As the campaign season begins to wind down for the Kansas City Public Schools (KCPS) school board elections, one race in particular is creating buzz among voters. Sub-District 4, which will be decided by write-in votes, is the only race that has voters deciding between two individuals on who will be their future representative on the school board.
One of those individuals is Monica Curls, a public servant and experienced civic professional who seeks to be elected to build an accessible and successful school district by bringing her expertise in leadership and public service.
Born and raised in Kansas City, Curls is no stranger to politics, campaigns and the role of a public servant. As the daughter of former Missouri State Senator Phil Curls and former Councilwoman Melba Curls, she grew up learning about the different responsibilities and skills needed to be an effective elected official.
With a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and Masters degrees in Organizational Development Psychology and Management from Avila University, Curls has used her skills to lead projects, work as a consultant, and serve as a board member for various organizations such as the Housing Authority of Kansas City, Jacob L. and Ella C. Loose Foundation and the Junior League of Kansas City.
Curls said that although individuals reached out to her at the beginning of the year to consider running for the school board race, it was only after attending a KCPS Fireside Chat where she had the opportunity to hear Dr. Collier talk about her leadership journey in education that her interest in running sparked. During the KCPS Fireside Chat, Curls recalls having a conversation with Dr. Collier about advocacy and politics and the importance of having those skills as a school board member.
“Growing up in the political world, I’ve worked on a lot of campaigns and this is really my strength,” Curls said. “I believe that since I have experience, skills, and talent that will allow me to make a difference in this point of the district’s history, is why I’m running. Four years ago I might’ve not been interested, four years from now I may not be the best person, but I know right now with the challenges they are dealing with and what they need to focus on in the next four years, I feel that I can really make a difference on this board. That’s when I decided to run for this seat.”
Although Curls had an upbringing in private Catholic schools, she says she recognizes the need to create accessible and efficient education for all students in the district.
“Education is the key foundation to success and development,” Curls said.
In order to achieve a level of education in the district that leads to high student achievement and success, Curls said her campaign focuses on bringing experience and effective leadership, building trust and community engagement and preparing strategies to acquire new resources and pass the General Obligation Bond Plan in the upcoming year. In regards to creating a better environment for students at school, Curls says that bringing resources and training to teachers are important to ensure that they too are evolving and teaching in new and innovative ways. Since many students find themselves with familial problems, traumas and outside stressors that may hinder their education, having teachers that can facilitate their learning through new methods can help students as they go through their educational journey.
With experience in nonprofit boards, finances and preparing budgets, and even aiding in creating the current governance framework that the KCPS district uses, Curls hopes to have the opportunity to put her skills to action. Curls said that during the process of KCPS approving the Blueprint 2030 Plan, she saw that key stakeholders such as KCPS employees, parents and students were not part of the decision making from the start. In order to build a relationship between the school board and families, Curls wants to ensure that if elected, the school board makes a larger effort to be out in the community, visible to those they serve.
Implementing initiatives such as “Coffee with Curls” as a way for community members to have a time and space to ask questions, become familiar with their representative and building relationships is one of the methods Curls would seek to accomplish.
“We need to meet our families half-way and engage with them in different ways,” Curls said. “Many parents work all day and don’t want to spend their time at a school board meeting on a Wednesday evening.”
Additionally, Curls would like to continue to build relationships with organizations such as SchoolSmartKC, Latinx Education Collaborative and Blaque Kansas City, that are heavily involved with KCPS families and have already built trust and engagement with community members so that they can aid in developing that trust with the school board as well.
“When you work with these organizations that engage with our communities and you have them vet you and validate you as a professional, families can see that we are also there to help them,” Curls said. “It also allows us to work with these organizations who see the challenges and come up with solutions by working together in a meaningful way.”
Less than a week away from the election, Curls wants to encourage everyone to be an active member of the political process, regardless of who they are supporting.
“I encourage everyone to be involved and engaged because it’s the way we can hold people accountable in the political process,” Curls said. “Still, I want to say that I come from a legacy of service, and I want to continue to build upon that legacy and provide a leadership that builds trust and takes action for our students.”