Interview edited for time and clarity.
Election day is Tuesday April 6
FRED FLETCHER-FIERRO (HOST): It’s Morning Edition on KRPS. I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro. This morning we continue our series focusing on the four candidates running for the Joplin School Board of Education. So far this week, we’ve heard from Donnie Greenlee and David Weaver. Today we meet first-time candidate Sally Hawley Chesser. I met Sally last Saturday at the Joplin Public Library and first asked her to introduce herself to voters.
SALLY HAWLEY CHESSER (GUEST): Again, my name is Sally Holly Chesser. The first last name is like Josh Hawley. Our Senator and Chesser is like the chess game with ER, on the end of it. So that way, hopefully, everyone understands what I’m saying. And I grew up here in the Four State area. I’m a graduate of Vinita high school, actually.
And then, I went to school at Oklahoma State and Kansas State. And so did lots of summers in the Ozarks. So I’m from this area, and I am a mother of two in the Joplin school districts. And I’m a trained tax accountant. So I’m pretty busy this time of year, but not too busy to try to make a difference for our kids here in Joplin.
FRED: Running for the school board has been on the radar for Sally, her concern increased regarding the school district’s direction during the pandemic when learning went virtual, and the district promoted masking. .
SALLY: I have been interested for many years and things, and I just we’ve really settled down here in Joplin. We’ve been here for a few years. My girls have really loved the Joplin school district, and I just think it’s important for parents to be involved. And so this gives me a chance, not only for myself, but I to help other parents be more involved as well.
FRED: Recently, the school board did what appears to be an about-face over costs concerning the MOSO CAPS program that assists Joplin high school students taking college classes at Missouri Southern State University. If elected, Sally views her role on the board as a voice for parents.
SALLY: The board, I feel mostly is kind of in charge of the financial, but I know lots of problems are brought to the board to, you know, to bring to their attention. And that’s a good thing because we don’t want Things being done in, in the classrooms that, that parents don’t approve of and having to have a pandemic come around for parents to find out about it.
So it’s good to have us there for, you know, a little more separate from the classroom and the teachers, little, slightly different viewpoints, possibly. Hopefully, we are there also to bring everyone together. So we can be that mean meeting point between the teachers and the administration and the parents.
I hope to add to that by, like I said, really being a voice for other parents and things. If their schedules are too busy, hopefully, they can contact me and give me their concerns so I can present them to the board if they can’t attend. And also, I hope to work with maybe some of the students and, and get feedback from them about how well, how do you like these policies and how do you think you would like this, if we did this. And that kind of thing. Since I have students as my children and, and their friends.
FRED: Sally has been watching national debates about sensitive topics such as Critical Race Theory and banning books in public schools throughout the US. If elected, she wants to be an advocate to continue what she calls, ‘Midwest Values’.
SALLY: Well, a lot of it is these national issues, the C R T, and you know, and just whether parents are supposed to be heard and supposed to be involved or not. I know these come from other states where there’s been real issues with it. Luckily Joplin hasn’t had that level of issue. I don’t want it to become a real issue here.
I want us to stay wholesome in Midwest Midwest values and also the mandates and things are concerning. I’m glad that Joplin hasn’t been going too crazy. I know they had reasons that they’d still been using masks on the school bus and things. I wanna get involved and make sure that nobody ends up taking more power than they actually should.
FRED: Joplin Schools has 7,600 students with nearly 1,500 employees. Many of them are teachers. Sally said that she would look to partner with both teachers and parents to create a better district for students to attend.
SALLY: I hope to be a partner. I, I don’t wanna be an adversary and because I know they need us to work for them, with them. I mean, and we’re all there staying focused on the kids, you know, we really wanna need to do what’s best for the kids. And I want to, you know, know, have that open hand, open-door policy and, and be able to work with them and not against them.
FRED: Sally Hawley Chesser is running for the Joplin Board of Education. She’s running against David Weaver. Donnie Greenlee and Mathew Robinson. There are two seats open; each is for a three year term.
I reached out to Mathew Robinson concerning a candidate interview and have not received a response.
For 89 9 KRPS, I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro