Special Needs Challenger Earns Support from Lee's Summit Tribune, re-typed by Debbie Shaumeyer
LS Tribune Saturday, April 12, 2008
A Race to Remember
Voters had an option Tuesday of four board candidates for three seats. Maybe the outcome was indicative of lazy voting habits, where the candidates at the top of the ballot get the most votes. Check, check, check and move on. But maybe the outcome was indicative of growing displeasure with the entrenched members of the board. Whatever happened, newcomer Sherri Tucker came close. She was just 2 percent shy of overcoming incumbent Jon Plaas, who won 5,065 to 4,679.
Plaas had a slim 386-vote separation from Tucker. However the top vote getter, Jeff Tindle, had 2,246 more votes than Tucker, and Jack Wiley had 1,878 more votes than the newcomer. Tindle was listed first on the ballot, followed by Wiley, Plaas and then Tucker. The top two candidates were so far ahead of the bottom two that it appears voters were gravitating toward Tucker. I like to think the people who make time to visit the polls are going in there knowing how they will vote, or at least with some knowledge of the candidates. Personally, I would never vote for someone I know nothing about. Sherri Tucker never hid the fact that her only platform was special education. She is the mother of a special-needs son and is part of a group of 40 people who feel the R-7 district is not providing adequate services for their special-needs children.
Tucker didn't go about this alone. Members of the Lee's Summit Autism Support Group picked Tucker to run against the three incumbents. This was her first time running for office, and she's pledged it's not her last. Plaas and the others circled the wagons during the campaign, supporting one another and alienating Tucker as a single-issue candidate. Plaas said single-issue candidates belong on the other side of the podium from school board members.
And to an extent, he's right, Candidates should be savvy enough to know that and campaign accordingly. That doesn't mean the candidate should never hold a single issue close to their heart. To me, that's how the system works. If you think government isn't working, then run for office or at least get involved. And when voters respond like they did here, we should all take them seriously. I can't say whether there's a problem with special education services in the R-7 district, but there's a growing movement of families out there who are saying that. "I don't feel like we lost," Tucker told me during a telephone interview. "We got our message out there and to me that's a win."
I agree, and to run up right against sitting school board members in Lee's Summit is admirable. The incumbents here are typically strong candidates with almost instant support from community leaders. The topic of special education is an emotional and complex one. These students have different needs and different individualized education programs. Some students have to find some services outside of the district and some are able to stay in regular classrooms. The bottom line is they are students, and they deserve as much attention as anyone else.