© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

2024 election: Meet the Center School District board of education candidates

From left: Center school board candidates Mariah Roady, Da’Jion Lymore and Michael Sarver.
Provided photos
Center school board candidates Mariah Roady, Da’Jion Lymore and Michael Sarver.

Three newcomers are competing for two open seats on the Center School District board of education in south Kansas City. Here's what they think about key issues like social emotional learning and how to improve student performance.

This guide is part of a series on 2024 school board elections from KCUR and The Beacon Kansas City, members of the KC Media Collective.

Most of the candidates running for a spot on the Center School District’s Board of Education said they’d like to see more money spent on schools.

Missouri ranks near last in the country for teacher pay and funding it gives to schools. The Center School District pays its first-year teachers $44,000 as districts around the Kansas City area inch up their salaries to stay competitive.

Despite these challenges, most of the candidates think the district is doing a good job educating students — but see room for improvement. That includes listening more to students, engaging non-English speaking families and addressing teacher compensation.

All three candidates — Mariah Roady, Da’Jion Lymore and Michael Sarver — are newcomers competing for two open seats to serve a three-year term.

Here’s a look at what the candidates had to say about selected issues, as well as information on their backgrounds, priorities and positions.

Responses have been edited for grammar, Associated Press style and clarity.

Meet the candidates

Mariah Roady

Occupation: Chief Development Officer, EarlystART (an early childhood program).

Background and qualifications: My civic involvement with Parent Leadership Training Institute of KC and Kids Win Missouri bring a wealth of experience championing families and community building along lines of difference, particularly as it relates to equitable education.

Favorite school event: Curriculum Night

Da’Jion Lymore

Occupation: I own my own photography and videography business and I also work for a nonprofit called Sisters in Christ

Background and qualifications: I went to school for game arts and design. I’m a single father, my son goes to Yellow Jacket Early Learning Center. I’m vice president of the MARC Headstart Policy Council.

Favorite school event: Parent Teacher Conferences/ “Meet the Teacher”

Michael Sarver

Occupation: Property insurance claims adjuster

Background and qualifications: Did not answer

Favorite school event: Any type of musical or music program.

Multiple choice questions

School funding

Roady: In 2020, Missouri ranked 49th nationally in school funding coming from state resources (32%), according to NEA data. Increasing support for schools, parents, and the community is key to the district’s success. This costs and needs deeper investments.

Lymore: I both agree and disagree, I do believe we are spending too much money on schools such as certain employers’ pay and things along those lines. We do need to spend money in the schools to keep technology and equipment up to date and (up to) standards.

Sarver: Teacher salaries need to be competitive with other districts.

Controversial books

Roady: Did not answer.

Lymore: I feel it's a difficult subject to say what’s “inappropriate” or not. Some things may be a bit direct or explicit in the view of learning.

Sarver: Unnecessary censorship has not been an issue thus far. I will work to ensure this continues to be the case.

Transgender students

Roady: Every student should have the right to be called by the name and gender pronouns they specify. It is not our place as an educational institution to dictate gender assignments. This foundational respect and inclusivity must be practiced.

Lymore: I want to ensure safety of the students over all, and to respect each other’s pronouns and privacy along these matters.

Sarver: Schools need to be inclusive and work to ensure everyone is treated with fairness and respect.

Mental health

Roady: We are in a pediatric behavioral health crisis. The rate of anxiety, depression, and even suicide among kids in our state has skyrocketed. Missouri ranks in the bottom third of all states for children's health, including mental health.

Lymore: I believe we should be involved with support as long as it’s welcomed and not forced. I see the benefits of it but, again, as long as the students are open to it themselves.

Sarver: Mental health is one of the most important issues in our nation right now, not just in the schools. We can always do more for mental health support.

Social-emotional learning

Roady: SEL helps improve kids’ academic performance, curtail bullying, reduce dropout rates, and build character. Well-implemented SEL programs improve academics, reduce negative social behaviors like bullying, and create positive classroom climates.

Lymore: I feel it is important to learn more about each other’s emotions and how to manage and control them, but again I want it to be more of an open and not forced approach

Sarver: We should always be looking for ways to do more out-of-the-box learning.


Roady: I worry students’ reliance on technology could potentially reduce critical thinking, creativity and social skills. While I believe in the benefits and the necessity of technology in our digital world, I also think limitations need to be in place.

Lymore: I believe in adjusting to the times. AI is going to be around so instead of rejecting it, we should embrace it and see how it can bridge a gap within the school system.

Sarver: Kids love phones and tech. If we can actually use them to get creative with learning it can really get the kids excited to learn new things.

Open-ended questions

If elected to the school board, what would you do to improve outcomes for students in your district? How well do you believe students are currently learning and achieving academically in your district?

Roady: I will promote student- and family-focused solutions. This includes advocating for increased funding, ensuring cultural inclusivity in classrooms, focusing on teacher training and retention, addressing student attendance, and promoting policies that support student achievement and safety.

Lymore: I believe students are learning to the best of their abilities given the resources available and provided to them. Yes, there are things that can be improved upon but at the same time we are still learning and improving, which shows an impact.

Sarver: Our district is doing a good job with learning but there is always room for growth. I would work to ensure we are retaining the best teachers and attracting the best new talent to give our students the best learning environment possible.

What is your biggest concern about the school board's recent decisions or actions?

Roady: I fear that we aren’t doing enough to engage families, particularly families that are non-English speaking. I would like to explore our policies surrounding community engagement to ensure we are doing everything in our power to be inclusive of ALL students and families.

Lymore: My main concern is letting the students’ voices really be heard, let their concerns and worries be heard and not only as a parent but as a guidance to them, we listen and give our best advice to help. I want the students to be able to express themselves and not walk on eggshells.

Sarver: Not enough is being done to address the concerns from tenured teachers regarding their compensation.

More 2024 school board election guides

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
Maria Benevento is the education reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. She is a Report for America corps member.
KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.