I have delved deeply into the civic life of Kansas City since my arrival in 2002. Not even my departure in 2008 has reduced my enthusiasm and belief in this city's potential. It's my occupational sideline - I bet on cities and their trajectory. My research has always been focused on the link between development and community - sometimes looking more at the development side, sometimes more at the neighborhood side. I have long been convinced that it is the dynamic of people interacting in the civic sector (elites, interest groups, and galvanized citizens) that determines the success of development. Development without the support of a wide swath of the public is doomed, regardless of how shiny and new it is or how hip and trendy, nor how well it adaptively reuses the city's history. Jane Jacobs defined this for me - it is the people that make cities work.
The 2010 school board elections, I believe, are a microcosm of what is happening in Kansas City. Change always creates stark differences between groups with different agendas and outlooks. The city has undergone a LOT of changes since 2002.
When people step up to lead with vision and thoughtfulness, with bold ideas and with candor, the genuineness cannot be overlooked. The 2010 KCMSD school board elections represent such an opportunity - people are stepping up, speaking out, and coming together for the common good of educating ALL the kids in this KC district.
The new vanguard is not protecting the few at the expense of the many. They are stepping up for ALL students, ALL parents, ALL citizens to say - enough is enough. The school district MUST function as a reflection of our community, not just a few schools.
In my opinion, here are the people you should follow on FaceBook, Twitter, listen to and interact with at public forums, and step up to volunteer your investment of time with their activities and campaigns. This is a momentous time that puts this city on the cusp of greatness and not gloom and doom as the naysayers will point to. These folks are all on FaceBook, some are on Twitter, and web sites are highlighted. Check them out and support the KCMSD!
Airick Leonard West - school board member, founder of BE1! (www.be1kc.org). You will always get a strong dose of realism, information, and listening from this public servant. *and in the spirit of disclosure, yes he is my very good friend. Catch him on FB and Twitter.
Kyleen Carroll - school board candidate at-large, former district teacher, and business entrepreneur. She has a head for understanding how to generate value in our district and deliver that to an engaged community. This is not just about balancing the books and finding savings in the district, but connecting it to the parents and community that want a value-added district that serves scholars and the city. We can have both.
Crispin Rea - school board candidate at-large, youth advocate at Mattie Rhodes, Northeast resident and champion, and unfairly maligned for his stint in the Mayor Funky administration. He is young and open to fresh ideas and understands why the Latino 25% segment of the school district population needs the perspective he can bring to the board.
Joseph Jackson -school board candidate 4th sub-district (Helen Ragsdale's open seat - she is not running), parent advocate and leader in the district DAC and SAC - putting ALL parents forward as an important voice in the governance of the school district. For too long, parents have been used as a political tool by those with a very limited agenda. Joseph has listened to the wide variety of parent opinions in the district and as a parent, he is adept at understanding those voices. His experience will bring forth a refreshing voice on the board.
Candace Koba - advocate and volunteer in the KCMSD schools and leader of a movement to engage parents and community members in a broad forum for the improvement of the district. You can sign up for involvement by going to Community Support Link. She is the epitome of a volunteer who cares about the future of the district and sees it as not a black/white divide but as an opportunity to support our children and the future of this city. She is the real deal and asks you to be sure to Register to Vote.
There are several other candidates who are running as new voices - Rose Bell and Bob Peterson.
There are others who are incumbents and newbies running with current board president Marilyn Simmons. I see their platform as the same old politics of divide and conquer with a self-serving protectionist bent that serves a few schools in the district quite well, but gives others a very short shrift. Ms. Simmons has had her chance to improve the district and has served while disaster after disaster has unfolded with poor leadership and cronyism. Her slate of candidates cannot be recommended. Unfortunately, her opposition candidate failed to reach the ballot and, therefore, she is automatically returned for yet another term.
April 6 is election day. If you are not registered to vote - you have until March 10 to do so (Register to Vote). This is a critical and pivotal point in the life of Kansas City. These folks are the real deal. They are not grandstanding for politics. They are putting their butts on the line for the scholars of this district. Your time will be well spent following their lead and doing the same!