Mar. 23, 2019

Name: Bill Birmingham Jr.
Occupation: Systems Engineer, Federal Reserve Bank
Education: Cisco Network Associate (CCNA), Network Management Degree (DeVRY University)
Years lived in LS: 14
Previous elected offices held: None

Why are you running for school board?

As a Lee’s Summit community member for over a decade and dad of 4 children who attend LSR7 schools I have spent considerable time talking with residents, participating in community meetings, coaching young athletes, attending community events and listening, learning, and researching. I’ve experienced the best of the Lee’s Summit schools and also know there are challenges that need to be addressed. With a little over 2 months until election day, I will be communicating my vision of how our school board can move forward to maintain excellence and accountability. More emphasis needs to be placed on all students graduating and being college and career ready with the competitive advantage necessary to be successful. All decision making must reflect a culture of respect and acceptance of diverse viewpoints. Our district must encourage innovation and creativity, recognizing student learning as our fundamental purpose. And, as a member of your Lee’s Summit School Board, I will represent all students and the issues important to families. #OurKidsCantWait.

What ties, personally or professionally, do you have to the LSR7 School District?

I have been a Lee’s Summit community member for over a decade and am the dad of 4 children who attend LSR7 schools (Hawthorn Hills, Summit Lakes, and Lee’s Summit West).

What other volunteer/civic involvement have you had? What have you learned from that experience?

I am the President of the Kansas City Blue Devils Youth Sports and Mentorship organization, a volunteer youth football coach, ACT Prep Administrator and college recruitment coordinator. From these experiences I’ve learned that we all have the ability to affect positive personal and social change as volunteers. In particular we can help youth be healthy, confident, connected and secure. We can advocate for policies and initiatives that positively impact our community and give back and support neighbors.

If elected, what would be your top priority as a board member?

My top priority, consistent with the LSR7 Destination 2012 plan, would be to maintain high student achievement while closing the achievement gap.

In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of our school district?

Diversity and a sense of ownership and community are our strength. Our ability to overcome and progress is our strength. All we must do is use those strengths to make our exceptional city even better.

What do you foresee being the biggest hurdle facing the district in the upcoming years?

We are growing at a rapid rate. Lee’s Summit is the destination for middle class hardworking families to want to place roots for generations, it is also the place for families who want to make sure their children have better opportunities and education than they had. To that end, we must ensure that we use the spaces in our existing schools and plan to build more schools with a diverse and qualified teaching staff to provide our students with an exceptional education.

What are your plans for returning funding to dwindling and lost extracurricular activities?

A look into our Budget and our current expenses are needed to accurately answer that question. We must make sure we continue to invest in the Arts and we do not want to lose gifted and talented young people.

How can the school district better prepare students for careers that don’t require a traditional four-year degree?

We must add and continue to progress Vocational training. There will always be a need for plumbers and mechanics, electricians and carpentry jobs. Additionally, we must continue to push on the technical side for young men and women. To have an opportunity to leave high school with advance technical certifications places them at the top of an ever competitive job market at a very young age.

How do you view the financial management of the district? Would you do anything to change it?

I have viewed the budget, it is large and complex and additional study of it is needed to properly answer this question.

Do you believe that a teacher’s evaluation should be based on student test scores?

Not entirely, while test scores are important not all kids are good test takers. Additionally, we want to make sure that students are comprehending the lessons and can apply it to everyday living.

What are your ideas for addressing suicide education and awareness at all school levels?

My thoughts and prayers continue to go out to those who have lost loved ones to suicide. We must also train our teachers to be able to recognize the signs of students who have shown signs of trauma so they can talk to counselors and allow students to know they are loved and appreciated. Also, peer counseling has shown signs in helping. We can train and encourage those who have overcome the thoughts of hopelessness and despair to encourage others their ages to overcome as well.

What are your thoughts on the community conversations regarding equity and race relations, including the board’s recently adopted LSR7 Equity Plan, and how will you help move the district forward?

As mentioned before our strength lies in our diversity, the conversations surrounding race are not harmful but are rooted in the fact we want our exceptional city to continue to progress. The passing of the equity plan was a great step. I do not believe that we should use PEG as the Center of the training as it unfairly casts teachers in a negative light but even worse it paints our African American students in an even worse light. The creation of our much needed Equity and bias training should be created “In House”. Lee’s Summit has enough qualified and diverse teachers, behavioral specialist, consultants, coaches and administrators in our city that can create the necessary training that will allow us to close the achievement gap and provide all students with a world class education.

There has been criticism of the current superintendent and administration that has gone from constructive to unreasonable, particularly on social media. How do you propose creating a constructive dialog with the community?

Honestly, there’s been a lot of negative and offensive talk that does not accurately represent our City. It has been encouraging that the morale majority has begun to speak loudly and have embraced our city’s dynamic diversity and see change as something that will make our city even better. To further this we need to have routine town house events to discuss topics related to the school district and our continuing efforts to make it better.

How do you plan to address public concerns and improve openness and transparency, including responding to Missouri Sunshine Law requests?

Regarding transparency and the sunshine law… first, I would say that each situation should be evaluated individually and in consultation with legal council. Next we should always seek to uphold transparency while respecting individual persons privacy.

What do you think the relationship should be between the city and the school district concerning plans for additional growth in Lee’s Summit?

The city in the school district should seek to have a collaborative relationship to understand our strengths, challenges and growth opportunities for the city and school district. We are all part of one community and must work together.