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2024 election: Meet the Liberty school board candidates

Liberty school board candidates Darren Siebert, Jeffrey “Drew” Marriott and Nicholaus “Nick” Bartlow.
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Liberty school board candidates Darren Siebert, Jeffrey “Drew” Marriott and Nicholaus “Nick” Bartlow.

Three candidates are running for two seats on the Liberty school board. Here’s what they think about mental health, cellphones in school and removing books from libraries.

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.

Three candidates for the Liberty Public Schools board agree that the district should focus more on supporting student mental health and social emotional learning.

But each has a different position on whether the district is striking the right balance on its use of technology in the classroom.

Voters will see Darren Siebert and incumbents Jeffrey “Drew” Marriott and Nicholaus “Nick” Bartlow on their April 2 ballot. Two out of three will earn spots on the school board.

We asked all three candidates about their qualifications, positions and priorities.

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

Meet the candidates

Darren Siebert

Occupation: Former law enforcement 20+ years, Liberty Plumbing Heating and A/C

Background and qualifications: Bachelor’s degree in law enforcement administration, minor in sociology, school resource officer/campus police officer. We worked hand-in-hand with the administrators and board members for policy changes and updates.

Favorite school event: Skating parties and carnival

Jeffrey “Drew” Marriott

Occupation: Education attorney

Background and qualifications: I have two daughters who attend Liberty Public Schools and I come from a family of educators. As an education lawyer, I work with school boards and educators across the state of Missouri. As an incumbent, I believe in the good work our board is doing.

Favorite school event: I love football games, wrestling tournaments, but love the fine arts offerings in Liberty Public Schools (orchestra, speech and debate, theater, choir, band, and others)!

Nicholaus “Nick” Bartlow

Occupation: SVP, intelligence director at Barkley

Background and qualifications: I have served for the past six years on the Liberty school board. I have three children currently attending Liberty Public Schools (eighth grader, fifth grader and fourth grader).

Favorite school event: Commencement — the culmination of all the work our district does to prepare students for the next step in their lives.

Multiple-choice questions

School funding

Siebert: In regards to fund allocation, we really need to determine where the priorities lie. For example, will a student’s education be better fulfilled with an updated playground or their teacher having the materials to complete daily lessons?

Marriott: Missouri schools are notoriously underfunded with a complicated funding formula. Most of our funding is a local effort. Missouri’s teacher pay consistently ranks near last. Our children are our future and worth the investment of our time and money.

Bartlow: Our supportive community and our conservative fiscal approach have allowed us to be effective with our current budget. The human resource and operational costs of our district continue to grow at an accelerated rate and we will need to address that.

Controversial books

Siebert: “Inappropriate” is a matter of opinion. What is the approval process for adding a book to the library? As avid readers, we personally encourage our kids to read varied topics, even hard ones, and are involved with those discussions.

Marriott: With two appeals, our board retained both books. Our district and board have taken thoughtful approaches to the challenges. We have effective policies and procedures in place to buy books and review books.

Bartlow: We have a process for book placement within our libraries, a procedure for allowing parents to restrict books from their children and a policy for how books can be evaluated for removal. This allows for families to do what is best for their beliefs.

Transgender students

Siebert: U.S. Department Of Education Title IX lays it all out. Under this policy, transgender students are to have access to bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity.

Marriott: I want all students to be safe, welcome and have a sense of belonging at school. That includes being themselves at school. I do believe that FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) requires that we partner and communicate with parents about such changes.

Bartlow: We have an established process for parental engagement in how to best meet the gender identity needs of our students. There are opportunities to better execute that process and we continue to work with families to ensure their needs are met.

Mental health

Siebert: Although the height of the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with teen mental health challenges, teen-focused therapists believe the crisis has only deepened since then. Sixty-three percent of the Talkspace provider team says that, overall, student mental health seems even worse.

Marriott: If we want to support all students and acknowledge that they come to us with different needs, then supporting their mental health is essential. Students should feel safe, welcome and supported at school.

Bartlow: Education is not simply academic learning. There are factors that impact our students and in turn impacts their ability to learn. We have to continue finding the right ways to support them holistically, including mental health.

Social emotional learning

Siebert: It works. It is an integral part of education and human development. Social emotional learning is the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve goals.

Marriott: Supporting strategies, lessons, practices and processes for students to learn and support healthy development and relationships is important. This term has been politicized, but assisting students with healthy habits shouldn’t be political.

Bartlow: If we are preparing students for a successful career and life, we have to incorporate the fundamentals of social emotional learning into our classrooms. Social emotional learning should be integrated within academic learning, not as a replacement.


Siebert: Phones are amazing tools of connectivity or problematic when misused. If used, phones get removed till day’s end. Limiting phone access avoids distractions, social media, cameras and disruptive calls and texts.

Marriott: Innovation necessitates integrating technology and preparing students for life after school. That includes integrating AI and tech. My only caveat to the above is that cellphones can be a huge distraction. We can integrate tech in other ways.

Bartlow: Preparation for our students’ future success is dependent on demonstrating how they can integrate new technology. We need to ensure it is not disruptive to the education process, but it should certainly be incorporated for students’ understanding.

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?

Siebert: The district currently has a high achievement with a current graduation rate of 96.1%. I would ensure the faculty had the tools they need to keep the current high standard they are achieving.

Marriott: I will continue to support our work towards a learner-centered model and our district’s work as part of the Success-Ready Students Network. Both are important for changing how our state “does” education. That focus on students is key and our students continue to succeed and show resilience.

Bartlow: Continue to open up opportunities for education in what both career-ready and college-bound students want to pursue. While there are always opportunities for improvement, our students continue to show progress towards their academic success through ongoing and sustained evaluation.

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

Siebert: No issues. The $120 million no-tax-increase and the no-tax-increase levy transfer are excellent. It is all going to improve the overall quality of the school district facilities.

Marriott: As an incumbent, I support the work we have done in navigating tough issues and focusing on what is best for kids. I think that maintaining that stability and trajectory is important. Listening to our students, parents and educators is key, and an area we can always improve on.

Bartlow: Our district is in the midst of slowing student population growth. This will be a challenge in the coming years as we determine how best to manage our facilities and staffing.

More 2024 school board election guides

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