The six candidates running for the three board of education seats on this November’s ballot on Saturday addressed a series of issues that hadn’t been brought up at previous forums.
At the event, organized by the Shawnee Mission Post and hosted at the Sylvester Powell, Jr., Community Center, at-large candidates Mandi Hunter and Heather Ousley, SM West area candidates Craig Denny and Laura Guy, and SM East area candidates Jim Lockard and Mary Sinclair, tackled the future of SM North’s Indian mascot, the district’s process for open forum comments by patrons, and whether boundary changes could help correct socioeconomic imbalances at schools.
Education First Shawnee Mission filmed the event and streamed it on Facebook. We’ve embedded that video at the bottom of the post.
Below is a list of the topics the candidates address and the timecode for when answers to each item begin:
- As we are all aware, the district is going through a time of major transition, and the board will be charged with making a number of major decisions that will affect Shawnee Mission for years to come. There are likely to be differing opinions among board members about weighty issues in the coming year. Talk about your approach to coming to working as part of a group. What steps do you take to come to decisions and reach consensus (Answers begin at 8:20)
- Earlier this year, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma rescinded the permission it had granted in 1992 for the school district to use the Indian as a mascot for SM North. Following that decision, the school’s building administrators held a series of input sessions and determined they would keep the Indian as the mascot. The board of education was not involved in the decision making process. Do you believe the Indian should remain the mascot at Shawnee Mission North? Do you believe the board of education should have been involved in the decision making process earlier this year? (Answers begin at 18:00)
- At present, the board of education’s open forum procedures include a direction to patrons that “Discussion of matters related to a specific student or employee is not allowed.” The policy drew a rebuke from the American Civil Liberties Union, which said it violates patrons’ First Amendment rights, and suggested it may pursue legal action on the matter. Do you support the open forum policy as currently written? Why or why not? (Answers begin at 26:30)
- Shawnee Mission schools have major economic disparities — serving both some of the wealthiest as well as the poorest parts of Johnson County. Data suggest that at present, many schools have high concentrations of students of either high or low socioeconomic status. Would you be willing to use boundary changes as a way to address the issue? Why or why not? (Answers begin at 35:45)
- Lightning Round (Answers begin at 46:15)
• Are you in support of the continued use of the private “cluster meetings” that board members have with the superintendent before their public board meetings?
• At present, Shawnee Mission graduates get handed their diplomas by a member of the Board of Education, not the building principal. Who do you think should hand them their diploma?
• The district gets $1 million in new money tomorrow. Where would you like to see it directed?
• What are some of your favorite initiatives under way in the district right now?
• Sixth grade — should it be at the middle school level or stay at elementary?
• What’s your favorite item on the hot lunch school menu?