Six of the seven candidates running for seats at the USD 409 Board of Education table were present for a candidate forum Monday night to introduce themselves and answer questions submitted from constituents.
Candidates Allison Marschean, Deborah Eplee, and Charles Tilton are the hopefuls respectively seeking their first 4-year terms as board members. Marchean and Eplee were present at the forum. Candidate Chuck Tilton was unable to attend the forum due to a previous commitment.
Candidate Brandi Ross was initially appointed in the short term to fill a vacancy created after former Board Member Dr. Pam Rizza resigned to relocate to another state for professional reasons. Ross is running to fulfill the unexpired 2-year term that remains from Rizza’s departure.
Carrie Sowers, Diane Liebsch, and Sean Crittendon are the incumbents, each seeking to serve another 4 years on the Board.
Steve Johnson, of Benedictine College and a member of the Atchison Area of Chamber of Commerce Lead Committee, served as moderator for the forum.
The candidates were each allowed two minutes to introduce themselves, and 60 seconds to answer each question. They also answered the first question of the night: “Why are you running for school board?”
Ross attended and graduated from Atchison Public Schools two of her children have graduated and her youngest child is currently attending Atchison High School. Ross said she was encouraged to seek her initial appointment with the Board. Ross recounted her experience gained within the past six months since her appointment.
“I’ve learned it is more than one voice to make a decision,” Ross said. It takes all seven of us as board members and the community.
Ross indicated she is running because she realized a person can’t keep saying how things about how it should be unless they are willing to go and do it. She sees herself as one to be a voice for the people who are afraid to speak out to the board.
Sowers serves as the executive director of Atchison Child Care Association and has resided in Atchison all but eight years of her life. Sowers said she left as a young adult, but returned to rear her children here. Sowers attended Atchison Public Schools and graduated from AHS. A self-described servant leader, Sowers said she wants what is best for the kids.
“I want to make a difference in their lives,” Sowers said.
Sowers said currently the board has established goals to help all students to succeed in life and she would like to see these goals through like development and implementation of personal learning plans, and the growth for Highland Community College Tech Center and that is working well and she would like to continue to see through from start to finish.
Marschean, a 20-year active military veteran, served in Korea, after then orders to Leavenworth and relocation to Atchison. Her core belief is duty first and foremost to the community and the education of children.
“We all have the best intentions,” Marschean said. “We just have different ways of getting there.”
Liebsch is a 50-year resident of Atchison. Initially, Liebsch said she was a Benedictine College student when she met her husband. After marriage, she returned to St. Louis, Missouri area for a short time and the young couple. It was about that time she began her local career in education and started teaching at Bert Nash, Atchison Elementary School, and Atchison Middle School. In her post-retirement from USD 409 years, Liebsch taught at the kindergarten through fifth grade at Jefferson County North and subsequently served as principal at Saint Benedict Catholic School.
Liebsch said she is passionate about education and community.
“Strong schools equal strong communities,” Liebsch said. “I am anxious to give back.”
Eplee has been engaged with the Atchison community after she and her husband relocated here and pursued their medical careers. Their children have all attended and graduated from the Atchison Public School system. Eplee said the plans are her grandchild will be attending school in USD 409. Eplee was also employed as a school nurse for the district.
As a school parent, she served on the Capital Campaign Committee in support of the Atchison Elementary School. She said that she has been encouraged to seek a position on the school board.
Excellent Public Schools make a healthy community Eplee said. She has been involved in public schools and activities for about 40 years.
“Atchison Public Schools are part of who I am,” Eplee said. “I qualifications to make me a good board member and I have the willingness to accept board decisions.”
Crittendon is Atchison born and raised, and attended USD 409 schools from kindergarten through 12th-grade, and has also been employed with the district in years prior to his service as a board member. Crittendon has been a Board member for six years and the work on the school board and other committees and boards in the community have been ingrained in him
“Touching young lives makes me go,” Crittendon said. His civic service includes the Chamber’s Lead Committee; Live Well Live Atchison; president of Atchison United; Atchison Boys and Girls Club; and The Rock Inn Vitalization Committee.
Every school deserves an advocate and one who supporters know will see changes through and make additional changes.
Each of the candidates was asked about their highest priorities; what can be done to improve student achievements in the classroom and post-graduation skills; and what educational metrics to measure and what data to track. Metrics are things like grades points averages student awards class ranking, student performance, and things like that. What can be done to improve student achievements and successes in their post-graduate years?
Sowers, Liebsch, Crittendon, Ross, and Eplee mostly agreed it is to fully fund programs that support the different ways children learn. Their answers also indicated they share a desire to ensure students will have the abilities necessary for and life skills in their post-graduation years.
Intervention whenever student achievement is below the grade average, Eplee said like afterschool assistance/activities to educate and prepare the whole child according to their individual talents.
Jobs for America’s Graduates, commonly referred to as JAG, is what Ross said she would like to make a mandatory class at the high school level for students to learn real-world experiences and basic skills to better prepare students for life after their school years.
Liebsch said all types of metrics are necessary to know why and how the students learn and how they are doing is a measurement of students’ successes in learning.
Marschean described her priorities as accountability and trust in the organization as a whole between school board members, teachers, and students in the classrooms.
What do the students need to be taught to be better citizens?
The candidates emphasized they need to lead by example in community service, by encouraging students to vote in elections and to take pride in their community. Continue diversity training, empathy, and celebrating history.
To pick from what they want and to give back to the community, inclusion, and be proud to be Americans, Marschean said.
AES was built with diversity in mind by children in one building, Eplee said. From the beginning, the children were taught to empathize by the establishment of things like The Charlie Fund founded to help cover the medical needs of the children impacted by financial hardship.
The candidates also made closing statements. Atchison Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Atchison hosted the forum.
The City Commissioners Forum was started by Steve Johnson, moderator for the evening, who acknowledged the audience before giving short instructions to the panel. There are three city commissioners that are up for reelection in Lisa Moody, Allen Reavis and Jesse Greenly, with Bill Murphy, Michael White and David Deware all seeking a new term. White was absent from the forum. Johnson went on to tell each person on the panel to introduce themselves and to give background information about themselves.
Five questions were given to the panel for them to answer within two minutes. Highlights from each question are given below.
1. If Atchison were given a 1 million dollar grant, what would you spend it on?
Moody: Unity Street corridor, clean up the neighborhoods and keep with the plan for the future.
Greenly: Affordable housing, invest money North of Unity Street with better housing.
Deware: Leverage money, create jobs, fix streets.
Reavis: Create more jobs, work the plan already in place.
Murphy: fix Main Street, invest money into businesses.
2. How would you plan to involve the citizens in decision-making?
Moody: Commission has found out that people prefer to email or call, they can come to the meetings, is going to do a survey again, talk directly to commissioners because the people have plenty of opportunities.
Greenly: believes it is happening right now with all the opportunities the public has to reach the commissioners, need to get the citizens more involved.
Deware: need more involvement from the community, be proactive, not reactive.
Reavis: keep plugging along, there will be a survey that will be coming out for input from the community.
Murphy: he is in his business 14-15 hours per day so people could talk directly to him there, text in issues to the commission.
3. If elected what two steps would put the city on course?
Moody: pandemic was hard but we are in a better place now, we have good things in place at the city level, staff helping with finances.
Greenly: continue to be fiscally responsible, be as responsible with taxpayers money
Deware: need more street projects.
Reavis: already took it, I got elected, have balance hold on taxes, financial planning for the city is good.
Murphy: always remember who is paying for the projects, property taxes are high.
4. Do you think Main Street is healthy and successful?
Moody: downtown is healthy, gave $60,000 to 19 properties, started ecommunity in 2017, the commission has invested 1.3 million into the downtown area, need to keep the programs we have.
Greely: The downtown area is coming back since taking the mall out, now seeing cars and people patronizing businesses, headed in the right direction.
Deware: we now have a movie theatre, hotel, owners investing in their buildings, permit parking is a hindrance.
Murphy: downtown is relatively healthy because of the people who have an entrepreneurial spirit, we have been lucky during the pandemic.
5. If you had one thing to change about the zoning code(s) what would it be?
Moody: they do a good job, standard practice is in place but all in all it is fair and equal; it is a case by case basis.
Greely: not familiar with the zoning laws, don’t have any information, passed.
Deware: Zoning laws should be more relaxed, like turning a home into a duplex.
Reavis: redoing zoning laws needs someone familiar to help rewrite them, there are a lot of bandages right now, they try to be accommodating.
Murphy: Zoning is too strict we should make exceptions if needed, it has hindered our growth and should be curtailed.
5. How would you work to ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion in Atchison?
Moody: I give everyone a chance to speak, the commission did change Commercial to Unity and that was a plus.
Greely: I am here that speaks for itself, be involved, if we have the heart and mind we can overcome anything.
Deware: I’m hiring, I don’t care who you are as long as the job is done well.
Reavis: be a role model, no matter skin color or heritage, if you treat people right they will respond.
Murphy: live life and have a sound social life.
Moody: five years ago a strategic plan was made and is online, 60% of the strategies have been completed or are in the process of being completed, I have no personal agenda.
Greely: you have to stick your neck out sometimes, people don’t pay attention but things are discussed in commission meetings like the pump, the commission doesn’t go willy nilly on spending $150,000 for a pump without doing homework.
David: half of Atchison doesn’t make $50,000 per year and the commission just spent $150,000 with little communication, needed a better solution.
Reavis: is Atchison better than 12 years ago? stop putting bandaids on problems, our infrastructure is in a better place than it was before.
Murphy: I admire everyone here but it is time for a change, people who lack funds are treated the worst in this town, we need to take care of those people.
The moderator thanked the candidates and the crowd started to talk among themselves.
Four young children survive a single-vehicle roll-over accident that claimed the life of their 26-year-old mother mid-morning Tuesday several miles south of Atchison city limits.
Laporshia D. Seymore, 26, Atchison, succumbed to injuries she suffered shortly after she was transported from the crash site at 242nd Road and U.S. Highway 73 vicinity.
Seymore and her 1-year-old child were ejected from the 2002 Hyundai Santa Fe vehicle, said Undersheriff Toby Smith, of the Atchison County Sheriff’s Office. The toddler suffered what Smith described as minor injuries from the ejection. Seymore’s three other children, a 3-year-old and two 5-month old infants were also passengers in the vehicle at the time of the roll-over. The three-year-old suffered what appeared to be a minor injury to the arm, Smith said in a press release to the Atchison Globe. Both infants escaped injury. Seymore is the mother of all four children, Smith confirmed late Tuesday afternoon.
Smith said it was about 10:10 a.m. Tuesday when Atchison County Sheriff’s Office deputies, Atchison County EMS ambulance crews, and Atchison County Rescue crews responded to the areas of U.S. Highway 73 near 242nd Road. The dispatch arose from the report of a roll-over accident. A helicopter ambulance also responded to the scene.
During an investigation that unfolded, Smith said deputies learned Seymore was southbound along U.S. Highway 73 as she drove the Hyundai when for an unknown reason she left the roadway onto the right shoulder, over-corrected, and skidded back across the U.S. 73 Highway where it subsequently rolled over.
Smith said it was during the investigation when authorities learned that Seymore had succumbed to her injuries at Amberwell Atchison where she was transported by EMS ambulance for emergency care.