2 newcomers elected to Lee’s Summit school board. Is diversity work in jeopardy? | Opinion

Could diversity initiatives in Lee’s Summit schools be at risk? After Tuesday’s general election results, the question is worth considering.

Newcomers Stacie Myers, a former public school educator, and business owner Bill Haley won two open seats on the Lee’s Summit School District Board of Education. Diversity champion and current board president Rodrick King Sparks was not reelected.

And that should worry concerned parents of marginalized students in the district.

Haley, a self-described “back to the basics” type, according to his campaign website, is backed by the controversial We the People of Eastern Jackson County group and influential Abundant Life Church in Lee’s Summit. Both entities support current board members Jennifer Foley, Heather Eslick and Regina Garrett. Just last week, the three voted against extending the district’s contract with a dignity and inclusion consulting firm, though it ultimately passed by a 4-3 vote.

On Tuesday, Myers tallied 23% of votes cast while Haley received 22%, according to unofficial election results.

Last month, I wrote about some of the concerns I had about the potential of either Haley or another candidate, Dan Blake — or both — joining the school board. They were backed by Phil Hopper, lead pastor at conservative Abundant Life in Lee’s Summit.

The church’s attempted takeover of the school board fell short — but not by very much. Blake received 21% of the votes in this race.

I have my doubts, but Haley could very well end up being a champion for all students in Lee’s Summit schools. But stakeholders in the district must stay actively engaged to make sure he and Myers serve the best interest of all students.

Patrons in Lee’s Summit must give this new board an opportunity to do its job. But it would be unwise to think the district’s yearslong equity work to close the achievement gap between marginalized children and the rest of the student population isn’t at risk.

Independence, Hickman Mills, St. Joseph races

In other school board races of note, Independence voters elected two new members to the Independence School District Board of Education but Superintendent Dale Herl can breathe easy: He narrowly maintained a majority of support on the board.

Joining the board are: Wendy Baird, a stay-at-home mother and small business owner who received 19% of the vote and Brandi Pruente, who garnered 17%, according to unofficial results.

Baird has been a frequent critic of Herl and the school board, so things should be interesting there. Pruente taught French for 13 years at Truman High School in Independence, according to her website. She brings a much-needed educator’s perspective to the board.

With 16% of the vote, incumbent Carrie Dixon, one of Herl’s top supporters, was retained but current board president Eric Knipp was not.

In the Hickman Mills School District, longtime Kansas City civil rights leader Alvin Brooks, founder of Kansas City’s Ad Hoc Group Against Crime, ousted former board president Carol Graves. Brooks, a former president of the Kansas City Board of Police Commissioners and a stalwart in the community, will serve a one-year term.

Graves’ support of former board member Clifford Ragan III likely contributed to her being unseated. Ragan’s name remained on the ballot but he was disqualified from the race because of tax issues, according to the Kansas City Election Board.

Incumbent Ann Coleman and former board member Bonnaye Mims were both elected to serve three-year terms.

And Jan. 6 Washington, D.C., rioter Kimberly Dragoo came nowhere close to winning a seat on the St. Joseph School District Board of Education. She tallied only 7% of the 11,721 votes cast, according to The St. Joseph News-Press.

I have to commend voters in this town about 55 miles northwest of Kansas City. Dragoo — or anyone else associated with a direct attack on democracy — doesn’t deserve a chance to set public policy.