Two file for Columbia School Board seats

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 | 6:04 p.m. CST; updated 9:30 p.m. CST, Wednesday, December 18, 2013

COLUMBIA — Two candidates — an incumbent and a returning applicant — have filed for three seats coming open on the Columbia School Board.

Veterinarian Tom Rose, a past president of the seven-member board, will not seek re-election after serving seven years. Another incumbent, businessman Jonathan Sessions, is seeking his second full term on the board. Another businessman, Rex Cone, is running in his second board election.

Rose was appointed in 2007 to fill a vacancy left by Don Ludwig, then elected to a three-year term in 2008 and re-elected in 2011.

Rose said he took away many lessons from his time on the board. Being on a team of six was different from working at his practice, Rolling Hills Veterinary Hospital, he said, and he learned early that you cannot please everyone. But his goal was to gain the greatest benefit for the most.

Looking to the future, Rose said he hopes there are advances in student performance as the district continues to wrestle with the achievement gap.

Rose said his experience on the board was everything he thought it would be. He offered advice to new candidates:

"First off, have an open mind," he said. "Never think you know how you will stand on a situation. Look at all sides and make a decision off what you think is truly right. Do not get bogged down by the nitty-gritty. Focus on issues related to student performance."

Rose's three children have now graduated out of the district.

Helen Wade, whose first term will be up in 2014, has not filed an application for re-election so far. She could not be reached on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon.

Sessions, a Columbia native and managing partner for Tech 2, was elected to a one-year term on the board in 2010 before being elected to a three-year term in 2011. He said he finds the work rewarding. 

"I joined the School Board because I grew up in the Columbia school system," he said.

Sessions has worked on long-term strategies to combat school overcrowding. He said this includes the district's 10-year Facility and Bond Plan, the focus of which is to build school facilities and address technology and building improvements.

"A lot of long-term strategies and plans were put in place when I got on the board, and I very much want to see those plans through," Sessions said.

Cone, a freelance media producer, said he was the first to file for a board seat. "I was there at 8 a.m. on the first day of filing because I wanted to be first on the ballot," he said.

Cone said he agrees with a $21 million bond issue scheduled to go before voters in April. He wants to see a further decrease in trailer classrooms, ensure a living wage for support staff and see an increase in funding for Parents as Teachers. As a former stay-at-home dad, Cone said he greatly benefited from the program’s home coordinators, who helped him be his children’s first teacher.

"Part of my motivation for running is that I have kids in the district," said Cone, who has two children — a ninth-grader at Rock Bridge High School and a seventh-grader at West Middle School.

"School board members are volunteers willing to sit and read the material and come to the best consensus for kids," Cone said.

The deadline to file is 5 p.m. Jan. 21.

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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