Incumbents, one new candidate elected to Columbia School Board

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 | 10:54 p.m. CDT; updated 12:53 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 6, 2011

COLUMBIA — Helen Wade, Tom Rose and Jonathan Sessions were the clear winners Tuesday for seats on the Columbia School Board, each getting more than half of the 15,687 ballots cast.

Rose and Sessions were both incumbents. Wade, a family law attorney at Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer, is the only newcomer on the board. She said she believes her work with families in Columbia gives her an interesting perspective and the ability to better serve on the board.

Breakdown of Votes

The three candidates elected will serve three-year terms on the board, starting Monday.

Helen Wade: 26.81 percent

Jonathan Sessions: 26.05 percent

Tom Rose: 23.08 percent

Sara Dickson: 9.81 percent

Liz Peterson: 9.77 percent

Dave Raithel: 4.47 percent

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"I think my legal background and some of the things I do for a living will be really useful with regard to finances, with regard to policy, those sorts of things," Wade said after her victory. "I'd like to be where I can be most useful and most helpful."

The candidates will start their three-year terms in the midst of major challenges to the district, which include:

  • Redrawing secondary-school boundaries.
  • Opening a new high school.
  • Selecting a site for a new elementary school.
  • Anticipating less financial support from the state.
  • Efforts to reduce the achievement gap among students.

“We are on the verge of going through one of the most massive reorganizations in district history," Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education said at the West Junior High School community forum last month.

Muriel Williams Battle High School will open in the fall of 2013, which is also when ninth-grade students will be integrated into the high schools. That presents the challenge of reconfiguring boundaries throughout the district, a process that is already under way.

Budget constraints will also be an ongoing source of pressure to the board as the school year comes to a close. The state legislature has already warned that funding will be tighter.

With four years behind him, Rose is already a veteran of the board. A veterinarian with of Rolling Hills Veterinary Hospital, he also mentors students in the district. He was out of town during Tuesday's election and unavailable for comment.

Sessions has served one year on the board and received the second highest vote total. He is the owner of Tech 2, a computer technology consultation and management firm. Sessions grew up in Columbia Public Schools and received a degree in elementary education from MU.

When asked if he was prepared to handle upcoming district challenges, Sessions said, "Yes, and the areas where I might not be as informed as I need to be, I am going to make sure I am.

"I am thankful that the citizens of Columbia have elected me to continue to serve on the Columbia School Board; I am honored."

Wade has a daughter in kindergarten in the district and said she believes all students in the district deserve the best. She said it is the board's responsibility to make sure its decisions don't "compromise the quality or the delivery of the education for our kids.

"I am so thrilled to have this chance to be a part of everything that's going to be happening over the next weeks, months, years with our schools," Wade said. "We have a lot of challenges; I'm ready to face them."

The board will meet for the first time with its newly elected members at 6:30 p.m. Monday at the district's administration building, 1818 W. Worley St.

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