Candidates address 6th grade alignment, distribution of PTA funds, youngest students’ iPad use at Shawnee Mission Post forum

Board member Cindy Neighbor is seeking her sixth term in office. Photo by Belinder Elementary student Olivia Senter.
Board member Cindy Neighbor is seeking her sixth term in office. Photo by Olivia Senter.

On Saturday, nearly 80 district patrons gathered at the Antioch branch of the Johnson County Library for our forum for the at-large Shawnee Mission Board of Education candidates. We asked the candidates — Mandi Hunter, incumbent Cindy Neighbor, Heather Ousley, Robert Roberge and Fabian Shepard — five questions about issues the district will face in the coming months and years. Education First Shawnee Mission recorded the event and posted it on YouTube.

If you missed the forum, we’ve embedded the video at the bottom of this post. The five questions, and the corresponding time on the video when the candidates begin answering each, are as follows:

  • 1.) The current procedure is for members to have small group briefing sessions with the superintendent in the days before a public board meeting. It is in these small meetings — not in the public sessions — where board members and administrators have discussions about items on the agenda and possible concerns. Are you comfortable with this set up, or do you think more of those discussions should take place in a public setting? (Answers start at 7:30)
  • 2.) For years, Shawnee Mission’s legislative platform has officially called for a change to the school finance formula passed in 1992, pointing out that it shifted Shawnee Mission tax dollars to other districts. The formula approved by the legislature last month largely mirrors the 1992 formula. Are you comfortable with that approach to school funding, or do you think Shawnee Mission should continue to call for significant changes to the funding formula? (Answers start at 16:45)
  • 3.) In May, the district’s commission on 6th grade alignment issued its report, looking at the advantages and disadvantages of shifting 6th grade to the middle school setting. Do you think 6th grade should remain in elementary school or move to middle school? How should the district make its decision on the matter? (Answers start at 27:45)
  • 4.) School communities across the district often raise funds for their individual PTAs or school foundations. With a growing disparity in income levels at various schools in Shawnee Mission, do you think these funds should be distributed equally across the district, or should they be kept wholly in the school communities where they are raised? (Answers begin at 37:45)
  • 5.) Medical associations and advocacy organizations like Common Sense Media in recent years have put out recommendations encouraging parents to limit screen time for young kids. Given those recommendations, what’s your opinion about Shawnee Mission schools using iPads as the primary teaching tools for kids in kindergarten through 3rd Grade? (Answers begin at 48:10)