election logo 2022

METRO CREATIVE

When you see this logo, it denotes Clay County election coverage for 2022.

At the polls this April, voters in the North Kansas City School District will have eight names from which to choose two candidates to represent them on the school board for the next three years. The top two vote-getters will be elected.

Candidates are Terry Ward, Josiah Bechthold, Laura Wagner, Duane Bartsch, Andrew Corrao, Daniel Wartick, Susan Hines and Frances Yang. The Gladstone Dispatch asked each candidate biographical and issue questions related to the district that were submitted by voters. For fairness in length to all, candidates were asked limit answers on issues questions to 50 words each. Answers longer than 50 words have been cut off at the end of the nearest sentence with an ellipsis marking where answers were stopped.

Answers published here are printed in alphabetical order of candidate last name. Corrao did return answers.

What is your definition of “parent’s choice” and how it should be implemented in schools?

Bartsch: “I was general counsel and later a board member for a public charter school. NKC students have thousands of college choices, but only one for public K-12. Why? What works for one student may not work for another. We know monopolies stagnate and competition releases innovation. Let’s try releasing innovation.”

Bechthold: “When a school seeks to impose burdens on a student that pertain to health and wellness, the parents have a right to informed consent. Informed consent means that the school district must inform parents about specifics regarding what is to be conducted. This includes information about the purpose of the measure, who will be conducting it and what their training is. …”

Hines: “Parent’s choice is choosing where to live based on whether the values of the community (including schools) resonate with our family. When a parent would like to make different choices than those offered by the school/district, they should engage in genuinely curious dialog with relevant decision-makers.

Wagner: “Parents want to do what is best for their children. We want to prepare them for life, a job, working with others — to set them up for success. That’s why I am excited for the Pathways program taking place in NKC schools now, preparing them for future careers.”

Ward: “For years, schools have clamored for increased parental involvement and North Kansas City Schools always welcomes such interest in a child’s education. Student learning is ideally a partnership between the school and family. Both parents and students should enjoy choice and feel valued.”

Wartick: “Partnering with families and encouraging engagement in their child’s education is a key component of building a community of learners. Schools have a wealth of opportunity for families with a voice in the direction of their student’s educational experience. Programs are constantly under consideration that increase choice in our schools.”

Yang: “Parents should always retain the right to choose where their child goes to school. We need to improve our public schools with the taxes that are paid for public school education by listening to the voices of parents, teachers, staff and the community.”

How will you navigate possible conflicts between your personal beliefs and/or regulations established by law and/or recommendations made by leading experts in their field?

Bartsch: “Politics shouldn’t be in NKC, but NKC has a paid political lobbyist. And, NKC promises ‘to prevent expansion of charter schools ... and limit Education Savings Account(s)... . That is, limit parents’ choices (source: nkcschools.org/Page/679). NKC hired a socio-emotional learning company to teach our kids ‘social awareness.’ These are divisive politics.”

Bechthold: “I believe in the rule of law and I would decide in favor of what the law and Constitution says if there were any conflict between the law and my personal beliefs. Recommendations made by so-called ‘leading experts’ are not law, and oftentimes they are wrong. …”

Hines: “When I encounter a conflict, this is when it’s most important for me to understand perspectives that are different from my own so that I can make informed decisions. In all situations, I’ll consider current law and listen to recommendations by leading experts.”

Wagner: “As a Christian and a union laborer, I serve others and work with others for the greater good. Serving on the school board will be an extension of my faith.”

Ward: “A school board member must take an oath of office that says that we will operate within the laws and constitution of the United States, Missouri and the county and city. That is my legal obligation. Within that framework, I use my personal beliefs and experience to guide my actions.”

Wartick: “I believe school boards are meant to be apolitical – politicizing our educational system is not why I’m running for the board. When elected, my job is to listen to those I represent, including students, teachers, staff and families, combining their input with additional information to determine the best path forward.”

Yang: “I navigate possible conflicts by examining the evidence that results from rigorous, replicable and transparent methodology. I believe that transparency in methodology and results need to be presented, even by leading experts in their fields. I believe in curiosity to ask the ‘why’ questions and motivation behind regulations established by law and recommendations by experts.”

What is your stance on the banning and/or removal of books from school libraries and subject matter in curriculum?

Bartsch: “I am not for banning anything. But, some material, such as the graphic depictions of cunnilingus and masturbation in the school library book I reviewed, is age inappropriate. You would think it inappropriate if you saw that in your dentist’s waiting room. It’s even less appropriate in a kids’ library.”

Bechthold: “Subject matter that teaches the morality of secular humanism or of any religion has no place in a curriculum. As for books, (those) containing subjects that would be illegal under Missouri state law to hand to a minor will have no place in our school libraries.”

Hines: “Regarding books, the district has a process for parents to act, which I believe is reasonable. Regarding curricula, parents can influence school curricula by voting in state and local elections and engaging in dialog in relevant forums including school board meetings.”

Wagner: “Every book with material that has ever concerned parents is easily available on students’ phones. Let’s talk about phone use in the classroom instead of books in the library.”

Ward: ‘The district hires personnel with expertise in library sciences and curriculum development. I look to the experts for guidance and compare their recommendations to my understanding. Specific legal precedents address removing books from school libraries. The district reviews books whenever a formal review is requested by any patron or parent.”

Wartick: “Schools should instill knowledge and inspire lifelong learning. Banning books or eliminating uncomfortable subjects serves to dilute the quality of education. Partnering with families is vital. Processes exist for families to define what their child can access, including opting out of lessons, without imposing bans or limiting curricula for all.”

Yang: “I believe in the First Amendment right to free speech. Banning books is an oversimplified solution to a larger conversation.”

What will you do to help attract and retain teaching talent in schools?

Bartsch: “Great schools attract and retain great teachers. Great schools get the basics right. But right now, NKC is failing the basics. Winnetonka has 13% math proficiency, Northtown has 34% and OPHS has 43% (source: publicschoolreview.com). ‘Basics’ sounds cliche’, but schools fail and we all pay the price when it’s ignored.”

Bechthold: “Teachers have been asked to do so much with so little for so long that they are now expected to do the impossible with nothing. Solution? Give them the tools they need and pay them more.”

Hines: First, teachers must be fairly compensated. Additionally, the School Board must cultivate a powerful shared context of values, a compelling vision for the future, and clear strategies for how we’ll work together as a community to access, affirm, and activate the full potential of each child.

Wagner: “Teachers and staff need our support now more than ever. We need to give them ways to keep teaching fun and innovative. Job sharing, smaller class sizes and additional administrative support are just a few ideas to start. Let’s do more.”

Ward: “We have competitive salaries and attractive benefits. We have a professional development program to support teachers in increasing their skills. We treat teachers with respect and support their freedom to be professionals. We have first-class facilities and excellent technology. We had 3,600 applicants for our 130 teacher openings.”

Wartick: “We must keep the entire community engaged in the powerful work that happens in our schools on a daily basis, all led by dedicated professionals who are mission-driven to educate children. A broad-based culture of appreciation and support is crucial to attracting and retaining talented teachers and staff.”

Yang: “The best way to attract top talent is by having a culture of respect. Respect involves including teachers in the decision-making process related to their students, paying them adequate salaries and benefits, and allowing for significant collaboration opportunities among diverse perspectives.”

Managing Editor Amanda Lubinski can be reached at 903-6001 or amanda.lubinski@npgco.com.