The National Education Association-Shawnee Mission’s Political Action Committee on Monday released its endorsements for the upcoming school board races, throwing its support to Heather Ousely in the at-large position race and Chris White in the SM West area position race.
The group also offered a dual endorsement in the two-person race for the SM East area seat being vacated by Donna Bysfield, who pulled out of the election before the filing deadline June 1. NEA-SM PAC said both James Lockard and Mary Sinclair, who will be on the general election ballot in November, would serve SM East area residents well.
The endorsements come just over a month ahead of the Aug. 1 primaries, which will see incumbent Cindy Neighbor square off against four challengers in the at-large race, and incumbent Craig Denny facing two active challengers in the SM West area race. (A third challenger, Lee Biard, filed ahead of the deadline, but has since announced he will not actively campaign).
NEA-SM PAC members considered the candidates’ positions on a number of issues facing the district before making their endorsement decisions. Among the factors they weighed were the candidates’ desire for increased transparency from the board and administration as well as the characteristics they were looking for in a new full-time superintendent.
“These were choices we made based on where we would like to see the direction of the district going, and which candidates best reflected that,” said Beth Koon, a district art teacher who participated in the candidate vetting process.
The group’s full endorsements are copied below:
We endorse Heather Ousley for the At-Large position. Heather Ousley is a parent and attorney who has devoted large amounts of time to advocating for our public schools. She has organized annual walks to Topeka to highlight the need for increased public school funding. She has testified before legislators and District board members and regularly attends Board and Negotiations meetings. She has visibly demonstrated her commitment to transparency, community engagement, and evidence-based policy. This race has an August 1 primary.
We endorse Chris White for the SM West position. Chris White was the District bond and capital improvements supervisor for ten years. In this role, he has had countless discussions with teachers about their needs and how facilities should meet the needs of our students. He finds joy in his six years as a District volunteer (MVP) building relationships with students and staff. We are impressed by his genuine support for teachers and students and his passion for SMSD. This race has an August 1 primary.
We dual endorse James Lockard and Mary Sinclair for the SM East position. This race has a November 7 election.
We celebrate James Lockard’s 43 years of commitment to our students as an environmental science teacher at SM East, his four terms as an East Area Advisory Board member and long-time NEA membership. As a recently-retired District teacher, Mr. Lockard would bring a valuable perspective to the board about the impact of class sizes and facilities on student success as well as insight into recruiting and retaining staff.
We admire Mary Sinclair’s advocacy for public education through her extensive PTA and legislative efforts. She is a parent and a District MVP volunteer. With a PhD in Special Education and experience in education research, Ms. Sinclair is committed to student success, improving the professional learning environment for staff as well as increased transparency and public discussion.