KCKPS school board candidates
Kansas City, Kansas, school board candidates. Top from left: Deon Whitten, Robert Milan Jr. and Randy Lopez. Bottom from left: Valdenia Winn, Angelynn Howell and Yolonda Johnson. (Provided photos)

Candidates in a crowded race for the Kansas City, Kansas, school board are divided on whether school board members should receive pay now that a state law change allows it. 

Responding to a questionnaire from The Beacon, the candidates also weighed in on improving outcomes for students, school funding and their concerns about how the board currently operates. 

Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools candidates aren’t elected by subdistricts, so all 11 candidates are competing for the same four seats. 

They include four incumbents, Janey Marie Humphries, Yolanda S. Clark, Randy Lopez and Valdenia C. Winn, whose current terms will expire in January. 

Meet the candidates

Brenda Scruggs Andrieu

Brenda Scruggs Andrieu, who did not respond to the questionnaire, has a history of working in education and counseling. She does not appear to have a campaign social media account or website. In responses to a 411 voter guide, Andrieu wrote that she wants to improve students’ academic achievement and their “manners, attitude, gratitude & respect for self & others.” She is also a candidate for the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees. 

Andrieu has a doctorate in counseling psychology and attended Sumner High School, Kansas City Kansas Community College, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Federal City College and the University of Minnesota. She has worked for schools, colleges and mental health centers in several states.  

Deon Whitten

Occupation: Dean of students at a charter school. My wife and I own a transition house for young men in foster care.

Background and qualifications: My background is centered on enhancing educational outcomes to foster individual and community growth. This philosophy shapes all my educational roles and initiatives. My goal is to help students become their best possible selves.

Favorite school-related event: Track meets

Favorite subject in school: English

Janey Marie Humphries

Janey Marie Humphries, who did not respond to the questionnaire, has been a school board member since 2017. Her school board bio says that she and her husband have lived in the city  for more than 40 years and have four children who graduated from the district. Humphries attended KCKCC and the University of Central Missouri. 

She has served on the Wyandotte County Ethics Commission; is a longtime Parent Teacher Association volunteer, member and officeholder, and has been involved with the KCK Public Library Foundation, Livable Neighborhoods, East Argentine Neighborhood Association, Neighborhood Crime Prevention Patrol, South Patrol Advisory Committee and the school district’s Vision Committee. She enjoys visiting classrooms and attending school events. 

Robert L. Milan Jr.

Occupation: Pastor

Background and qualifications: Retired federal employee, union steward and various other boards throughout the city and state.

Favorite school event: Coaching football and baseball

Favorite subject in school: Geography 

Yolanda S. Clark

Yolanda Clark, who did not respond to the questionnaire, is a current school board member. She does not appear to have a campaign social media or website. Her school board biography says she works in the financial industry and is a lifelong Wyandotte County resident who graduated from Washington High School, KCKCC, Friends University and the St. Louis Business Diversity Initiative. She has three children, including two current district students. 

Clark has also worked with youth in various capacities, been a mentor and served as chair of Inclusion and Diversity Council. She is a life member of Roswell Church of Christ.

Randy Lopez

Occupation: Vice president community programs

Background and qualifications: I have served on the school board for nearly four years, having been elected in 2019. I was elected as board president by my peer board members in my first year on the school board, a position I continue to hold having been reelected as president.

Favorite school event: Every event is unique and provides different experiences. I enjoy getting to interact with students and their families and hearing from them about their experiences and their hopes. I also love strategizing about how we can be a better district for our students, learning and planning about how to implement initiatives, policy and resources to best serve all students.

Favorite subject in school: I really enjoyed my time in debate. 

Valdenia C. Winn

Occupation: KCKCC history professor (50 years) and state representative (23 years).

Background and qualifications: USD 500 board; assistant minority leader of the Kansas House; ranking member of K-12 House Education Budget Committee; president of Kansas National Women’s Political Caucus; board of Greater Kansas City Writing Project; member of Struggler’s Hill/Roots Neighborhood Association and treasurer of Northeast Cooperative Council. 

Favorite school event: Graduation and student award ceremonies.

Favorite subject in school: History and math

Stacy Yeager

Stacy Yeager, who did not respond to the questionnaire, is a former school board member. She does not appear to have an active campaign website and her campaign Facebook page has not been frequently updated in recent months. 

An online bio from a conference several years ago said she was a lifelong Kansas City, Kansas, resident who graduated from Wyandotte High School. At the time, she was the founder and CEO of Abundant Life Business Counseling and project coordinator for the African-American Breastfeeding Coalition of Wyandotte County. She holds a doctorate in business from the University of Phoenix, a master’s degree from Friends University and a bachelor’s degree from Kansas State University.

Yolonda Johnson

Occupation: Nurse

Background and qualifications: I am a nurse with 20-plus years experience with 10 years experience in mental health and three years in public health which I believe can help serve the students and parents.

Favorite school event: Prom, multicultural events

Favorite subject in school: AP English

Mary Ann Mosley

Mary Ann Mosley, who did not respond to the questionnaire, is also a candidate for the Kansas City Kansas Community College Board of Trustees. She does not appear to have a campaign social media account or website.

Angelynn Howell

Occupation: Restaurant owner and caterer

Background and qualifications: I am a parent and have been an advocate for students for the last 15 years. I have a human resources degree and associate degree in accounting.

Favorite school-related event: Athletics

Favorite subject in school: Math

Multiple-choice questions

Candidates were given a choice between two options for each question and allowed space to explain their responses. Those who skipped a multiple-choice question or indicated in their written response that they did not agree with either choice are marked as “neither.” Those who skipped a question entirely or did not respond to the survey are marked “no response.” 

School funding

Whitten: I believe we need to spend more on schools and see it as a top fiscal priority, not a critique of current budgets. The key is not just more funding, but smart allocation to maximize educational outcomes.

Milan: Education is life itself. The more resources the better. It facilitates student learning.

Lopez: I believe we need to continue to find ways to effectively and efficiently invest in our schools, our students and our most vulnerable populations. Our state funding for our special education department is not at a level of being fully funded.  

Winn: We need to reevaluate spending on a consistent basis and target programs and services that address learning loss and encourage parent involvement.

Johnson: There needs to be fair allocation of resources to ensure the most accurate and updated material to help meet educational needs and goals.

Howell: We need grade level curriculum for middle and high schools to include books as resource materials in the classroom.

School board member compensation

Whitten: I support offering financial compensation to school board members as a means to heighten responsibility and encourage enthusiasm. However, the fundamental incentive for serving should be an intrinsic desire to improve education. 

Milan: Personal expenditures and ongoing services provided to the schools and students. 

Lopez: At this time, I don’t have enough information to say that we should be paid.  

Winn: With limited budgetary resources, I believe it is our civic duty to volunteer to serve.

Johnson: I believe this is a service to the community, not necessarily a paid position. 

Howell: There are a lot of hours devoted to researching, planning and meetings.

Book removals

Milan: A thorough investigation should be done before removing books and not by several complaints.

Lopez: Our board has reviewed and adopted policy and processes that provide for a just process for reviewing any curriculum, books or other resources used in the classroom.  This process includes community members, staff and student voice.

Winn: USD 500 reviews books and curriculum, and we have not had problems.

Johnson: I do not know enough about the above statement to answer accurately. 

Howell: Books are a source of information, a catalog of history of past events, and in this day of acceptance why would a published book be inappropriate? Perception is subjective based on personal experiences.

Including LGBTQ students

Milan: Birth name should be used, or name should be changed on original birth records.

Lopez: Our district and board have adopted policies that work toward creating a safe, inclusive, welcoming environment for all students and we will continue to work to embrace diversity, equity and inclusive policies and places. 

Winn: We need to work to protect all students and ensure that they have a safe learning environment.

Howell: This response is in reference to bathroom use. Each school needs at least one restroom for all transgender students as each student’s vulnerability to privacy is being challenged.

Open-ended questions

If elected to the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools board, what would you do to improve outcomes for students in your district? 

Whitten: If elected, I’d prioritize teacher retention with competitive pay, amplify athletics and extracurriculars for holistic growth and promote existing programs to maximize post-secondary preparedness. My goal: an environment where each student is equipped and empowered for success.

Milan: Quality teachers, good curriculum and diversity in instructors.

Lopez: We need to support our superintendent in strategies to improve student achievement, including creating a safe and secure environment for all and trauma-informed practices in our district. We also will work to decrease chronic absenteeism in our district and invest in early childhood learning.  

Winn: Devote resources to students who need additional tutoring and after school activities that truly engage them and show them the importance of education.

Johnson: One of my biggest concerns is addressing mental health and physical wellness issues among students and parents. I believe starting with these issues will help develop better student outcomes academically and as a whole person.

Howell: Advocate for curriculum and books, encourage recruitment for teachers who look like our students and bridge pathways for apprenticeships and internships with businesses. Our students’ foundation for learning is being threatened by a lack of classroom resources. New teachers need training and assistance.

What is your biggest concern about the school board’s recent decisions or actions? 

Whitten: While our board is passionate and well-intentioned, my chief concern is the need to prioritize teacher and employee retention while also reimagining education post-COVID. This should be our central focus to ensure academic growth and improved outcomes for our students.

Milan: I would need more knowledge and insight on the board’s recent decisions.

Lopez: This board has remained steadfast in our goals towards academic achievement for students, creating access to behavioral health supports for students and being good stewards of our resources.  

Winn: Raising taxes and not seriously considering alternative methods of funding programs.

Johnson: I hear feedback that students’ academic needs are not being met, that there are not enough teachers within the schools. 

Howell: The spending of the ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) dollars.

Recent Posts

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