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Kansas City Strip

Kansas City's newest school board member is a spelling-class act.

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The Twilight District, Episode Six: Fast talk made all the difference for Robert Stringfield Tuesday night as he flattered his way into the hearts of Kansas City school board members, winning a biracial majority as two runners-up with stronger and better-spelled résumés fell victim to -- what? -- the board's fear of selecting a stereotype?

"I have multi-experience and loyality to the district," reads Stringfield's application essay. He is a "gran-parent" at home and a "people's manager" on the job. He has a "paralegal" -- that might be a degree, or it might be a companion back at the bungalow; we're not sure. He learned some good stuff in a program "sponcered" by "Greater Kansas City Council."

Elma Warrick -- who's no dummy but often plays one on TV and radio -- was impressed that Stringfield addressed each board member by name; she cast five votes for the white man during the marathon balloting. Warrick and Al Mauro formed the core of Stringfield's support, while Michael Byrd and Lee Barnes voted for Ray Wilson, a dedicated volunteer who looked like a damn fine candidate on paper, not to mention in person. He is black (like 60 or 70 percent of the district's students) and perhaps thereby cursed by Byrd's and Barnes' loyalty so soon after they shot off all four of their feet on October 15 trying to explain why black people will vote Byrd back into office, but white folks won't.

As she presided over vote after deadlocked vote, board president Helen Ragsdale flip-flopped from casting her own ballot for Stringfield, then Wilson, then back to Stringfield to get a warm body on the board.

Harriet Plowman and Patricia Kurtz also changed their votes after first selecting Ingrid Burnett, the smartest candidate if master's degrees and education certificates mean anything.

Not voting at all was Duane Kelly, who might as well have rested his Rip Van Winkle beard on the desk and slept through the meeting. Not voting is apparently a "no" vote, if we've properly decoded Kelly's postmeeting boast: "I don't like abstentions. When was the last time you heard me abstain?"

In the hallway, two candidates who'd garnered no votes pondered their interviews before the board. "Now wait," Dan McBee said to Robert Ontman. "If I'm for state accreditation, that means I'm for the state takeover." Dan, if you really want to help out, please quit telling the world you're a "product of this district."

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