COLUMBIA — The Katy Trail is a second home to avid runners like Christine King, who has competed in three 10k races and four half-marathons in the past five years.
“That has always been one of my passions,” King said of competing in half-marathons. “I try to do better each time, but I am not competing against anyone but myself.”
One of nine candidates seeking election on April 7 to the Columbia School Board, King is focusing on a different kind of running these days. But to win this race, King’s strategy is not to have one.
“My platform is not having an agenda," she said. "I don’t have a personal agenda of why I want to get on the board. It's not the math program; it's not the budget; it’s just that I really want to serve and lead.”
Born in Westerville, Ohio, King attended Miami University of Ohio on a basketball scholarship and graduated with a degree in finance. Playing either guard or forward on the basketball court, King said her athletic background provided the skills to be successful in business and in life.
“I learned to be organized, how to prioritize and how to play by the rules,” King said. “I also learned how to take criticism, how to recognize that everything you do is for the greater good of the team and that it’s about doing your best.”
King went on to work at State Farm Insurance Co. While at State Farm, she was chairwoman of the Partners in Education program, developing a relationship between the company and Rock Bridge High School. She said of all the committees she served on, she was most proud of this one because she saw firsthand the achievements of Columbia’s students. She left the company after 15 years to pursue her goal of serving on the Columbia School Board.
King also served on the board at Columbia Montessori School, first as treasurer for a year, then as chairwoman for four. The time spent at that position was one reason she decided to run for the school board.
“As frustrating as it could be, it was also very rewarding,” King said. “If you’re going to spend time away from your kids and family, for me anyway, I want it to be something that benefits them, and this greatly benefited them.”
King, 43, and her husband, Alan, married 12 years ago and moved to Columbia in 1999. Their children, Emily, 7, and Nicholas, 10, both attend Paxton Keeley Elementary School. King said though having children in the public schools has improved her knowledge of the community, it will not color her opinion if elected to the board.
“What I would want to bring to the board is this feeling of a collective group working together. We need to figure out our objectives and always keep them in mind,” King said. “Once you are on the board, you are no longer Christine King, mother, but Christine King, board member. You have to separate the two.”
King said she is adamant about having a unified board. She said at Columbia Montessori School, there were times the board’s resources and time were poorly allocated. She does not want that to happen with the Columbia School Board.
“The board’s role is the umbrella and their responsibility is to make sure, with the superintendent, that they keep the schools in line with the objectives of the board," King said. "It’s not their job to deal with the day-to-day operations of the schools.”
Communication is a top priority for King. She said she wants to re-establish trust between the community and the board — trust, she thinks, that has recently declined. She said technology can play a major role in encouraging more parents to get involved.
“We need to find innovative ways to get info back to parents,” King said. “If you look at the demographic of parents, how do they like to get their information? Blogs, e-mail, Internet, and we need to figure out how we can make it easier for them to get it.”
Lynnanne Baumgardner, a former Columbia School Board member and friend of King’s, said King has the open ear necessary for success on the board.
“Board members need to represent our whole community. Everyone benefits from good public schools,” Baumgardner said. “Christine will be willing to listen to and represent ideas and concerns from throughout the community and to work as part of a leadership team with other board members and district administrators.”
King said communication must also extend to teachers. She said teachers should feel they can come to the board with problems and not feel that their concerns are "unwarranted."
“Teachers are our biggest voices out there, and they want what’s best for the kids and what’s best for them," King said. "You have a great group of teachers out there, and they can tell us what are some of the biggest issues facing the schools right now.”
King said she wants to ensure the school board deals with the budget in an honest, deliberate way. She hopes to streamline budgetary allotments, analyzing where money is specifically going.
“I think all school systems are guilty of this: You have a list of wants, and you have a list of needs; and sometimes your wants are confused as needs, and sometimes your wants become needs,” King said. “So you really have to always look at what are the needs of the school and what are our financial resources, and anything that doesn’t fall into that need list, we need to get rid of it.”
Although King said she does not have a specific agenda or strategy, there is an obvious theme to her campaign: "It all goes back to communication."