Four vying for at-large seat on Shawnee Mission School Board

A small stampede to the clerk’s office Monday and Tuesday filled out the ballots for many of April’s local elections, including the at-large seat on the Shawnee Mission School Board being vacated by Larry Winn.

Four candidates are vying for the opening, which means the district will have to hold a primary election. During the March 1 primary, two of the four candidates will be eliminated.

We caught up with the candidates yesterday to find out a little about their backgrounds and what motivated them to run:

  • Bart Altenbernd is a Prairie Village resident and recently retired Shawnee Mission assistant principal. He served at Westridge Elementary School for ten years before leaving two years ago, and had been a teacher for 15 years before that. Altenbernd has a child in the 7th grade at Mission Valley Middle School, and said he became interested in the position primarily out of a desire to make sure his child had a good experience going through the district. He said he understood how difficult the district’s budget situation was, but that he wanted to advocate for keeping teacher jobs as the cost cutting debates move forward. Altenbernd said he wished the community had been better involved in the process that led to the closing of Mission Valley. He lives in the SM East area.
  • Mark Anderson is a Mission Hills resident and call center consultant who attended grade, middle and high school in the SM East area. He said he’s “not running because he’s angry about anything,” but because he thinks he can bring some creative cost cutting ideas to the board. His said his priorities are: smaller class size, creating a teacher-centric environment, reducing technology expenditures, closing the administrative center and moving it into another building, and preventing further redistricting. Anderson’s wife is a teacher at Indian Hills Middle School. He lives in the SM East area.
  • Joan Leavens is an Overland Park resident and former kindergarten teacher who currently serves as the integration and outreach leader for One Health Kansas, a program at Kansas State University that educates people about the connections between human, animal and environmental health. She had three children who all went through district schools, and served as a PTA officer and classroom volunteer. Leavens said she views the education provided by the district as a unique economic asset to the community, and will do everything she can to maintain it. “The district will weather this bad economy and maintain its excellence,” she said. “But it needs creative leaders who have the interest of the entire district in mind.” She lives in the SM South area.
  • John St. Clair is a Fairway resident and a business consultant who currently has two children in the school system. He has served on various district committees and PTA committees and has also worked to support the district’s bond issues. St. Clair has previous political experience, having served four years on the Fairway City Council, and six years as Mayor. He said he is running because he wants to maintain and enhance the district’s excellence during these difficult financial times. “The budget problems we have are districtwide and not related to just one area,” he said. “I want to use my experience to ensure that we can keep as much funding in the classroom as possible so that the district continues to be the best it can be for our children and our community.” He lives in the SM East area.