Chris White, a retired architect and engineer who worked as the bond and capital improvements supervisor for the district for a decade, has filed in the race for the at-large position on the Shawnee Mission Board of Education currently held by Cindy Neighbor.
White is the second candidate to formally file for the seat. Brian Koon, who recently stepped back from his role as a lobbyist for Kansas Families for Education, announced he was running in late March. While Neighbor announced in February that she intended to seek a sixth term in office, the county election office shows she has not formally submitted her paperwork.
White said he was compelled to seek the seat by a desire to build consensus among the board and “present a positive approach” to issues facing the district. He said that he believes the district could to do a better job communicating the rationale for some of the decisions it’s made in recent years, from changes to its library programs to spending on infrastructure, and wanted to work to restore a feeling of trust between the district and its patrons.
“How do we make these decisions for the kids? The bottom line is that the decisions have to be made for the best interests of our kids for the future,” White said. “They need to have more forums. Bring the board out and let the community ask them its questions.”
He also said he was concerned about the financial issues facing the district, and believed the district need to take a hard look at its reserve funding, as well as its capacity for future bond issues.
White has lived at his home in Overland Park in the Shawnee Mission West area since 1988, he said he believes his longevity in the area and deep experience with school facilities would make him an asset to the board. As an architect, he was intimately involved in the design and construction of a number of metro area schools, including the construction of Blue Valley Northwest and its adjacent athletic complex in the late 1980s and the renovation of Shawnee Mission West in the mid-1990s. He worked for the Shawnee Mission School District from 2004 to 2014.
White and his wife do not have children, but he said his own experience in Kansas public schools — he grew up in Winfield — as well as his experience working for the district and on efforts to support the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation made him a passionate booster for local schools.
“I am a product of public school education, and I’ve had a good life because of it,” he said. “And I want other kids to have that. It’s a passion.”