Archive for Monday, November 17, 2008

New State Board of Ed member relishes election’s historic gains

November 17, 2008


On election night, Carolyn Campbell said she was stunned.

Not by her own election to the Kansas State Board of Education, but because of Barack Obama's historic presidential victory.

"I was more emotional about him than me," said Campbell.

Campbell, 66, who attended a segregated elementary school in Topeka, is the first African-American elected to the 10-member education board.

Campbell, a Democrat, won the District 4 position, which includes much of Douglas County, by defeating Republican Robert Meissner, 55 percent to 45 percent.

The year she graduated from McKinley Elementary School - 1954 - was the same year as the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education that outlawed segregation. The Rev. Oliver Brown, the lead plaintiff in that lawsuit, was Campbell's pastor.

After graduation from Topeka High School, Campbell decided to forgo college to go to business school to help out her mother, who had been widowed years earlier.

Within a year, Campbell was working for Southwestern Bell Telephone Co., where she stayed for nearly 30 years.

Just weeks after retiring from Southwestern Bell, she went to work as a "session secretary" for the Legislature at the Capitol.

She served on the Topeka school board for 12 years, and left in 2007. And she had a front-row seat to Kansas politics, becoming secretary four years ago in the office of Anthony Hensley, the Democratic leader in the state Senate.

Campbell said she and others started considering her as a possible State Board of Education candidate to replace Democrat Bill Wagnon when he announced he wouldn't seek re-election.

The board has been in turmoil for years as the balance of power swung back and forth between conservatives and moderates. One of the main controversies was the teaching of evolution. Conservatives approved science standards that included criticism of evolution, and after moderates regained control in 2006, they restored the science standards that supported teaching evolution.

Campbell said she supports the current science standards. When the smoke cleared from this year's election, moderates went from a 6-4 majority to an 7-3 majority.

Wagnon said of Campbell, "I think that she has the right ideas about what schools ought to be involved in. I'm excited about increasing the number of moderates on the board."

Campbell said the major issue before the education board now will be funding schools amid the current economic downturn. She also wants to expand early childhood learning.

Although she lives in Topeka, Campbell spent much of election night at Maceli's in Lawrence at a Democratic watch party hosted by newly elected state Sen. Tom Holland.

She said she campaigned hard in Douglas County, and it paid off.

Without the Douglas County support, she probably would not have won. The final tally showed Campbell defeated Meissner by 10,642 votes. Her margin in Douglas County exceeded that - 11,941 votes.

"I made so many friends in Douglas County," she said.

A previous version of this story contained the wrong number of moderates currently on the board.


sci4all 9 years, 7 months ago

Congratulations to Carolyn Campbell. Scott Rothschild wrote "When the smoke cleared from this year's election, moderates went from a 6-4 majority to an 8-2 majority."Wrong. The moderates only have a 7-3 majority. Creationists Ken Willard, John Bacon & Kathy Martin remain on the board.

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