The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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April 8, 2014

Two new faces, one incumbent win Joplin School Board seats

JOPLIN, Mo. — Voters on Tuesday returned one incumbent and elected two new faces to the Joplin Board of Education.

The top three vote-getters for open seats on the board were Debbie Fort, with 4,765 votes; Lynda Banwart, with 4,532 votes; and incumbent Randy Steele, with 3,300 votes, according to complete but unofficial results from Jasper and Newton counties.

Rounding out the results were incumbent and current board president Jeff Flowers, with 2,964 votes; Jeff Koch, with 2,918 votes; Shawn McGrew, with 2,026 votes; and David Guilford, with 1,590 votes.

The three elected candidates had all run on a platform that called for increased openness, transparency and communication on the part of the board. They also had called on the board and the school district to carefully monitor its finances and be fiscally responsible.

Fort, 56, is an academic skills specialist at Missouri Southern State University. She recently retired as principal of Irving Elementary School after 25 years with the Joplin district. She has a doctorate in educational leadership from Saint Louis University. She has lived in Southwest Missouri her entire life and in the Joplin city limits for one year.

Marking her first bid for public office, Fort had built her platform on a number of points, including increasing teacher morale, improving communication and transparency, and keeping the district fiscally accountable.

Banwart, 48, is a nurse practitioner for Orthopaedic Specialists of the Four States in Galena, Kan. She has a master's degree in nursing from the University of Kansas. She has lived in Joplin since 1999.

Also making her first bid for elected office, Banwart had said communication at all levels of the school district needed improvement.

Steele, 52, was first elected to the board in 2008 and is a past board president. He is a fabricator at EaglePicher Technologies and has an associate degree in business management. He has lived in Joplin his entire life.

He, too, had said improved communication and fiscal responsibility were critical to the future success of the district.

Each seat carries a three-year term. The elected candidates join current board members Michael D. Landis, Anne Sharp, Jim Kimbrough and Dawn Sticklen.

The full board has scheduled its next monthly meeting for Monday, April 21, instead of its regular time on the fourth Tuesday.

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