A collage of candidates for Wichita USD 259 school board election are Jesse Borosky, Jacob Bakk, Melody McCray-Miller and Brent Davis.
Candidates for Wichita USD 259 school board’s at-large seat, from left: Jesse Borosky, Jacob Bakk, Melody McCray-Miller and Brent Davis. Not pictured: Harlan Bascombe. (Courtesy photos)

Last month, The Wichita Beacon surveyed our readers to find out what they most want to know about candidates running for local office. 

Questions for Wichita school board candidates centered on these themes: transgender protections in schools, student safety, mental health and curriculum decisions. 

Only one school board seat, the at-large seat, drew enough Wichita school board candidates to trigger a primary. Five candidates are competing in the Aug. 1 primary. Two of them responded to our questions — Jesse Borosky and Melody McCray-Miller.

What follows are their answers, edited for length and clarity. We have also included links to each candidate’s campaign page and Ballotpedia entry, which provides basic bio information on each candidate and details about the race. 

The two Wichita school board candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will advance to the Nov. 7 general election. 

Jacob Bakk

Bakk does not have a campaign website.


Harlan Bascombe

Bascombe does not have a campaign website.


Jesse Borosky

Borosky’s campaign website


Brent Davis

Davis’ campaign Facebook


Melody McCray-Miller 

McCray-Miller’s campaign website


What currently is the biggest challenge facing the school district and how do you intend to address it?

Jesse Borosky

I think some of the biggest challenges can be traced back to our strategic plan. We’ve seen improvements in our students’ reading levels, graduation rates, and certification and college credit requirements; however, there are still lingering concerns about the overall well-being of our students. 

Thus far, various task forces have identified two factors: violent/unsafe behaviors of students and mental health difficulties of students. These factors are actually inseparable. Violence, aggression, depression, anxiety, substance use, etc., are all different types of behavior, and they are all conditioned based on our environment. Using evidence-based methods of managing these problems is absolutely necessary in WPS.

Furthermore, additional factors relating to safety are not addressed adequately. The nutritional content of our students’ meals, unsafe routes to school, social isolation, contaminated groundwater, etc., are all factors that contribute to a lack of a sense of security in our community.

Melody McCray-Miller 

There are multiple critical challenges facing our school district:

  • Teacher morale, due to difficult working conditions.
  • Classroom and building behaviors involving students and the responses of teaching, administrative and support staff, that are manifesting in a high number of suspensions, detentions and expulsions with racial and gender disparities.
  • The end of the COVID funds that paid for several student-centered programs that focused on not only academics, but improving mental and emotional health of students.

I will advocate for teachers rights in the classroom and valued compensation. I will also advocate for more diversity in the classroom, so our teaching staff reflects our diverse student population. Parents are important to student success. I want to help engage more parents. I will work to create an environment that makes disciplinary actions transparent, consistent and equitable from building to building. I believe being well-informed when making decisions on budgets and potential cuts in personnel and programs is paramount. I have and will continue to attend each board meeting where the budget is discussed, in preparation for action(s) that may be required when formulating the 2024-25 budget. 

How will you support students’ mental health?

Jesse Borosky

Supporting mental health requires a multifaceted approach. We will need to not only increase the number of in-house staff members trained to manage mental health needs (i.e., social workers, clinical and school psychologists, psychiatric med providers, etc.), but also expand our relationships with community resources, including COMCARE, Mental Health Association, as well as exploring new relationships, such as offering practicum/internship positions for local university graduate students.

Additionally, adopting new curricula can boost mental well-being. As a psychologist, I emphasize research-based programs like Accept-Identify-Move by Dixon (2018), which encourages mindfulness/experiential acceptance and considers environmental factors/learning history. Educating our youth about appropriately managing problems of living is key to maintaining mental well-being and raising quality of life. 

Finally, we need systemic change. Attending to the needs of Black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), LGBT+ folks, students from low-income households and English language learners is necessary to increase quality of life. Changing from punitive discipline systems to restorative practices is essential.

Melody McCray-Miller 

I believe we as a district offer several programs that are designed to support students’ mental and emotional health. An example is the Kansas Opportunity Support Program, a joint initiative between USD 259, the Kansas Department of Education and COMCARE. This program is designed to assist students who are struggling with mental health, behavioral and emotional concerns. I think this is great, however I know that there are issues with capacity, which has created a waiting list to access the services. I would also inquire into the efficacy, or results of the program and similar programs. Some students and families need those services sooner than later. If elected I will work to identify additional funding for this program and others that can be beneficial.

What role should the school board play in discussions of curriculum? Are there specific changes you wish to see?

Jesse Borosky

I believe the current role the BoE is playing in adopting a new math curriculum is appropriate. The district has implemented evidence-supported programs as a trial in some classrooms. They then gathered feedback from students/teachers and looked at objective outcomes, comparing the new and old curricula. This is a perfect example of utilizing previous research and then adopting programs tentatively, considering contextual factors.

The BoE’s role should be restricted to adopting evidence-supported curricula. For example, if a BoE member were to suggest a curriculum without empirical support, this would be inappropriate. Likewise, if an instructor were to educate in a manner that is not empirically supported (for example, “creation science”), the BoE should step in. 

Furthermore, additions to our curricula, such as mental health-based classes like I addressed earlier, and history classes that perceive our history and institutions with a critical lens, are integral to making our students well-rounded individuals.

Melody McCray-Miller 

There is not a lot that I would change regarding the role of the school board in curriculum discussions, with one exception. I would advocate strongly for even more parent involvement at this critical juncture. Currently as it stands, when a new curriculum is being considered a curriculum committee is formed, consisting of teachers, administrators, parents and community members. I will be advocating for more parents to participate fully in their students’ learning environment, academically and socially. I know there are structural challenges, such as when, where and what time the meetings will take place … as well as systemic challenges that will want to hold fast the “status quo” way of doing things. Genuinely and fully engaging parents at this point in their students’ education will help students be more successful.

What approach will you take to addressing student behavioral issues?

Jesse Borosky

We have strong evidence demonstrating that punishments such as detention, suspension and expulsion do not adequately decrease problematic behaviors. Rather, they create a vicious cycle of the student not receiving adequate education, living in poverty and raising children in poverty, increasing the likelihood of their children having behavioral issues and starting the cycle over. It’s also notable that BIPOC and students from low-income households are disproportionately punished in these manners.

Children are more likely to behave pro-socially when their needs are met. By providing adequate nutrition, transportation, positive relationships, etc., we can curb the elevation of behavioral issues. Furthermore, it is imperative to reinforce positive behaviors. Research has demonstrated that praise for positive behaviors works far better than punishing negative ones. Token economies may be useful in this regard. Finally, restorative practices are necessary to help maintain social relationships in the school community, reducing isolation and disciplinary actions.

Melody McCray-Miller 

I believe we have to look at student behavioral issues through a holistic lens that includes the student and the issues/challenges that they may be personally experiencing that may impact their learning and consequently their behavior. We also need to factor in what the classroom management is like as well as any building inconsistencies in navigating and interpreting district policies that address consequences for what is deemed inappropriate student behavior. I will restate what I stated earlier: I will work to create an environment that makes disciplinary actions transparent, consistent and equitable from building to building.

As a result of several laws passed by the Kansas Legislature targeting transgender children, youth and teens, what steps will you take to ensure that transgender students are safe, supported by the district and teachers, protected from bullying by students or staff, able to safely use restrooms and locker rooms, and addressed by their chosen name and pronouns?

Jesse Borosky

I’ve actually raised my concerns regarding this in a public comment to the current BoE. In my address to the board, I recommended creating coed sports groups and allowing for increased use of single-stall and unisex restrooms as means of combating HB2238 and SB180 respectively.

An important way to approach this is by promoting inclusiveness. Modeling LGBT+ inclusive behaviors, such as stating our pronouns, can be simple yet effective. Other factors could include posting “safe space” signs in particular areas of the building indicating to LGBT+ folks where staff/faculty that are allies may be. Positively reinforcing the use of correct names and pronouns (both by students and teachers) may also be useful.

Finally, incentivizing faculty to encourage students to explore their identity may be helpful. Curricula that encourage critical discourse around subjects of gender roles, biological sex and identity are necessary to reduce transphobia in the present and future generations.

Melody McCray-Miller 

Respect and respectful acknowledgment of our students – and that includes every student — must be the rule, not the exception, period. I take the USD 259 mission statement seriously! To empower “all” students with skills and knowledge necessary for success by providing a coherent, rigorous, “safe” and nurturing, culturally responsive and inclusive learning community. I will actively support and vigorously defend the mission. Yes, I support addressing students by their chosen name and pronouns.

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Trace Salzbrenner is a community journalist for The Wichita Beacon. Follow him on Twitter @RealTraceAlan.