By Jill Draper
South KC, including Grandview and Belton, will choose between two candidates running for the Metropolitan Community College Board of Trustees in Subdistrict 6 on April 5.
Michael Brown currently serves on the board and is seeking a second six-year term. Brown says his main vision is to develop a new MCC campus near E. 87th Street and I-435 close to the Cerner Corporation. One possible location would be at The Glade, a 325-acre mixed-use community under construction that will feature a biotech research park.
“This started with conversations, but now it’s led to drawings,” Brown says. “We are very close…if I can just push this thing across the finish line.”
Brown would like to see a small skills campus easily accessible to students graduating from Center, Grandview, Hickman Mills and Raytown school districts. The goal is to develop a workforce for jobs in renewable energy, digital record management, bioscience lab support and urban agriculture. He hopes to bolster partnerships with Cerner and the Stowers Institute to accomplish this.
According to Brown, there’s too much emphasis on MCC’s role as a stepping stone to a four-year college degree. He notes a decline in attendance (at least 10 %) since Covid and thinks more students would enroll if they could see a good job at the end of skills training.
“Kids are falling through the cracks,” says Brown, who also would like to see a remedial school established, perhaps at an abandoned high school building, to offer family support services and literacy classes with the goal of a high school diploma. “We could then funnel these kids right onto our campus.”
Brown works at the Kansas City Public Library and lives in the Hickman Mills neighborhood. He previously was elected to the Missouri House of Representatives from 2005-2013.
Running against Brown is Chris Benjamin, who wants to strengthen MCC’s role as a strong driver of economic development in the region “even more so than it is today” by growing its borders, keeping programs affordable and emphasizing job training.
Benjamin says he would bring new energy to the board and wants to increase business partnerships and community interaction, especially in places like Belton, Grandview and Lee’s Summit. He sees opportunities for MCC to grow in Cass County as well as region-wide by promoting job-ready programming for students going into various trades and interested in starting their own small businesses.
The Longview campus is already doing this with automotive programs, Benjamin says, but more could be done. He’s currently meeting with the Belton School District to explore the possibility of evening business courses.
One of the biggest issues is getting additional state investment for community colleges, he says. “There’s a lot we can do to show the state that this is economic development, not just investment in higher education.”
Benjamin is a trial attorney with KC Road Lawyers and lives in the Loch Llyod community. He previously served as chief of staff to the speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives and as general counsel to the majority floor leader. He also served on staff in the Missouri Senate.