Our questions for the Shawnee Mission Board of Education candidates

Dr. Craig Denny, the SM West area incumbent, speaking at our primary forum this summer.
Dr. Craig Denny, the SM West area incumbent, speaking at our primary forum this summer.

As is our wont each election cycle, we’ve developed a five-item questionnaire for the candidates in this fall’s Shawnee Mission Board of Education races based on input from you, our dear readers.

We’ll be sending the questionnaire to the candidates for the at-large seat (Mandi Hunter and Heather Ousley); the SM East area seat (Jim Lockard and Mary Sinclair); and the SM West area seat (incumbent Craig Denny and Laura Guy).

We’ll run their responses to one item per day for five days starting Monday, Oct. 16. Here are the questions.

  • School PTAs and parent groups across the district raise varying amounts for supplementary programming and special events at their schools. Should this money be kept at the school where it was raised? Or should there be some mechanism for distributing PTA funds more equitably across the district?
  • Do you think the next superintendent in Shawnee Mission should be required to have a doctorate? Or should the board be willing to consider candidates who have not attained the degree?
  • Over the past two years, the district has chosen Apache and Rising Star — schools with relatively high concentrations of free-and-reduced lunch students — as the pilot locations for a new “innovative school” model that stresses project-based learning and includes activities designed to prepare students for the modern workforce. What’s your assessment of the innovative schools model the district is using? Would you like to see it spread to other elementaries?
  • The English language learner population in Shawnee Mission has grown sharply since 2000, with around 10 percent of all students now qualifying for ELL status. Two years ago, the district eliminated the ELL center schools that had high concentrations of specially credentialed instructors, instead shifting to a model that attempts to facilitate ELL support in students’ home schools. Do you support the decision to close the ELL centers? Why or why not?
  • If elected, you will have at least four years on the board of education to help steer the district forward. What do you hope you’ll be able to say about the district four years from now that you can’t say today?

Reminder: We’re hosting an in-person forum for the school board candidates the morning of Saturday, Oct. 21 at the Sylvester Powell, Jr., Community Center.

You can also see the candidates address issues in person next week at the Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA’s forum, which will be held at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the Center for Academic Achievement; and at the Shawnee Mission Special Education PTA forum at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 3 at the Center for Academic Achievement.