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Half the Hickman Mills school board is up for election April 4. Here's what the candidates say

Four headshots next to each other, one each of candidates Byron Townsend, Irene Kendrick, Brandon Wright and Clifford Ragan
Candidate provide photos
Kansas City Beacon
From left, Hickman Mills School District school board candidates Byron Townsend, Irene Kendrick, Brandon Wright and Clifford Ragan.

Hickman Mills school board candidates discussed accreditation, conflict on the board and their priorities for the district.

On April 4, voters in the Hickman Mills School District will have a chance to select school board members for a three-year term.

Four candidates — Irene Kendrick, Brandon Wright, Byron Townsend and Clifford Ragan — have filed to run for three seats.

The Kansas City Beacon hosted a candidate forum Feb. 27 to gauge candidates’ views on issues affecting the district. You can find the full video on our Facebook page, and a transcript is below.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Gary Enrique Bradley Lopez: Good evening, good evening, good evening. I want to welcome you all to the Kansas City Beacon Hickman Mills School Board Forum. We want to thank the community and we want to thank the candidates for joining us tonight. I’m the Community Engagement Bureau manager for The Kansas City Beacon, and I will be your moderator tonight. Joining us on our panel are Maria Benevento, The Kansas City Beacon’s education reporter, and Jodi Fortino, KCUR’s education reporter.

The panelists have prepared a set of questions, and as time permits, we will allow for questions from the community. All candidates have been asked to prepare a one-minute opening and closing statement and they will also have two minutes to answer the questions from the panel and from the community.

Irene Kendrick: Thank you for inviting me. My name is Irene Kendrick. I have served on the Hickman Mills school board for three years. During my tenure, we have increased teachers’ pay as well as supporting staff pay. I’m very active in my community. I’ve served as the PTA president. I’m a (Grandview) parks and rec commissioner as well, I’m very dedicated to our school district, and I would like to see our district continue to grow.

Brandon Wright: My name is Brandon Wright. I am a candidate for school board. I have never run for any sort of political office. I’m a former teacher who now works for a central office of a district up in northeast KC. I deal with (the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) a lot and I deal with looking at state reports. I look at state assessments to make sure that we’re on the right track with our schools. I think that Hickman Mills could use leadership that is able to focus on the important stuff, and for me, that’s going to be reaccreditation. That’s going to be student achievement, which is part of reaccreditation. And then third and possibly most importantly is community involvement. How can we get more people in the community involved in the Hickman Mills School District? If the parents, if the other stakeholders and community aren’t involved, how are we going to get this district back on track?

Byron Townsend: My name is Byron Townsend. I’ve served on the Hickman Mills school board. During my time, leadership decided to take a more aggressive role in creating some alternative ways of doing things. Before it was always trying to make sure that we can get everything in a budget. I’ve tried to turn it around to where we’re creating a bigger budget. It’s taking a lot to do that, but we finally got it turned around and people are realizing that we can’t just wait for someone to help us; we have to help ourselves.

Clifford Ragan had not yet joined the forum. 

Maria Benevento: Hickman Mills is one of the few districts in Missouri that are only provisionally accredited by the state’s Department of Education. What role should the school board play in ensuring it regains full accreditation?

Townsend: The role the school board should play in accreditation is to make sure the right instruments and procedures are in place. We’re not in the classroom. We’re a governance body and in reality, with the new MSIP 6 (evaluation framework from DESE), chances are if we’re reaccredited, it will be the end of my term. So during this term right now I’m more focused on student achievement and giving our students the best possibilities after graduation. There’s more than college out there, and there’s more ways to get college credits other than just getting those high student loan bills. For instance, there are several trade apprenticeships, that once you finish you end up with college credits. I believe it’s Boilermakers, if you finish their apprentice program you end up with 49 college credits. Metal workers, once you finish their apprentice program you have 29. So my deal is to make sure that there are things in place where you can measure each student’s progress, know what they want, and give them the ability to be successful not only in school but after school. I know one thing that Mr. (Yaw) Obeng, our superintendent, has implemented is what I call an independent education program for each child.

Kendrick: As a school board member we work closely with the superintendent and get updates from the staff regarding student achievement and how each school is doing, and I think we’re moving in the right direction for accreditation. You know, we’ve got a few more things we need to work out but as a board member, we definitely work with the superintendent and with the staff to make sure that we’re following all the guidelines to ensure that we are meeting the standards for DESE to achieve accreditation. I think we’re close to it.

Clifford Ragan: The role that the school board should do is to work with the superintendent. That’s the first thing to see which programs and what type of material is working for our students out there. A lot of times we look at some of this curriculum, I think PREP KC is one of the things that is going on in our district. We need to really reevaluate everything to see if it’s working well for our children here in this district. Another thing is to also implement programs, try to find out what our lows and highs of our students are. With that you have to have some type of test that somehow measures what they are doing to adapt to the curriculum that is being taught in the classroom. Also accountability. What I mean by accountability is disruptive behavior. Disruptive behavior messes up a lot of students. The ones that are there to go ahead and try to learn are being distracted from the ones who are messing up the classroom, and therefore that causes our teachers not to be able to teach and come back to the board and make sure that everything is running smoothly. And if there is anything else that the superintendent or some of our teachers see that we can put into practice, I think that would be a great measure for each and every one.

Wright: One thing that I think needs to be clear for everybody is the board has one employee. The superintendent of schools is their primary employee. The board is here to serve, to govern and to oversee that employee and evaluate him. And Mr. Obeng has done some fantastic work since he’s been in Hickman Mills. Honestly, he’s probably done more in two years than we’ve seen in this district in five or 10, but we need to make sure that the board is always looking at, for example, interim tests, looking at those tests during the year to see if we’re showing progress towards more of our kids being able to hit English levels and more of our students being able to hit math levels. Another thing that the board can be doing that’ll help with reaccreditation is making sure that we are spending enough on our students. Last year, for example, I know Kansas City Public Schools spent around $18,500 per kid and Hickman Mills spent about $13,500. Now, the way those numbers are calculated from DESE some people take disagreement with. The bond issue that was passed and of course the great levy increase that we had really helps with that because that’s going to go straight into instruction. Our teachers are the best investment we can really make for our students. But we need to make sure that we’re staying competitive with area schools on how much we’re spending on our kids’ education. And another thing I appreciated that Mr. Townsend brought up that actually will help with reaccreditation is overall student achievement, making sure that our graduates are college or career ready. I’m proud I’m endorsed by the electricians’ union because it’s very important that we get more students involved in the trades. They don’t need to take out a $60,000 student loan in order to make a solid livable wage when they can go become an electrician, they can go get in the building trades. There are a lot of great jobs that we could be preparing our students for and I want to make sure we’re doing that.

Jodi Fortino: The Hickman Mills School District has seen a sharp decline in enrollment over the last several years. How do you see your role as a board member in drawing in new families and students to the district?

Ragan: First of all, we have to make sure that we are promoting our district and promoting what we have inside as well as what we have outside of our district, such as programs that will help our community and especially our students. I’m also going to go a little farther. With that, we have to bring some spirit as board members. We are here to also promote others that are doing good in the community. I think it’s good that the board recognizes people in our community, as well as recognizes those teachers that are doing a great job, but the recognition from the teachers will come from the superintendent. So therefore, I think with the board and superintendent, working with our community, to have that transparency, showing them what is needed as well as listening to the themes that we are lacking. I think that would help each and every one succeed.

Townsend: I think our biggest problem with declining enrollment is the aging of our population. Most of the homeowners in our district are older people. Their children are grown up and moved out of the district so now we’re dealing with renters and that population tends to be transient. They tend to move from best deal to best deal when it comes to homes. So as far as helping enrollment, I think the best thing that we can do is create programs that students want to be in. Create programs that make grandmas say, “OK, grandson, why don’t you come on over and stay with me for a while now, these four years?” At one time we were pushing away kids; now we’re trying to get everybody we can. It’s fixing that issue of home ownership. You know, back when I first got here 30 years ago, I want to say there were at least 12 kids in grade school on my block. Now there’s zero.

Kendrick: I would have to agree with Mr. Townsend that yeah, of course our community, we’re older now that a lot of students have already graduated and moved on. To bring the people back to our community, to go back to our schools, we need more development in our community. We need better shopping areas, things that draw people back to south Kansas City. The school district is offering excellent programs. When we start our middle school we’re going to have a STEM middle school and an arts middle school. So I think having quality programs to draw people back to the community will be an excellent opportunity for us to rebuild our student population. And it is growing a little bit because we do have some oversized classrooms. So with new teachers applying for the positions now I think we’ll be able to spread the love around and shorten some of the smaller classrooms and I think that will help also bring students back to our district as well.

Wright: It’s kind of a tricky question. So the overall population in the area, part of it is the aging population. But I’ll say this as someone who’s younger: one of the first things you’re looking at as a young married couple looking to buy homes is you’re looking at the school district. It’s right there when you’re on Zillow, when you’re on Trulia, and it gives you number ratings right there of your assigned schools. Those numbers are flawed. As a former teacher, I’ll tell you, standardized assessments do not paint a great picture of overall student achievement. But it can be an indicator that there’s something that needs a closer look. And I think that we are going to struggle to draw in younger families to purchase homes if we do not get this district back to reaccreditation. Student achievement and having outside programs can be great. Partnering with Metropolitan Community College, offering things like our robotics programs, these are great programs. We need to make sure we’re promoting those aggressively. One thing that has actually helped with Kansas City Public Schools who used to have a really declining population every year and has actually kind of stemmed the tide in the past two or three years is having an entire recruiting campaign for students. You go anywhere in Kansas City and you’re gonna see a billboard that says KC Public Schools. It’s enrollkc.org; I can even tell you the website they advertise on. How are we as a district advertising ourselves, advertising the great things that are happening in our classrooms already, advertising the progress that we’re making? I talked to somebody from the Martin City Telegraph just last week and asked him, “When was the last time you got good news from the Hickman Mills School District?” And they couldn’t actually name who the communications director was at the time. So it just seems we’re not always advocating for our schools and making sure we get positive representation in the media. I think that’ll help but it really comes back to reaccreditation.

Benevento: If elected to the school board, you’ll be working alongside the six other directors and many of the official actions you take will be taken as a group rather than as an individual. So I’d like to ask you to think about one of your top priorities for the district and talk about how you would work with your fellow school board members to make positive change around that issue.

Kendrick: Of course, my top priority would be for us to achieve accreditation. Reading readiness is our main priority for our students. If you can read you can understand math problems, things like that. So reading is one of our number one focuses in the school district at this point. And then working with our board members to communicate, have open communication, have transparency. As a board member, we need to have transparency to be able to communicate with stakeholders as well as our board members, and to have open dialogue and have active listening skills. Sometimes we talk over each other, but we were working on having active listening skills and communicating better. So I think as board members we can work together and communicate and then focus on our readiness programs for our students.

Wright: As Irene brought up, I think it’s really important that we keep student achievement and reaccreditation kind of at our focus every month. I would love for there to be a short presentation every month. How are the reading scores looking? How are we trending? What are some of the things we’re trying? What are some of the teachers that we’re going to give shout outs to this month because they have gone above and beyond? What are we doing to make sure we’re getting back on the path to reaccreditation? As far as working together as a board, I think that’s one of the critical things that sometimes in the past has been lacking in the Hickman Mills School District. I mean, this was a board that about a year ago, The Kansas City Star had an editorial basically saying there was a lot of infighting and cliquiness and factionalization on the board. My goal is to be someone who can bring unity and someone who can work with anybody. As long as you are willing to focus on what you think is best for kids, I will never get angry with you even if I disagree with what’s best for kids. Because you have the best interests of the kids at heart and I just want to keep that focus on the kids and on making sure we are improving our district.

Ragan: I want to go a different route because we know accreditation has always been the serious thing. But I want to go to the disciplinary and safety concerns. I believe that you can assure the teacher that hey, we’re able to control the classroom setting to get our students to where they can achieve, and the teacher can get up and do the things that he or she needs to do. When you have distractions going on in every classroom that tends to take away from what we’re trying to do, which is learn. Therefore you’re going to see a lot of scores going down, you’re gonna see a lot of things. We do understand that we want our kids to stay in school. We got that, but sometimes the thing that I look at is change. And what happens with a change, people don’t want to give up their pride. Sometimes the word “change” scares people because they are on a pedestal where they don’t listen to it, and that goes back to trying to work with the board members. You’ve got to be willing to change. If you’re not able to change, giving up some of your things that were keeping you on that high pedestal, you’ll never be able to go forward with what we’re trying to do, which is a vision of getting that accreditation. So with that being said I would focus on getting my colleagues to look at the discipline and the safety concerns of the district. I believe that that would be the key to opening up this pipeline of getting us to go ahead on accreditation.

Townsend: That’s a very good question, especially since the board counts for I think 24 points, or the score of MSIP 6, and what they’re looking at is how well the board works together. To me the cliché answer’s always reaccreditation, student achievement. Those are things that every board should look at and there’s not going to be any fighting about that. My top priority outside of that would be back to what I was talking about, creating the best opportunities for kids after graduation. What I would be looking at is creating partnerships with different trade unions or any group that’s wishing to partner with us to give our students a step ahead. That will pretty much be how I would go about it and advocate for the students and get my fellow board members on board or explaining how my ideal or what I’m thinking would help our students.

Fortino: Kind of as Brandon was saying, last year, concerns rose over division and board leadership and how it spends its money. How will you build trust with the community as a board member and ensure the board remains ethical?

Wright: I think as far as being accountable to the community, I’m already involved in multiple community organizations, so I have a lot of people to keep me in check. I’ve been involved in Hickman Mills United Neighborhoods as a coach, Fairwood Homes Association as the president, Southern Communities Coalition. These are all very important stakeholders in the success of the district. If the district is successful, the neighborhoods are going to be successful. We talk a lot about how we want more development in Hickman Mills, but a lot of single-family developers are looking at school districts before they develop single-family housing. So it’s kind of a chicken and egg situation. I think for me, being accountable to all those other people in the community and also just being open and willing to talk to anybody. My email will be publicly available as board members’ emails are, and I am a prolific responder to emails. If you ask me for something I’m probably going to give you more information than you actually wanted about that topic, especially if it’s education, something I’m very passionate about. As far as ethics, I was always taught everything you do needs to be as though everybody’s watching. And when it comes to a public governing body that’s how it should be. Everybody should be looking at those minutes seeing what’s going on, looking at the agenda, and looking at the finances and making sure that the spending is matching the priorities we’re talking about, matching our goal on reaccreditation, student achievement and community involvement. I think that being in communication with a lot of people in the community and then also just being open and honest with people will get me pretty far as far as being able to keep myself and the rest of the board ethical.

Ragan: I want to start off with transparency. I believe that within our district, with the poor leadership when it comes to the money being spent, I want to make sure that we’re focusing on the things that are at hand. We’re talking about accreditation. It goes back to making sure our curriculum is what we’re striving for. If we’re trying to build a bunch of buildings and you don’t have anyone here to fill up those buildings, then that’s a waste of money. Why is it a waste of money? Because we haven’t gained the accreditation and support that families and people are looking for. You can have great buildings and have everything there, but without any bodies in there it just sits dormant and over time it will start tearing down. So I want to look forward to helping and making sure that we are doing the things that we are supposed to do for our students as well as our teachers, making sure we stay competitive with keeping people here so that we won’t lose good people and also weed out the ones that are no longer needed here. With the ethics, it comes back to respect. If we respect one another as we tend not to agree then I don’t think we should have any problems. The disrespect goes back to change. I think that word “change,” it always scares a lot of people because they don’t want to put down that pride. And once you put down your pride, then you will be able to change and you’ll see a lot of things going forward throughout this district.

Townsend: The issue that came up last year was an issue that cost us points. It cost the community with DESE and it cost the district several thousand dollars to defend it. And as it turned out, the spending was from the superintendent and all you had to do was actually just look through the paperwork and talk to a few people. That should never have happened. But it did. And like I said, it created a big divide. I spoke to the person that wrote that editorial and she was like, “Well, I didn’t know all this stuff.” But you know, when you’re in leadership, and the attorney says, “Hey, don’t speak on it,” you don’t speak on it. So that’s a case of how you put your district, your stakeholders before yourself. Because we were divided. No ifs, ands or buts about it, but you don’t take your grievances out in public. It doesn’t help the district. It doesn’t help your stakeholders. It doesn’t help the kids. It doesn’t help anyone to blow up the situation where there was no situation.

Kendrick: Great question. I think the main issue was board members were not informed of policies and procedures. As a board member, we have to be ethical and be bound to our policies. And we need to update them periodically and review them, and unfortunately there was some miscommunication last year, but I think we’ve moved past that now. As a board member, you should know your policies, and if a board member oversteps, yes, we need to be able to address that as well. But knowing the policy is the main issue and being open and communicating with our board members and being transparent with our community. Transparency is the key.

Bradley Lopez: We do have a couple of questions from community members. The first question says: How do you plan to support the social-emotional needs of teachers in the district?

Townsend: First of all, you have to listen. You have to listen to the superintendent. I don’t know the stresses of their job. I’m not a teacher. They have a union that speaks for them. The bottom line is if they are not telling me, I can’t put any policy or ask our one employee to look into it. So I’m a firm believer in mental illness and overworking, stress, how stress affects the body. So if we have to go back to half days on Wednesdays, we go back to half days on Wednesdays or whatever. But if it becomes a problem, then that’s what we deal with.

Kendrick: I have been a strong advocate for having our mental health specialists in our schools and working with our teachers, and especially with our students. My grandkids have a behavior interventionist that comes and visits the school and works with them. So having counselors or people in the medical field to help with the mental health of our students and our teachers on school property, or being able to know that you have a counselor that you can go to within the school, will be very beneficial to our students and our teachers. I was a substitute teacher and have worked in the classrooms, and I understand the stress that a teacher goes through and the challenges they may have in the classroom. So being able to have that mental health specialist on site will be helpful and be beneficial to both students and teachers and staff. And I’ve been an advocate for that as much as I possibly can.

Wright: I think, critically, the number one or two things your teachers need, in order for their social-emotional state to be good, is to make sure that they are being supported by their administrators. And this is something Mr. Ragan, I believe, brought up earlier. As a former teacher, there’s times when you have a student whose behavior is just so egregious that we’re not able to deescalate it in the classroom, and we send that student up to the office. There’s nothing worse as a teacher then 10 minutes later, that kid being sent back to your room saying, well, he apologized and he’s now in your class causing the same issue he was causing 10 minutes ago. It makes you want to pull your hair out. So I think making sure that the superintendent knows that the board does want to see discipline get under control in the schools. We need to have the schools under control and make sure the students are able to learn. On top of that, I think we need to make sure that we’re providing resources for our teachers for their own mental health. Something many districts provide now is the ability to get basically free telehealth from certified mental health professionals, licensed counselors, psychologists. And we need to make sure that the benefits that teachers are receiving covers that. Teaching is not a low-stress job. I used to have a hairline that went way further down than it does now. You just very quickly get stressed all the time because you’re not just caring for one kid, you’re caring for 20 to 30 kids at a time and multiply that by how many classes you see a day. I think that that’s really it for me. We’ve got to support the teachers, both from an administrative perspective, make sure that our superintendent knows that we expect a high level of keeping discipline at their schools — appropriate discipline and restorative justice focused, but we’ve got to keep our schools under control.

Ragan: I believe that in order for us to do what we need to make sure as Mr. Brandon (Wright) has stated that they have support by their building administration. A lot of times what is happening is things are being overlooked. And I’m gonna go a little bit further: I don’t care if you’re not a regular teacher; maybe you’re a sub. I want to make sure that all the teachers, everybody that’s in our buildings, are treated the same. And when a teacher comes up to the principal and he or she has a concern, we need to nip it in the bud. We need to find out what is going on. We need to hold our parents also accountable for the behavior, whether it’s mental, physical, whatever the children might be going through, we need to know as a school district so that we’ll be able to do the things needed to help that student. Also safety: that’s another thing that would help. I believe that if we make sure that there are policies that are written in the board of education for things that should keep our buildings and grounds safe, we need to make sure that they are always implemented, never deducted or subtracted from. We need to make sure that it’s taken care of. I believe a lot of times our teachers are stressed because also we need to look at the student-to-teacher ratio. We need to make sure that that is also taken care of in our district, not overwhelming the teachers with more students than what they could teach. Also if we have 32 kids, and it’s in a first grade, we need to get some more teachers to help.

Bradley Lopez: We have one more question from the community. Do you believe that diversity, equity and inclusion work is essential for schools to undertake in order to ensure that students from diverse backgrounds are served equitably?

Ragan: I was ready for that. A lot of our students that are coming in, their first language is not English. We do not have enough translators, I believe, in our district, to help those students to get to where they need to go. A lot of times, we do know that they are working to get their English together. But if I’m just my first time coming into a classroom, and you’re trying to get me to read something in English, and I don’t have anything — not only that, the teacher doesn’t understand. So now you have a language barrier. You have two barriers. You have the teacher not understanding the students, and also the students not understanding the teacher. So we have to fix those language barriers with our district in order to get everyone on the same page. I think that is something that we really need to look into. Because if we’re talking about students achieving, they cannot achieve if they can’t read what we’re presenting; they can’t achieve if they don’t understand what they’re reading. So we have to look at all of our students that are coming into our district, so that they will be able to get the things that are needed. So right now, I don’t think we’re up to par to getting them there. I do know that the board of education along with the superintendent will be working on that. But these are some of those programs that we need to look into to make sure that those programs are strengthened for those types of students so that they can succeed also in the Hickman Mills School District.

Wright: So I think all three components of diversity, equity and inclusion are incredibly important. We have a lot of diversity in our district, both in languages spoken, racial backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, immigration status. I mean, there are so many different backgrounds, I would actually be curious to pull up the number of official home languages being spoken by students right now in Hickman Mills. We do need to make sure our English language learner programs, like Mr. Ragan was just saying, are fully staffed and we have enough staff to teach these kids some English language skills because that is how they’re going to be successful in math. That’s how they’re gonna be successful in science, every single other subject they want to do, they’re going to need to have a good grasp on the English language. On equity, what I want to make sure we’re doing is that we’re looking at everything through an equity lens. What are we doing to serve the students who are the most disadvantaged? Oftentimes in education, we’ll kind of look at the students who are right on the edge, like, “Oh, just a little boost, and we’ll get this kid up to passing.” And you’ll just say, well, that kid’s got a 45 percent. We’re not going to get there with that. How about instead we focus on getting that kid up to 50 percent? As dumb as it sounds, even though you might think that’s still an F, we’re gonna make some progress with that kid. We need to make sure that we are providing all of the students in the district, regardless of any of their backgrounds, regardless of their disability, all the tools they need to be successful, whatever success looks like for that student. And success doesn’t look the same for every single kid. Some kids are going to go on to get Ph.D.s in rocket science. Some kids are going to get a bachelor’s degree and certainly some kids are going to barely get through high school and they’re going to go into a career. We need to make sure that we are providing the resources any of those students need in order to be successful with wherever they want to go.

Kendrick: I do believe that diversity and inclusion should be essential in the school. We have already implemented some policies in our district currently, we have identified the barriers that students are lacking in, we have put out employment requests so that we can bring in more bilingual teachers. Our Spanish-speaking students percentage was 7 percent prior to COVID and after COVID it is 13 percent. So we do have a lot of diversity in our schools and by finding the right teachers that are bilingual or even having specialists that come in to help translate and help the students with their reading. Of course, our curriculum being tailored to our students to help them to be able to understand the English language, and to be able to comprehend what they’re learning in the class. And then working with many different avenues to be able to bring those resources to the school.

Townsend: It’s a good question. As far as diversity, last time I checked, it was like 13 different nationalities in our district and close to 30-some languages spoken. A lot of times people think equity means equal, but it’s not. When we speak of equity we speak of what we’re doing with our students now. Right now, a teacher can click on a student, know where they are in English, math and science, know their weak points, and if the kids are struggling in math, they can assign that student some extra work with a para or co-teacher to help the kid with whatever subject they’re working with. That’s equity. That’s giving a person the resources, the extra time, the extra look, the extra that they need to succeed. I have four kids, they all have four different personalities. Once we start succeeding, and we start looking at our differences, start looking at how we’re alike, that will create inclusion.

Closing statements

Kendrick: Thank you again for this opportunity. I just want to assure that I am dedicated to our district. I’m dedicated to our students. I’m a very active member of my community. I am there for the greater good for our students. I’m raising three grandchildren that are currently attending schools in the district. So I’m there for the long haul, and I am very instrumental in pushing our teachers and making sure that our teachers have the right resources. And of course now we’re going to have the highest-paid teachers in the greater Kansas City area. So that’s a wonderful achievement that the board has accomplished and we thanked our citizens for voting to increase the levy to help improve our school district as well as approving our bonds as well so that we can improve our schools and provide our students with the best education possible.

Townsend: It’s human nature for people not to trust, and when I became president it was a time that we hadn’t had a lot of time together as a board. We didn’t know each other, and it caused a lot of mistrust. But also during the time when I was a president, a lot of things were started. We extended the superintendent’s contract, created a Boys and Girls Club. We also came up with an alternative plan for some of the vacant school buildings. For several years the only thing was to put them on the market. So we came up with alternative plans to demolish them or repurpose them.

Ragan: I am gung ho Hickman Mills School District. When you get a person like myself, you’re going to get the best. I’ve been acknowledged as a bull in a china store, so I’m going to briefly explain what some of those characteristics of a bull are. Sometimes a bull is very intelligent, and a lot of people don’t know that. He’s able to adapt to any type of thing because he’s very intelligent. That’s something I’m going to be, I’ll be knowledgeable about what’s going on in this district. I’m gonna be able to know the policies, that’s been told or been done. Also a thing with a bull is, he likes to protect. And that’s one thing I will make sure that you are as a teacher or anybody that is in here. They make sure that everyone is held accountable. Not only just myself, but all of the colleagues and also the people that are in this district.

Wright: It’s been good to kind of talk through and see the similarities and the differences between all of the candidates. The reason I am asking for your vote, if you’re watching this at home, is because I think that most of us know that Hickman Mills has been through some rough decades recently. And we really need stable and responsible leadership in order to oversee making sure the district is back on track to reaccreditation. My experience in education, my passion for students and for improving the school district will help me to oversee and make sure that we are back on track for our students. So I do ask for your vote on April 4, and I hope to be serving you on the school board. If that happens, or even if it doesn’t, feel free to reach out anytime you think I can be of help.

This story was originally published by the Kansas City Beacon, a fellow member of the KC Media Collective.

Maria Benevento is the education reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. She is a Report for America corps member.
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