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Karen Hayes picked as new Columbia Board of Education member


Former teacher Karen Hayes was picked as the new board member for the Columbia Board of Education at a special session Wednesday.

Hayes was one of the three finalists picked for the final meeting, and won the seat with five out of the six votes among board members. Other finalists included previous Board candidate Andrea Lisenby and former Board President Jan Mees.

The seat became open after Katherine Sasser resigned from the Board last month, citing recent anti-transgender state legislation as a reason. Hayes will serve out the rest of Sasser's term, ending in April 2024.

A total of 13 people applied for the seat. The rest of the applicants includes: Chuck Basye, Phil Stroessner, John Potter, Della Streaty-Wilhoit, James Patterson, Frank Aten, Sahba Jalali, Greg Brockmeier, Mike Zweifel and James Gordon.

Hayes said she was shocked to win, given that she had applied just days before the application deadline ended.

"I was just not really in a place to think oh this could really happen," Hayes said.

After earning a spot on the board, Hayes will now be the only African American woman. She said she hopes this will make a difference for other minorities in the area.

"I hope that more parents of color and citizens of color make their needs known," Hayes said. "And so I hope that I can be that conduit."

Hayes also said that more transparency is needed between board members and the community and she hopes to change this now that she's elected. An approach that makes students in the district feel appreciated, as well as making parents feel heard is something Hayes said is crucial to her.

"So if I say to you I don't feel like my child is getting a fair shot at schoo,l I can't be ready to say well they have this, have you tried this? have you tried that? No. I have to understand well what do you mean, in what areas," Hayes said.

Current board member April Ferrao said she voted for Hayes because her background working as a teacher will be beneficial to improving certain aspects of the board.

"I felt like she's someone that we can work with and would be good to work with on helping focus on areas of cps that may not be getting the focus that we need," Ferrao said.

Hayes will officially be sworn in during a regular board of education meeting on June 12.

Article Topic Follows: Columbia Public Schools

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Ryan Shiner


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