By Max Goodwin
Four candidates are on the ballot for two seats on the Hickman Mills Board of Education. Hickman Mills School District has been classified as provisionally accredited since 2014. The top priority for each candidate is bringing the district to full accreditation status. The district struggles with low achievement test scores and high student mobility rates.
Terri Barr-Moore has managed a campaign and the office of U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill. She has worked in government relations for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority, but for the first time, she is running her own campaign for a seat on the Hickman Mills School Board.
She has seen how government works up close and the effect it has on the education system. Barr-Moore first moved to the Hickman Mills area when her two sons were young, in the early 90s. She raised them in south Kansas City until they were set to go into high school, and then the family moved to North Kansas City in search of a better school system.
Her kids are now adults and Barr-Moore moved back to the Hickman Mills area a few years ago. She felt a connection to this part of the city and wanted other families to be able to have a solid school district to rely on. That’s why she decided to run for the school board.
“How do I give back so that kids, parents, and teachers don’t have to move out of the district. It just made sense,” Barr-Moore said.
Barr-Moore was recently promoted to Executive Director of Government Relations for the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
“Basically, my job is to bridge the gap between government and KCATA,” Barr-Moore said. She said the relationships that she’s built over years working in different areas of government are something she would bring to the school board.
Cecil Wattree is a current member of the Hickman Mills Board of Education running as an incumbent. He has a master’s degree in social work from UMKC where he now teaches. Wattree says his background in social work gives him a foundation to make sound decisions representing the Hickman Mills community.
He sees social work as a tool that is particularly important in the Hickman Mills School District where 100 percent of students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. Wattree says he has experience in how to meet those needs.
Wattree believes that if the school district and community can directly address those needs that it will have a huge impact on some of the most pressing concerns in Hickman Mills schools, like retaining students in a district with a 30 percent mobility rate, and retaining teachers at a time when that is an issue for all schools.
“The mindset is that people are just vying for grants and whatnot when in all actuality there’s money to be spent on our families and it helps them retain, it helps in the classroom,” Wattree explained. “Literally, how can you expect any kid going through poverty to focus on class when their home is disrupted? So, just taking a different approach.”
He says the models are already out there to follow for success, pointing to a program called Impact KCK in Kansas City, Kansas.
Boerger has 22 years of experience in school finance and budgets in both Kansas City and Grandview School Districts. Boerger worked at the Board of Education in Grandview and was an in-building bookkeeper.
She has seen how school and distinct budgets are drawn up and how they are spent. She believes her two decades of experience could be used wisely on the Hickman Mills School Board.
In 1973, Boerger moved into her current address in the Ruskin area. She says she cares about the community and has grown concerned. She decided to run for the school board because she wants to make a difference in the neighborhood she has lived in for almost half a century.
Boerger says it takes a team and in order to stabilize the schools, first the neighborhood around them will need to be stabilized.
Along with a doctorate degree in education, John Carmichael has decades of experience leading college marching bands at the highest level. IN 2018, he moved to Kansas City from Florida to be closer to his daughter and three grandchildren.
Before long, Carmichael began to miss teaching. He began volunteering for different organizations. He is now the president of the Community Assistance Council, an organization that helps people on the verge of homelessness. He is president of a neighborhood association he started himself in his south Kansas City neighborhood. He is the secretary for the Hickman Mills Educational Foundation, which provides scholarship funds for students in the district.
Carmichael says what he offers as a skill set for a candidate is something different than what the current board has.
“Forty-four years of classroom teaching experience where I had to regulate behavior of very large groups,” Carmichael said.
The job of a band leader is in part to get each member of a band on the same page, and that’s what he thinks he can help the Hickman Mills Board of Education with. The board has not always been entirely functional, Carmichael points out.
Carmichael said there are three things that Hickman Mills School District needs to do to reach full accreditation. First, create more continuity in the educational leadership. Second, he thinks there needs to be less contentiousness among board members and more respect for each other while working to create a consensus. Third, he says student achievement needs to improve.