The Hickman Mills School District will vote tomorrow, Tuesday, April 6, for two new school board members. The school board election appears on the ballot in addition to city issues, such as the e-tax.
School board president Cecil Wattree highlighted the importance of tomorrow’s election. “I think that in whatever outcome of the election, we will need transparency and accountability from top to bottom,” he said. “With our current advancements with teacher pay and Return to Learn plan, we need to continue to build a culture of governance that leads by example.”
There are five candidates running for two board seats. Key points in discussions among candidates have included district accreditation, a safe return to school, business/community partnerships and district culture. The five candidates are incumbent Carol Graves, Ron Pearson, Ebony Osby, Ann Coleman and Clifford Ragan III. A sixth candidate who will appear on the ballot, John Carmichael, is no longer running.
Both Graves and Ragan ran in the last election but did not win. All five active candidates have offered details on their platforms at various forums.
Osby and Pearson have been endorsed by former District Superintendent Dr. Marge Williams as well as current board member Alvin Brooks.
Osby is a former school district teacher, and said her priorities are accreditation, increasing parent involvement and raising salary for teachers. She said increasing support for teachers is a key tool in gaining accreditation.
Pearson is an Army veteran. He served 21 years in the Army and has contracted with the Department of Defense. He also holds a degree in organizational leadership. He said he would use his background in policy and organization to work for strategic improvement plans and strategic community partnerships.
Graves and Coleman have been endorsed by Freedom, Inc., where Graves also serves as a committee member. DaRon McGee, who currently sits on the board, is also on Freedom, Inc.’s board.
Coleman has degrees in education and special education and is a long-time resident of the district. She said her priorities included accreditation and parent programs to help parents better assist their students.
Graves has 20 years of classroom teaching experience, six years serving on the board, and said changing school culture was her top priority for the next term. She said lack of parental involvement is a key issue, as is pay and support for teachers.
Ragan has also served on the board previously, including as vice president, but did not win re-election last term. He has also been involved in the PTA, Harvesters, and Booster’s Club. He said his priories are accreditation and addressing that “the Hickman Mills School District has had no identity.”
Current Board Directions
In addition to the Return to Learn plan, which the district is implementing to safely bring students back to school, the district has several other initiatives that the new board is anticipated to address.
At its March 25 meeting, the board approved a salary increase for teachers, to begin at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. The move aimed to make salaries competitive—an issue that came up throughout the school board election.
The change places the district at one of the highest maximum salaries for the Kansas City metro when including experience and education.
The board is also discussing policy changes related to board behavior and ethics as the district tries to move toward accreditation. Wattree introduced discussion at the March 25 meeting relating to more formal requirements for meeting attendance. Board member attendance has been an issue at recent meetings, with Director DaRon McGee missing or arriving more than 10 minutes late to 12 of the last 23 meetings (eight absences) and Director Byron Townsend missing or arriving more than ten minutes late to eight of 23 (six absences), according to board attendance records.