It's Mees, Whitt and newcomer Sessions for School Board

Tuesday, April 6, 2010 | 11:02 p.m. CDT; updated 1:52 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Columbia School Board Member-elect Jonathan Sessions speaks to supporters gathered at Uprise Bakery on Tuesday. Sessions defeated opponent Philip G. Peters, Jr.

COLUMBIA — Jonathan Sessions, a newcomer to the Columbia School Board, secured a one-year term, after he started last-minute campaigning at 5 a.m. Tuesday. By the time he was declared a winner to about 35 people at his watch party at Uprise Bakery, he said he was exhausted.

Sessions got 11,597 votes, versus 7,570 cast for MU Law School professor Phil Peters. Sessions, a Columbia native and Hickman High School graduate, owns a technology consulting company in town. He plans to incorporate more technology education in the classroom and improve student achievement. After the results were announced, including voter approval of a $120 million bond issue, he said his first priority was to help develop a new high school.


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"I'm ready to jump right in," Sessions said.

Incumbent board members Jan Mees and James Whitt won the two three-year term seats with 15,719 and 9,976 votes, respectively, over Dan Holt, who received 7,297 votes.

Mees, current board president and a media specialist retired from the district, has served since 2007. Whitt, a former General Electric executive who runs cPhase Sports Association, was appointed after Rosie Tippin resigned in May 2009.

"I'm so grateful to the voters for the confidence in me to continue working with our community and their kids," Mees said.

Eliot Battle, the first black teacher to work at an integrated Columbia school, was among the several dozen people at Mees' watch party at Jack's Gourmet Restaurant and congratulated her on her re-election. She said her primary goal now is to close academic achievement gaps among students of different races and household income levels.

Battle also visited Whitt's party at Boone Tavern. Whitt shares Mees' goal and also wants to ensure students and teachers have adequate buildings and facilities. One of his first orders of business will be to review his committee assignments, he said.

At his watch party of about 20 people, he thanked everyone for coming and supporting him, then said, joking, "And tomorrow, I'm going to Disneyland."

After two back-to-back School Board races, Dan Holt, a former educational finance consultant, said he is going to take his time thinking over his plans. He will observe the current board's responses to upcoming issues before he considers running again.

"I'll still be active on the sidelines," Holt said. "You don't have to be in the big seat to influence the game."

Peters, who was also running for the one-year seat, complimented Sessions on his campaign but said he is disappointed he doesn't get to be part of the board's future work. "I'm optimistic the board is aware that they need to roll up their sleeves," he said.

Now, the advocate for better early childhood education said he plans to "continue working hard to help at-risk kids."

"I want to help, but I'll have to do it through ways outside the system instead of inside the system," Peters said. "That's the fork in the road for me."

Missourian reporters April Choi, Doug Davis and Jonathan Hinderliter contributed to this article.


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