“We have amazing board members and I am blessed to serve in this capacity. I am confident that we as a team will get though this pandemic this school year and help our students to be successful. We as a board are there for our students,” said board president Randy Lopez.



BY DEBRA DeCOSTER


Randy Lopez stepped onto the Kansas City, Kansas USD500 school board in January 2020 before the Coronavirus pandemic hit in Wyandotte County. It has been a school year that no one has faced before with closing down schools early to keep children safe setting up remote learning and facing the fact that some students in the district had no internet access. When the opportunity arose this month to run for school board president, Lopez didn’t hesitate in making his decision to run for office and won the seat on the current board.

Not only is Lopez the first Hispanic to serve as board president of the school board, he will also be making history as the first board president to serve as the state decides how to open schools and how children in Kansas can receive their education without being exposed to the virus.

“We have amazing board members and I am blessed to serve in this capacity. I am confident that we as a team will get though this pandemic this school year and help our students to be successful. We as a board are there for our students,” said Lopez.

The 2020 school year in Kansas City, Kansas and across the nation has been one of uncertainty as schools had to close their doors in early spring due to the Coronavirus. Opening schools in the fall has a new look, as students in the USD500 school district are scheduled to begin after Labor Day.

In these uncertain times in the education field, Lopez felt that he could lead and could bring a new voice to the board. “Maxine Drew, former school board president has done an excellent job leading us through everything with the pandemic happening and schools going online. She did a great job in navigating us through that. I felt that this was a time that I could bring a new and fresh perspective and a different leadership to the board,” said Lopez.

As he takes the reins of board president, he will be serving a school community that is over 50 percent Hispanic and many are Spanish speaking first.

“We are one of the most diverse districts in the area and nationally. We are diverse with over 50 percent of our students being of Hispanic heritage. I am very proud of my Hispanic heritage and I am bilingual which will help me reach out to the families in the district,” he said.

After the board election last week, families and students contacted him about his new role.

“Families and students congratulated me and told me how much it means to them to have a Hispanic in that leadership role that looks like them or speaks their language. We can’t ignore that. For some families and for some students, it is a big deal that they see someone that looks like them in a leadership position. I am very proud of who I am and where I came from, but I also want to reach out to all of our cultures and be inclusive. I want to make sure that we are working to bring together all of our students, all of our cultures, to recognize and acknowledge who we are as individuals and how we can work together. That is one of the beautiful things about our board as well, we have different cultures who can bring our experiences and shared values to the table,” said Lopez.

As he looks at the new school board, he told Hispanic News, he is one member of the school board, but they are a team and he wants the board to work together as a team for the good of the district’s children.

“I am hopeful that I can bring us together and move forward especially as we are entering a year of uncertainty. I will have to lean on my teammates to help us navigate through this,” he stated.

As he steps into the role of board president, he wants to ensure that the board’s focus at all times is on valuing and recognizing the strengths of the students they serve. Several questions that he hopes to have before the board as they move forward in these uncertain times is, “what can we do that is best for our kids, are we giving them a high quality education environment and how do we make sure that we are providing for the superintendent, teachers and staff.”

He does recognize that in the past there has been tension on the school board between the members.

“We have to be united in order to do good for our students, so I hope that I can help bring more of that unity. Maxine Drew helped with that. I hope I can continue that unity piece,” said Lopez.

As he works for the students and teachers in the district, he hopes to expand out into the community and reengage businesses and community leaders to work with the district and support the children as they gain their education.

“I understand that the pandemic is having an impact on our community. But it is also time for us to think outside of the box about our education, think creatively on moving forward, what can we do differently as a district to help our families, our students get an education. This is a conversation we need to have with our superintendent, about how we can get our students back into the classroom. We need to talk with our families about how we reconnect, reengage our community to provide that foundation of success for our students. We need to make sure that all of our students have the services we should be providing for them, but also, what wrap around services can we provide to help them be a success,” he stated.

One family foundation has stepped up to help the Kansas City, Kansas USD500 students to continue their learning over the internet by providing the district with a $10,000 grant. Michael Dean of the La Soya Family Foundation has provided the monies needed for children in the district to receive an internet connection so they could attend school online.

The school board members are currently looking at a plan for the fall school term. They are reviewing what learning from home and online looked like and discussing how they can do better, what worked well and how can they improve on holding virtual classrooms if need be.

“We have learned a lot since the pandemic hit. We have a good team that is working together to come up with a plan for the school year, whether that is in classroom learning or over the internet. Dr. Charles Foust, Superintendent, loves our students and he knows their education will help them be successful. He is working alongside our board to help our students be successful,” he said.

As Lopez begins his term as board president, he is open to families reaching out to him. His email address is Randy.Lopez@kckps.org. “I will be accessible to everyone. Reach out to us, the school board, and let us know what you are thinking. I love to hear from the community and I think that will make us stronger.”