USD 232 (De Soto) school board candidates on the issues: First school board meeting experience

School board members discuss the district's mask policy in August. File photo.

In August, we asked our readers about the issues you wanted to hear the candidates running for USD 232 board of education address. Based on your feedback, we developed a five-item questionnaire touching on the most important issues to patrons of the district.

Each day this week, we will publish the candidates’ responses to one of five questions. Today, we are publishing candidates’ responses to the following question:

When did you attend your first meeting of the school board? What issue motivated you to attend and what did you learn from watching the group work live?

Below are the answers the Post received from the candidates on this issue:

School District Member 6

Emily Carpenter

I “attended” my first board meeting on April 6, 2020, via online. This was after the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment ordered schools in Johnson County to be closed on Monday March 16, 2020 and then on Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Governor Laura Kelly ordered that all school facilities in Kansas would be closed until May 29, 2020. Schools being forced to close is what motivated me to watch and listen.

At that time, our school board had never dealt with this type of situation before, so I think the board and administrators did the best they could with the information they had to run a productive and efficient board meeting. I learned that when put in new situations with plenty of unknowns, it is important to be patient, listen, and make the best decision you can make with the information you have.

Brandi Jonasson

I attended my first school board meeting in 2015. My middle son was in third grade and presenting a project along with other kids from his school. This was also during the time a sitting school board member’s conduct was being questioned, and that board member eventually got recalled. Because of the number of people and possible topics in the room, we left after my son’s presentation. I didn’t feel he needed to stay to watch.

I did come back for the next meeting because of my concern about the situation and I wanted to see how it was being dealt with. I was very surprised and appreciated the professionalism the school board was able to maintain even with the climate this other board member created. After that I made sure to read board minutes and was always updated at our monthly PTO meeting by our principal on board agenda items and decisions. During the pandemic, I have watched the live stream or attended the meetings in-person.

School District Member 4

Danielle Heikes (incumbent)

I began attending school board meetings in 2015. My children were only 8 years old, 5 years old, and a few months old at the time, but I already loved our school district and was passionate about our educators and staff. I began hearing about a school board member who was verbally attacking fellow board members, district administrative staff, and building principals, among others. I was horrified that our staff members and board members were enduring this bullying behavior.

A recall election effort ensued, and I began attending board meetings. At that point, the board member in question had discontinued attending meetings and I was struck by the level of respect and compassion I witnessed from the remaining six board members. I was inspired by these six individuals. Following the recall election, a friend encouraged me to apply for the vacant board position.

Respect and collaboration among school board colleagues is extremely important to ensuring the school district they serve achieves its goals and prepares its students for their future. I may not always agree with my fellow board colleagues, but I always respect their viewpoints, their voices, and their passion for our amazing school district.

Crystal Duke

I attended my first board meeting here (online) in 2020. I don’t remember the exact day in 2020, but it was around the time schools were scheduled to be closed until May. obviously those were unprecedented times, so my interest was to be active in staying up to date with all that was happening. Many times I watched the meetings in disbelief and shock, as I am sure we all were. During this season, the confusion about the school board was clear, and it seemed all were scrambling to do their best with all that was going on.

School District Member 5

Calley Malloy

I have been very involved in Non-profit boards, philanthropy work, and community leadership. We moved to De Soto for the schools and I knew I wanted to be a part of my son’s educational journey the same way I was involved in other nonprofits. I started to attend BOE meetings in the spring and decided to formally put my name in. I’m the daughter of a public school teacher, the granddaughter of a college professor and the product of public education. Public education is rooted deeply in who I am, I wanted to get involved to make a difference. By serving on the USD 232 School Board I will positively affect the legacy I leave for my children as well as this district.

What I learned from watching the group work live is how the board conducts themselves with grace and integrity in the face of opposition. How varying opinions of board members can be communicated without vitriol or hate. I will work collaboratively to build upon the legacy and add to the excellence of the USD 232 Board of Education.

Amy Parker

I watched my first school board meeting online in March of this year. I needed more information to understand the “coming back together” plan and the COVID-19 protocols. There was only one teacher who spoke during the patron input and she expressed her concerns for teacher safety when students returned to school full-time. The meeting was just a little over one hour.

I decided to watch another school board meeting in April. Four people spoke during patron input, two teachers who appeared to want the school board to continue the mask mandates and two moms who appeared to urge the school board to consider optional masking. In that hour and a half meeting, I resonated with both moms. I shared their concerns and frustrations regarding the mask guidelines and I wanted to see change. One of those moms was Emily Carpenter and she is currently running for USD 232, position 6.

John Gaignat

Gaignat’s name will appear on the ballot, but he has bowed out of the race.

On Thursday, we will publish the candidates’ responses to the following question:

What are your views about the role of technology in the classroom? Are you comfortable with the amount of time students spend on screens during the school day? Why or why not?