By Max Goodwin
Three candidates are running for two three-year term seats on the Center Schools District Board of Education.
When Dr. Ron Fritz told his father he would not be following his path into the electrical trade but instead wanted to pursue a career in education, it was one of the toughest days of his life. It also propelled him into a life of helping others. He ended up working across three midwestern states, over three decades in a wide range of roles. Fritz has been a teacher, coach, and administrator while impacting the lives of countless students.
In 2011, he retired from the Jefferson City School District and bought a house in the Center School District, where his two sons were teachers. In the Center School District, he saw a community he wanted to join and contribute what he had learned in his career.
In 2019, Fritz was elected to the Center Board of Education and now serves as the president. He is excited about the potential growth in the community and believes his experience can weigh heavily into that. He says the next year will probably include the Center Board and Superintendent finding paths to manage its budget wisely in order to meet its goal of having reserve funding.
Gayla Smith moved her family into the Center School District 14 years ago, with the oldest of her two sons in first grade at the time. Smith’s husband was a police officer with KCPD and the family needed to stay within KCMO. They found a home in south Kansas City and Gayla was surprised as she learned more about the little Center School District that outperformed Kansas City Public Schools, where she grew up attending. What she liked most was the sense of a smaller community within the city.
She was impressed with everything from the test scores to parent involvement, and the district’s status of accreditation with distinction. Her oldest son graduated from Center High School last year and is now in college. Her youngest is in seventh grade.
Over the years, Smith has become concerned with the district’s direction as she saw the Board of Education force out a superintendent in 2019. Another experience that inspired Smith to run for the school board was having two kids in the district during the pandemic and seeing how working from home affected them academically.
She says she watched as two principals left Center schools after they had just joined the district in the middle of the pandemic.
“I was really baffled as to what happened that would make them both leave the district and resign,” Smith said. “I said I guess it’s time for me to throw my name in.”
Smith has worked in human resources with KC Public Schools, the Federal Reserve, H&R Block, and currently works in the Transplant Institute at Research Medical Center.
Ira Boydston IV
With impending budget cuts for the Center School District, Ira Boydston thinks the school board had an opportunity to get out ahead of the problem and didn’t take action. He also thinks there’s more the district can do to use technology, which he says Center schools need to rely on as a small school district with fewer resources.
Boydston grew up in Kansas City, living in a house on 59th street that was torn down to make way for 71 highway. He later moved around the Kansas City metro area. Living in Olathe, he saw resources his schools had that weren’t available when he attended schools in the city. As a parent and member of the Center community, he wants to ensure the Center School Board provides students with the best resources they can provide.
“We are the little guy and we have to fight that much harder. I think that we have people on the board currently who care a lot. We just have to make sure that caring has us all rowing in the same direction,” Boydston said.
His family moved to the Center district back in 2007. He has moved around the area but always wanted to stay in the Center district, liking the feel of a small community. Boydston works as a consultant at Cerner.