By Tracy Allen
When it comes to a model small suburban school district trying to maintain a standard of excellence in student academic achievement and staff retention, the Consolidated School District No. 4 Grandview stands above most state districts its size.
While Grandview students have maintained level scoring on standardized testing, and staff-teacher retention hasn’t been as sore of an issue like other area districts, Grandview still faces challenges even as it prepares to look to the future beyond this Covid-19 era.
Four candidates are vying to keep Grandview on the path toward excellence. Incumbents Leonard C. Greene and Charles “Chuck” Cornforth are facing challenges by Kara Wardlow and Andrew Rexroat in filling the two spots, three-year terms, as Board of Directors.
Four candidates are vying to fill two spots that are three-year terms as Board of Directors.
Charles “Chuck” Cornforth graduated from Grandview High and works as an employee for the district, where he spent 18 years as director of transportation before retiring. Now a school board member, he says his experience with the C-4 District’s policies surrounding safety and security measures have been especially valuable for Grandview public schools. In addition to his C-4 job, he has held transportation roles in both the Kansas City public schools and the Topeka school system as well served as a consultant for Chicago public schools. Cornforth believes the district’s biggest asset is the staff. “I want to continue to prioritize that we continue to help our folks in the front office by providing professional development.” He says the board has made special efforts to help staff during the pandemic. “Hopefully over the last four years I did things I said I would do,” says Cornforth, who says he listened, contemplated, had discussions and voiced a vision for the future. Although the pandemic caused setbacks, he says the district has named several high priority goals, and one of the highest is having all students on grade level.
Leonard C. Greene understands the nuances of how Consolidated District 4 has operated. He offers much experience, both as a graduate of Grandview High and as an incumbent who has served on the school board for 15 years. Greene, who works as a software developer with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, says he loves serving the district’s students and continues to learn about the schools and the people. Greene says the district has seen some immediate growth from changes that Superintendent Kenny Rodriguez has implemented, “everything from tracking of data to different leadership positions.” He also sees some challenges, such as finding ways to encourage students who are not necessarily seeking a higher education path upon graduation. Developing programs within the district such as trade school apprenticeships in welding, cosmetology, auto mechanics and other areas are ways that could help. “I know everyone is not going to go to college, so you have to give everyone an opportunity to grow,” says Greene. “But at the same time we have increased opportunities…where kids can get multiple credits, AP credits. If they’re willing to put forth the effort, they can graduate from high school and an associate’s at the same time.” While Grandview has maintained a certain level of student achievement in specified target areas, Greene believes the situation could be better. He names language arts and math as areas for improvement.
Kara Wardlow has lived within the Grandview city limits for almost 13 years. She and her husband have two children in the district, where her husband is also a teacher and coach. She works in corporate education, focusing on the medical software side. Wardlow says she would make a good representative because of the fresh perspective she can bring. “I am a young, energetic personality that is bringing in a fresh set of eyes and ears,” Wardlow states. “I work in corporate education and feel like my strong listening, leadership and open-mindedness are traits that would serve well in this position. . . . There have been great strides made to make Grandview an amazing district and I want to continue to push these opportunities for our kids.” If elected as a school board director, Wardlow says the main challenges the district faces are improving salary concerns among its staff and better communication between front office and building personnel. Wardlow points out that teachers and staff have endured quite a few pay freezes over the last 10 years which has resulted in a negative spiral. As an example, she says a new teacher with 7 years of service may make more money than a teacher who has taught in the district for 14 years due to previous freezes. “I would suggest perhaps an audit needs to take place with a potential result being a realignment.” Salaries aren’t her only concern. Making sure students continue improving academically is a must in order for Grandview to maintain its full accreditation status, she says. “I would like to investigate current pathways and find new ways to increase partnerships with community businesses. These business partnerships would provide internship opportunities and would present industry credential recognition.”
Andrew Rexroat–The Telegraph reached out to candidate Rexroat on several occasions, but he provided no comments.