Incumbent Rina Neal has filed for reelection to the USD 475 Board of Education.
Neal will finish her first term on the school board at the end of this year.
“I’m extremely passionate about young people,” she said. “I feel like they deserve a voice and their families deserve a voice as well. When I ran in 2017, it was based on my interaction with volunteering in the school with young schools. So I feel like I am a voice for young people. Oftentimes when decisions are being made, their voices are not brought to the table.”
Neal, who has children of her own in USD 475 and who spends time to this day volunteering in Geary County’s schools, routinely interacts with younger people and feels she is a good representative for them.
“i’m here for the kids,” she said.
Neal said she is “a strong supporter of education.”
“I believe it is a passport to the future and can change a family’s trajectory,” she said. “I feel like I am approachable, relatable, an advocate, and my work experience I think leads well to my service on the board.”
Neal has a Bachelor’s degree in business-administration-accounting and an MBA from Kansas State University and a background in finance. She is a first-generation college student.
She works as the City of Manhattan’s Finance Director. She believes her background in municipal government and her background in finance is something positive she brings to the board. Neal believes she has gained invaluable experience from her time on the school board, during which time she and other members have trained with the Kansas Association of School Boards.
“I pride myself on being a learner and wanting to learn more about the evolution of education,” Neal said.
She said she believes she still has more to learn and wants to continue working with the USD 475 administration and district leaders to change policy and “create an environment that students learn and are successful in.”
For her, the possibility of her reelection is about people — and especially students and their families.
“Making sure that we work through our strategic plan and focus on what’s best for our students and our staff — we want to make sure that we are focused on high student achievement and being accountable in that regard,” Neal said. “I think that’s important. I think it’s important that we explain to families where their students are and work with families to make sure their students understand where they are as well in terms of their academic achievement and getting them to a place where they can be successful.”
Neal believes education is under pressure across the United States due to achievement gaps and staff recruitment and retention.
“Education is not a highly-sought-after profession anymore,” she said. “Just finding avenues and ways to recruit staff and retain staff is something I think is a challenge and something that’s important.”
Neal believes hiring and keeping staff of color and men is important for students in USD 475’s diverse population because students need to see themselves and their community in role models such as teachers.
“Children cannot be what they do not see,” she said. “So if they’e not seeing people that look like them in positions of education, teaching — whether it is in the classroom, as a para, as a support person, as an administrator, as a board member, as a committee member on PTAs, PTOs, site councils, then there’s no voice and no representation for them.”
Neal said she has enjoyed the diversity of thought and experience she has seen from her fellow board members and that she sees them and herself as members of a team.
“I think that it’s important that the board understands that we’re just one of seven people and we come together to do what’s best for the entire district on behalf of students,” she said.