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Columbia School Board President Won't Seek Re-Election

Columbia School Board President Darin Preis said Monday he will not seek re-election for a fourth term in the spring.

The April 3 election will decide who will fill two three-year seats on the seven-member board. Candidates could begin filing for the election Tuesday morning. The two candidates who filed the first day are incumbent Christine King and newcomer John T. Conway.

Preis served three terms on the board, the first from 2005 to 2008, until he lost a bid for re-election. He was the board vice president at the time.

In October 2012, Preis was appointed to the board to fill an opening for a year. He kept his seat for the remaining two years of the term in 2013 when no challengers ran; he was re-elected in 2015. The school board elected him as president in April.

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Peter Stiepleman thanked Preis for his time on the board.

“Mr. Preis, thank you for your selfless service to our community and our children,” he wrote in a tweet. “You never shied away from giving the voiceless voice.”

In addition to Preis, the spot held by King will be open for candidates for the April 3 election. She filed to run for re-election.

King was elected to the board in 2009 and has served three terms, including time as vice president and president of the board.

“I just believe that there’s still more work to be done, even though there will always be work to do with public education,” King said. “Some of the work that will be coming up over the next three years I have a pretty strong interest in.”

She said some of these upcoming topics include the building of the new middle school, state funding issues and collective bargaining. She also stressed the importance of transparency.

“When I ran in 2009, it was on the platform of open and honest communication and transparency,” King said. “I believe now more than ever we need to work hard at telling our story and retain that open and honest communication.”

King said this transparency is especially important when it comes to money.

“A high priority for me is making sure our community knows and understands that when we say we need money, to really make sure and communicate how we’re spending the money, and we’re spending it the way they want it,” King said.

King said open communication is also important when discussing changes to attendance boundaries of schools in the district.

One of King’s main motivations for running is wanting to support Columbia students. Her son graduated from Hickman High School last year and her daughter is currently a sophomore there.

“It’s about educating our students so that’s always the reason why I want to run and the reason why these things are important to me on the board,” she said.

King said she expects Preis will continue to support education after he leaves the board.

“He’s been great to work with and I’m sure he’ll remain an active member of public education,” King said. “I think we’ll still see him around.”

The other candidate who filed on Tuesday is Conway, who has served on the Water and Light Advisory Board for years. Conway is a retired engineer who worked in the U.S. Department of Agriculture and in private practice.

A desire to give back to the community after Conway’s own experiences with education is part of the reason he decided to run.

“In my personal life, my education has meant a lot to me,” Conway said. “I grew up in a family of 12 and was fortunate that I got to go to college. That educational opportunity brought me out of poverty, and I would like to provide others opportunities through their education so that they could be prepared to be good citizens for our community.”

Conway has a history of working with children and education. He’s held positions at the Columbia STEM Alliance; the Stand By Me mentoring program at West Boulevard Elementary; Central Methodist University and Coyote Hill, a home for abused or neglected children. 

He said running for the school board is part of his lifelong goal to support education.

“One of my personal core values is serving others,” Conway said. “And I think at this juncture in my life I’ve acquired various skill sets that would apply to being an effective board member.”

Conway cited his familiarity with the community and his experience with education as motivations for running. His wife worked in the school district for years and his two children attended schools in Columbia.

“I’ve lived here in Columbia for 48 years so I know the community and know the school system,” Conway said. “With my wife being a longtime public educator, I have had a daily conversation about public education for the last 48 years.”

When it comes to governing boards, Conway said he has experience being one of five members of the city’s water and light advisory board for 28 years. He has been its board chairman for the past 12 years.

Conway said if elected, he’d like to use his background, with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in public administration from MU, to be a good spokesman on the board for STEM- and finance-related topics.

Those interested in running can file at the office of the board secretary at the district’s administration building from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. The filing deadline is Jan. 16.

Candidates filing Tuesday will draw numbers for order on the ballot. Those filing later will be listed after them, in the order they filed. The office is closed for filing Dec. 22-29, Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.

Candidates must be at least 24 years old, a U.S. citizen and a resident of the Columbia School District who has lived in Missouri for at least one year by election time.

The last day to register to vote for the April 3 election is March 7.