KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One of Kansas City’s seven Board of Directors will be the name voters write-in most often in the next three weeks after no one met filing deadlines to run for the open seat.
In fact, though there are three seats that would normally be up for election April 4, no candidate’s names will appear on the ballot.
Several districts have canceled elections altogether in April, because there’s only one candidate for every open seat. That’s the case in Park Hill, where there are only three candidates for three seats.
That would have been the case in Kansas City too, except in one district there were no candidates.
When Jay Gray went to what Kansas City calls “School Board School” last month she expected to be among a big crowd of potential candidates.
“I would think that people would want to be on the School Board more especially after the announcements of the school closings and the Blueprint 2030 meetings,” Gray said.
But she learned she wasn’t in the district holding a special election this summer after Board of Director Manny Abarca vacated the seat to run for County Legislature. Instead she is sub-district 4, with a regularly scheduled election in April. The deadline to file for that race had already passed and no one was on the ballot.
Now she’s running as a write-in candidate, as is Monica Curls.
“That was a big concern of mine. That’s part of the reason I decided to run what you’ll end up all the sudden Mickey Mouse will be on the School Board because you’ll have five people who will jokingly decide to put that name on the ballot,” Curls said.
School Board School Instructor Jennifer Wolfsie says she doesn’t think the backlash school board members often see nationwide over various controversial issues played that big of a part in the lack of candidates in Kansas City.
Though the KCPS Board has had to make some tough decisions including those school closures. She points to barriers candidates face.
“You file, but you also have to get signatures to get your name on the ballot and be certified. That’s a bigger issue than a lot of people really realize,” Wolfsie said of the 250 signature requirement (500 for at-large positions).
Curls comes from a political family.
“I know that politics can be a thankless job and the School Board especially because you have all the same challenges and criticism and no pay. So you really have to be very dedicated to want to run for School Board.”
Now both write-in candidates are having to wage feverish grass roots campaigns just to make sure voters realize they are running. Gray, who works in the education field, hopes more candidates run in the future.
“A lot of the parents are some of the biggest advocates and they don’t realize they would be great School Board candidates,” Gray said.
Wolfsie isn’t seeking re-election. Once she’s off the board, she says she hopes to work with the School District to make changes to its School Board School to have informational sessions earlier and more often to attract more candidates.