COLUMBIA — Six candidates filed for election with the Columbia School Board by Tuesday's deadline, including two incumbents, Tom Rose and Jonathan Sessions. The third incumbent board member, Ines Segert, had not filed for candidacy by the 5 p.m. deadline.
In addition to the incumbents, board candidates include Helen Wade, a family attorney in Columbia; Dave Raithel, who was most recently employed as a farmhand in Hartsburg; Liz Peterson, a doctoral student at MU; and Sara Dickson, programs and outreach manager for the National Newspaper Association.
Candidates will be elected April 5 to fill three seats on the board.
Helen Wade is a family law attorney and partner at Harper, Evans, Wade and Netemeyer. The first to file on Dec. 14, she will receive top ballot billing in the April 5 election.
Wade said the motivation to run comes from her domestic law experience as well as her personal ties to Columbia.
“I have been an advocate for children my entire professional career,” Wade said. “As a result, I am very passionate about making sure every single kid in the system can excel.”
Her daughter attends school in the district, something Wade said would push her to ensure it is the best.
She said her campaign plans to focus on closing the achievement gap, as well as providing incentives to encourage students to graduate and improving test scores to meet No Child Left Behind guidelines. Wade also acknowledges the challenge of the upcoming budget year.
“I personally believe education is the key to opening doors and expanding people’s horizons,” she said.
Jonathan Sessions was elected last April to finish the term of the late Rosie Tippins. In addition to his board duties, Sessions owns Tech 2, a technology consulting company. He is an MU graduate with a bachelor's degree in music and elementary education.
Sessions filed early to run for re-election, saying he always planned to serve another term. He said he is committed to the Columbia Public Schools long-term and believes dedication is necessary to holding a board position.
Sessions said if elected, he would concentrate on the school budget and transition to the opening of Muriel Battle High School in fall 2013. Though Sessions knows the budget planning process will be challenging, he is confident in the district’s plans.
“I think that this district has an excellent five-year plan that’s very, very conservative in its figures. We need to make sure we keep an eye on it so that we can continue to pay attention to our state and county revenues.”
Sessions also serves the community as a teacher at the Columbia Area Career Center, a member of the mid-Missouri chapter of the American Advertising Federation Board, and the youth choir director at First Presbyterian Church.
Dave Raithel is a former Columbia Public Schools substitute teacher with a doctorate in philosophy from MU. Currently unemployed, Raithel worked most recently as a farm hand in Hartsburg.
As a first-time candidate, he said his incentive to run comes from personal experience with his youngest son, a junior at Hickman High School.
“My concern was this: I got a kid who’s still at Hickman. He pulled a bonehead stunt, which required an automatic suspension of five days,” Raithel said.
He said he worries that an increase of students in five-to-10-day suspensions since 2007 is taking too much time away from school and hurting their schoolwork.
More than anything, Raithel looks at his campaign as a way to actively involve himself in his community.
“I don’t have a platform; I have a pile of lumber. I don’t have a bunch of policy positions; I have a bunch of questions,” he said.
Liz Peterson, a doctoral student at MU, serves as a parent volunteer on the curriculum evaluation committee for secondary physical education for the district.
Peterson said her goal is to bring health issues to the board. She would focus on “keeping (students) healthy and hopefully putting this district in the forefront of setting an example of achievement through best practices for health.”
She also said four years of volunteering and two years of substitute teaching experience will help her during the election. She has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and fitness and a master’s degree in health education and promotion, both from MU.
“I am excited about the challenge of running in the election and looking forward to the possibility of making a difference,” Peterson said.
The board's incumbent vice president, Tom Rose, filed on Friday. Appointed to the board in 2007 and elected vice president in 2008, he also acts as chairman of the finance committee and serves the policy committee.
Rose said he has enjoyed his experiences working and volunteering with schools.
“I felt like I still had something that I could contribute to the district," Rose said. "I’ve invested quite a bit in the district, and the district has invested in me as well."
He said his campaign will focus on narrowing the achievement gap. Rose wants children to be ready when they enter kindergarten and is dedicated to improving early childhood education.
Rose is the managing partner of Rolling Hills Veterinary Hospital and has been practicing veterinary medicine since 1988, when he graduated from MU.
In the community, Rose is involved in the St. Thomas More Newman Center and serves on several boards, including the First Chance for Children board and the Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center board. According to the school district's website, he is also a Rotary Club member and a mentor for the district.
Sara Dickson, the last to file for the board, said she wants to represent those who do not have children in the district by bringing their perspectives on issues that still affect them, such as taxes.
“I want to bring a Christian conservative view to the table, and I want to hear from Missourians and represent the views of those who may not have children in school, as well as those that do," Dickson said.
She graduated from Columbia College in 2005 with a bachelor's degree in business administration. She continued her studies at MU and received a master’s degree in public administration in 2009.