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Four candidates are vying for three open spots on the Columbia Public Schools Board of Education. Ahead of the election on April 4, CBT caught up with each candidate to hear about their vision for the district.
After completing his first term as a Columbia Board of Education member, Paul is “familiar with how things work” on the board and is seeking re-election. During his time on the board, he was involved in many different issues, including the district’s anti-bullying policies and redrawing attendance boundaries. He is running for re-election in an effort to affect change.
“I want Columbia Public Schools to continue on the path to being the best school district in the state,” he says. “That comes with prudent financial management and constantly improving test scores.”
Cushing is a senior software engineer who works for professional photo lab, White House Custom Color. He is a vocational school graduate and believes this gives him a slightly different but fresh outlook on education. As a fiscal conservative, his goals include “reducing waste and curbing unnecessary spending.”
After serving two terms for the Columbia Board of Education, Helen Wade is seeking re-election. First voted to the Board in 2011, Wade has been active on both the finance and policy committees. She says that CPS is experiencing a challenging yet opportune growth, and she hopes to provide transparency to the community throughout that process.
“I want to make sure that the people being affected by the decisions we made, and will make, that are prompted by growth or changes in our student population really feel as though their opinions have been heard,” she says.
Wade, a partner at Harper, Evans, Wade & Netemeyer, believes that her experience as an attorney provides her with an analytical perspective that’s an asset on the board. Specializing in family law, Wade says she’s learned how to consider problems from every angle and perspective before deciding on an issue.
As the only non-incumbent candidate running for the board, Dianics believes in thinking differently. As a stay-at-home mom for her two young boys, she says understands the struggle some mothers have when it comes to raising kids in Columbia.
“I started getting together with 130 other mothers — a community who believes in each other and encourages each other, where we all belong because of our similar struggles,” she says. “We meet and talk about how we want to raise our kids to be good people. Those mothers taught me how strong a community can be in the cause for change.”
She believes that having confidence in the city and engaging in dialogue is when innovation happens. “As education policies in Washington are unclear,” Dianics says this is a time to make families and education as a priority in our community.
Currently the board’s vice president, Jonathan Sessions is vying to continue his work for CPS. Since being elected to the board in 2010, Sessions has worked on the 10-year bond and capital plan to expand the school district to meet growth. Sessions is the only candidate who grew up in the Columbia Public School system, and much of his passion derives from that experience.
“I’m dedicated to Columbia Public Schools,” he says. “This is an institution that I grew up in and it educated me to put me in a position to be successful. And now I have an opportunity to continue to support the institution that was integral to my success.”
Sessions is the owner of Gravity, an Apple products service provider, and has a background in tech consulting. His small business experience and technical expertise, paired with his education degree, is what he believes informs his work on the school board.