Shawnee Mission school board proposals: didn’t the process work?

Parents applauded after a speaker made the case for keeping Brookwood feeding into SM East at the community meeting hosted by the district.

Amid the many comments made during the open forum at Monday’s meeting, Shawnee Mission School District board members and administrators heard one message time and again: the process the district used to introduce and get input on its boundary change and school closure proposals was broken.

Parents said the process lacked transparency. They told board members they felt their comments and suggestions had fallen on deaf ears.

“You shut out your patrons. You shut out your teachers. And it ended disastrously,” said Shawnee resident Kathy Cook at the meeting.

But two days after the board’s votes (and postponement of some of the more controversial proposals), it’s worth asking: didn’t the system work?

None of the proposals that had drawn significant protest from district patrons passed. And board members told the audience several times that they had been inundated with calls and emails, which impacted their decisions.

“We have heard what you have said,” said board member Donna Bysfield, who represents the SM East area. “Our concern is about the budget, which will not be easily or quickly remedied.”

Superintendent Gene Johnson said that over the course of the 11 community meeting the district held more than 200 people had spoken and another 220 had submitted written questions. Moreover, the district responded to 30 formal written requests for records, and received more than 300 emails.

At the end of the meeting, board member Susan Metsker, who represents the SM North area, said her email box was chock full of messages from local parents.

“I want you to know that this process does work,” Metsker said. “Is it always fun? Maybe not. But it works.”

It was, in fact, the input of district parents that convinced Johnson removing the Mission Valley and Antioch proposals from the agenda was the right move.

“This was a decision we made after having some internal discussions and after having heard from our patrons,” Johnson said. “It was the way we thought we ought to go.”