Newcomers Pattie Mansur and Amy Hartsfield won at-large seats and challenger Melissa Robinson triumphed in the 4th Subdistrict to join the much-revived Kansas City school board.
Interest in Tuesday’s election had spiked in the campaign’s final weeks over a controversial vote against the sale of Westport High School. Midtown residents took to the Internet and social media seeking leverage to compel the new board to reconsider the sale later this month.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
New members said they are open to studying the issue. The controversy may have hurt 4th Subdistrict incumbent Joseph Jackson, who had voted down the Westport proposal.
In final, unofficial results, Mansur had 37 percent of the vote and Hartsfield had 28 percent to win the two at-large seats. They beat out Janelle Bailey with 24 percent and Catina Taylor with 10 percent.
In a school district showing signs of revival, even people who are frustrated want to feel hopeful, Mansur said.
“They want to find people who believe schools can work,” she said, “and I believe schools can work.”
Hartsfield was grateful to win a race that she said brought together four sterling candidates.
“I was running against three equally competent women,” she said. “I am excited I’m getting the opportunity to serve this city.”
In the 4th Subdistrict, Robinson overwhelmed Jackson with 68 percent of the vote in final, unofficial results. Jackson had 31 percent. Jackson not only had to deal with Westport, but he was also hit by a late smear campaign from the same source as an anonymous campaign that hit the Hickman Mills school board race.
The Kansas City school board goes into its next term with a much better chance of surviving than it seemed to have when the campaign started in December. A state effort pushing for reforms that could have eliminated the elected board took a step back this spring.
If the district makes good on test projections, it will have a good chance of regaining provisional accreditation this fall, and then the current board and administration will likely get to carry on.
Attention instead turned to Westport, with the board voting 4-3 in closed session March 26 to reject an administration proposal to sell the high school to a developer partnered with Academie Lafayette. The charter school wants to open an international high school.
The at-large candidates all expressed a willingness to consider sales involving charter schools, depending on the circumstances. None could speak directly to Westport, each said, because it is a real estate negotiation behind closed doors and they haven’t had access to any details.
Jackson told The Star late last week that the members who voted no were told by district leadership that Academie Lafayette’s board may no longer be interested in Westport. He said it made more sense for the Kansas City board to hold on to the building for now. Academie Lafayette’s board president said the school is still interested in Westport.
A strong community effort pushing for the board to agree to the Westport sale had all of the candidates besieged with emails and phone calls pressing them to state their position on the sale and on charter schools.