by Mary Rupert
Voters will see 11 names on the general election ballot on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in the Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education contest.
Voters may choose four of the 11 names on the ballot. There was no primary in this contest.
Candidates who attended a candidate forum in October were articulate, caring and well-versed in the issues.
One of the incumbents on the ballot, Brenda Jones, after filing on May 9, resigned by letter from the school board on Sept. 10, stating that because of “recent life changes, I will be moving and need to focus on my recovery and health.” Jones’ name, however, is still listed on the candidate list and sample ballot.
Two other incumbents, Dr. Valdenia Winn and Janey Humphries, are running for re-election. Incumbent board member Harold Brown did not file for re-election.
In this year’s election, one of the issues has been a rift between those board members who supported a previous district administration and those who support board members who brought in a new administration after a national search.
Groups endorsing candidates
Some endorsements for the KCK school board contest:
- The KCK Professional Group endorsed Gary Bradley-Lopez, Yolanda Clark, Hattie Smith and Joseph Straws.
- Unity with Purpose endorsed Karen French, Hattie Smith, Frieda Tresvan and Valdenia Winn.
- Effective KCK School Board endorsed Janey Humphries, Yolanda Clark, Monica Crowe and Randy Lopez.
- Voters 4 Success endorsed Janey Humphries, Randy Lopez, Yolanda Clark and Monica Crowe.
- The MainStream PAC (political action committee) endorsed Gary Bradley-Lopez, Yolanda Clark and Randy Lopez.
- The National Education Association of KCK Political Action Committee has recommended Gary Lopez-Bradley, Janey Humphries, Randy Lopez and Valdenia Winn.
Valdenia C. Winn
Dr. Valdenia Winn, last school year’s board president who is running for re-election to the board, has attracted criticism of those who supported the former district administration. During the campaign, some opponents claimed there was micromanaging by the board. Dr. Winn, however, said a board member’s duties include asking questions and holding the administration accountable. During the previous administration, she asked questions about a price tag of more than $600,000 for a 15-acre wooded site for a new school at 88th and Waverly. She also supported an outside audit of human resources that looked at the district’s compliance with board policies on hiring and recruitment, and also addressed the hiring practices concerning minorities. After a new superintendent was hired, there was an exit by some of the district’s top administrators.
Dr. Winn is the most qualified candidate on the ballot, with experience in teaching at the college level in Wyandotte County, with a doctorate degree, as a state representative voting on school legislation in Topeka, and with previous experience on the KCKPS board.
“I have a passion for public service and a commitment to public education,” Dr. Winn said at the candidate forum Oct. 14 at Kansas City Kansas Community College. “USD 500 serves 22,000 families, and it is of utmost importance that we do what we can to provide them a quality education, so that people have a fighting chance.”
She said her goals included increasing student achievement; hiring quality teachers of color from the Kansas City, Kansas, community; continuing to work to assure accountability and transparency of the district’s resources and continuing to engage parents and the community more than in the past.
To accomplish the goals, the board must change its governing policies so the board has more authority in recruitment, hiring, compensation and overall oversight, she said. Hiring more teachers of color who live in Kansas City, Kansas, now will help students achieve more, she said.
It is a board member’s job to review processes and operations, and board members must ask the hard questions and hold everyone accountable, she said.
Frieda Tresvan said she was running for office because she cares about children, their parents and the future of Kansas City, Kansas, and the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools.
“As a mother of children with disabilities, I have first-hand experience of the struggles families face in seeking appropriate services in the district,” Tresvan said.
She has lived in the school district for 13 years and she and her husband have two children in the district.
She said she was committed to seeking out the opinions of the marginalized and unheard members of the community and working toward common ground.
“I believe in servant leadership and promise to lead thoughtfully and respectfully and to build strong relationships to find the best solutions for our children and community,” Tresvan said. “I want to help mend fences that have been broken in our community, and restore trust and integrity where it’s needed.”
She said she believes the school system is the bedrock of the community, and she is passionate about bringing people together and creating solutions that will strengthen the school system and improve opportunities for children in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Our school board needs to have a parent voice at the table,” Tresvan said.
Randy Lopez is the vice president of the Wyandotte Health Foundation and serves on several boards including the United Way and Vibrant Health advisory board. He has a master’s degree in public administration.
What excites him about running for the board is his engagement and passion for the community, he said.
“Our schools build the foundation for success and excellence for our entire community,” he said. As a board, members have a responsibility to each of the 22,000 students and their families to engage them, to make sure they’re providing the best resources to them and to make sure there are policies in place that keep the kids at the center and heart of who they are, and most importantly, to care.
“I’m asking for your vote because I care, and I want to be able to be on a board to bring unity, to bring hope, and to bring excellence and success for all of our kids,” Lopez said.
He also supports academic excellence for all students, along with family engagement.
“Also, I believe representation matters,” Lopez said. “We have a district that’s over 50 percent Hispanic-Latino students and currently, we have no Latinos on our board. As a matter of fact, we’ve never elected a Latino onto our board. This November, I’m hoping to change that.”
Gary E. Bradley-Lopez
Gary Enrique Bradley-Lopez, a college student who is the youngest candidate for school board, said he would be representative of students.
“Throughout my education, I was always told that if I go to college, I would need someone to take notes for me,” he said.
He struggled through classes, and was able to grow and be academically successful, he said, and is now able to take his own notes.
“I had those people there by my side who were able to push me,” he said. “Unfortunately many USD 500 students don’t have the same opportunities I had, don’t have the same people in their circles to help them survive.”
He decided to run for the school board to fight for each USD 500 student who is like himself and is struggling to become academically successful, he said.
All the district parents, educators and students he talked to wanted to make sure that students in the district graduate and have a plan when they graduate, he said.
He said his platform is “students first.” He also supports ending the “school to prison pipeline,” having mandatory equity and diversion training for teachers, and invest in conversations with human resources. It’s important for students to have teachers who look like them, he added.
Monica Crowe, who has been involved with PTA for 26 years, said she has been very involved with her two children’s schools.
“I’ve gone into almost every school we have and have helped to start the PTA or the parent engagement groups,” Crowe said at the candidate forum. She worked with three superintendents in helping with the PTAs. She also worked on the school bond committee in 2016.
“I’ve invested a lot of time and effort into our schools, because I feel that it’s important that every student gets a quality education in a building they feel safe and comfortable in, as well as with the staff.”
Her children suggested that since she just finished a two-year term as a state PTA president, she should run for the school board, she said.
Crowe said she believes in transparency and all of the children getting a quality education, as well as board members working together.
“We need to be financially responsible, but yet we also need to make sure our children have the tools to get the education they deserve, as well as the staff feel respected in the building that they work in,” Crowe said.
Janey Humphries, an incumbent school board member, was appointed to a vacancy created by the death of long-time board member Gloria Willis.
She and her husband moved to the school district 40 years ago, and her four children graduated from district schools. She said she has been involved as a volunteer in children’s learning and an active volunteer in the district schools and community for 40 years. The organizations included site councils, PTAs and booster clubs, and other committees.
“Our children of today will be the leaders of our city and country in the future,” Humphries said. “They will be making decisions that will affect each and every one of us. We must invest in them.”
“I believe all children deserve the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of where they live or what school they go to,” she said. “We the community have a collective responsibility to ensure each and every child has access to quality facilities, quality curriculum, and buildings are staffed with quality personnel.”
Humphries said over the past two-and-a-half years serving on the board, she has shown she has the knowledge, the desire, the time and the ability to continue serving as a board member on behalf of all the children, to work with students, parents, community members, staff and other board members to make the best decisions possible for each child.
Hattie L. Smith
Hattie L. Smith, a native of Kansas City, Kansas, attended the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, raised children who graduated from district schools and now has grandchildren in the district schools.
She said she was very active in her children’s schools, serving as a room mother and a volunteer.
“I believe in excellence,” she said, adding that she works in business. “I am an educator in the business world.”
She said that she has found when interviewing youths for a position, the youths are not ready for the work force.
“I want to challenge our curriculum, that it will look like the technology of today, that it will prepare the students coming out of high school, for the business world, for jobs,” Smith said.
There are jobs open in Kansas City, Kansas, but many of them go unnoticed, she said. Smith said she wants the students to be successful in their education, to have confidence and skills when they graduate from high school so they can be part of the community and contribute to the community.
“I am not a traditional school board candidate, but certainly I feel I bring a lot of experience, a lot of knowledge to the table,” Smith said. “I want to see everybody’s child do better, because when the education kicks in, in Kansas City, Kansas, USD 500, violence will go down, problems will go down, because they’ll be confident in their goal, their focus will be to become successful and contribute to society. And you’ll be surprised when people are confident in themselves, when their self-esteem goes up, then their worries and their problems go down.”
Yolanda S. Clark
Yolanda Clark was not at the October candidate forum at KCKCC sponsored by neighborhood organizations, but spoke earlier at a candidate event in July at the First Baptist Church at 5th and Nebraska.
She said she graduated from Washington High School and currently has two students in the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools district. Her oldest son is serving in the Navy.
“I come from a long line of individuals dedicated to the success of the district,” Clark said at the July event.
Clark has been an entrepreneur, has a background in servicing students, and has more than 20 years of banking experience, she said. She is currently a compliance manager with a financial institution and has served on several councils committed to inclusion and diversity.
“As our communities become more diverse, it is vital that we provide the highest level of education to all students,” Clark said.
“I believe we should operate with high quality staff that is able to represent the district in an inclusive manner, with consideration of all individuals from all walks of life,” she said.
“We should be excited about our resources the district has to offer, not only our schools, but our public libraries. By providing quality education to our students, we not only invest in our students of today, but we provide our economic growth for the community going forward.”
Students deserve to be competitive in an aggressive job market, she said. She said she would make it a priority to be an advocate to children in Wyandotte County to receive quality education.
Karen French was not at the October candidate forum, but was at an earlier July candidate forum at 5th and Nebraska.
French went to a one-room schoolhouse in Arkansas at age 6 before coming to Kansas City, Kansas, in grade school.
Although she was on the honor roll at Sumner High School, her high school counselor told her she was not college material, she recalled at the July candidate event. She and her mother were taken aback.
“Our immediate reaction was, ‘Watch,’” she said. She completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees and currently is working on her doctorate in education with an emphasis on curriculum.
Her job experience has included developing housing in Kansas City, Missouri. She then worked for the Kansas City, Missouri, school district, in a project management team overseeing a 10-year desegregation capital improvements project.
Although not a teacher, she is passionate for teaching, and has served in the past as a professor and assistant director of diversity for the University of Central Missouri, among other jobs in education. She said she will support students and teachers, and foster an effective and efficient budget oversight.
French has served as vice chairman of the Kansas City, Kansas, Landmarks Commission.
Joseph A. Straws III
Joseph A. Straws III was not at the October candidate forum sponsored by neighborhood organizations, but spoke at the July candidate forum at 5th and Nebraska.
“Build the buildings, but If we don’t prepare these young people for college and life after high school, then we have failed,” Straws said at the July forum.
A father who has children in district schools and four in college, Straws said it is necessary to bridge the gap between home, school, community, administration and the teacher.
A graduate of Sumner Academy and an entrepreneur, Straws said he has taught voluntarily without pay, has been a mentor for more than 20 years and has witnessed successes and challenges.
“We’ve got a lot of ground to make up,” he said. The district needs to put a 13-year program together to get kids to the next level, he said.
“We’ve got to start pushing our young people not to what we think they can be but what we know they can be,” he said. “We’ve got to raise the standard at every doorstep.”
There are five high schools in the district, and four of them need to have the same opportunities and curriculum for students as Sumner Academy, he said.
“My passion is to make sure that every student has an opportunity to make it,” he said.
More information is available on a video of a candidate forum. To see a video of a candidate forum with the Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education candidates, sponsored by Business West and neighborhood organizations, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZe1bGf6P4s.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 5. Advance voting also is ongoing. To see a story about voting details and what contests are on the ballot, visit http://wyandottedaily.com/early-voting-begins-saturday-at-three-sites/.
The Wyandotte Daily’s election stories are listed under the category, “Election 2019,” at http://wyandottedaily.com/category/election-2019/.
To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email email@example.com.