The Lee’s Summit R-7 voters sent a particularly powerful message via the ballot box April 2.
And that message was different depending on the voter, too.
Likely behind the voting power of teachers, staff and their families — not to mention a few thousand other voters — Mike Allen and Judy Hedrick both easily won seats on the R-7 Board of Education in a time when our school district and, subsequently, board elections, have vaulted to the top of the public conversation.
Who is running, why they are running and if they are qualified to run are all questions we have asked for as long as I can remember in our city elections. Now, thankfully, we are making these vital inquiries in our school district elections, too.
Morale is low and confidence in some leadership at the Stansberry Leadership Center is most certainly wavering among some R-7 staff.
And while voters (or school board candidates, for that matter) cannot right that ship, they can take a critical look at who can and should represent us on a board that has a monumental task ahead for it. Not only will the new school board members serve a three-year term that will likely see another discussion on the superintendent’s contract, it will be part of a growing equity and achievement discussion, charged with thinking of how classrooms should look in the future, preparing a bond issue for a fourth junior high and moving sixth graders from the elementary level and dozens of other pressing topics for our school district.
Allen and Hedrick will join five board members that have been all over the board on the above and other topics for our district. They join a board where two of those five recently voted against the one-year contract extension for Dr. Dennis Carpenter. A board where two of the members voted against a downtown multi-family housing project TIF as members of the city’s TIF commission. A board with members of all ages and backgrounds.
And, if we are being honest, a board very much divided on more than one topic.
But like our city council, it’s an elected body that simply must cooperate, find common ground and be able to make decisions that are better for the whole and not just a few parts.
Both newly-elected members bring with them a history of legislative and personal support of the district, as well as a financial and organizational background that will lend itself to the betterment of school board deliberations and decisions.
But what needs to happen before all the talking is a lot of questions.
Why do we do things the way we do them? Is that best practice? What legal advice are we getting as a district and is that legal advice in our best interests? What do the teachers and staff need from our district and how can we support them in their mission to prepare each student for the future? How do we communicate the good news of R-7 to the Kansas City metro area? What are our concrete plans to work toward closing achievement and graduation gaps among students of all races and socioeconomic backgrounds?
This most certainly isn’t an easy time to come in as a new board member for our school district. Allen and Hedrick, along with all our Board of Education, will be under microscope on many decisions and initiatives.
Our district narrative will continue to be written in the coming weeks, months, years.
As citizens, parents and taxpayers, we need to continue to ask as many questions of our board and district as we want them to be asking before they make decisions, big or small.
Editor's Note: John Beaudoin is a Lee's Summit resident and award winning writer and former newspaper publisher in the Lee's Summit community. Views and opinions expressed in his columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees or any other guest contributors.