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Parkway school board race draws early attention over candidate’s social media posts

St. Louis city students ride a Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corporation, VICC, school bus on May 11, 2017.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
Parkway students ride a bus home. A candidate for school board in the west St. Louis County district is being called a "racist" by other parents over her social media posts.

Jeanie Ames is running for the Parkway school board on a manifesto of good taxpayer stewardship and continued academic excellence where “all learners ... feel safe, appreciated, and challenged.”

But several parents say Ames’ social media postings portray someone with racist viewpoints.

She is among five candidates who filed last week to run for the Parkway Board of Education. Kevin Seltzer, Jonathan Taylor, Matthew Schindler and Amy Bonnett are also running. Ames' candidacy is igniting an unusually high level of interest for a school board race still months away.

Screenshots of Ames’ Twitter feed are circulating among parents in text messages and social media groups. St. Louis Public Radio spoke with nine parents who described Ames’ posts as “hateful,” “offensive” and out of line with the school district’s vision.

Ames’ profile, where she describes herself as politically conservative, is now protected. Archived postings align with what’s in the screenshots.  

In one post Ames retweeted an illustration calling for Islam to be banned from America. In another, she implied former first lady Michelle Obama is a rat.

Credit Provided
A screenshot of Jeanie Ames' Twitter account circulating among Parkway school parents.

Some messages point to her views on education. She retweeted a message in October that quotes actor James Woods as saying: “The World is fighting Islamic Terrorism, Starvation & Disease; but Democrats are fighting for Men to pee in the Ladies’ Room” with the comment: “Pretty much sums up my BoE run,” using shorthand for Board of Education.

Ames’ tweets show opposition to closing the achievement gap — a documented disparity in educational outcomes between minority students in low-income schools and white students in wealthy schools.

“Equity=ContrivedSocialJustice=ContrivedPoliticalCorrectness,” one Twitter post reads. Another post in the same thread, directed at Parkway Superintendent Keith Marty, says preaching equity is a “politically motivated waste of Tax$.”

Credit Provided
A screenshot of Jeanie Ames' Twitter feed provided to St. Louis Public Radio.

Ames did not return several messages St. Louis Public Radio left on her voicemail, email and social media accounts.

She's since created a new, public, account tied to her board run. "I’m a conservative running 4 Parkway BoE on a platform of district transparency, achievement,student-centered assessment,& taxpayer stewardship," she said in one tweet on the new account.

A tweet from Jeanie Ames' new school board campaign Twitter account.
Credit Jeanie Ames via Twitter
A tweet from Jeanie Ames' new school board campaign Twitter account.

Last year’s school board race also drew attention for its fervor. When Parkway updated its sex education program to a so-called “comprehensive curriculum” that included lessons on contraception, a Southern Poverty Law Center-designated hate group called Mass Resistance Missouri targeted a Parkway student and school board candidate with mailers and online postings.

“It’s alarming to me that someone would use the school board to further an agenda of intolerance,” parent Michael Walk said about Ames.

Walk and other parents said they’ve been motivated to get involved with this year’s election.

Ashley Jamison has three sons who receive special education services at Claymont Elementary. She said she was “really, really upset” when she reviewed the posts.

“I just feel like you can’t openly represent all children in a district when your postings are very prejudicial,” she said.

Ames is a lifelong St. Louis-area resident and a graduate of Parkway Central High School, according to her candidate biography. She’s a former teacher and now a stay-at-home mom of three who’s active with nonprofits focused on autism and other learning disabilities.

Current Parkway Board of Education President Beth Feldman said she’s not willing to leap to conclusions based on screenshots.

“I think it’s difficult to judge just by seeing snippets of someone’s social media posts,” Feldman said. “I can’t say that I know what she’s about or I know what any of the candidates are about. I just don’t think that would be fair.”

The board president said she began to see “nastiness” and “ugliness” in the school board elections last year that hadn’t existed before. After 10 years on the board, Feldman is not seeking re-election.

“I think we’re not putting the interest of children at the forefront of our decision making doing name calling,” she said.

Parkway schools spokeswoman Cathy Kelly said the district does not comment on individual school board candidates. She did confirm that the superintendent has received phone calls from parents regarding Ames.

Ames will be listed first on the April 3 ballot. There are two open seats on the board and the top-two vote earners in the open election will win spots on the board.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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