With one official meeting under her belt, newly appointed Emporia Public Schools Board of Education member Mallory Koci is excited to get down to business.
Koci was appointed by the board to serve out the remainder of a term vacated by Mike Helbert on Sept. 5. She will serve on the board through Jan. 2020.
“I have never really considered running for school board or anything, but I am interested in serving my community, and I think that we owe it to the places we live to do what we can,” Koci said. “Not everyone can serve because not everybody has the ability or the flexible schedule to be able to serve in this kind of office, and so I thought it’d be something that I could do.”
Koci is a graduate of Emporia State University, where she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Koci met her husband Adam at ESU and they have a 7-year-old son who attends Emporia Public Schools.
As a parent, Koci said she’s become interested in seeing how the schools are run. She said she was impressed with the smooth transition from preschool into kindergarten and beyond at Walnut Elementary, as well as how they support her son, Zephram, in the classroom.
“I give them a lot of credit for what they do as a school, especially with children who maybe have trouble paying attention,” she said. “My kiddo does have some issues with being able to sit still or follow directions. We call him ‘Squiggles.’ Instead of being reprimanded for that or told that that was inappropriate, they have provided really great outlets for him to be able to get that energy out and still focus on his study.
“So as a whole, based on a very limited experience at Walnut, I think our school system there is fantastic and I really am pleased with how they educate Zephram and how they handle him and how they kind of create an environment where he can be himself.”
Koci said she is a strong supporter of public schools and education, not only as a parent but as an educator herself.
“I do believe in having good quality education — not only for my selfish reasons with my kiddo — but also for what value it can add to you as a whole or to the county or even to the state of Kansas,” she said. “If we have quality education, we’re going to have quality educated kids that are going to grow up and do fantastic things. Everyone should support it. Even if you don’t have a kid in public school right now, you still have a benefit from that public education.”
As a clinical instructor in interdisciplinary studies at Emporia State University, Koci feels she will bring in a fresh perspective on issues that face students today. She also teaches courses for the Ethnic and Gender Studies program, which encourages students to explore deeper understandings of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and class.
“I think that it’s interesting coming from a different educational background and not being a K-12 teacher,” Koci said. “It’s certainly a whole different world, so I would never presume that my experience will translate directly to what K-12 teachers experience, because it’s a whole different set of standards and practices and rules that they have to abide by that just don’t apply at public universities. But I do think that I have experience talking about things that make people uncomfortable. In the classes that I teach, I talk about things like racism. I talk about things like age bias discrimination or sexuality and those — especially for midwesterners — can be an uncomfortable conversation.”
Koci said she was excited to join the board during the needs-based assessment process because it will give her a chance to familiarize herself with the other schools in the district. She said she’s also glad she will be part of discussions on school safety.
“That’s another uncomfortable conversation that nobody really wants to think about is their kids’ school having an intruder or having someone there, but yet it’s happened in other schools where they thought it would never happen where they thought they were protected,” she said. “We’re a small town where everybody knows each other. I think that that part of the facility assessment is also really a good thing to do. I wish it wasn’t necessary, but I think that goes a long way to making people feel safe and actually safe so they can focus on learning.”
Koci also hopes to be a “gap filler” on the board, offering a different perspective on issues that might not otherwise be considered. She said overall, she hopes her presence on the board will make it strong overall.
“I hope we as a board can strengthen our school district because you do have those different people with different ideas, all advocating for the same goal — which is have good quality education,” she said. “We all come from different angles. We can kind of see where the holes are and try to fill in those gaps.”
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