The last day to file for a seat on the Kansas City Public School Board of Directors is January 15. All seven seats are up for election, which could potentially result in a complete turnover of the Board.
Those interested must file with the Secretary of the Board at the Board of Education Office located at 2901 Troost Avenue.
Each seat on the current Board of Directors is open as a result of a 2013 Missouri law that goes into effect this year.
The seven seats available include three positions with a 4-year term: sub-district 2, sub-district 4, and one at-Large; and four positions with a 2-year term: sub-district 1, sub-district 3, sub-district 5, and one at-Large.
Senate Bill 258 was signed by Governor Jay Nixon July 12, 2013, which reduces the membership of the Kansas City School District board of education and changes the election date for board members.
The bill decreases the number of directors from nine to seven, beginning with this 2019 election. Instead of three at-large directors, the board will have two at-large directors. The number of directors representing subdistricts is also reduced from six to five.
The current school district was redrawn to house the five sub-districts instead of six.
This year, the election date for school board members was also moved from the municipal election to the same date as local elections for Kansas City, with elections to be held every four years.
In order to qualify as a school board member, candidates must be a U.S. Citizen, a resident taxpayer of the district or in urban districts, a voter of the district, a resident of Missouri for at least one year, at least 24 years of age, current on state and local taxes, have not been found guilty or pled guilty to a felony under Missouri or federal law, is not registered or required to register as a sex offender, and have filed required campaign documents for all previous campaigns, if any.
Successfully-elected board members are further required to complete sixteen hours of orientation and training within one year of their election.
School board members fulfill fundamental roles in ensuring the success of the district, including visualizing and clarifying district purpose, observing and monitoring district progress, implementing policy and budget, and connecting with the community.
John Fierro, current Sub-District 3 school board member, was elected in 2013 and said he had no intention to run for school board, but decided to do something about his desire to see change.
“I could continue to be like most people and sit on the side lines and criticize and be upset about what was going on, but I decided that I need to get off the bleachers and I needed to get in the game,” he said.
Fierro said his time serving the Northeast on the school board has been good, and hopes the next school board members can continue to meet the needs of the community and the students.
“We have a lot of issues that the kids bring to the school that are originating in the neighborhoods. We are dealing with violence, homelessness, and kids who are not able to eat everyday. So we need to work on how the community comes together to support the school district and work in partnership so that not only are the kids being supported at school, but in the evening and on weekends they’re also receiving support.”
Fierro said that anyone interested in running for school board should be aware of the time commitment, as well. He said it is a lot more than attending a few meetings. The school board holds two meetings each month, which include both public and executive sessions, with some of those meetings potentially lasting from 5 p.m. to 8 or 9 p.m. Fierro added that time spent on sub-committee issues, neighborhood association meetings, networking meetings, as well as meetings with individual parents regarding issues are all part of the job.
“Can you imagine if you have a full time job, you are then coming from your day job and going into another position for an additional three or four hours more. You are managing different contacts and communications and you need to follow through on things. At any given period, it’s not uncommon to commit 8 hours of time toward school district business in one week.”
Fierro added that the role of sitting on the school board is not one to take lightly, and those interested should hold a true passion for the wellbeing of our students as a whole.
“We have the lives of children in our hands and we have to take that very seriously with every decision that we make.”
Manny Abarca, who currently serves on the Guadalupe Charter School Board is running for sub-district 3. He said his decision to run was the prompting of a former mentor, Gilbert Guerrero. Abarca joined the GCI Board and said he tried to put himself in the shoes of administrators, teachers, students, and parents.
“[I] fell in love with the ability to help educate the future generations. It’s my new found passion and with another mentor’s recommendation, John Fierro, I jumped at the opportunity to run for KCPS board.”