Trust, transparency themes in school board candidate forum

kschwers@kcstar.comMarch 17, 2017 

At least 150 Lee’s Summit residents filled a room at the Gamber Community Center on Monday night to get their questions answered from school board candidates.

Ten candidates are running for three open seats on the seven-member Lee’s Summit School Board. Incumbent board members Bill Baird, Terri Harmon and Chris Storms, did not file for re-election.

Ten of the candidates participated in a forum organized and moderated by the Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce. Mark Augustin, whose name appears on the ballot, did not attend Monday night. Augustin said he withdrew his name from the race due to unforeseen circumstances in an email to the Cass County Democrat-Missourian on Wednesday.

The district said 12 people initially filed to run, but Jill Dannaldson withdrew her name from the race a few days after the Jan. 17 filing deadline. Dannaldson’s name will not appear on the ballot.

Voters at Monday night’s forum heard from 10 candidates: Jacqueline Clark, Susan Coffman, Mark Dziedzic, Kim Fritchie, Diego Gutierrez, Michael McMenus, Ryan Murdock, Carl Quijas, Dennis Smith and Jill Worstell.

The Chamber collected questions from the audience to help drive the forum. The audience was made up of members of the public, families of the candidates, parents of Lee’s Summit students, and former and current educators. The moderators gave each candidate one minute to respond to each question.

The candidates spent more than two hours answering a variety of questions on issues pertaining to Lee’s Summit’s projected growth, how to retain teachers and evaluate their performance, what they would say to new Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter, how often they attend current school board meetings and what their thoughts were on the idea of charter schools (no one supported them).

Trust, transparency and communication were recurring themes throughout the night, and each candidate made their case.

Printed profiles of the 10 candidates were given out during the event. Half the candidates, including Gutierrez, McMenus, Murdock, Quijas and Worstell, indicated in their profiles that they did not have previous political experience. All come from different professional backgrounds. At least three, Smith, Murdock and Fritchie, said they were former teachers or school administrators.

A video of the full candidate forum is available on YouTube.

A sample ballot is on the Jackson County Election Board website. The election is April 4.

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