Candidate profile: John Harris, III

Name: John W Harris III

Age: 43

Family members: Christina (wife), Jack (13), Francesca (7)

Town: Mascoutah

Office seeking: Mascoutah Community School District 19 Board

Occupation: Owner of Advanced Pattern Works in Collinsville

Previous and current elected offices and terms served: None

Why are you running? I am running for MSD Board to support the school and community which are greatly intertwined. I want to do what I can to continue the excellence that MSD achieves for our students and the benefits to our community. Education has always been a part of my life. My parents, both Mascoutah High School teachers, prioritized education and individual growth which has been a constant throughout my career. We moved back to the metro east seven years ago and there wasn’t a decision of where to live — it was Mascoutah. I want to do my part to provide the best environment possible for my two children as well as for all of the students in the district — a solid foundation for their future.

What is the most important issue facing the Mascoutah School District? How would you approach it? Mascoutah School District continues to face facility capacity constraints and aging facilities, specifically in the elementary and middle schools in the coming years. I would exhaust all options to fully utilize the facilities within the school district and/or remodel before expanding or building additional facilities. Some options may include adjusting schedules, facility populations, classroom sizes, etc. There is not a single solution and it’s difficult to predict the solution until the situation develops. Ultimately, if the school district continues to grow, capital projects will be necessary.

Should a school district’s teacher demographics mirror that of its student demographics? Why or why not? Demographics should not be a focus when hiring the best teachers; a great teacher is not defined by where they fit on a demographic pie chart. In general, one would expect the teacher demographics to loosely follow the demographics of the community and student population but the best teachers should be hired to provide our students with the best education. The results of a great teacher are not always visible in a test score. Many times the impact of a teacher becomes evident later in the students life. Sometimes the teacher’s impact was a defining moment, encouragement, a challenge, or a struggle — it is the teacher’s ability to challenge, encourage, and motivate a student that makes them successful.

How much emphasis should your school district put on STEM education? I share the district’s commitment to supporting and improving STEM education, as it has been vital throughout our country’s history. Science and manufacturing (industrial or civil construction) have allowed the United States to be a world leader, and improve our level of health in addition to our living standards. If a student follows a career path under the STEM umbrella I believe they have an opportunity to be successful. However I do not believe STEM should be the singular focus of the district. The student population is made up of kids with many different talents and abilities. It should be the school district’s goal to prepare their students for college, the workplace, and an overall productive life. This requires many different programs and approaches to also include the arts, literature, social sciences, and extracurricular activities to maximize student potential.

In St. Clair County, there will be votes for two sales tax referendums. One would benefit school facility costs, one would benefit public safety. Do you support either or both of the referendums? Why or why not? I support sales tax referendums, especially in regards to school infrastructure. As the school district grows, additional infrastructure is necessary to provide a quality learning environment. Having safer, stronger, better schools makes sense to me, and it could put a lot of people to work.

Why should people vote for you? As a business owner, parent, volunteer, and son of two former Mascoutah District teachers, I will bring valuable experience, dedication, and knowledge to the Mascoutah School Board. My personal and professional experience will provide a good base to assist the board in making good decisions to support the students on behalf of the taxpayers. Growth and continued investment in our school system is necessary to remain competitive and produce outstanding graduates. A good school system also has a positive impact to the community and home values. Efficient use of the taxpayer’s monies, a great teaching staff, and well maintained facilities are essential to sustaining the success of Mascoutah schools. Our decisions today will greatly impact our future.