COLUMBIA — Adam Sorg is the father of Spiderman, Indiana Jones and Jimmy Neutron, and he's never entirely sure which one he will see when he comes home from work.
Sorg’s 5-year-old son, Skyler, who creatively and frequently changes his persona, one night might be swinging through the house on a steely strand of silk; or he might be cracking the whip in search of the Lost Ark; or he might be a boy genius tinkering in his own lab. Skyler is Sorg’s priority, and that is driving him to run for one of two seats on the Columbia School Board. Nine candidates are competing in the April 7 election.
“I think Columbia is very important because I think this is really the beacon of our educational system,” Sorg said. “It’s the lighthouse that shows the way to every other school district in the state, and that’s how it really should be.”
Sorg, 31, grew up with a single mother who worked two jobs to care for her family; she did not have the opportunity to be involved in her son’s education. Sorg said his mother did as much as she could in a given day to be active in their education, and he will always see her as his biggest role model.
“There were other parents that were involved in the classroom and sports and things like that, that did make a difference with their time and their involvement,” Sorg recalled. “I, right away, wanted to make sure, since I am in a single-parent household, that I be involved in my son’s education.”
He said he wants to help Skyler, whom his father calls creative and "a smart little guy," do as well as he can through high school and on to college. For Sorg, the journey was difficult. He dropped out of high school at 16. After a few years, as he tried to figure out what he wanted to do, he began regretting his decision.
“I spent some time working, and I found that what I really needed to do was get back in school,” Sorg said. “I had screwed up.”
After getting his GED, he got a full scholarship to Crowder College in Neosho and earned his associate's degree in history. He then transferred to MU, eventually beginning graduate school. He is grateful to those people and programs that helped him get the GED and a college education, and it affects him now.
"We have kids that live in abusive situations, neglectful situations and environments where violence might be going on,” Sorg said. “Are we going to abandon them? We need to equip them with the knowledge they need to succeed in life.”
In running for the board, he wants to break down barriers and formalities. Sorg said he is not afraid to go out and talk with people, and he wants to go door to door to hear community concerns.
“No one out there — none of the field of nine (candidates) or the current school board members — has all the answers,” Sorg said. “No one in the community individually has all the answers. My hope is that as a community, we are strong enough, we are diverse enough, and through that diversity we’re going to have the strength, we are going to have the intelligence, we are going to possess the knowledge to solve these difficult problems that face the school district.”
“With me, if there is one aspect of my candidacy that I would really like people to know about, it’s not so much that I’m the answer man,” Sorg said. “I want to get everyone engaged, and I want to explore opportunities and communicate them in an effective way.”
Sorg has faced challenges on a personal level, and he thinks these experiences help him relate to other parents going through hard times. When he left Neosho, Sorg said, he was married, and Skyler was 3 months old. The marriage didn't last, and Sorg became a full-time single father. Money was tight, and he recalled being behind on the rent. But he said he made Skyler his priority.
“I always made sure that he had what he needed.” Sorg said. “I made sure that he had all the meals that he needed, but I think I got down to a bag of rice. I lived off a huge bag of rice for about three weeks. That was just the way it had to be until I started getting two checks.”
Throughout Sorg’s campaign, he has said he understands what some people are facing during this recession.
“I say I understand because I really do understand.” Sorg said. “I know what it is like to make choices. You have to sacrifice whatever you want for what your child needs. I just did it for a little while, but I know there are some people that do it for years.”
"Adam's gone through hard times," Sorg's co-worker Patrick Lee Fundell said. "He is down-to-earth. He knows what's going on. He knows that some members of the community are trying to catch a break."
Right now, the district faces a $3.2 million deficit. Sorg thinks that along with trying to conserve money, the district is going to have to ask people to make what he calls "the greatest sacrifice": their time. He hopes parents and others will help schools and classrooms by such things as being a room mother or donating supplies.
Sorg used to manage a restaurant, but he said that because it took too much time away from his son, he changed his position and now works as a cook at LongHorn Steakhouse. The hours make it possible for him to do what he loves most: spend time with Skyler. When he returns home from work Monday through Friday, they sit down and watch one of their favorite cartoons, "SpongeBob SquarePants."
“It’s a pretty darn good show,” Sorg said, laughing.
When he decided to run for the school board, he was concerned it would cut into his time with Skyler.
“I talked with him about it, and he wanted me to run,” Sorg said. “I thought the time was right and thought this was the best way that I could serve my son as a parent and as a member of the community.”