A school board meeeting
(File photo) Kansas City Public Schools school board members and district staff participate in a meeting July 21, 2021. (Zach Bauman/The Beacon)

If you live in the northern part of the Kansas City Public Schools district, you could have another chance to join the school board this year. 

Filing closed in December for the regular April 4 school board election — although write-in candidates still have a shot at the Subdistrict 4 seat in the eastern part of the district. 

But on Feb. 21, filing will open for a special election to fill the seat that board member Manny Abarca left empty after his election to the Jackson County Legislature. 

Jennifer Wolfsie, the board’s vice chair, encourages people who support public education to become school board candidates.

“If this is what’s most important to you, you will have the ability to have a very large impact,” she said. “It is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve ever done.”

Here’s how to register as a candidate and ensure that you get on the ballot. 

When can I file? 

There’s a three-week window to file a declaration of candidacy, but you might consider lining up when the window opens at 8 a.m. on Feb. 21. Ballot order is determined on a first-come first-served basis. 

In general, filing can happen during the district’s regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, aside from any holidays or snow days. 

The filing location is 2901 Troost Ave., Kansas City, MO 64109. You must file in person, unless you’re prevented by military service or a disability. 

Filing closes March 14 at 5 p.m., but the district recommends arriving by 4:30 at the latest to complete everything on time. The election itself is June 20, 2023. 

What do I need to file? 

You need to live in Subdistrict 3. According to a subdistrict map, it’s located in the northernmost part of KCPS. Its eastern regions are mostly north of Independence Avenue, while west of Charlotte Street it dips as far south as 31st Street.  

While you will fill out your declaration in person, be prepared to provide some basic personal information. 

You also will be swearing that you’re eligible for office. Requirements include being: 

  • A U.S. citizen and KCPS voter. 
  • A Missouri resident for at least one year prior to the election. 
  • At least 24 years old. 
  • Up to date on state and local taxes. 
  • Not found guilty of a felony, or an action in another state that would be considered a felony in Missouri. 
  • Not required to register as a sex offender. 
  • Current on filing the proper Missouri Ethics Commission disclosures from any prior races. 

What else do I need to get on the ballot? 

Collect and submit 250 signatures from registered voters of Subdistrict 3. You must turn in the signatures and have them notarized by the board secretary before 5 p.m. on March 14. 

By March 28, file a financial interest statement with the Missouri Ethics Commission and the district. The form helps identify possible conflicts of interest. 

How do I get enough valid signatures? 

You can start collecting them now, even before filing opens. 

Wolfsie said that when she filed, she spent time outside of grocery stores asking for signatures. 

Candidates could also ask the Kansas City Election Board for a list of registered voters in their subdistrict and knock on doors asking for signatures. 

It’s wise to get 50 to 100 more signatures than you think you need to account for ones that can’t be confirmed, school board secretary June Kolkmeier said during a presentation in November 2022. 

“When you run (in a) subdistrict, you’ve got to kind of know what that subdistrict boundary is, and you have to convey that to people when you’re gathering signatures,” Wolfsie said. “Because what you cannot have happen is you gather signatures, and you think they’re all in your subdistrict, but they’re not.”

If you turn in signatures in stages during the filing window rather than submitting them all at the end, you can get a sense of how many were verified and how many you still have to collect, Wolfsie and Kolkmeier said. 

Wolfsie also suggested assembling a “kitchen cabinet” of people close to you who are willing to collect signatures and can talk about why they would support you. 

Who would make a good KCPS school board candidate? 

Wolfsie said that if public education is very important to you, there’s no need to worry about being underqualified. 

“If you’re willing to do the work, they’ll get you trained,” she said. 

However, Wolfsie said people who are most focused on a single issue sometimes realize they’re less interested in the board’s role of high-level governance with six colleagues. 

If “they want to actually have input at an operational level, maybe something like the District Advisory Committee is more of a better fit for them,” she said.  

Prospective board members should consider whether their work, family and other commitments are flexible enough to allow them the time they need for board activities, Wolfsie added. 

KCPS typically has two standing meetings per month on Wednesday evenings, but the board can call additional meetings at irregular times. Members also read background materials to prepare for meetings, visit schools and attend events, she said. 

Where can I get more information about running for the KCPS school board? 

Kansas City Public Schools has a web page devoted to school board elections. 

There are useful forms and guides to download at the bottom of the page, and links to the Missouri School Boards’ Association’s guidance.

KCPS also periodically hosts an event called “school board school” to teach prospective candidates about the district, how to file and tips on running for office. 

A recording of the Nov. 19, 2022, school board school is available on YouTube.

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Maria Benevento is the education reporter at The Kansas City Beacon. She is a Report for America corps member. Follow her on Twitter @MariaFBenevento.