Three candidates vie for two open positions on Osage County R-III School Board

By Edward Gehlert, Staff Writer
Posted 3/30/22

Fatima school board members Coby Holzschuh and Matt Robertson are up for re-election and will be joined on the April 5 ballot by Mandy Kliethermes, a first-time candidate for office.

Robertson, …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Three candidates vie for two open positions on Osage County R-III School Board


Fatima school board members Coby Holzschuh and Matt Robertson are up for re-election and will be joined on the April 5 ballot by Mandy Kliethermes, a first-time candidate for office.

Robertson, 41, a Loose Creek native, lives there with his wife, Erica, and their four boys, two of whom are currently attending Fatima High School.

Robertson identified being proactive as something he feels would help the district.

“While Fatima has many positive attributes, I feel there are certainly things we can improve upon,” he said. “The enemy of great is good and for quite a while it seems that we have been satisfied with the status quo in some areas and I think it’s time we start being proactive and plan for the future of the district.”

The candidate was quick to point out what he felt the strengths of the R-3 school district were but cautioned against getting too relaxed in the future.

“It sounds like a cliché but the strengths are the people of the district: the kids, the parents, staff, teachers, and administration,” said Robertson. “So many of the patrons in our district have grown up here, gone to school here, sent their kids/grandkids, here so there is a lot of pride and ownership that is passed down from generation to generation.

“One line we hear quite often from new teachers is how refreshing it is to work with our kids and our parents compared to some other districts they’ve been,” he continued. “There is a level of respect, work ethic, and accountability that is a reflection of the community we live in. We absolutely have so many things to be proud of but we can’t allow that to let us be stagnant. Facilities, test scores, teacher morale, teacher retention, whatever issue one may have or feel needs improvement, I believe the best way to go about constructive change is to give people a clear vision, an ambitious vision. Challenge them, give them the best tools and support to be successful then empower them.”

During the last school board election, Robertson ran as the only candidate for one available seat. He is happy with the work he’s done on the school board and is excited about the possibility of reelection.

“I have a lot of pride in this district and am excited to see where we can go,” Robertson said. “We have great people and a great future.”

Holzschuh, 45, and his wife of almost 22 years, Janie, have lived near Westphalia all of their marriage. The couple’s two daughters, Lexi and Kennedy, are recent Fatima graduates. 

Holzschuh grew up in southern Gasconade County and is a 1994 graduate of Belle High School. Holzschuh is running for re-election after winning a seat three years ago when he was one of two candidates for two open positions on the board.

“As a current board member, I have an understanding of our district’s character — the strengths that make our community unique and the flaws we will continue to strive to correct. I believe that a school board member must be responsive and receptive to students, parents, staff, and the community,” said Holzschuh about his decision to run for reelection.

When Holzschuh was asked what he believed the strengths of the R-3 school district are he replied, “There are many strengths in the Fatima school district. Generations have built a long-standing educational tradition of excellence in our schools. One can easily look around our district and see the amazing educators and community members of the past who have sacrificed and gifted their talents to our schools. We also have an amazing group of current teachers and staff. People want to live here because it’s apparent that our teachers and staff care about the success of our students. The professionals take their job seriously and work hard to bring out the best in our students.” 

Holzschuh also remarked on what improvements he would like to see in the district. “We need to make sure we have a long-term vision mapping a course that provides the necessary opportunities students need to reach their full potential,” he said. “The school board is responsible for establishing and maintaining a structure that supports this vision and empowers the staff. We need to always be looking to improve in all areas.”

Holzschuh is proud of the work he and fellow board members have done and hopes to continue serving the community.

“As a current board member, my efforts center on serving all the students in the community,” he said. “Our school is here to serve the educational needs of all. All stakeholders, parents, students, and district personnel must be partners in this endeavor if we are to be successful. I am excited about the future of our school district and the foundation that has been built.” 

Kliethermes, 43, and her husband, Mark, have been married for 23 years. The couple has resided at Mark’s family farm, Sunnyside Farm, since building a house in 2004 on the property located between the Hwy. 50/63 junction and the Maries River. 

The Kliethermes’ have two children. Their daughter, Megan, is a 15-year-old sophomore attending Fatima. Their 18-year-old son, Austin, is graduating from Fatima in May and plans to join the Army Reserves. 

Kliethermes is a six-year employee of the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), where she is a Law Enforcement Grant Manager and the Statewide Traffic Records Coordinator.

“In this position, I help manage the enforcement and data program throughout the state,” said Kliethermes.

Kliethermes has never run for an elected position but has thought about doing so for the last couple of years.

“The thought of running for school board has been a constant for the past few years, but it was just that, a thought,” she explained. “This past year, my children becoming more independent has afforded me more time to commit to really focus my energy on realizing why I wanted to run. My first and foremost reason for running is to ensure the mental health of our children is maintained and kept at the forefront. Mental health diagnosis and treatment has just recently begun to peel back the stigma, but it is truly difficult.” 

Bullying is another issue that led Kliethermes to file for a position on the school board.

“The second and just as important reason for me asking the voters to place me on the school board is the amount of bullying that occurs at Fatima,” Kliethermes said. “We are not a stand-alone school; it’s everywhere. Private, public, it exists. The bullying in schools has led to parents and students not feeling like school is the safest place for them and this alone breaks my heart and makes me very angry at the same time. No student, ever, should feel unsafe to obtain their education. Are we doing anything to bring them back into a safe environment? I don’t have the answers, but if elected, I look forward to working with teachers, administration, students, and parents to make sure everyone has an opportunity. I am in no way saying Fatima isn’t doing what it can to solve the problem but I would like to assist and bring knowledge to the table if elected.”

The retention of quality educators was another factor for Kliethermes to seek a seat on the school board.

“In just a handful of years, Fatima is set to lose multiple teachers due to retirement,” she said. “Our recruitment has been very good, as both of my children have had some of the most amazing teachers, but what are we as a district doing to keep the younger and mid-career teachers throughout their entire career?” 

Kliethermes mentioned the reputation of the district as one of its strengths and something of which to be proud.

“Fatima has the distinct reputation of being a great school as looked at by other communities,” she said. “We have teachers that live outside the district that chose Fatima to educate their own kids. That alone says a lot about our district. Fatima also takes pride in providing the foundation for students who either prefer to pursue a two-year technical degree or a four-year college.” 

When discussing what could be improved at Fatima, Kliethermes did not shy away from the reasons she is running in the first place.

“I believe Fatima could possibly focus on retaining teachers that perform well and who the students respond to,” she said. “Whether this be at the school board, administrative, teacher or student level, communication needs to be at the forefront; and how to communicate respectfully and effectively are things that I think every school, and Fatima, should strive to maintain. Instances across the country have shown us how to hate first and ask questions later, and this is a lesson everyone must learn from. We don’t have to agree with everyone, we don’t have to like everyone, but we must learn how to respect them and their beliefs.”

Kliethermes believes communication is key and the first step on the road to improvement for these issues.

“I believe this goes straight to communication,” she said. “Do the teachers feel like they are being heard? Are there goals they have made to help their students succeed and are those goals supported by the administration? I think these are questions that if aren’t being asked, possibly could be.

“When it comes to addressing the bullying issue, this is such a difficult topic for the school to address alone. It, quite frankly, takes a village. How do we address bullying when the witnesses are afraid to come forward and speak the truth? We must empower those students and teachers to stop the action in its tracks or report the activity. Fatima does express these actions but more has to be done, and I would like to support the administration in finding the answers.” 

Kliethermes points to her years of experience working for the State of Missouri and her role as an independent consultant where she gained useful skills that can help the district. “The first quality I could bring to the board is communication skills and a passion for a positive outcome,” she said. “I also have the ability to research facts and statistics and make decisions based on the information provided. If disagreements arise, I will always seek out the other side to make sure any action I take, or decision I make is fair.

“I have been a state of Missouri employee for 22 years and also manage an independent consulting business, in which communication is key.,” Kliethermes said. “In consulting, my job is to assess states, ask questions, and provide feedback on how to make their process better for their citizens. This experience allows me to step back from a situation and assess both sides to retrieve a solid decision. It also allows me to discuss possible roadblocks with the customer to obtain a reasonable outcome. My position at the state allows me to also encourage citizens of Missouri to practice safe behavior.

“My career and experience have taught me how to take fact-based information and make hard decisions. Data, however you look at it, is vital in decision-making. I am running because I want Fatima to be a positive educational experience for all students and teachers.”