reality looks like. Moniteau is fortunate to have at least two well-respected post-secondary institutes nearby ... maybe it’s possible for Moniteau to better engage with these institutes and develop a program akin to a pre-service teacher program to better parallel the theorized classroom versus the real-life scenario.”

Travis Beachem
Travis Beachem

Beachem, born and raised in Butler County and a resident of Clay Township, is employed full time as an operations manager for a manufacturing company. He creates budgets and production schedules, as well as oversees 39 employees, three supervisors, the maintenance department and shipping/receiving.

Outside of work, he helps coach Moniteau’s high school football team.

He said he felt compelled to run for a position on the board because of the “amazing community” at Moniteau, and he would like to see the “constant changes” they are facing in ethics and culture accomplished in a positive way.

Beachem’s goals include empowerment for teachers and making sure they have every resource they need, as well as encouraging more students to try athletics. He wants to work on updates to the athletic facilities and help with budgets and projects to ensure they are getting the most out of taxpayers’ money.

He said he has his opinions on top issues at the school, but wouldn’t comment until he is elected and sees the impact these issues have on the students, teachers and community.

He attributes the teacher shortage largely to the pandemic and hopes it will improve with time. He offered the idea of raising teacher salaries to entice them to return to the profession.

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