Keeping the Hazelwood School District's finances in order and establishing an alternative school are among Charles “Chuck” Woods’ priorities.
“We need to make sure we make every dollar count,” Woods said.
Woods, 73, is one of four candidates running for three seats on the Hazelwood Board of Education in the April 5 election. The others are , and . Gibbons and Woods are incumbents. A third incumbent, Diane Dowdy, decided not to seek re-election.
Woods was a principal in the Hazelwood School District (HSD) for 34 years, serving at , Coldwater and elementary schools before retiring.
He first was elected to the Board of Education in 2005 and has three grandchildren who attend HSD schools.
Woods said school district budgets are tricky because financial work starts before the state allocations are known and tax dollars are collected.
“You’re always making the best guesstimate you can on the best information you have,” Woods said. “But that information can change very rapidly, and you can wind up behind the eight ball.”
He said Dwight Lindhorst, assistant superintendent for finance and facilities, is conservative with budget estimates. Woods said that was important during the economic downturns and state budget cuts.
Another key is a good relationship with teachers groups such as the Hazelwood National Education Association, he said.
“We’ve always done that in Hazelwood. We have groups of teachers and administrators sit down and come to mutual agreements,” Woods said. “It’s give-and-take.”
Woods also said he wants to establish an alternative school, which would aid students who do not succeed in traditional classes.
“We have students who move in and a lot of times they’re behind where the Hazelwood students are,” he said.
He said the district has lots of apartments, so families often are in the area less than a year. The more mobile students often fall behind academically, he said.
Woods said this causes two problems in classes: Teachers are strained as they teach a wide range of student abilities; and struggling students often cause mischief.
“My idea on alternative education is if a kid moves in and is a couple of years behind, you have an intensive program in remedial reading, math and science,” he said. “We could allow those kids to get an education in a different environment.”
Once a student catches up, they can return to regular classes. If the new environment is a key for them, students might stay in the alternative school, he said.
“It could remove distractions from (traditional) classrooms, and it could mean the teacher has time to work with the rest of the kids and challenge them more,” Woods said.
He believes district teachers do challenge students.
“I think parents are hoping that we keep things challenging,” Woods said. “We recently had a group of kids at Hazelwood West go to nationals with DECA (which prepares students to be leaders in business). Sometimes people don’t hear about what our kids really do.”