(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Tuesday, St. Joseph voters electing change by choosing three new faces to sit on the Board of Education. It's a position not envied by many as new members are coming in after a controversial election and long history of distrust on the board.
Kenneth Reeder, David Foster and LaTonya Williams secured the three seats up for vote. All eyes will be on the newly elected members and the board on what lies ahead for the St. Joseph School District, but members said they're up for the tough job ahead.
“You don’t get into something like this without knowing what you’re up against,” said David Foster, Elected SJSD Board Member.
LaTonya Williams, the first black woman elected to sit on St. Joseph's Board of Education said the first hurdle the board is going to have to tackle is mending wounds by opening an honest line of communication between the board and public then going from there.
“Our initial issue is lack of communication, lack of transparency and a lack of trust,” said LaTonya Williams, Elected SJSD Board Member.
Both Williams and Foster agree figuring out a way to include the community in decisions moving forward is key to re-establishing a base level of trust. Foster said,“If we achieve that one objective, I think some of the other things get a lot easier.”
After a resounding 'no' on the $107 million school bond initiative meant to right-size the district down from three high schools to two, the pair of two newly elected members agree they're in for a challenge finding a solution to the aging facilities and dropping student enrollment.
“I wouldn’t say I'm pressured to make them happy. The pressure I feel is to do what is best. The board has to do what is best. The people said ‘no,’ now you have to ask why,” said Williams.
Foster, who supported the school bond issue once he reviewed all the facts, said he thinks the community will be more willing to invest in a bond once they have all the information in front of them.
“I still have to factor in all the information and I have to vote according to that and do what’s right because I want to be able to lay down and sleep at night and look myself in the mirror and tell myself I did the right thing,” said Foster.
The three members were elected by the community in hopes of change to the SJSD, but members said they can't shift the direction of education in St. Joseph on their own. They said it takes the community to move on and move forward together.
“People can’t keep punishing the board for the mistakes of the old board," said Williams, "People are always asking about change, but what people don’t understand is that to get change, you have to be a part of the change.”
KQ2 has made several attempts to speak with Kenneth Reeder, but have been unsuccessful.
Reeder, Foster and Williams will be sworn in on April 19th at a board meeting. The newly elected members will serve a three-year term.