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2024 election: Meet the Park Hill school board candidates

From left: Park Hill school board candidates Brandy Maltbia Woodley, Sadie Peterson and Harrison Todd.
Provided photos
From left: Park Hill school board candidates Brandy Maltbia Woodley, Sadie Peterson and Harrison Todd.

Three candidates will be on the ballot April 2 for two open seats in the Park Hill School District. Here's what they think about mental health for students, cell phones in classrooms and issues regarding transgender students.

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.

Two candidates for the Park Hill School District board say the district is already heading in a good direction, while a third says the school board isn’t focused enough on updating buildings.

Candidates Harrison Todd, Sadie Peterson and incumbent Brandy Maltbia Woodley are competing for two open seats. They’ll appear on the April 2 ballot.

We asked all three candidates about their positions and priorities for the district.

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

Meet the candidates

Brandy Maltbia Woodley

Occupation: Editor, Department of Military History/CGSC/Department of U.S. Army

Background and qualifications: First Black person elected to the Park Hill school board; board president; Missouri School Boards’ Association advanced and master board certifications; Park Hill School District Diversity Equity Inclusion and Belonging Council; Northwest Missouri State University Business Advisory Board.

Favorite school event: I really enjoy presenting Park Hill high school graduates with their diplomas and interacting with Park Hill School District staff at convocation.

Harrison Todd

Occupation: Social Security Administration

Background and qualifications: After earning my master’s degree at Kansas State University, I conducted Ph.D. research at Washington University in St. Louis. I fell in love with education as a graduate instructor at both. I have experience in community collaboration through many public service and volunteer positions.

Favorite school event: Any event that brings our community together in celebration.

Sadie Peterson

Occupation: Baker

Background and qualifications: Peterson did not respond to this question. KCTV5 described her as the owner of Smallcakes 64th cupcakery at Burlington Creek in Parkville.

Favorite school event: Soccer

Multiple-choice questions

School funding

Woodley: There are facility needs that are being focused on via the Park Hill 2034 long-range planning. It would be great to have more money (and staff) to support special education, social emotional learning and other supports.

Todd: Schools are foundational to every community, and as such, they always benefit from more funding. How you use your funds makes the greatest difference, and Park Hill does a good job of judiciously yet generously allocating funds.

Peterson: Our older facilities are in great need of updating and some simply need repairs to be usable and safe.

Controversial books

Woodley: Park Hill School District has not had this issue and encourages students to explore its various books in the school libraries.

Todd: Censorship is dangerous and contrary to the development of a well-rounded individual. Thankfully, Park Hill does not have a history of censoring books.

Peterson: This is not something that is of big concern in our district.

Transgender students

Woodley: Park Hill School District believes and emphasizes “belonging” throughout the district — from the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan to building initiatives and programs. Any student who has and/or changes pronouns or their names is supported on an individual basis, if there are issues.

Todd: We all shape our own identities daily, but some of us must do more work than others to most fully present and affirm our truest selves. This is difficult for many people to do (especially children) and we should support each other in this process.

Peterson: No response

Mental health

Woodley: Park Hill is deeply involved and supporting. It recently opened a leased facility dedicated to mental health and wellness. More staff is still needed.

Todd: Mental health has a massive impact on an individual’s life trajectory. Many mental health issues arise during childhood and adolescence, and because this is the case, school districts and boards should promote robust systems of mental health support.

Peterson: No response

Social emotional learning

Woodley: Social emotional learning has been expanding in Park Hill for years and is part of the district Comprehensive School Improvement Plan.

Todd: Social emotional skills are critical to fostering the cooperation that strengthens community. Schools are meant to prepare students to be active, productive and informed members of our society, and academics alone will not achieve this goal.

Peterson: No response


Woodley: I believe that cellphone accessibility should be restricted to keep more focus on instruction and student engagement. Park Hill has great classroom and 1:1 student technology already.

Todd: Whether we see it as a positive or a negative, tools such as cellphones and AI are now inextricably woven into the fabric of our world. As such, we must help our students engage with this technology mindfully, ethically and productively.

Peterson: No response

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?

Woodley: As an incumbent, I am focused on improved data analysis of and decreasing the achievement gap for various Park Hill student groups. Park Hill has been studying and slowly implementing culturally responsive education strategies throughout the district. I would like more emphasis on culturally responsive education staff professional development.

Todd: I will work to ensure that students at all levels of Park Hill have equitable access to growth opportunities. Park Hill already has a high rate of success in terms of graduation rates and academic proficiency (math, reading, science), but it is critical that this is true for each and every student.

Peterson: First, I would work on improving their facilities they are in and use daily. Having up-to-date and safe facilities is paramount to better learning. We have the potential to be a better academic community and should be providing all the tools (including proper facilities) to do so.

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

Woodley: No concerns of recent decisions or actions.

Todd: Frankly, I believe the school board has been heading in the right direction and I want to join the board in order to support the good work already in action.

Peterson: I believe we are light years behind other districts in having up-to-date facilities and the priorities of the current board are not indicative of improving them.

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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