The bleak outlook for open Kansas City school board seats in the April 5 election has gotten a little brighter as qualified write-in candidates have emerged to compete for three seats.
Only Jennifer Wolfsie met the Jan. 19 filing deadline to obtain enough qualified signatures to be certified for the election to fill Airick Leonard West’s at-large seat on the board. Because Wolfsie is unopposed, her name won’t be on the April ballot; however, she will be declared the winner and sworn in April 13.
The write-in option to fill board seats short-circuits the vetting process for candidates, restricting information voters might get from forums and answers to questionnaires that people running for office provide.
That is unfortunate because many key concerns await the new board. Those include earning full accreditation; working with the new superintendent, Mark T. Bedell, once he is seated; and ensuring that the recently approved master plan with three closed schools improves education.
Despite the flawed process, the write-ins for the nine-member school board seem to be good candidates.
Natalie Lewis, a Kansas City businesswoman and former Kansas City Public Schools educator, and Albert Ray, a Kansas City architect, are candidates for Subdistrict 1. They are competing for a seat held by school board President Jon Hile, who is not seeking re-election.
For Subdistrict 3, Marisol Montero, who currently holds the seat, had not filed because Jessica Piedra sought the post, and Montero planned to back her. But Piedra lacked enough valid signatures to make the ballot. Montero, who works at Truman Medical Center, is now a write-in candidate. She will compete against John Fierro, president and chief executive of Mattie Rhodes Center. Fierro ran unsuccessfully last year against Jolie Justus for the City Council.
Bryan Dial, a minister with the Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, had run unsuccessfully last year for the 3rd District council seat. Dial also had filed for the school board Subdistrict 5 seat but lacked the qualified signatures. He now is seeking write-in votes.
Dial will compete for the seat with Ajia Morris, a lawyer and vice president of mission advancement at Goodwill of Western Missouri and Eastern Kansas. Morris worked two years with the district as an administrator and two years with the Kauffman School. The seat currently is held by Curtis Rogers.