© 2024 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Three of four conservative challengers win seats on Wichita school board

Diane Albert, Kathy Bond and Hazel Stabler won seats on the Wichita school board.

A slate of conservative challengers fell just shy of securing a majority on the Wichita school board on Tuesday.

Three of the four challengers edged out incumbents after a partisan race that focused on mask mandates, critical race theory and other national issues.

In District 1, Diane Albert finished ahead of incumbent Ben Blankley with 56% of the vote, according to unofficial results.

In District 5, challenger Kathy Bond edged Mia Turner with 53% of the vote.

Hazel Stabler won the District 6 seat with 44% of the vote, topping incumbent Ron Rosales’ 30% and Holly Terrill’s 25%.

Incumbent Julie Hedrick, a retired architect and former director of facilities for Wichita schools, was the only incumbent to win re-election. She defeated challenger Brent Davis 50% to 45% to keep the District 2 seat.

Albert, a homemaker, said the election results reflected voters’ frustration with the current school board.

“The people of Wichita have spoken out, and they want common-sense values brought back to our school board,” she said.

“People want their kids to be educated. . .They don’t want to be indoctrinated. They don’t want to be told what to think.”

If Tuesday’s results are certified, the winning challengers – all precinct committeewomen for the Sedgwick County Republican Party – will take office Jan. 10.

Bond, a substitute teacher, opposes mask mandates and repeatedly denounced critical race theory during her campaign, even though it is not taught in Wichita schools.

At a GOP watch party in Old Town on Tuesday night, she said school board members should engage more with parents.

“There is such a frustration nationally that has come down to the local level, that they want to get involved,” Bond said. “Parents are afraid that they will not be able to get that involved in their child’s education or curriculum.”

Stabler, who is retired, worked as a paraeducator in Wichita. She said her first priority as a school board member will be collecting information.

“To learn the ropes because I don’t know what goes on,” she said. “So I’ll be anxious to learn and research and do whatever I need to do to be a good school board member.”

The Wichita school board uses a hybrid voting system in which primary elections are district-only but the general election is at-large. So voters throughout the district had all four races on their ballots.

Tuesday’s results could signal changes for a school board that has been at the center of protests about mask mandates, critical race theory and other topics.

The incumbents faced criticism over COVID-19 restrictions, including their decision to start last school year with remote-only classes for secondary students and to require masks in schools.

Both the challengers and incumbents campaigned as slates, which is unusual for nonpartisan school board races, and both got support from larger organizations.

The challengers were endorsed by the Sedgwick County Republican Party and prominent local Republicans, including U.S. Rep. Ron Estes.

A campaign flier for the incumbents was paid for by the Bluestem Fund PAC, which gets contributions from the National Education Association and other unions.

Suzanne Perez reports on education for KMUW in Wichita and the Kansas News Service. You can follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.

The Kansas News Service is a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio focused on health, the social determinants of health and their connection to public policy.

Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished by news media at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.