Meet the Columbia School Board candidates

COLUMBIA — On April 5, voters will choose among six candidates to fill three seats on the Columbia School Board. Those seats are now held by Tom Rose, Ines Segert and Jonathan Sessions. Rose and Sessions are running for re-election; Segert is resigning from the board.

See our separate Q&A with the candidates.

Here's a look at the candidates:

Helen WadeHelen Wade

Age: 34

Years in Columbia: Since 1994

Occupation: Family law attorney at Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer

Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology from Columbia College; graduated from MU Law School in 2004

Personal ties to district: Daughter is in kindergarten in the district

Community involvement: Board member of Voices Daily; member of the Boone County Bar Association; former chair of the Family Law Committee; former board member of the Mid-Missouri Access to Justice Project; member of Rotary South

Political experience: First time running for office

Political leanings: Progressive

Reason for running: “Sometimes people seek political office or public office because they believe the parties in charge are doing a terrible job. That’s not why I am running. I am doing it because I think that I am very good at talking to people. I am not the least bit afraid of difficult conversations; it’s what I do for a living. I believe in education probably more so than I can express. It is the strength of our public schools that will determine the strength as a whole as we grow."

Contact information:, website, Facebook

No. 1 challenge facing the district: "The budget is a huge challenge, but it is a challenge because it impacts so many of the other issues that are so pervasive in our district."

Dave RaithelDave Raithel

Age: 55

Years in Columbia: Moved to city in 1977, has lived here 30 of the last 34 years

Occupation: Currently unemployed

Education: Bachelor's degree in philosophy, magna cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis; doctorate in philosophy from MU.

Personal ties to the district: One son is a graduate of Hickman High School and MU; another son is currently a junior at Hickman. Was a substitute teacher in the district for three semesters during the 2005-2006 year.

Community involvement: "Mostly as the ignored outside voice in opposition, though I did serve three years as the secretary for my neighborhood association."

Political experience: "It's mostly been bad."

Political leanings: Libertarian Communist

Reason for running: "I needed to get up and do something every day because that’s how I was raised. I have no single reason, but my reading about the suspension center was the final thing I learned about, and I said, 'I am going to go stick my nose in this.' Although the suspension center is what finally got me started, it is hardly the only thing on my mind given the other things I have learned in the last three months."

Contact information:, website, resume

No. 1 challenge facing the district: "It’s got to be able to pay for everything it’s got to do, but that means closing the performance gap."

Jonathan SessionsJonathan Sessions

Age: 28

Years in Columbia: 28

Occupation: Owner of Tech 2, a computer and technology consultation and management firm.

Education: Bachelor's degree from MU in music and elementary education

Personal ties to the district: Went to Russell Elementary School, Smithton Middle School, West Junior High School and Hickman High School

Community involvement: "I am currently on the city's Comprehensive Plan Task Force and Internet Citizens Group; actively involved in many community events and support organizations; previously taught continuing education at the Columbia Area Career Center; former children's choir director and current youth group leader at my church."

Political experience: Current member of the School Board

Political leanings: Progressive

Reason for running: "I wasn’t in this for a one-year term; I am in this for the long term. I am dedicated to this district. I mean, this is a district that I think did a pretty successful job of educating me. I also felt like this is an opportunity to give back to Columbia Public Schools. I want to give back to the district that was an integral part of my success, plain and simple."

Contact information:, website, Facebook, Twitter (@jsesh)

No. 1 challenge facing the district: "There are so many issues facing our district. It's too hard to just put my finger on one and say, 'that's the one we need to fix.' I think we have a lot of big issues we can solve, but it's going to be a long-term effort to deal with elementary overcrowding and all the trailers we have, closing the achievement gap and focusing on our need for universal early childhood education."

Liz PetersonLiz Peterson

Age: 28

Years in Columbia: 9

Occupation: Doctoral student at MU

Education: Bachelor's degree in nutrition and fitness and master's degree in health education and promotion, both from MU

Personal ties to the district: Third-grade son in Columbia Public Schools; two years of substitute teaching with experience in preschool, elementary, middle, junior and high schools; serves on secondary physical education curriculum evaluation committee

Community involvement: Walking School Bus volunteer and participant; St. Thomas More Newman Center member; Cub Scout leader; PTA member; Columbia Public Schools parent volunteer

Political experience: "I am a voter and have never before run for an elected position."

Political leanings: "I consider myself an informed citizen. I land on different sides depending on the issue, and I vote for people, not parties."

Reason for running: "In the last year, I've been studying physical education and physical activity and health benefits for kids, as well as academic benefits related to those two items. I discovered various issues and problems within those that are inherent to the system that we use in the public schools.

"I decided that policy is where the biggest impact comes from, so my drive to be a policymaker led me to deciding to run."

Contact information:, Facebook

No. 1 challenge facing the district: "Between the obesity epidemic and the need for action rather than talk, (it is) related to the health consequences of that epidemic in combination with the budget."

Tom RoseTom Rose

Age: 48

Years in Columbia: 30

Occupation: Managing partner of Rolling Hills Veterinary Hospital

Education: Bachelor's degree in science and agriculture and doctorate in veterinary medicine, both from MU

Personal ties to the district: Two daughters have graduated from Columbia Public Schools; another daughter is a senior at Rock Bridge High School; current School Board vice president; Rolling Hills partner in education with Mill Creek Elementary School for 12 years; mentor for Columbia Public Schools and Stand By Me

Community involvement: Chamber of Commerce past board member, twice chair of education committee, founding chair of early childhood subcommittee; First Chance for Children member and twice board chair; Mary Lee Johnston Community Learning Center board treasurer; Metro Rotary Club member, chair of partners in education committee, in-school participant; St. Thomas More Newman Center long-time active member; Board of Health past member

Political experience: Four years of School Board service

Political leanings: Conservative

Reason for running: "This time around, certainly I feel like there's more that I can contribute — that I have to contribute — to the district. I felt like they've invested in me some, through continued education that I've done and what not. ... And I've also invested myself in continuing education and the time I've put into it. So I felt like I owed it to the district and myself to go ahead and run again."

Contact info:

No. 1 challenge facing the district: "I think one of our biggest challenges is trying to address issues around student achievement and the achievement gap as we're going through  this period of difficult budgetary times, you know, at the state and federal level.

"It becomes even more of an issue of trying to be keenly aware of utilizing programs that have a record of showing success because you're limited in the finances and you can't try everything."

Sara DicksonSara Dickson

Age: 31

Years in Columbia: Has worked in Columbia since December 2005 and spent considerable time in the city while seeking a master's degree of public affairs with MU while and working full time. Moved to Columbia in June 2010.

Occupation: Programs and outreach manager for the National Newspaper Association

Education: Bachelor's degree in business administration from Columbia College; master's degree in public administration from MU

Personal ties to the district: "I am very supportive of education as a whole. I received my master's in public affairs from the Truman School of Public Affairs here on campus, and education is very important to prepare citizens for the rest of their lives."

Community involvement: Central Missouri Honor Flight volunteer; former student ambassador for MU's Truman School of Public Affairs; Missouri Right to Life volunteer; former church involvement coordinator for National Day of Prayer Task Force; former Open Arms Pregnancy Resource Center volunteer; former president of student government association at Columbia College in Jefferson City

Political experience: Former legislative assistant for Missouri House of Representatives; Boone County Pachyderms board member; vice president of Central Missouri Young Republicans; citizen journalist for political events; past volunteer for U.S. Congressional candidate Vicky Hartzler; past volunteer at Missouri's GOP Victory 2010 headquarters

Political leanings: Conservative

Reason for running: "I'm running to be a Christian conservative voice on the board."

Contact information:, citizen-journalist blog, Facebook, Twitter (@vote4sara)

No. 1 challenge facing the district: "A challenge facing public schools today is going to be the economy, the budget situation. We're going to have to do more with less, and we're going to make some tough decisions in the future. We're going to have to make cuts."