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Caudillo becomes first Latino on USD500 School Board

In mid June, seven candidates competed for the vacant seat on the Kansas City Kansas USD500 school board of education. Five board members asked questions of the candidates for over two hours. Hoping to fill Vicki Meyer’s unfinished term were Nancy Browne, Irene Caudillo, Kerri-Hall Thompson, Jill Hershberger, Janey Humphries, Christal Watson and Maria Cecilia Ysaac.
In the General election on April 7, 2015 both Caudillo and Ysaac received around ten percent of the vote. It wasn’t enough to push either Latina onto the board.

Shortly after the election, Meyer announced she was resigning due to health reasons. Upon hearing about the vacant seat, both women filed for the position.
After four rounds of voting, the board narrowed the field to Irene Caudillo and Janey Humphries, but could not announce a winner. The incoming candidate had to receive 4 votes to join the board. Caudillo had three board members’ votes and Humphries had two.

The board adjourned and asked the final two candidates to return last week for another vote. In a historic appointment last week the board unanimously chose Caudillo to fill the vacant seat making her the first Latino to serve in that capacity.

Diversity in local government, public safety jobs, and on organizational boards has been a topic of discussion in the state. Representative Louis Ruiz, District 32, talked before the school board last week prior to the final vote.

He told board members that when he talks with other boards, he asks them why they have no Latino representation. Sometimes he hears back that they haven’t thought about it or it isn’t time yet.
In his remarks Luis told the board members that it was “truly time to bring a Latina representative onto the board. … This is the right time to make a statement about diversity.”

Ysaac also took the opportunity to address the board. During her three-minute speech, she appealed to the board to consider the Latino student population that is underrepresented on the board.

Ysaac, Caudillo and Ruiz were jubilant after the board announcement.

Caudillo said, “As a Latina I want to be a voice for the Hispanic population in the district, but I won’t stop there. I want to be an all inclusive voice for the 22,000 students in the district.”

Education is number one in Caudillo’s focus and she hopes to help the district give the students in Kansas City, Kansas the best education they can. She is concerned about Governor Sam Brownback’s cuts to education and has made trips to Topeka, Kansas to the State Capitol to sit in on hearings on in-state tuition for undocumented students.

“Our children’s learning must be number one. It takes everyone – parents, students, teachers and the district’s input to help our students to be successful,” said Caudillo.

A question presented to the seven candidates was how would they handle a hostile patron or staff member “It is important for people to know that they have been heard and that someone will address their concerns or problems,” Caudillo said.
During the interview process, the candidates were given the opportunity to ask the board as a whole a question. Caudillo expressed concern about the future of English Language Learners but encouraged the board to consider changing how the classes are conducted.

“I truly believe that we need to look at these students, not just as English learners but also at attaining their primary language. We bang them over the head that they have to learn English but they should have both languages.”
Caudillo told the board that she is ready to hit the ground running and be an active participant on the board.

“I am a true collaborative in this community and in my community service. I have shown over and over again how to bring people to the table and how to listen to people’s opinions. I am bringing a perspective to the table that will help us to move forward in our children’s education,” she said.

Ysaac was disappointed not to have been chosen for the board seat but congratulated Caudillo on her appointment. She told Hispanic News that she is still interested in a board position.
“I will run again for the school board,” said Ysaac. “After the April election, I had already decided that I would run again.”