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Midwest Democracy | Jon Hile knocks Arthur Benson off Kansas City school board

Jon Hile has ousted Arthur A. Benson II from the Kansas City school board, bringing a new face to a panel that is facing uncertain days ahead.

Hile won in the 1st Subdistrict — one of four seats up for grabs Tuesday, but the only one whose outcome was known election night.

All of the other races involved write-in candidates, so winners won’t be known for several days while election officials read and tally the votes.

In final, official results, Hile won with 498 votes to Benson’s 377.

In the other races, the election board will be sorting through 410 votes in the 3rd Subdistrict, 1,000 votes in the 5th Subdistrict and 4,409 votes in the at-large contest. Turnout ranged from 3 percent to 4.4 percent.

Benson will close the latest chapter of a long history with Kansas City Public Schools, dating back through the decades-long federal desegregation lawsuit when Benson, a civil rights attorney, represented the plaintiff families.

Hile, the executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters, triumphed in his first run for public office.

Hile’s victory could bode well for the rest of a group of four candidates backed by current board President Airick Leonard West, who campaigned to regain his at-large seat.

The organization West started — Kansas Citians United for Educational Achievement — also endorsed Marisol Montero in the 3rd Subdistrict and Candace Koba in the 5th Subdistrict.

But a higher turnout in the 5th Subdistrict, 4.4 percent, might indicate a surge of voters supporting the Afrikan Centered Education Collegium Campus. That would be good for at-large candidate the Rev. Sam Mann and 5th Subdistrict candidate Nia Webster, who oppose district actions to take charge of the contract school.

West and Mann are joined in the at-large race by Lyne’t Smith, Jerry L. Sargent and H. Lon Swearingen.

The 3rd Subdistrict race features incumbent Duane Kelly, Adam Schieber and Montero.

The 5th Subdistrict is contested by Demonte Rochester, Curtis L. Rogers, Koba and Webster.

The candidates hope to join Hile on a board that could be replaced by a state-appointed panel, depending on the progress of legislation moving through Jefferson City and the mindset of the state school board.

The district lost its accreditation Jan. 1. Under current law, the district has two full school years — until June 2014 — to regain accreditation before the state would be required to intervene.

Bills in both the House and the Senate aim to give the state school board discretion to intervene at any time once a district loses accreditation.

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