David Seamon was new to Rock Bridge High School, a sophomore from out of state, playing wide receiver on the football team.
At practice one day, his mom walked onto the field. In front of the whole team, she told her son he wasn’t allowed to play football anymore and took him off the field.
His grades were too bad.
“The next day was a little embarrassing,” Seamon recalled.
His grades improved, though.
Now, the 31-year-old is running for a position on the Columbia School Board, one of four candidates vying for three spots in the Tuesday election, which was postponed from April because of COVID-19.
Seamon was born in Columbia, South Carolina. His family moved around when he was a child, to Atlanta and Colorado Springs before finally landing in Columbia, Missouri, where he spent his final three years of secondary school at Rock Bridge.
The summer before his senior year, Seamon’s father died. That same year, he became a father himself.
“The only reason I’m at where I am today is because of the teachers and counselors at Rock Bridge,” Seamon said. “They helped guide me through it. Some of them are family at this point.”
Helping teachers would be one of Seamon’s biggest priorities.
“A lot of them feel like there’s a climate that maybe they’re not being listened to,” he said. “I know they’re not being paid as well as they should be. But they are our greatest strength, and we want to make sure they’ll stick around with us.”
To improve teacher retention, Seamon proposes increasing teacher pay and developing an improved climate, especially for teachers of color. Hiring a diverse workforce also helps students to learn better, he said.
“As a black student, having a black or brown teacher is incredibly helpful,” he said. “If there’s somebody there who understands you, that you can relate to, you’re much more likely to pay attention in class.”
He thinks partnerships with historically black colleges or universities, such as Lincoln University in Jefferson City, could be a way to build a more diverse teacher workforce.
After graduating high school in 2007, Seamon attended Columbia College, where he studied history.
“There’s a kind of philosophy out there that there is no new problem,” Seamon said. “Someone, at some point in human history, has had this issue that you have, or something similar. So it’s kind of going back through history and reading books, you can kind of find those solutions.”
He later joined the Marine Corps, where he served as a first lieutenant logistics officer. His time in the Marines taught him how to interact with people and take constructive criticism, lessons he said would help him on the board.
“I think when you have that angry parent who comes and stands before the board, you may not be able to say anything back to them,” Seamon said. “But you can definitely listen and you know that at the end of the board meeting, you can go back to that clipboard in the back, get their name, contact information, and give them a call, take them out to coffee, and see what the problem is.”
After serving for five years, Seamon returned to Columbia. In 2018, he ran for Boone County Presiding Commissioner, losing to incumbent Dan Atwill in the Democratic primary.
Seamon serves on the board of directors for Alternative Community Training, or ACT Services, a volunteer organization that provides career, residential and family services to people with disabilities. He was asked to serve on the board by its former president.
“It just clicked as something that we should be doing, and I wanted to be a part of it,” Seamon said.
Seamon, who works at Scholastic, is a father of three, ages 12, 7 and 2.
“One thing I’ve always really admired about David is his ability to work with kids and know what’s best for them,” high school friend Andrew Adams said. “I have kids myself, and I’m the same age as David, but I always go to him for a lot of parenting advice.”
Seamon has advocated for getting rid of both in- and out-of-school suspension, which disproportionately affect black students and those with disabilities.
In-school suspension, Seamon said, could be replaced with a restorative practice. Students could be sent to a counselor, where the roots of their disruptive behavior could be assessed, he said, and they could get back to the classroom more quickly.
“This isn’t a business setting where there is a bottom line for stakeholders or stockholders,” he said. “The bottom line here is our students. As long as we keep them in focus, I think we’ll do a better job.”