(Editor's note: this story has been updated to include Tara Grassie's response.)
FRONTENAC — USD 249 School Board candidates recently shared their reasons for running for the school board in the upcoming November elections.
There are six candidates running for the USD 249 Board of Education: Megan Fry, Veronica Davis, Anthony Menghini, Seth Nutt, Tara Grassie and Mike Bitner. The candidates weighed in on their reasons for running in response to inquiries from the Morning Sun.
“My service on the USD 249 Board of Education and the SEK Special Education Interlocal has been both extremely rewarding and challenging,” Fry said. “I have learned from my service that the challenges faced by public school districts are particularly complex.
“That being said, my desire to continue to serve the residents of Frontenac is grounded in my belief that USD 249 is a critical component of maintaining an outstanding quality of life for all residents, including children, parents, extended family members, and the general community.”
Fry said if she were elected, her efforts will specifically focus on the following: “Improving educational programs specifically, supporting FLE/FJH Redesign development, early childhood education and career and college preparation; Support a variety of extra-curricular activities including music, art, and theatre; Serving as a responsible steward of public funding; Continue to listen to the concerns of stakeholders to develop plans for the continual improvement of USD 249 programs and services including construction of FEMA approved classroom construction; Work with district staff to insure compensation, instruction, and opportunities for students remain competitive and address ever changing needs of families.”
For Nutt, being on the school board would allow him to continue “working and advocating for the education of all children” in the USD 249 school system, he said.
“As a life-long community member and graduate of Frontenac schools, I value the education I have received as well as the sense of community and family that has been instilled in me by our educators,” he said. “As a Board member, I bring classroom teaching experience as well as knowledge of the inner workings of a school system.
“Today, I continue to work in the education field, specifically working with career and technical education students and teachers. This allows me to have knowledge of what post-secondary institutions and industry are looking for in our graduates.
“I look forward to continuing to establish our District's vision and goals for the future while ensuring that each of our students are provided with a safe and nurturing environment for success!”
Menghini said he is running for school board to “represent and be a voice for our community.”
“I have been a member of the school board for the past eight years,” he said. “Our school district has achieved great things during this period due to the outstanding teachers, administrators and all staff members employed by the district. The support we get from our community is what makes everything possible.
“I have a deep love for our school and town having grown up and graduated from Frontenac. My father and grandfather also grew up and attended frontenac schools. I have three sons, Ryan (senior at Pittsburg state), Jake (Senior at Frontenac) and Mario (freshman at Frontenac). If re elected, I would do my best to make good common sense decisions to benefit both district and community. It would be an honor to continue serving the community and school.”
One of the candidates, Davis, said she has attempted to get her name removed from the ballot. It was too late, however, because they have already been finalized for printing. Davis said she will not be serving on the board if elected.
“When I decided to run for USD 249 school board I did so with the intent participating 100% of the time in board activities, but not sacrificing my family in doing so,” she said. “Due to some scheduling conflicts and activities that my child is participating in, I would have to miss moments in her life to attend board events.
“This is not something that I am willing to sacrifice as my child will only be young once. Therefore, I am asking that NO ONE cast their vote for me in the upcoming election. I need to be mom for right now, more than I need to be on the school board.”
Grassie’s life’s adventures allowed her the opportunity to experience primary and secondary education in 12 different schools, spanning seven districts, and in four states, as either a student or parent—or both, she said.
“Born in Pittsburg and having roots in Crawford County (more specifically Frontenac), I have always viewed Frontenac as ‘home’,” she said. “A graduate of Pittsburg State University, I sought career growth and advancement in the Kansas City metro area and returned home over a year ago so that my children can attend Frontenac, USD 249.
“Having a broad experience in K-12 schools—both top-rated highly funded districts, as well as, underprivileged districts—has afforded me the opportunity to see strengths and weaknesses across the spectrum,” she said. “What draws me to Frontenac and what I feel is their greatest asset, is the commitment of the teachers, staff, and coaches who collectively embrace and nurture the well-being and growth of our students.
“As a member of the board, I want to further enhance and nurture this commitment along with them. As a marketing professional, I see the value and importance of transparency, engagement, and communication and as a board member, I can utilize my professional experiences to foster and connect the Board of Education, the students, the teachers and staff, and the parents. As a single parent and sole provider of two Frontenac students, I too am affected by policy changes enacted or approved by the board. I am ready and willing to bring a level of diversity and a voice to the board with that responsibility in mind.”
Bitner could not be reached for comment.