Retiring Shawnee Mission East teacher James Lockard files for school board race

A teacher with 43 years experience in Shawnee Mission schools has thrown his name into the mix for the Shawnee Mission East area representative race.

James Lockard, who has taught environmental science at SM East for the past three decades, filed as a candidate in the Board of Education seat 2 race this week. Incumbent Donna Bysfield, who has held the seat since 1993, and Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA legislative co-chair Mary Sinclair have both filed in the race as well.

Lockard, who is retiring from the district at the end of this school year, said a handful of issues motivated him to seek office. His biggest concern is the amount of money the district has spent in capital outlay the past several years.

“They just spent millions and millions in capital outlay for the Center for Academic Achievement and all the Macbooks and the new [elementary] school buildings,” he said. “From somebody looking at those decisions from the inside, I had some concerns. I’d like to see a long term plan.”

In particular, he said, he was concerned about the longevity of the district’s current middle school and high school buildings.

“What are we going to do about those?” he asked. “Are we going to keep slapping bandages on them, or is there a plan to rebuild them?”

Lockard said he had also been dissatisfied with the amount of communication the district does with parents and patrons.

“I’d like to see a whole lot more communication from the public,” he said.

Lockard and his family lived in Fairway for years – his kids attended Highlands Elementary — before moving across Shawnee Mission Parkway to Mission about a decade ago. By a quirk of Johnson County Election law, although his residence is technically in the SM North feeder area, the voting precinct in which he lives — which splits both the SM East and SM North feeder areas — is assigned completely to the SM East seat voting area.

Lockard spent 12 years teaching at Indian Hills Middle School before moving on to SM East, where he’s well known for leading the environmental science classes that frequently provide animal demonstrations at community events like the Prairie Village Earth Fair. He spent four terms on the East Area Advisory Board and leads the district’s summer nature program for elementary students.

Under district policy, no district employee can sit on the board of education. Lockard said his pending retirement got him thinking about service on the board.

“When you put [my experience as a district parent and teacher] together, I think I have a good perspective on things,” he said. “I would be looking at doing this more as a service.”

A fourth candidate would need to file in the SM East area race to trigger a primary for the seat.