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Four newcomers challenge three incumbents for Carlisle school board seats

Carlisle school board candidates take turns answering questions while sitting at white tables on the Carlisle High School auditorium stage during a meet-and-greet event Thursday evening. There are four challengers and three incumbents running for three open seats.
Chris Welter
Incumbent Bill Jewell answers a question at a meet-and-greet event Thursday evening. There are four challengers and three incumbents running for three open seats.

Four outsider, conservative candidates are running for Carlisle School board seats. There was a meet-and-greet event Thursday night.

Residents of all ages sat in the Carlisle High School auditorium Thursday evening, listening to school board candidates debate mask mandates and critical race theory on the stage.

The candidate meet-and-greet event, hosted by the high school’s senior class, featured all seven candidates. They are vying for three school board seats.

There are three incumbents, Bill Jewell, Tammy Lainhart and Mollie McIntosh. The other four, Isaac Clark, Jane Fahrney, Amanda Morris and Susan Svarda, are newcomers.

The newcomers are all campaigning as conservatives and Christians with traditional values. Clark is endorsed by the statewide political group Unapologetically Constitutionally Conservative.

At the event, the candidates were given a hypothetical question about school funding: if the board were to vote against a state-approved curriculum, the district would lose $9 million in funding, which is almost half of their operating budget. How would they vote?

Svarda and Fahrney advocated for fighting the funding cuts at the statehouse.

“At what point do we give up these freedoms? So I think the whole problem is the way the system is set up,” Svarda said. “I know we know we've become dependent on that money.

However, McIntosh, who’s served on the board since 2017, said a $9 million loss would mean cutting valuable electives and after-school activities.

“I don't know how we could honestly function with that much of a deficit,” McIntosh said. “It would be a detriment to our students. That’s where it's going to hurt.”

None of the challengers have formal backgrounds in education. Fahrney describes herself as a “professional grandma,” while 21-year-old Clark points to his young age as a way to connect with students. Morris is a local nurse practitioner and Svarda works in sales.

Incumbents Jewell and Lainhart said their experience in education sets them apart from the others.

“I've been on the board for 12 years,” Jewell said. “I've negotiated four contracts with our union, with the teachers union. I trust what they say and they trust the negotiating team.”

Election day is November 2. For more information on where and how to vote, visit your local county’s board of elections website.

Mawa Iqbal is a reporter for WYSO. Before coming to WYSO, she interned at Kansas City PBS's digital magazine, Flatland. There, her reporting focused on higher education and immigrant communities in the Kansas City area. She studied radio journalism at Mizzou, where she also worked for their local NPR-affiliate station as a reporter.