Candidates for the Hickman Mills School Board June 2 Election
By Tyler Schneider
This year, school board members at the Hickman Mills School District must figure out how to get the district re-accredited with the state, balance a budget without closing schools, and work with a new superintendent.
Voters must choose three candidates on the ballot. We’ve listed them as they will appear on the ballot.
Byron Townsend, 52, Townsend, a mail carrier, is a 1986 graduate of KC East High School and holds a bachelor’s degree from Northwest Missouri State University. Having previously served on the Hickman Mills Board of Directors, Townsend — father of two Ruskin High School graduates, one Hickman Mills graduate and a current Smith Hale Middle School student — is running on his familiarity with the district.
“If elected, I would be the second most experienced director on the board,” Townsend said. “I have had children that have excelled in the district and one that struggled. My wife and I have made the adjustments needed to raise children of ages ranging from 12 to 34. That has given me the chance to see how children of different decades respond to life challenges.
Townsend denotes his top three issues, in order from first to third, as improving student achievement, bringing the district back to a fully accredited status and increasing teacher compensation.
DaRon McGee, 32, was once the second highest ranking Democrat in the Missouri House of Representatives, representing District 36. Elected in 2015, he would resign from his position in April of 2019 amidst allegations that he sought an unwanted relationship with a staff member.
With that said, McGee’s resume is vast and as a HMC-1 product himself, he brings a lot to the table as a potential member of the board. During his time in Jefferson City, he was a member of seven committees — including the Education Appropriations Committee — and was effective in fulfilling campaign promises such as updating the 911 system and pushing back against unfair housing practices. “I was an advocate for students, and that’s what I hope to continue to do here,” McGee said of his time in the house.
McGee has been the program administrator for Jackson County’s COMBAT program. He earned his undergraduate degree from UMKC and holds a graduate degree from the University of Missouri.
As a member of the HMC-1 Board of Directors, McGee would like to channel his policy experience towards gaining full accreditation for the district. Working with whoever is named the new superintendent will be the first step forward, but raising teacher pay would bring the district significantly closer to that goal, McGee said.
Clifford O. Ragan, 47, is a single father of three and current vice-president of the Hickman Mills C-1 School District Board of Directors. The son of a US Postal Service worker father and a schoolteacher mother, Ragan graduated from Bishop Hogan in 1990 and went on to attend the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Recently, Ragan has taken part in the process of selecting a new superintendent — a key to ensuring the stability required to begin taking steps towards becoming fully accredited once more as a district. His reelection would allow him to continue to display the leadership needed to facilitate that crucial transition.
“It’s important for us to make sure the (new) board members who are coming in understand what it means to be a board member,” Ragan said. “When selecting a person for anything, make sure that that person is involved in the district. A lot of people run for titles. They’re not there for the students.”
Richard Abram II, 37, is the second incumbent alongside Ragan. Abram II, a father of three current HMC-1 students and four in total, holds a master’s degree in industrial and organizational psychology from Grand Canyon University and also has his Ed.S in School Psychology.
Abram’s extensive youth service record includes a four year run as a special education paraprofessional with HMC-1, two years as a behavioral specialist with KCPS and additional work with Raytown C-2 SD He is also a youth ministry leader at St. James United Methodist Church, where he has been a member for over 20 years.
“My life’s work has been serving youth and promoting academic achievement. I am experienced in working in schools and have a strong understanding of our educational system, youth development, and social-emotional supports,” Abram II said of his qualifications.
“Priorities for me include professional development to ensure staff are equipped with the necessary skills and tools to guide our children to success; stabilizing our budget; and implementing rigorous curriculum to promote academic growth,” he added of his goals if elected to another term.
Irene C. Kendrick, 57, has never held public office, but she has seen both her children and grandchildren pass through the Hickman Mills C-1 pipeline, a rather unique combination of experiences that she believes qualifies her for a spot on the board.
“I saw the need for more dedicated board members and I felt my background in human resources would be a great addition to our current board. I want to dedicate more of my time and commitment to improving our district,” Kendrick said.
A retired human resources professional with a degree from DeVry University in Naperville, Ill., Kendrick has been working in the district on the ground level as the vice-president of the Warford PTA and an active participant in the school’s mentoring and Caring for Kids program. She also serves as a commissioner with Grandview’s Parks and Recreation department.
If elected, Kendrick seeks to help HMC-1 reclaim full accreditation status and would look to raise pay rates for teachers in order to retain ‘highly qualified and certified’ staff members in order to achieve that goal. Utilizing her HR background, she would also seek to help secure additional resources through community partnerships.
Debbie C. Long did not respond to attempts to contact her listed phone numbers. The status of her campaign is currently unknown at the time of publication.