School board hosts public forum

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COLUMBIA – Four candidates are running for two open positions on the Columbia School Board.

The Columbia Board of Realtors held a forum for the candidates Thursday night to speak to the public. It allowed community members to ask their own questions of the candidates.

The theme of the night seemed to be “transparency.” Each of the candidates mentioned ways they wanted to be open with the public. This included more transparent budgets and more open discussions about school start times, boundaries and interacting openly with the public.

Incumbent candidate, Christine King, has been one of the school board members since 2009. She said she hopes to continue her membership on the board.

“I think over the last nine years, everything the district has gone through and improved upon, I have been a part of,” she said.

King said when she first got on the board in 2009, communication between board members and the community was at an all-time low.

“I pledged then that I would help rebuild those relationships and really rebuild the trust of the community,” she said.

King is running against Ben Tilley, a retired businessman and educator; Susan Blackburn, who worked for the Columbia Public Schools as a speech pathologist and reading recovery teacher; and Tyler Lero, a medical technologist at the University of Missouri.

All four candidates mentioned safety at schools and on school buses as important things to improve. Again, the candidates mentioned wanting to be open with the public about what they would do. 

“I want to be an advocate for the community,” Lero said. “Start walking around, hear the voices and what community members are concerned about and I want to have a complete accessibility policy.”

“You have to build your case for what the need is,” Tilley said. 

Tilley said they have to think “about the kids and their district” when making decisions.

Candidates agreed on things such as flyers and forums to speak to the public.

The public can vote on candidates April 3.