Wichita Board of Education candidates Julie Hedrick, Ben Blankley, Mia Turner, Holly Terrill and Ron Rosales.
Wichita Board of Education candidates (from left) Julie Hedrick, Ben Blankley, Mia Turner, Holly Terrill and Ron Rosales. (Photos provided courtesy of candidates)

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How should Wichita schools keep students safe during the pandemic? How can parents be more engaged? How can the school system find post-pandemic success?

With nine people running for four seats on the Wichita Board of Education, The Wichita Beacon surveyed the candidates on several issues ahead of the Nov. 2 election. 


In the race for District 1 in north-central Wichita, Diane Albert is running against incumbent Ben Blankley.

For the District 2 race in eastern Wichita, Brent Davis faces incumbent Julie Hedrick. A third candidate, Justin Bjork, recently withdrew from the race and endorsed Hedrick. Bjork’s name will remain on the ballot.

Incumbent Mia Turner and challenger Kathy Bond are the two candidates for District 5, which covers much of Wichita west of Meridian Avenue.

For District 6 — northern Wichita west of Interstate 35 — Hazel Stabler and Holly Terrill are each running against incumbent Ron Rosales.

The winner of each nonpartisan race will serve a four-year term representing the district in which they reside, although Wichita voters are able to cast a vote in each individual district election regardless of where they live.

The Wichita Beacon asked the candidates five questions. We received responses from five candidates. Answers have been edited for length and clarity. (Click the question to jump to that section)

What measures should the district take to keep students safe and in school amid the continuing pandemic?

Diane Albert (District 1)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Ben Blankley (incumbent, District 1)
I believe we should continue universal masking, testing, increased ventilation, cohorting and increased cleaning and disinfecting until at least the first of the five to 11-year-olds are fully vaccinated in early winter, and perhaps the end of cold and flu season in the early spring. It will be based on the recommendation of local health officials. The transition back to “normal” could be accelerated as families get more of themselves and their eligible children vaccinated for both influenza and COVID-19.

Brent Davis (District 2)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Julie Hedrick (incumbent, District 2)
The pandemic is and has been a moving target with constantly changing data. The Wichita Board of Education must continue to watch the data and the feedback from families and staff as we have throughout the pandemic. The BOE must consider the data plus information from medical experts and make current decisions for the safety of staff and students. For now, the mask mandate is effectively working to keep kids in school, which is where they need to be.

Kathy Bond (District 5)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Mia Turner (incumbent, District 5)
We have to continue wearing masks, thorough hand-washing, practice safe distancing and stay on top of regular cleaning and disinfecting.

Ron Rosales (incumbent, District 6)
I think the current policy of COVID protocols is good but could be adjusted to review individual school data instead of the district as a whole.

Hazel Stabler (District 6)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Holly Terrill (District 6)
We must act responsibly. I believe it is essential that we follow the guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control, along with continuing to offer vaccinations to students and staff to ensure that our schools are a safe place for our children.

What steps should Wichita Public Schools and its Board of Education take to more effectively engage students, parents, families and other stakeholders in decision making?

Diane Albert (District 1)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Ben Blankley (incumbent, District 1)
Pre-pandemic, the district administration held in-person listening sessions for our strategic plan. I have encouraged our administration to resume these kinds of in-person listening sessions to capture the feelings of a wider variety of families. As an individual representative, I try to attend and participate in as many family engagement events as my schedule allows. I am also very active on social media and maintain significant relationships at my workplace with other working parents.

Brent Davis (District 2)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Julie Hedrick (incumbent, District 2)
Communication in a large urban school district is challenging and difficult, but we must keep working hard to listen and to share information. There is so much valuable information to celebrate that parents and families need to know for their kids. Additionally, the concerns and perspectives of students, families and staff are vital in Board of Education decision making. Avenues of public forums, social media, personal emails and phone calls, teacher union discussions and community meetings must all continue (and could increase) to engage Wichita Public Schools’ stakeholders.

Kathy Bond (District 5)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Mia Turner (incumbent, District 5)
We should make sure that we have career choices and courses that our children are interested in, have our teachers and staff properly trained to instruct and support the students and build or continue positive relationships with local businesses for internships, training and employment.

Ron Rosales (incumbent, District 6)
I think the BOE and the superintendent’s office could have more input from the teachers and parents through school meetings or surveys.

Hazel Stabler (District 6)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Holly Terrill (District 6)
It’s imperative that we establish a strong foundation between students, families and faculty by building bridges instead of putting up barriers. Attendance at parent-teacher conferences, board meetings and other school and community functions allow for open communication. When opposing ideas are approached with empathy and respect, we can truly be a better community with the goal of helping students to achieve academic success in a safe and inclusive environment.

What skills and knowledge should a Wichita Public Schools high school diploma signify?

Diane Albert (District 1)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Ben Blankley (incumbent, District 1)
A successful Wichita Public Schools graduate should be able to communicate and participate successfully in our American democracy. They should be able to fulfill their own career goals. They should know our local, regional, national and world history. They should be able to critically analyze others’ opinions and be able to fully form their own. They should be able to work successfully in groups. They should know about how diversity makes our community stronger. They should be lifelong learners.

Brent Davis (District 2)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Julie Hedrick (incumbent, District 2)
As a Board of Education member, my goal and desire at graduation is for our students to have the tools, skills and credentials for a successful and productive life on whatever road each student chooses to walk — whether a trade following high school or (going to) college. The specific skills and knowledge (standards) required for the diploma are set by the Kansas State Board of Education and go far beyond the reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic that was required when I was a Wichita Public Schools graduate. Our graduates must be responsible, wise, productive citizens with a rigorous academic background plus emotional intelligence.

Kathy Bond (District 5)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Mia Turner (incumbent, District 5)
A Wichita High School diploma signifies that our graduates have completed state-required academic courses, are critical thinkers and are problem solvers. Additionally, our students will have gained employable skills and are taught values that benefit their community.

Ron Rosales (incumbent, District 6)
A high school diploma should mean — and for the most part does mean — that a student has met the requirements of math, science, English, social studies and electives in order to enter the workforce and become a productive citizen.

Hazel Stabler (District 6)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Holly Terrill (District 6)
A diploma should signify that a student has the tools required to be an active and productive member of our community and that looks different for different children. For some high school graduates, this may mean they are college bound, and for others it may mean that their focus is vocational. We should stop attempting to standardize what success looks like by saying that there is only one path.

What role should diversity, equity and inclusion training play in training teachers to work with Wichita Public Schools students?

Diane Albert (District 1)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Ben Blankley (incumbent, District 1)
Currently, our teachers and school staff are not as diverse as our students and families, in race, gender, and socioeconomic status. In order to meet our students where they’re at, and to improve student success, we must ensure our staff is knowledgeable about the various subgroups in our student body, and how each student learns best. This means our district must provide comprehensive training on DEI topics, to ensure success for all, regardless of family situation or ZIP code.

Brent Davis (District 2)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Julie Hedrick (incumbent, District 2)
One of the beautiful strengths of Wichita Public Schools is the rich diversity of our classrooms. The students of WPS represent a multitude of races, languages and cultural backgrounds. This is both the beauty and challenge for our district. It makes for a difficult environment to teach–especially for young teachers that have not had diverse exposure. Continued training, support and tools must be available for teachers to gain the background, information, attitudes and skills needed to bring to the diversity of our classrooms for effective teaching.

Kathy Bond (District 5)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Mia Turner (incumbent, District 5)
Diversity, equity, and inclusion training play a major role in preparing teachers to work with WPS students because we have such a diverse mix of children from all walks of life. Everyone has different experiences and perspectives which can help us all see more than just within our own personal bubbles. We can all learn from and teach each other regardless of our age, race, orientation, identity or socio-economic background.

Ron Rosales (incumbent, District 6)
Equity and inclusion training should be taught in university ed departments and reinforced periodically at school in-service meetings.

Hazel Stabler (District 6)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Holly Terrill (District 6)
Diversity, equity and inclusion begins with empathy. Educators must realize that even though they may not understand each student’s unique situation, every child should have an equal opportunity to learn along with access to the education materials required no matter their financial situation, the color of their skin, what part of the city they live in, their sexual identity, their religion, or lack thereof. It may not always be apparent to teachers how to approach students who are different from them or have a different background, and this is where training can help to provide educators with insights and guidance.

What would you uniquely offer as a member of the Wichita Board of Education to set the district up for long-term, post-pandemic success?

Diane Albert (District 1)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Ben Blankley (incumbent, District 1)
I bring two unique aspects to our board: I am a parent of a current USD 259 elementary student. I am also a 14-year union employee of the largest private employer in south central Kansas, and plan to make my entire career here in Wichita.

Brent Davis (District 2)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Julie Hedrick (incumbent, District 2)
The uniqueness I offer to the BOE is my passion and commitment to the success of students at Wichita Public Schools. I have been involved in and committed to WPS for over 50 years including 13 years as a student, 28.5 years as an employee in the facilities division for WPS (13 years of that as a parent of students) and seven years as a grandparent overlapping with four years service on the BOE. This intimate knowledge of the needs and function of the district plus the numerous relationships I have developed give me an edge and vital role when evaluating budgets, policies and decisions.

Kathy Bond (District 5)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Mia Turner (incumbent, District 5)
My sole motive as a member of the Wichita Board of Education is to advocate for the highest quality education and protection for our students. To do that, I also have to support and champion our teachers. I believe if the school board is successful at that, then our entire community will benefit.

Ron Rosales (incumbent, District 6)
I would offer a different perspective to the post pandemic time by being the only active teacher on the BOE, the only Mexican American, and a retired veteran. Therefore, I bring a unique perspective to decision-making going forward. I represent various demographics that sometimes don’t get adequate representation in our schools.

Hazel Stabler (District 6)
Did not respond to Beacon questionnaire. 

Holly Terrill (District 6)
I am a proponent for diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives that support individuals with disabilities, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ community. This drive to stand up for people whose voices and needs are constantly ignored is what led me to run for office, and I have so much more to offer.

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Garcia is an education reporter at The Wichita Beacon. He is a Report for America corps member.