A lot of candidate faces — and agreement — at school board forum

Candidates for the at-large seat on the board (from left) Bart Altenbernd, Joan Leavens and John St. Clair.

If nothing else, it showed how much interest there is in getting elected to the Shawnee Mission School Board all of a sudden.

A packed panel of 11 candidates shared the floor at the Kansas Families for Education school board candidate forum at Asbury United Methodist Church last night. And while the format — which limited candidates to one minute responses — didn’t allow for much discussion or insight, it did highlight the fact that there’s real competition for seats that would have gone unopposed just a couple of years ago.

Joining at-large candidates Bart Altenbernd, Joan Leavens and John St. Clair were: SM North area candidates Tim Doerr and Sara Goodburn; SM Northwest area candidates Charles Jean-Baptiste, Angelea Jeppesen and incumbent Patty Mach; and SM South area candidates Lani Kirsch, Joshua McCray and incumbent Deb Zila, the current board president.

In her opening statement, Leavens, who won the largest share of primary votes, cited her endorsements from state legislators like Sen. John Vratil and Rep. Pat Colloton — but added that she “didn’t think Topeka was the solution to our problems.” Leavens said the community needed to come together to meet the challenges the district faces.

St. Clair reiterated his belief that his experience as a business consultant and the former mayor of Fairway makes him an adept problem solver.

And Altenbernd said he wanted to see more the district become more transparent in its dealings so patrons felt like they were part of the process.

On many of the issues, the eleven candidates gave answers that varied almost imperceptibly. For a rundown of the candidates’ responses to individual questions, check out Stephanie Sawyer Clayton’s Twitter feed from last night.

A crowd of approximately 60 came out for the forum.