April 2023 election
By Christy Porter, Managing Editor
The City of Licking will have all uncontested, two-year term incumbents on the election ballot in April.
Mayor Keith Cantrell has been serving since April 2015 and is running uncontested to retain the mayor position; he has previously served as an Alderman on the City Council.
Also running uncontested is incumbent Erin McConnell, Alderman for Ward II, who has been serving since he completed a term for Greg Green (who relocated), and then maintained his position in the 2021 election. Incumbent Danny Wade, Alderman for Ward I, is running uncontested; he was first elected in April 2013, and has consistently maintained his position.
The Licking R-VIII School Board has one new candidate and three incumbents running for three, 3-year term, positions on the April ballot.
Debbie Cook feels that since May 2020, helping the students and faculty at Licking R-VIII deal with COVID issues has been a priority and an achievement for the school board. The board was responsible for ensuring COVID-related funds were put to the best use, and these funds have assisted with much needed repairs, but there were additional challenges during her time serving on the board.
“Due to eight weeks when the students were not in the school setting, testing scores and academics were hampered,” shared Cook. “Getting them back to where they need to be is a priority.”
Additionally, there have been changes in the administration and staffing at the school.
“The success of new administration working with staff for continual improvement will also remain a priority,” said Cook.
Cook also desires that “life stuff” such as personal finance, life skills and citizenship become a bigger part of the curriculum.
She emphasized, “Providing encouragement and resources for those students that are not college bound should always be available.”
“‘Good enough’ is not good enough anymore; getting the kids where they need to be is imperative,” Cook added. “We are pushing Licking schools to be great again.”
“The board questions each situation with what is best for the kids,” said Cook. “Whether academic, faculty or athletics. We’re doing a lot of exciting things right now and I am looking forward to the future of our local school.”
Cook is currently a partner at the accounting firm of Alfermann, Gray & Co., LLC, in Rolla, and has six children, ages five to 18 years, with five of them in school ranging from elementary to high school.
Colton Lewis felt the highest priority achieved by the school board in the previous three years was keeping the kids in school, learning and safe during the COVID pandemic.
“Minimal changes and no mask mandates, with few closure lapses, kept attendance at 80 percent and helped maintain structure, stability and nutrition needs for the students,” said Lewis. He also noted that there were lapses in local academic scores but they were not as bad as with some schools.
Lewis believes that the board obtained the most possible out of the ESSR funds distributed due to COVID, with no waste and without borrowing money. It is a practical time to pursue the expansion of the elementary cafeteria, allowing reasonable lunchtimes for all elementary students.
Moving forward he wants to be a part of finding alternatives to meet the needs of the district and wants to bring about necessary change to fix everything possible to help the kids of our school district.
“Compromise works,” insists Lewis.
Other future goals for Lewis include providing a school environment that can create a mindset for all students that they can “succeed in life,” in whatever their career choice may be, and then gives them the resources to do so.
“I would like to see the same competitiveness with academic scores that are seen with athletic scores,” said Lewis.
Remembering that ESSR funding ends in 2024, and with expenses continuing to escalate, additional funding through a tax levy will be necessary to meet the requirements for all concerned in the academic setting. This includes acquiring and maintaining qualified staff and faculty.
Lewis would also like to see more public participation at board meetings.
“The structure, stability and meeting nutritional needs is a good reason for continuing the five-day week as opposed to a four-day school week,” he continued, thinking ahead.
Lewis and his wife, Samie, have three children, two who are in the Licking R-VIII school system. Son Kyler is eleven and in the fifth grade; daughter Knoxlee is five and in Pre-K; and a daughter, Kelby, is one. Lewis is also involved within the community and continues to coach Little League in Licking.
Communication flows both ways with him, to and from the community and the school board. “The board has to make tough decisions,” he said, “but by serving, I’m a part of that decision-making and can offer insight.”
“Thank you for letting me serve for the previous three years and I want to continue to serve for another three years,” Lewis concluded.
Incumbent Alan Quick has served on the School Board as Vice President for the past three years, and served as a board member for a term prior to that; he was first elected in 2017.
“My prior service on the board brought experience, as we were a relatively young board. It has been an achievement to have been an active part of seeing several projects through to completion. Academic differences were recognized, and we wanted that corrected,” shared Quick.
He continued, “COVID was tricky to deal with; it exacerbated behavioral issues and the needs of the students. We had a great administration that helped wholeheartedly with the board’s vision to keep school open and to continue to give the students an education, love and be there for them.”
“The HVAC unit in the gym has been replaced; a new bus barn built; we replaced windows and have gotten the roofs in good repair; the elementary cafeteria is being enlarged, which will stop the 10 a.m. lunches; and all by utilizing ESSR funds,” Quick added.
Going forward, Quick, as a member of the board, wishes to stay unified with the administration and the great staff as improvement is seen in the academic scores, to a large extent in reading and math.
“We want to support the kids and ready them for the world as productive citizens, whether it’s college, technical careers or in the work force. We want excellence,” said Quick. “To achieve that we must enable each student to reach their full potential, continue to communicate with the parents, engage with the community and parents and promote interest in academics.”
Quick and his wife, Tracy, are both local to the Licking area and have three children. Kyson is a senior this year; Korbin is in the fifth grade; and Kaden graduated from LHS in 2019.
“We’re seeing results, which is so gratifying; there are good things in place and it’s gonna be great,” concluded Quick.
Caitlyn “Caiti” Barry is the candidate for this year’s school board election.
She is a 2006 Licking High School graduate, and continued her education to achieve a Master of Science in Nursing. Barry practices as a Nurse Practitioner with Dr. David Myers in Rolla. She is also a member of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners (AANP).
Prior to continuing her education, Barry was the Licking R-VIII school nurse from 2011 through 2015, for a time following in the footsteps of her mother, Toni Moberly, who was also a nurse at the school.
When asked why she’s running for the school board, Barry replied, “I want to give back to my community and the school, and be ‘hands on’ involved; I am now in a position where I can do that.
“I can definitely add a healthcare viewpoint that can be beneficial with policies and planning, healthcare being of utmost importance during the COVID crisis. All encompassing, mind and body, health and wellness for staff and students are always important.”
“I am aware of what the school board does, dealing with staff, students, buildings, finances, and growth and development. I already have a relationship with the people of Licking, in the community and at the school with staff and students,” she continued. “I want to work for the community by working for the school.”
Barry’s highest priorities would first be the people, the students, the teachers and then the building challenges. Teachers need to feel valued and be rewarded for the good they do; a good school can make all the difference in people’s lives, she stated.
Caiti is the wife of Brian Barry, the new elementary principal. Together they have three children, sons, Mason, a 13-year-old seventh grader and Tyson, a 10-year-old fourth grader; and daughter, Camden, six, who is in kindergarten.
“I have a personal, vested interest; these are my people,” concluded Barry.