April 6th School Board Election

On the whole this country doesn’t give education as much respect as some other countries. That is especially evident here in KC. Once upon a time, the April ballot was for the election of school board members and other school related issues such as bonds and levies. The electorate of each school district voted for the people they felt were most qualified to be elected to their local school board and thus be responsible for the education of the children.

Then, the city of Kansas City cynically decided the April ballot would be a good time to put issues before the people, knowing there would be a fairly low turnout and thus almost ensuring the passage of the City’s issue. The result is that now many of the people who vote are voting on the City’s issue and know nothing about those running for school board. Consequently, often times, the most qualified people aren’t elected.

Rather, it’s career “politicians” who don’t really care about policy school issues but see a means to achieve their own ends. Why do they get elected? Because as “politicians” they know that putting their names first on the ballot makes them more likely to garner the most votes.

Most people don’t understand how directly connected they are to their school district even if they don’t have kids in school. As goes their school district, so goes their property values and ultimately the community (neighborhoods) they live in. School board governance also factors into whether or not a district is accredited.

Hickman Mills is a prime example of that. Everyone thinks the district can’t get fully accredited because their kids do so poorly on state testing. In actuality, there are three issues the district needs to work on and governance is one; and the responsibility for choosing the candidate to effect good governance falls to the voters.

So who’s running?

First on the ballot is Carol Graves. She’s running for re-election, even though she had said she wouldn’t run again. She has previously been board president and under her watch the school district’s fund balances dropped so low they had to close two schools in order to cut the budget. Now she says the district has no financial issues, even though it is sitting on two schools which have to be maintained even though they’re empty. (Actually three because one school was closed previously when the school district reorganized due to a declining student population). There is also a bloated administration even as student population has been declining. Her choice was to close schools rather than cut administrators in order to “fix” the budget.

Her attendance at board meetings has been less than stellar, either staying a short while or not attending at all. Even as late as March 18 one half hour into a meeting she said she would need to “pop out” which she did along with DaRon McGee, another board member.

Next on the ballot is Ann Coleman. She ran in a previous election but did not win. Most people in the community don’t know her or anything about her.

Here I must digress briefly.

Much has been made about Freedom’s role in the Kansas City Public Schools, but there has been no publicity regarding the contest in Hickman Mills where there are 5 candidates running for 2 seats; so let’s take a look at that.

Freedom, Inc. sent two mailers supporting, among other issues, 2 candidates for the Hickman Mills school board, Carol Graves and Ann Coleman. Southland Progress, essentially John Sharp’s PAC (political action committee) sent a mailer endorsing the same two candidates. Another mailer was sent out apparently from those candidates’ campaign committees; however, it also includes Freedom, Inc.’s logo and Southland Progress’ logo along with pictures of 2 Freedom, Inc. members and John Sharp. That’s a total of 4 mailers which are in some way connected to Freedom, Inc. and John Sharp.

One has to wonder why these two candidates are being pushed they way they are. One answer may be in something DaRon McGee, currently serving on the school board as well as the Board of Directors for Freedom, Inc., said after he was elected last year: “I won’t be able to get much done this year because I don’t have the votes, but after the next election (tomorrow, April 6), I will.” What is it DaRon (and Freedom) wants to “get done”? Could it have anything to do with Mr. McGee’s meetings with Dr. Bedell, the superintendent for the Kansas City Public Schools?

The third person on the ballot is Clifford Ragan who was on the board previously and ran for re-election last year but did not win. He has also been involved in district schools and was a PTA president.

The fourth candidate listed is John Carmichael who has officially taken himself out of the race for health reasons.

Fifth on the ballot is Ron Pearson. An Army veteran, his children attended district schools and his grandchildren are currently in district schools.

Last, but certainly not least, is Ebony Osby. Ms. Osby is a former Hickman Mills School District employee and currently has children in the schools.

Mr. Pearson and Ms. Osby have both been endorsed by renowned, and long time Hickman Mills resident, Alvin Books and are running on the slogan of “Parents not Politicians”. That sounds good to me: no hidden agendas.

But are there hidden agendas afoot?

While one can make what they may of rumors, the current rumor is that there is a plan in the making to hire a new superintendent for the school district, even though the current superintendent was hired less than a year ago. Currently Hickman Mills has had 2 interim and 4 full superintends since Dr. Williams left in 2012 after 12 years at the helm. It has become a revolving door just as Kansas City Public Schools were when the district was at its worst. That is one reason the State, in their assessment of the district, keeps marking it down for governance and why the district will never be fully accredited until something changes with those who govern – which includes all 7 board members. It is imperative that the electorate make an informed decision about who they elect if Hickman Mills is to become the great school district it once was. Only then will businesses want to relocate to the area once more making this a thriving community.