Managing a growing enrollment — both from people moving into the district and possibly from Kansas City students transferring in — is a top concern for three candidates running for the Independence school board.
The three have filed for two open spots on the board. Running are Blake Roberson, who served 12 years on the board from 2000 to 2012 before his term limit was up; Ron Thornbury, a business owner who has been an adviser with schools in Fort Osage and Lee’s Summit; and incumbent Denise Fears, who has been on the board since 2010.
Top of the list of worries is what will happen to the district if large numbers of Kansas City students transfer in. The Missouri Supreme Court upheld a state law that allows students in Kansas City’s unaccredited district to transfer into neighboring districts, with Kansas City Public Schools paying the transportation and tuition.
Only a handful of Kansas City families have served notice that they might transfer in the fall, but Thornbury said the uncertainty has made it difficult to plan.
“It is going to be very difficult to deal with,” he said.
Any influx has the potential to bring down grades, he added.
Roberson and Fears said the busing involved would not be ideal for students.
“Long commutes and lack of community do not improve a child’s opportunity for a good education,” Fears said. “However, neither does remaining in a failing classroom.”
Fears said she likes the Kansas City schools’ improvement plan called “new path to excellence.”
Decisions on how the transfer law will be implemented will be up to state lawmakers. In the meantime, the district is already plenty crowded, said Roberson.
“We’re at capacity now in all the buildings,” he said.
Regardless of what happens with transfers, the board will have to look at adding a new school in the next two to five years, he said.
Fears agreed, saying the district’s financial advisers have saved taxpayers millions in bond interest over the years.
Thornbury expressed concern over test scores, saying they could be “much, much better.”
Fears said testing should be closely evaluated to make sure it helps students improve.DENISE FEARS
702 Manor Road, Independence
Certified Public Accountant
BA, BS in business administration and accounting, Graceland University
Independence school board, 2010-present; Child Abuse Prevention Association and Independence School District Foundation Board
4925 Conway Court, Independence
State Farm insurance agent
Bachelor’s in public administration, University of Missouri-Columbia; masters in management and supervision, Central Michigan University
Independence school board, 2000-2012; board of directors, Independence Economic Development Council
3224 S. Arrowhead Drive, Independence
Owner, R Autobody
Raytown South High School; associate’s degree in applied science, Penn Valley Community College; studied at University of Missouri-Kansas City
Adviser, Fort Osage Career Technology Center; adviser, Hilltop School, Lee’s Summit