Shawnee Mission board member forwards proposal to reinstate advisory committees similar to those disbanded in 2004

Board of Education member Brad Stratton.
Board of Education member Brad Stratton.

Brad Stratton was a member of the Shawnee Mission East Area advisory committee when it was dissolved in 2004. Fast forward 13 years, and Stratton, now an at-large member of the Board of Education, is working to get a similar set of committees reinstated.

Ahead of Monday’s board of education meeting, Stratton distributed a memo to his board peers proposing the creation of two standing advisory committees to be composed of board members and patrons. Unlike the committees that were in place through the mid-2000s, these committees would be formed around specific topics, not geography. The committees would be tasked with review of business before the district in two areas: finance, and facilities and construction.

As Stratton envisions it, the finance committee would conduct regular reviews of the district’s financial reports, make recommendations about the approval of bids and contracts, and assist in the development of the district’s annual budget presentation. The facilities and construction committee would review capital improvement projects and proposals, help develop a long-range facilities plan, and review designs and change orders on construction projects.

Stratton said he believed such committees would provide an opportunity for the district to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience among district patrons. Stratton suggests each committee should have two board members and three patrons.

“We have 140,000 patrons in this district,” he said Monday. “I think we’re missing the opportunity to engage them.”

He also argued that committees with patrons on them would enhance the district’s governance model, providing “true checks and balances” on decisions that come before the board and administration.

Though the proposal won’t come before the board for formal discussion until a later date, Stratton’s proposal appeared to have quickly gained traction with many of the candidates running for board of education. At Monday’s Shawnee Mission Area Council PTA forum, at-large candidates Heather Ousley and Mandi Hunter both cited Stratton’s proposal as a good idea for increasing community engagement. Jim Lockard, the former SM East teacher, served on the SM East council before it was disbanded, and said reinstating a similar model would be a good idea.

Craig Denny, the SM West area seat incumbent, was president of the school board back when the advisory committees were disbanded in 2004. He said Monday that while they were an “interesting tool,” they had been disbanded in 2004 primarily based on lack of participation.