As the executive director of the Lemay Child and Family Center and a member of the Mehlville Board of Education, Elaine Powers sees teamwork as an important aspect of making a difference in the South County community.
Powers has lived in the Mehlville School District since 1993, and is newly elected to the Board of Education. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism along with a master’s degree in public administration. She has worked more than 20 years in the not-for-profit world, primarily with organizations serving children and families, and has been at the Lemay Child and Family Center for 9 years.
Most of the families at the Center come from South St. Louis County, and the center is state licensed to care for 121 children ages six weeks through 12 years. Powers helped secure a recent grant from the Port Authority for some interesting new projects for the Center.
One grant helped with some facility updates in the older section of the building. Carpets were removed and new flooring was installed; HVAC was updated and new doors and windows were installed, which dropped energy bills. The Center has a new security system, which Powers said was a top priority when parents were surveys. A new director of development position also was added. The Center also is working jointly with Hancock Place to implement a new community education program in the Lemay area.
“Costs are affordable because of outstanding community support that bridges the gap between the amounts that families are able to pay and the actual costs of providing high-quality care,” Powers said. “Our programs have earned national accreditation through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, and we have been a proud member of the United Way of Greater St. Louis since 1985. More than 90 percent of the children at the Center receive some level of scholarship support to offset the cost of tuition.”
Powers said that she looks at her work at the Center as a group effort.
“Over the 9 years I’ve been here we have just grown and changed exponentially in terms of the programs that we offer, the size and condition of our facility, the scope of services,” she said. “One of the things that I’m really proud of is the team that we have here. We have really strong individuals working here at the center and just work well together. And as a non-for-profit organization I report to a board of directors and we have a really solid board.”
Another group Powers was recently elected to is the Mehlville School District Board of Education. The only female on the board, Powers said that she doesn’t even think about it being a boys’ club.
“I’ve worked in many places and many environments and we are seven equals as far as I’m concerned,” she said. “There’s a big learning curve (being new on the board), but I think it’s going well. It is certainly what I expected.”
Looking ahead to the end of the year, Powers said that the board is going to take a solid look at budget philosophies and what is the best way to spend the dollars, how they can leverage what they have, what the teachers need in the classrooms and how they can invest in Mehlville District facilities in need of repair. At the board retreat in August the board started talking about budget philosophy, and going forward Powers thinks they will be very equipped to make good budget decisions.
Powers was in favor of the recent tax rate increase in doing some level of rollup to assure stability within the district, however, her disagreement was with the amount.
“As a district I think there’s things we can do to continue to monitor our expenses and keep them reasonable, and at the same time I thought we could afford a little bit of risk based on variability of the revenue from the state,” she said.
Since Powers professional career aligns with her work on the school board, she looks forward to continuing her work on both teams in the community.
“Working as a board in K-12 is an extension of what I do professionally,” she said. “It’s really helped me in terms of getting into the swing of things on the board.”