Campaigns are underway for Board of Education seats in ten local districts, and election day will be Tuesday, April 3. The KC Education Enterprise is asking each candidate to respond to a list of questions that may help voters decide how to cast their ballots.
Airick Leonard West, who is running for re-election to an at-large seat on the Kansas City, Missouri School District Board of Education, responded:
1. What skills and experience would you bring to a position on your local Board of Education?
I have been successful at bringing diverse constituencies together to address common concerns.
2. Are you – or have you been – a parent or grandparent of a child in public schools?
I became involved with the KCPS when my cousin, then 14, came to live with me.
3. In what school or district activities have you been involved?
I served as the parent association chair at my cousin’s school.
4. How frequently do you attend board meetings, and how long have you been attending meetings?
I have only missed two board meetings in the past four years.
5. What do you see as the board’s roles and responsibilities?
Generally speaking, the board’s role is to represent the values and interests of the district’s residents. Since those values/interests are usually either achievement or fiduciary in nature, major duties that stem from that role include monitoring scholar performance; setting district policy; approval of the annual budget; hiring and supporting the Superintendent; monitoring the work of the Superintendent to ensure that it conforms to the expectations outlined in the district’s policies and annual budget; and constantly remaining in communication with district residents to ensure that we’re adequately representing their values and interests.
6. What is the role of the superintendent?
Generally speaking, the role of the Superintendent is to execute board policy. What this looks like in practice is recruiting/leading a team of senior administrators who oversee the various departments; ensuring highly effective teachers populate our classrooms; creating the circumstances in which our scholars are highly motivated to do their best.
7. Can you – or should you – support a board decision you do not favor?
The board must speak with one voice; this is a basic principle of governance. So while I’m not obligated to agree with every decision, I am obligated to either support the board or get off of it.
8. What are the some of the challenges currently facing your district?
We must restore achievement such that we regain accreditation. Because achievement lives or dies in the classroom between the teacher and scholar, the greatest challenge of any district is ensuring that every school is populated by highly effective teachers and that we make every effort to nurture the internal motivation of our scholars. Most of our reform efforts are focused on one of those two key areas.
9. What are some of the district’s strengths and weaknesses?
We have several very strong schools that perform as well or better than their peers throughout the nation — a real strength. But we also have several schools where we are not serving our scholars in a manner with which we can be proud — a real weakness. Much of our struggle then isn’t to figure out if we can create achievement; we know we can because in several schools we already are. Rather, our struggle is to more consistently create achievement in every school in the building.
10. What do you think is the most important thing board members can do to support children who attend school in the district?
The single most important variable in achievement that districts control is the hiring and supporting of highly effective teachers.
Creating a policy framework that successfully attracts/retains/supports highly effective teachers and that excuses less effective teachers is the single most important thing governance teams can do to support achievement. Obviously, there are many other important things we must do, but that is the most vital item that also happens to be almost completely within the district’s control.
I believe in our KCPS scholars.
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