Mrs. Darby Arakelian


“I come from a taxpayer/resident/parent perspective,” Mrs. Darby Arakelian, BOE director and candidate for the 2014 election, said. “But I also bring some of my unique business skills to the table, as well. I have strategic consulting in my background; I have forward planning as well as strong communications.”

Forward thinking is one of Mrs. Arakelian’s qualities that has led her to become involved in the district.

“My oldest is in fifth grade at Babler,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “She’s going to be here for seven more years and because of that I can either sit back and watch this [district affairs] unfold or I can jump in and try to make a difference.”

Listen, learn, research, respond and follow-up. These are the steps she takes on each of the issues that are brought in front of the board, according to Mrs. Arakelian.

“I also have a unique perspective in that I have no special interests,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “I’m not going in with someone saying, ‘Make sure you vote for this increase in this salary. Make sure you vote for this. Make sure you don’t vote for this guy.’ I don’t have that, and I can go in [to BOE meetings] with a clean conscience.”

Mrs. Arakelian is not publicly endorsed by any individual or entity by choice in order to maintain her independence.

“It’s very difficult to stay above the fray, but I can say it’s a nonpartisan race,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “I have friends on both sides of the aisle.”

Role of the BOE

As someone who has served a year on the Board already after her May 2013 appointment, Mrs. Arakelian has experience in the position already, although she is still learning.

“I think we need to be visible so that people understand that they have a board that cares about the kids,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “I think they need to understand that there is an outlet to come back and provide feedback.”

While hearing the stakeholders out and providing solutions is an important job of the BOE, it is not the only objective.

“At the end of the day the board is really an oversight facilitator, and we are really to manage one individual and that is the superintendent,” Mrs. Arakelian said.

Because of this important supervisory role, part of the responsibility of maintaining a satisfied teaching force falls with the BOE.

“We have great teachers here, and you wouldn’t have the quality of students you have without the people behind them,” Mrs. Arakelian said.

But the culminating purpose of the BOE is bigger than supervision or communication with the constituents alone.

“We should be the ears and voice of our constituents who have placed us in this role so that there is a balance between the experts we’ve hired to educate our kids and the community’s priorities in how we allocate their tax dollars,” Mrs. Arakelian said.

Funding and finances

As someone who has only been on the BOE for a year, Mrs. Arakelian notices the progress being made in the right direction since Spring 2013.

“I really see a good direction going in on the budget, but the challenges are not over,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “The challenges have been identified, which is a huge step forward, but how do you deal with them fairly and equitably so at the end of the day students’ interests are at the forefront.”

Making sure the funding of the district is used to protect and further the learning environment is one of the main roles of the BOE in the approval of the yearly budget, according to Regulation 3106- Internal Control, found in the BOE policies.

“This is a fine balance between ensuring we do not spend down our reserves while ensuring we provide the highest quality education for our kids,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “Further, I will ensure that we keep planning for the future.”

She is very interested in making sure long-term financial plans are in place for future classes graduating in the district.

“Curriculum and finances are at the very top of my list, and they work in tandem because you can’t have one without being able to pay for it and without being able to plan to pay for it long term because we don’t just want something for next year,” Mrs. Arakelian said.

Finally, a trust between the BOE and the CFO is crucial because of the complex information that fills the finance sector of a large school district.

“I have complete faith, not that I don’t question him, in our current CFO Tim Rooney,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “I think that we have the right person to provide us accurate information and present it in the right way.”

Common Core and Curriculum 

A new curriculum takes many aspects of planning and expertise and is a process closely monitored by the BOE, so it takes time for board members to be educated and informed.

“We haven’t dedicated the resources to getting it done and the resources aren’t just money, it’s time and energy and professional development training for our teachers,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “If you don’t train the trainer, the trainer can’t train your students.”

Training for teachers is an even more crucial step than ever before as Missouri begins to implement the new Common Core State Standards.

For Mrs. Arakelian, although there are pros and cons to CCSS, there really isn’t a choice whether or not RSD implements Common Core Standards; unless the Missouri legislature passes a new law to give school districts more flexibility with the standards.

“The basic objective of these new standards was to provide a baseline of academic measurement for all states for comparison purposes,” Mrs. Arakelian said.

She understands that many differing opinions about Common Core Standards can make it difficult to see how they will be implemented in RSD specifically.

“There is concern that our current curriculum, which in many areas, exceeds the standards required by CCSS, will be lowered,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “This is not something we intend to have happen in Rockwood.”

Mrs. Arakelian is optimistic to the effects that CCSS will have in the classroom throughout RSD.

First Amendment

“I think that a good dialogue is facilitated by the First Amendment, and I think you don’t have the one-sided parties that way,” Mrs. Arakelian said.

As part of the organization and revamping of Board Listening Times as well as Community Conversations and the Community, Outreach and Public Engagement Committee, Mrs. Arakelian has proven herself during her first year as part of the BOE to be a listener of all opinions.

“If you’re going to take this role you have to take the responsibility that goes with it,” Mrs. Arakelian said. “That means you take the phone calls and you answer the emails and you engage because you signed up for this.”

An integral part of district communication is the student publications who exercise their First Amendment Rights daily.

“I think because our district is so geographically spread out, the role for the individual student publications is it really hits your demographic here,” Mrs. Arakelian said.

An advocate for students and RSD stakeholders, Mrs. Arakelian will continue to strive to open communication district-wide.