School Board candidates for the Center School District election June 2
By Kathy Feist
The Center School District is in the midst of improvements, reconstruction, build-outs and in the case of Indian Creek Elementary, new construction, all thanks to a $48 million bond that voters passed last year. A new superintendent will also take the reigns this summer. The school board candidates would now like to focus on the students.
Voters must choose three candidates. We’ve listed them as they will appear on the ballot.
Marcie Calvin, 50, has served on the Center School Board for four years and was chairman from April to September 2019. Originally from Ossawatami, KS, Calvin and her husband Jeff chose the Center School District in 2000 to raise their family. “Center is an anomaly,” she says, referring to the small classrooms, single middle and high school and the close-knit community. “It’s like a small town school district but in a big city.” Calvin has a Bachelor of Science in Dental Hygiene from UMKC School of Dentistry and has been employed by Brookside Dental Center for 20 years. She has been a PTA volunteer for 14 years. Calvin feels Center is on “the cusp of greatness” and would like to see it through. Her passion is to ensure that every Center graduate has at least one or more market value assets and hopes to achieve that with the Real World Learning program which offers internships and certificate programs to inspire students. “Schools have gotten rid of extracurricular programs like home ec, shop class, accounting or drafting. Real World Learning is a bit like that. By bringing back multiple disciplines, it closes the achievement gap,” she says.
Sam Cook, 41, has lived in the Center School District for seven years. His son is a 2nd grader at Boone Elementary. He has a Bachelor’s degree in education and a Master’s in Public Administration. For 16 years, he has worked for Kansas City non-profits providing services to youth and families living in poverty. He is currently the Area Director for Code Ninjas, youth education centers preparing kids for careers in STEM. “A board of education should focus on the oversight of student educational achievement and the appropriate use of public funds,” says Cook. “For Center, we must be focused on supporting and holding our new Superintendent accountable, protecting the finances of our district, and helping to foster an environment where teachers want to teach,” he says. He also would like to improve the academic status of some of the district’s schools that are struggling with test scores. “The board is responsible for making sure that they are successful and leave that status.”
Jonathan Decker – Withdrawn from race.
Margo L. Simms-Hurst – Withdrawn from race.
Danielle Quinn, 49, graduated with a degree in marketing from Howard University and has a Master of Divinity degree from St. Paul School of Theology. She is a long-time resident of South Kansas City, has served two years on the Boone Elementary PTA, is a volunteer chaplain at Kingswood Senior Living and an associate pastor at St. James United Methodist Church. All three of her children attended Boone Elementary and Center Middle School. Her husband was a Center school board member from 2013-16. Quinn would like to improve the district’s standing academically. “We are in the bottom 25% in the state of Missouri,” she says. Less than a decade ago the district was in the top 10%. “We need to get rid of hiring teachers with a lack of experience.” She also envisions District-provided preschool for every child, perhaps with a nominal fee if necessary. Finally, she would like to approach the disproportionately suspended black and brown students at Center. “There is an apparent bias in school suspensions with black and brown students at a 3 times higher ratio of suspension than white.”
Amy Carr, 37, is a multi-generational Center School District graduate. She has a Bachelors in Education from Northwestern Missouri State and a Masters in Education from Framingham State in Massachusetts. She and her husband and 4-year-old son live in the district. She has spent the last 15 years teaching, including stints in Mexico and South Korea, where she oversaw a team of 17 teachers. She taught at Center Elementary and Indian Creek before leaving to teach Spanish part-time at Hale Cook Elementary School in the Kansas City Public Schools. Carr says she understands firsthand the frustrations teachers are having with the Center School District. “It’s not an atmosphere I want to teach in,” she admits. Carr says Center has experienced a 40% teacher turnover for the second year in a row. Her priorities are 1) teacher retention by reducing their workload by hiring more teachers, 2) safety of children and staff by hiring additional behavioral support specialists for students with high needs and 3) improving the school culture by allowing teachers to customize classroom teaching rather than “teaching to the test.”
Bryce Thomas Shields, 29, grew up in St. Joseph, MO, and while not a Center School District graduate, his grandfather, William Brandt, served on the board of education and his mother and her siblings are alumni. “I have Yellowjacket in my DNA!” he states. Shields has a bachelor of Science from Missouri State University and a Masters in Professional Science from Colorado State University. He is a Community Outreach Coordinator at the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority. He and his wife currently reside in the district. Shields says he is big on quality Pre-K. “I would like to see universal Pre-K that is covered, no cost association, just built in with going to school,” he says. He is also in favor of competitive salaries, attracting quality teachers, teacher retention and.post high school preparedness. “Graduates need to have a plan,” he says. He would like to see more college credit classes at the high school level.