School board considers changes to process for electing president, vice president; looks to formalize expectations of members

Shawnee Mission at-large board member Brad Stratton.
Shawnee Mission at-large board member Brad Stratton.

The Shawnee Mission School District board of education is wrestling with the best approach for nominating and electing its president and vice president ahead of the state-mandated selecting of board officers next month.

The issue arose as a sticking point last year, when at-large board member Brad Stratton voiced concern that the approach currently in place did not give board members a guaranteed opportunity to vote in favor of a candidate, and that it allowed a board member who would be campaigning for reelection to his or her seat to be serving as board president during the time he or she could be voted out of office.

The process currently in place — which is not formally documented in any district policy manuals — allows board members to nominate candidates for the president and vice president roles, and then directs the board to vote on those nominations in the order they came in. So if the first person nominated for the president role has support from four or more board members, he or she would become the new president without any other candidates’ names coming up for a vote.

Stratton argued during the board’s work session last week that a better approach would be for the board to cast ballots for all of the nominees at the same time, with each member getting one vote. If none of the nominees garnered the four votes necessary for election, the two nominees with the most votes would advance to a second ballot.

“I don’t get to vote for anybody, under the current process,” he said last week.

Stratton also raised concerns during the board officer elections last year — which accounted for two of the four non-unanimous votes by the school board out of nearly 2,200 taken during Superintendent Jim Hinson’s tenure – that the timing of the officer elections in July, as mandated by state law, meant that a school board member could be serving as president at the same time he or she was up for reelection.

Such would be the case if Craig Denny, the SM West representative who currently serves as board vice president, were to be elected to the presidency. And, over the past several years, the pattern has been for the current vice president to be elected to the president’s seat. Denny, who has served on the board for more than 20 years, is facing challenges from two candidates for the SM West seat, former district capital project supervisor Chris White and pastor Laura Guy.

The officer election process is just one of the issues the board is considering as part of a new manual of procedures for board members. Denny led a committee to help draft the manual, which puts into writing a number of guidelines and policies that have been informal to date. Last Monday, the board spent time reviewing the first sections of the manual, including a section on “Expectations of Individual Board Members,” which includes the following guidelines, among others:

  • Do not surprise or embarrass the superintendent or other board members in public.
  • Do not use board position for personal or partisan gain.
  • Recognize conflicts of interest, whether real or perceived, disclose such interest to the board president and superintendent and recuse yourself from related actions.
  • Respectfully listen to stakeholder comments. Refer stakeholders to appropriate school personnel who can assist them.
  • Take no private action that will compromise or embarrass the board, the administration or the district.

The full list of expectations in the draft document is copied below. The manual draft in its entirety is embedded after that. The document can be downloaded here.

Expectations_SMSD_Board

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