By Tyler Schneider
One of the more competitive South Kansas City races of this election, the Grandview School District has three incumbents and two newcomers vying for a trio of three-year terms for Director on its Board of Education.
[For Director. Three-year term. Vote for three. ]
The incumbent since Oct. 2021, Stacy Wright , 53, is a former district parent of 12-years and a 14-year owner of a business focused on children’s parties. In her free time, she volunteers at least three hours per week to read to a number of the district’s kindergarten and first-grade classes.
Wright is a strong advocate for her inclusion on the board as one of just two members who reside within Kansas City limits.
“When I was appointed a year and a half ago, I was the first person from Kansas City in five years,” Wright said. “That is one thing that I think really differentiates me from the other people running [in this race].”
This is important, Wright said, because Kansas City provides over 50% of the tax base for the district. In terms of student population percentages, Wright notes that 20% of the district’s elementary students hail from within city limits—though that number is “harder to parse with the older ages.”
“So population-wise, there should be two of us on the board for sure. One of my is to make sure that Grandview remembers to include Kansas City citizenry when it does outreach efforts,” Wright said.
Wright believes the district is primarily on the right track towards meeting its academic goals.
As of late, Wright admits that a lot of the board’s work has been to simply affirm the plan that has already been set in motion. As long as that plan works, she looks to continue to provide another steady hand to the mix.
“The Grandview School Board is a unit, and I’m not a trained professional educator or administrator,” Wright explained. “I liken being a member of the board to being a parent-advocate. We pick our team and hear them explain, now we have to sit back and let them operate.”
Wright cites recently increased teacher salaries and overall staff retention as another reason for optimism in the district’s future.
“This year, 70% of responding teachers said [in a survey] that they would recommend working in the GVSD,” Wright said.
The incumbent since April 2020 and current treasurer of the Grandview Board of Education, Damon Greene, 46, has had one child graduate from the district and has three more currently attending. If reelected for a second term, Greene looks to continue to guide a ship he feels has been heading in the right direction over the last several years.
Part of these efforts will include overseeing the plans for these upcoming projects made possible by the $45 million no-tax-rate-increase bond issue that was approved by Grandview voters in April of 2021.
“On our math and reading ELA, we’re making progress, but we’re just not where I think we should be. Our students aren’t where they should be. We want to continue to lift them up, and get them where they are on grade level,” Greene said.
“With respect to the best academic improvement, I don’t want to say it’s going to be holistically related to teacher pay,” Greene said. “The teachers are dedicated in doing all they can, but I think there are other factors and issues surrounding [improving student test scores]. There are some programs and parts of the curriculum that we need to address aggressively within the district.”
Greene is proud of the competitive pay rates the GVC-4 is now able to offer teachers, but adds that consistent, quality hiring practices and ongoing communication between educators and administrators will be another area of importance going forward.
“We are one of those districts that pays our teachers who are just coming into the district a lot more than average, but I do know they are still suffering in some areas—in places where we have vacancies or need more substitutes.”
A fifth-year board member and the two-time sitting president of the Grandview Board of Education, Monica Terry, 44, has lived in Grandview since 2002 and has two sons who have attended the district. She has also been an Elementary PTA member for ten years, serving five as president.
One major improvement Terry has seen over the course of her half-decade of board membership lies in the expansion of post-graduate offerings and partnerships available to students.
If voters give her the nod for another term, Terry will continue to support administrative leadership that looks to partner with community groups and “enables students to have some sort of assets for themselves, which we call market-value assets.”
“When they graduate from our district, whether they’re planning on going to college, into the normal workforce, or even if they’re not really sure, they have some program that’s going to help them post-graduation. I think that that is really changing the mindset of these kids who thought ‘I really don’t have anything to do because I’m not a college person. I’m not going to go do anything after this’,” Terry said.
Terry has helped the district raise enough funds through voter-approved bonds to furnish improvements to every single facility in the district.
Terry also notes that the physical upgrades come alongside a raise in teacher pay that was implemented through the levy two years ago. “We were able to give some nice increases there, and so that helps us across the board, too,” she noted.
Terry has two passion projects in her desire to continue expanding the offerings of the district’s early childhood programs and increase partnerships around social emotional learning.
“We have an excellent early childhood program in our district that allows students to get a jump start on their primary education well before their first day of Kindergarten. Feedback and initiatives over the years have led to increased early childhood screenings and a spring Kindergarten roundup to identify gaps pre-K,” Terry said.
Regarding the latter, Terry calls social emotional learning “her thing,” and would like to continue to incorporate its use in the district in order to develop well-rounded students.
A 27-year resident of Grandview, Patricia Smith has been involved with the LINC program at Belvidere Elementary for several years. She says the experience piqued her interest in launching a campaign to become a more active member of the GVSD’s educational decision-making process.
While working with the LINC program, Smith “created basic lesson plans to strengthen and enrich students academically, helped students with their homework, and planned recreational activities for them.”
From there, Smith wanted to see if she could have an even greater impact, and her decision to run for Grandview School Board was solidified when she filed to run in December. If elected, she hopes to bring a fresh perspective to the board’s set of decision makers.
“I was inspired to run because of my love for education. Also, I knew that being on the school board would provide me with opportunities to make decisions that are in the best interest of students.”
“As a school board member I will support our teachers who have the incredibly important responsibility of imparting knowledge to our students, whether it’s in reading, english, science, technology, engineering, math, etc,” Smith said.
In “advocating for a solid and challenging curriculum,” Smith hopes to benefit both the students and teachers alike.
“My priorities will be to work with the other board members to ensure that students have solid and rigorous curricula and that ideologies such as CRT, etc., are not being taught in the classroom.”
“Voters should consider me because the student and his education are my top priorities. The parents are also indispensable because they have the same priorities for their child or children. Therefore, I will listen to and respond appropriately to parents because they trust and expect the Grandview schools to provide this crucial service,” Smith said.
Additionally, Smith looks to help create and expand existing pathways for students to pursue post-graduation.
“I will support our students who want to take that knowledge to go to college, trade school, to start their own business or simply to enter the workforce,” Smith said.
JohnMark Bell is the lone veteran running for a spot on the GVC-4 Board of Education this season, having served in Iraq as a mechanic for the Nebraska Army National Guard before returning to Grandview to raise his son. He has also worked extensively as a carman for the Union Pacific Railroad and the Kansas City Southern Railroad, respectively.
If elected to the board, the first-time candidate hopes to be able to promote STEM education in the curriculum.
“I believe in equipping our children with a great curriculum and expanding opportunities to help our kids become successful connected self-supporting, strategic thinkers,” Bell said. “Our gains will gain experiences and connections with local businesses by receiving internship opportunities for their future careers.”
“My background in business and construction will be a great unique asset to negotiating building and renovation projects on behalf of the Grandview School District,” Bell said.
In the same vein, Bell also hopes to bolster the security of each facility.
“Parents will know their kids are safe with my plan to fortify the security of each of our Grandview schools with more lighting and by supporting our local police,” Bell said.
Aside from his aforementioned experience, Bell is active in the community as a Royal Ranger Leader and Youth Mentor, and is head of security at his church.