Voters all across the Shawnee Mission School District will have at least one contested race to bring them to the polls in April.
Mark Read of Overland Park is challenging incumbent Cindy Neighbor for the at-large seat that is up for election this year. In the other two spots the incumbents are unchallenged with filing closing at noon today.
Read is the father of a third-grader at Trailwood Elementary who has been active in PTA and the Shawnee Mission Area Council, serving as treasurer in both. Read is SM South and Baylor University graduate who spent years as an IT professional leading a global sales team for Oracle. Read says his job kept him on the road, nationally and internationally, constantly. He knew it was time to quit, he says, when he was on a conference call while his wife was in labor.
Eight months later, Read and his wife (a high school math teacher) had closed up the house, purchased a sailboat and headed out from Seattle to Alaska with their young son. When it began to snow, they turned south to Mexico and spent the next four years stopping in ports throughout Central America and the Caribbean, returning just in time for kindergarten roundup by a matter of minutes.
Read’s involvement in school issues began in earnest when he organized citizen meetings around the plans to close Diemer Elementary and move students into Trailwood. That led him to attend board meetings. “I have an analytical mind and I believe that having a representative who is data driven and has a personality to repeatedly ask the hard questions will be a benefit to both the board and our school district.”
Read also points to the changing demographics in the district, marked by free and reduced lunch increases, saying it is “imperative” to focus on these students so they graduate “career and college ready.” He advocates expansion of signature programs, halting the trend of “mega” elementary schools, focusing on reduction of large class sizes, reintroduction of foreign language into elementary schools, expansion and retooling of Enhanced Learning programs, restoring media and library purchases and increasing the quality of food service to students.
“I believe it is vitally important to have a parent with children currently enrolled in the district, serving on the Board of Education. I also believe we need to hire and retain top level teachers and principals, and then provide them with the absolute highest quality resources and support to meet those high standards.” Read lost a race for state representative in the fall and Neighbor lost a bid for state school board.