In anticipation of April 3 municipal elections in St. Louis County, Clayton-Richmond Heights Patch invited local candidates to answer several questions about their background, their respective city and their goals if elected to office.
Additional questions about elections coverage may be directed to the editor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following is a profile of Jane Klamer, who is seeking a third term on the . She, incumbent Lily Raymond and newcomer Darryl Higuchi are seeking election to the board. Voters will get to select two of the three candidates to fill two seats.
A profile of Raymond will publish Sunday morning. A profile of Higuchi will publish next weekend.
Name: Jane Ferguson Klamer
Years lived in Clayton: Since 1982, so 30 years! I moved to for the , but we stayed for the schools.
Family: My husband is J. Mark Klamer, a partner with Bryan Cave LLP. My daughter is a graduate, class of 2010. My son is a junior at Clayton High School, class of 2013. We participated in some classes, and the kids attended ( before moving on to and the High School.
Education: I am from Virginia where I went to college at the University of Virginia, B.A. 1976. A college friend introduced me to St. Louis and St. Louis University. I got my J. D. from St. Louis University School of Law in 1980.
Professional background: My first job out of law school was with a small firm in Clayton (my office looked out over what was then known as the "Clayton Hole"; the , the Plaza, and the are located there now.) I moved to the St. Louis Redevelopment Authority in 1981, to The May Department Stores Company in 1982, and to Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. in 1988. I stopped practicing law for compensation in 2002, but have done a some pro bono work since '02.
Elected office(s) held previously: I was first elected to the School Board of Clayton in 2006, and I was re-elected in 2009.
What do you like about the School District of Clayton? I love that education is highly valued in our school district community (which is not coextensive with the City of Clayton, as the District includes portions of too.) Whether our families are long time residents, or new families to the District, they value education and our schools. As a member of the Board which proposed not one, but two bond issues when the country was beginning to be caught in our economic doldrums, I am incredibly grateful for the support we received which led to tremendous upgrades to our elementary schools, our Family Center and Clayton High School, and the creation of a new building for our middle school students.
If you could change one thing about the district, what would it be? Why? If I could waive a magic wand to give the District, and the City of Clayton, one thing it would be more recreational green space. As a small urban district our green space is heavily used. The City of Clayton and the District share playing fields. Residents value sports and exercise; our high school operates our athletic programs based on a "no-cut" policy which allows a huge number of our students to participate on our teams. It can be very difficult to serve all of the sports and recreational needs with the available space. My son has played field sports since pre-school. We have driven all over the metro area for his teams to find places to compete. I know from personal experience and Board work that we have severe limitations in this area as to scheduling our high school students.
Identify three challenges your school district is facing at this time.
1. The Clayton School District is involved in litigation based on Missouri Law over the possible admission of an unlimited number of students from unaccredited districts in St. Louis County and the City of St. Louis. The case, Turner vs. Clayton, has been in the courts for several years. The outcome of this case is very important to the District.
2. The School District of Clayton is also facing challenges based on our economic climate. New construction is down, so new tax revenue is not being generated at the same pace as in prior years, plus real estate tax assessments have fallen. The District has begun a careful analysis of its spending with the intention of reducing costs to extend the life of the last tax levy, approved in 2003. I am serving on the District's Resource Allocation Committee which is undertaking this work.
3. We always have the challenge to hire and retain top flight teachers; this is part of our on-going priorities. While we look into spending restraints which will extend our levy we need both our staff and our families to understand the choices we make and the results of these decisions. Education is still primarily a people business — teachers, teaching students who have parents supporting the process. We have to respect all of our constituents when making our decisions.
Describe a difficult decision that you have had to make. How does this situation illustrate the approach you would take to problem-solving as an elected leader?
The math curriculum in Clayton has been a subject of discussion and debate for many years. The Board approved a revised math curriculum in 2011 which sets new learning goals for Clayton students, most of whom will reach Algebra 1 by the end of 8th grade and be able to take calculus in high school if that fits their future plans.
In working through the issues under consideration during the two years the math curriculum was under review, and even prior to that time, I read many of the same sources which the Math Curriculum Committee considered, and looked for additional materials to help me understand the issues. This reading was in addition to my own observations based on the experiences of my children, and the experiences of friends and neighbors.
I was comfortable with the recommendations from our math curriculum committee because I had followed their work, and had given our administrators my input all along the way. I want to feel as if I understand all sides of an issue before make a decision, and that includes understanding the various opinions of our constituents on matters we are discussing.
Some decisions are harder than others, especially those that might affect friends and neighbors. Some of the decisions I made in voting for aspects of the Wydown Middle School design were very difficult, since the building is going up in my neighborhood.
How would you characterize the district's economic climate?
The Clayton School District is not as adversely affected as some other St. Louis County districts. We have managed our funds conservatively, and we were able to apply bond proceeds to major capital projects on our list of pending repairs because the pricing environment was so favorable when our Proposition S bids were received.
By using those proceeds instead of our operating levy we were able to do needed work without depleting our operating reserves. However, we need to make more cuts and, as I mentioned above, we are working to do so.
What is your philosophy with regard to financial responsibility in the district?
As a member of the Board I think we need to keep our reserve high — it was set by prior Boards at 18% of our operating budget. This amount is well in excess of the requirements of the State of Missouri. We should, however, make big decisions based upon the values of our citizens.
The District has begun a process to reevaluate its mission, vision and core values. It has been named Clayton360 because we value a full 360 degree review of our work. I hope we have significant participation from our constituents because this work will guide future decisions of the Board in all areas.
The district is responsible for managing its spending carefully, and for keeping its constituents advised of how managing the budget affects the classroom.
Identify three issues that are of greatest concern to the Clayton residents you would represent. How would you address each of these concerns?
1. I think our constituents are worried about our budget and taxes. I believe everyone is worried about funding at this time.
2. The Turner case is a big concern for many St. Louis County residents, especially those in Clayton because of our proximity to the City of St. Louis. Under one scenario our District could be overwhelmed by City of St. Louis students who want to leave their schools (public or private.)
3. In that our math curriculum has been a subject as issue for many years and we have just made changes, I think it is still top of mind with many families. It is one of our major curricular areas, and we have many parents who work is in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) areas who highly value this aspect of our programs.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
It is important for District residents to vote on April 3rd. They will have two votes for our School Board. I hope I get one of their two votes.