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Meet the 2024 Lindbergh Board of Education Candidates

Four candidates are running to fill two three-year seats on the Lindbergh Schools Board of Education. The election will be Tuesday, April 2. Responses are listed in the same order in which candidate names will appear on the ballot. Responses were collected on Jan. 26, 2024, and were limited to 1,000 words total.

Describe your past and present involvement and volunteer work in Lindbergh Schools.

Rachel Braaf Koehler: I have been a volunteer in various roles in the Lindbergh School District for the past 14 years. My involvement includes serving on the School Start Times Task Force, and the BOE Advisory Committee: Teaching and Learning. I currently serve on the Secondary Gifted Education Task Force. At Lindbergh High School, I volunteered in several positions with the Lindbergh Strolling Strings Alliance, including serving as treasurer and president, and was also a parent volunteer for the LHS Theatre Department. At Truman Middle School, I served as co-treasurer for the Truman TPG. At Long Elementary, I was a classroom parent volunteer, taught Junior Achievement, and served on numerous committees including the PTO Scholarship Committee and Long Elementary PTO. I have also served as school representative to LEAP PTG, treasurer, and president. I have been a volunteer with Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri for the past 14 years and currently serve as a Delegate to the Annual Representative Assembly. In Lindbergh, I have been a Troop Leader and Assistant Troop Leader, Troop Organizer, Neighborhood Manager, and the All-Lindbergh District Recruitment Chair.

Megan Vedder: Lindbergh Schools Board of Education 2021 – present; Special School District Governing Council 2022-present; School Board representative, Lindbergh Schools Foundation Board 2022 – present; MSBA delegate 2022- present; Student Life Board Advisory 2020-present; Teaching and Learning Board Advisory 2021-2023; Technology Board Advisory 2021-2022; Facilities Board Advisory 2023 – present.

David Randelman: I am a proud parent of a senior in LHS and a 2022 Lindbergh alumnus. I have been on numerous Lindbergh committees and both my wife and I are ardent supporters of the Lindbergh Strings program, FORTE PTG. My involvement extends to collaborating with school administration and staff on matters important to the community. 

Furthermore, my commitment to educational governance was demonstrated in the last two years when I stood as a candidate for the volunteer position of Director on the Lindbergh Schools Board of Education. 

David Kirschner: Parental involvement and volunteer support are critical to good schools.  My wife and I have consistently volunteered in our children’s schools, including me coaching sports teams and serving on the board of a small school in Texas.  We moved back to St. Louis and purchased our second home in the District with every intention of sending our children to Lindbergh High.  The move and subsequent social isolation caused by the Pandemic was tough on our family.  And thus, after touring the high school during its early stages of renovations and learning how Lindbergh had changed since we moved away in 2012, we made the best decision for our children and sent them to a smaller private school.  

Why are you running for the Board of Education? Please state your goals or areas of focus if elected.

Braaf Koehler: As a Lindbergh graduate myself, and being a parent of a recent graduate and a current Lindbergh student, I want to give back to a community that has given so much to our family by serving in the role of director for the BOE. I have always been interested in public service and the power of quality public education. My family and I have had the opportunity to experience the strengths of Lindbergh first-hand, and I want to play a role in helping to keep Lindbergh’s strong performance going and growing for years to come.

As a member of the BOE, I will prioritize policies and initiatives that support all students; students of all backgrounds and abilities. It is imperative that all students, regardless of which building they attend/use, have the same opportunities and experiences, and the same level of safety and security. Therefore, I will advocate for equity amongst all facilities, such as every elementary school having a separate gym space, and all facilities meeting uniform safety standards. Furthermore, I will prioritize policies, positions and initiatives that provide support to and promote communication and transparency between district teachers, staff, administration, the community and the BOE.

Vedder: I originally ran for the Board in 2021 because I wanted to have a broader understanding of the educational system my children would be entering. I wanted to learn and contribute in any capacity I was able. At that time, I was teaching students who were learning English for the first time. I thought then, and still believe, that my knowledge and background as an educator, along with my prioritization of educational equity, provide a different perspective and lens to the Board and the district. Currently I am a preschool teacher at the Washington University Nursery School. Previously I was an elementary school teacher in districts both similar to and different from Lindbergh. 

I am running for a second term because I want to continue the work the school district and Board are doing. Now I have a second grader attending Lindbergh Schools, and in the fall, my youngest will begin kindergarten. I am committed to Lindbergh now and for many years ahead. The district is in the process of creating its next 5-year strategic plan. Having been a part of the evolving work over the past 3 years, I am committed to seeing this process through and remaining an integral part of Lindbergh's pursuit of educational excellence. I believe the district has made many strides in a positive direction, and my goal is to ensure the continuation of these advancements. This involves working on both the things that are going well and the areas that need improvement. I want to continue to prioritize that Lindbergh is a great place for all students and employees.

Randelman: When my family immigrated to Saint Louis in 2012, we handpicked Lindbergh Schools due to its exceptional academic success, reputation, and ELL program. Our two oldest children were able to start without English literacy and progress through the years towards extraordinary academic achievement, thanks to their teachers. However, we noticed a shift in the curriculum and pedagogy, a change starting around 2018 that impacted our two younger children. We realized that not all students were experiencing consistency in their Lindbergh education. We also discovered that we are not alone and that many families in the community shared that same experience.

Consequently, with a sense of being indebted and caring for our district, it is a heartfelt ministry for me to run for the purpose of advocating for all students and community, to promote the same experience that I was given with our two older children while also bringing a diverse opinion to the board. We need a board that will represent the entire community and strive for Lindbergh to be a top school district again, committed to academic excellence for all students and considerate of the district taxpayer. 

Kirschner: Education is the great equalizer in our society as exemplified by my own family.  My father grew up in a poor rural single-parent home and was a first-generation college student.  He and my mother became public K-12 educators in Missouri with combined service of 50 years (following in the footsteps of my two maternal grandparents who were also Missouri public-school teachers).  In one generation, my father came out of poverty and with my mother raised their four children in Missouri public schools to become a lawyer and three university professors, including me.  Regardless of a family’s situation, my family’s history demonstrates how a high-quality public education can be life changing.  I want the same life-changing high-quality education for every child, regardless of their background and social circumstance.  If elected, I will be laser focused on what I can do in service of educational excellence. 

What do you think are the district’s greatest challenges? How would you address those challenges?

Braaf Koehler: Our district lacks equity in facilities in that our buildings do not provide the same experiences and opportunities for all students. In order to ensure equity in what all students are learning at the same grade levels district-wide, there needs to be facility improvement at all school buildings (aside from the recently-renovated Lindbergh High School). I am hopeful that the Lindbergh community feels the same way and that Prop R will pass this April. I am committed to working for fiscal responsibility and transparency, as well as community and teachers/staff participation with the work to be accomplished with Prop R funding.

I also see another area of improvement with communication between educators and administration. It is my opinion that it is always possible to improve communication so that more parties feel that their needs are being heard and understood. Our district does a good job with communication between teachers and staff, yet there is always room for improvement. 

Recently there has been more discussion in the community about whether the district is being transparent in various areas. Because of my role on district-level committees and in parent groups, my experience has shown me that the district is being transparent with the community. However, if the community still feels that the district is not being transparent, and perception is often viewed as reality, then the district and the BOE needs to work to better understand what the community is not receiving through current forms of communication and how to improve the way the information is delivered and presented.

Vedder: While the district continues to work towards any challenges, I believe that there is room for growth with the work in Standards-based learning/grading. This is a new concept that Lindbergh is exploring to see how it best fits the expectations and needs of students and teachers. As a board member, I am committed to furthering my understanding of standards-based learning through ongoing dialogue with teachers and administrators to identify areas of success and areas needing improvement. Additionally, I am eager to see Lindbergh maintain its focus on individualized learning to ensure that every student's specific needs are met. I would like to see the district continue to explore further opportunities to allow students to demonstrate their progress and achievements. 

I believe Lindbergh does well with communication and transparency, and I also believe that it is something that will continually need adjustments as the needs of the community shift. I want to continue to question how we can best reach our stakeholders and communicate the work of the district. I also want to look at how the district receives feedback with intentionality and purpose. Lastly, I am always looking at who has a seat at the table - who is present and who is missing from conversations. There are so many vital participants in the school district, so as a board member I will always be focused on the presence of diverse voices and perspectives to ensure a well-rounded view that focuses on what is best for students.

Randelman: In 2018 the board leadership adopted a new five-year plan that drastically shifted our district from “The three R’s” (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) to four C’s (Collaboration, Creativity, Communication, Critical thinking), driven through a new program called Competency-Based Learning. This was a result of the new Lindbergh board leadership that transitioned from a community diverse representative board to a uniform NEA board. These board-supported changes have negatively impacted academic quality and rigor. The following is an incomplete list resulting from the board’s adopted changes: (1) cessation of the Academic All Stars Celebration, which encouraged student scholarship through public recognition; (2) abolition of middle-school challenge classes; (3) elimination of high school class ranking, which is an important metric for students seeking entry into the most selective universities; (4) reduction of transparency and consistency in education by adopting a living curriculum; (5) discontinuation of math intervention programs and abolishing of homework in the elementary schools.

During this time, we have seen an increase in operational costs from 83 to 127 million dollars annual expenditure and a sharp decline in classical liberal arts proficiency. From being the best in our state, we now hold a 56% proficiency rating and negative student enrollment. 

Our district, once a beacon of excellence, now lingers on the brink of mediocrity.

The path forward is to recognize the importance of a board free of interest groups who do not hold community values and student concerns as their top priority. We need new leadership aligned with the community needs, focused on a common denominator – academics. For this reason, I declined to be considered for NEA endorsement. Our board needs healthy public debate and transparency concerning tax spending, policies, and community input, which will ensure that community interests are factored in when making decisions. My goal is nothing short of restoring our blue-ribbon achievements and being a leading school district. We can and should be an example of what a well-run public school can be for the community. We need new leadership to help our school district achieve its educational mission obligation to the community and students. On April 2nd, vote for Academic Excellence, vote for David Randelman & David Kirschner.

Kirschner: As a professor at Saint Louis University for sixteen years and a research scientist in the energy industry for nine years, I saw an increasing number of high-school students who were ill-prepared to study at the university or to work professionally in a technical field.  Lindbergh Schools District has a strong history of excellence (that is why my wife and I twice bought homes in the District) and continues to provide a high-quality education to many students.  However, the overall level of learning in the District has significantly decreased this past decade according to data from the Missouri Department of Secondary Education (DESE).  In 2013, just 18% of Lindbergh students tested below grade level in English plus Math.  In 2018, this number increased to 32%, and by 2023 a shocking 44% of Lindbergh students were testing below their grade level.  Unfortunately, the Covid pandemic amplified the decline.  I was alarmed when I learned of this decline, motivating me to seek a position on Lindbergh’s Board of Education.  I aim to use my academic and professional experiences to ensure the Board makes good, informed, reasoned decisions that improve the educational outcomes of Lindbergh students.  

My primary goal will be to ensure we are investing in, and continually supporting, Lindbergh teachers.  They need to be well compensated, have the tools and resources they need to do their jobs well, and are supported by the administration, parents, and broader community.  They need opportunities to continue learning, have sufficient authority and administrative backing to maintain well-structured classrooms free of student disruptions and disrespectful behaviors, have sufficient time for lesson planning and grading, be able to count on a reliable substitute-teacher pool so they can deal with unexpected family emergencies, and be free from worrying about financial ruin due to unwarranted lawsuits.  Being a front-line teacher can be tough, which should not be the case.  

What qualities make Lindbergh successful, and how can the district continue to prepare students for success in the years to come?

Braaf Koehler: Retaining quality educators: While Lindbergh does not have a teacher retention problem, I am committed to continue the work it takes to keep Lindbergh a competitive district through compensation, benefits, and transparent communication with educators and staff, administrators and the BOE. I will continue to support educators in this endeavor.

Striving for excellence and innovation in education: The district continues to implement new tools and resources for student success. For example, implementing achievement testing with immediate results so teachers can change focus to meet each child’s individual needs. The district provides pathways for success after high school, preparing students for a variety of options: trade school, 2- and 4-year colleges, military service, and entering the workforce, including being certification-ready. I support these initiatives and will focus on expanding these opportunities.

Responsible use of tax dollars: Through meeting with the district CFO, and through my work on various committees, I have seen first-hand the importance of every tax dollar in the district budget. I will focus on the budget to ensure the district is a responsible steward for stakeholders’ tax dollars. 

A strong relationship between the board, administration, and teachers: It is essential to promote a feeling of being seen and heard and valued, to encourage and support professional development, and to work to increase diversity throughout the teachers and staff in our district. I will foster these relationships so that they continue to strengthen and grow.

Vedder: As a teacher myself, I know the teachers and staff are the district’s biggest strength. I have seen Lindbergh teachers go above and beyond, especially with the demands and high standards presented by the educational system and Lindbergh administration. I have seen building and district leaders put great faith and trust in the teachers to be the trained professionals they are, allowing them to be creative, innovative, and confident to be their best selves for students. Continuing to involve teachers in the district’s work should be the district’s standard in ensuring student success. I am confident that every employee at Lindbergh consistently prioritizes students, continuously asking, 'What is best for our students?” 

I think the district’s long range facilities plan will keep the community up to date on changes and improvements while creating modern, safe and innovative schools. The educational landscape continues to change, and Lindbergh has worked towards adapting to those changes. Lindbergh does an excellent job in staying up to date with the ever changing climate of public education, while also considering the most influencing factors such as budget, capacity of the workforce, and potential for growth. I believe the district is responsible and thoughtful with tax-payer dollars, putting the monies to good use and keeping the district in good financial standing.

Randelman: I have come to realize that what makes Lindbergh successful starts with a strong community that actively supports, gets involved with and invests in its school district. In our community, this is often referred to as the “Lindbergh way” and it extends into the heart of our Schools and teachers. Our teachers are exceptional, and I give them credit for my children’s integration and welcoming into their new home, community, and for their academic success.

What will help prepare our students for success in the years to come will be equipping our teachers with evidence-based curriculum, additional supporting staff, and establishment of a communication channel for teachers to relay actionable feedback to the administration. In addition, it is important to provide teachers impactful professional development programs. Furthermore, I will promote vocational opportunities with more class workshops and further cultivating relationships with trade schools. This will extend the range of choices students have when considering their path.

Kirschner: Good teachers are the foundation of a quality education.  For most, teaching is not just a job, but a calling to teach and to help students.  Teachers should not be micromanaged nor have undue administrative burdens or societal pressures put on them.  As a Board member, I will focus on helping teachers.  You will hear that Lindbergh’s NEA teacher union did not endorse me.  I asked them to NOT consider me for endorsement after they sent me their NEA candidate survey because I disagree with many of their organization’s resolutions and policies that are entirely unrelated to student education.   Lindbergh teachers, however, will find me very supportive of them as a Board member given my family history and my own experience as a university professor. 

The Lindbergh Schools Board of Education voted in December to place a $150 million, no-tax-rate-increase bond issue on the April 2 ballot. Prop R would support building equity across elementary schools, much needed middle school renovations, safety upgrades districtwide and a K-12 agricultural STEM learning center on the Concord Farmers Club site. Do you support Prop R? Why or why not?

Braaf Koehler: I support Prop R. Having been a parent of children at both Long and Truman (two buildings that are included in the work being proposed by Prop R), I have seen first-hand the need for facility improvement. In order to support all students, every child must be able to participate in the same activities and experiences, and have the same level of safety and security, regardless of which building they attend. Prop R is necessary to provide funding for much needed facility work across our district. The STEM learning center is a great opportunity for Lindbergh Schools to honor the history of the Concord Farmers Club in our community, to connect with stakeholders and to enhance educational experiences throughout the district.

Vedder: Yes, I support Prop R. The successful completion of the high school project has demonstrated the positive impact of enhancing our facilities on students, teachers, and the entire community. Given the success of the previous Prop, it only makes sense to extend these improvements to the rest of our facilities, ultimately benefiting the entire district. The potential for the Farmer’s Club is truly exciting. The district's commitment to upgrading facilities aligns with its dedication to advancing not just education, but also creating new opportunities for students.

Randelman: I support measures that help promote Lindbergh student academic success and close learning gaps. To date, the information provided about Prop R is incomplete, and the projects are not fully thought out. I can assure our residents that as a board member, I will be a good steward of our taxes and accountable to the community; holding the district accountable for justifying large capital project proposals is one way to do that. Funds should be re-prioritized, starting by lifting our students who are struggling and providing true measurable academic goals. As such, I would be in favor of promoting the creation of “Centers of Excellence” in every school building and a program that will provide tutoring and help students close gaps to bring them to grade level.

Kirschner: History has shown that the Lindbergh community, including my wife and me, have consistently and generously funded the District, and will likely do so in the future.  

As a Board member, I will manage taxpayer funds just as my wife and I manage our personal finances.  We stay out of debt when possible, we make sure to have a rainy-day fund sufficient to cover unexpected expenses, we keep our spending on "desires" within our means, and we proactively maintain our property to minimize larger problems.   The projects in Prop R 2024 contain noteworthy items including the safety upgrades of all exterior doors, revision of traffic patterns to increase safety, and needed maintenance work.

I think Prop R 2024 might face greater headwinds with voters than those encountered by Prop R 2019.  First, taxpayers have experienced high inflation resulting in stretched pocketbooks.  Second, borrowing costs have increased, which will increase the interest we pay on the bond.  Third, three other props are vying for taxpayers’ dollars on April 2’s ballot – Crestwood’s $33 million prop and two props by Metropolitan Sewer District.  And four, Prop R 2024 will double the District’s debt to almost $300 million, requiring large annual payments for many years to come.  If passed, the District’s ability to financially address future educational needs of students might be significantly hampered, particularly if the District’s property tax base stagnates or student enrollment declines.    

Thank you for taking the time to learn about me and my positions on a few topics.  You can find more information at   I look forward to working on behalf of all families in the Lindbergh Schools District.  

Please Vote DAVID on April 2.