Shawnee Mission thanks long-serving board members, begins new era with swearing in of fresh faces

Board President Brad Stratton congratulated (from left) Laura Guy, Mary Sinclair and Heather Ousley after they were sworn in.
Board President Brad Stratton congratulated (from left) Laura Guy, Mary Sinclair and Heather Ousley after they were sworn in.

It was a night of major transition at the Center for Academic Achievement.

More than 100 people — district officials, community leaders, teachers and parents — gathered in the building’s lobby Monday to recognize outgoing board of education members Craig Denny, Cindy Neighbor and Donna Bysfield for their combined 64 years of service. That group then headed into the board room to welcome their replacements, new members Laura Guy, Heather Ousley and Mary Sinclair.

Interim Superintendent Kenny Southwick addressed the crowd assembled for a reception honoring the three outgoing board members.
Interim Superintendent Kenny Southwick addressed the crowd assembled for a reception honoring the three outgoing board members.

The two ceremonies served as the symbolic end to an intense campaign and election cycle that saw more voter engagement and more turnover on the board than at any time in a generation.

In brief remarks made to the audience — packed with the new members’ supporters and family members — Ousley and Sinclair thanked the volunteers who worked on their campaigns.

“I know that I am the tip of an iceberg. I am not sitting here tonight because of myself,” Ousley said. “I am sitting here tonight because of the work of literally hundreds of people and thousands of voters and concerned folks of the Shawnee Mission School District. Tonight is your night. I am humbled to be participating in it in this way.”

Guy recounted a story about how her mother’s students in Des Moines, Iowa, told Guy when her mother died in 1994 what a huge impact she had had on their lives. She said it served as a reminder to her about how crucial what happens in the classroom is to public education.

“Being on the board is important, but at the end of the day, it’s those one-to-one relationships, the teachers who are working with the students, that are changing lives,” Guy said. “I’m happy to have the honor to support that as a member of the board.”

The meeting also marked the ascension of at-large member Brad Stratton to president of the board, a role in which he’ll serve as a key figure in the selection of the next superintendent. On Jan. 20, the new board will go into a closed session with consultants from the search firm Ray and Associates to review a selection of applicants for the job.

“We’re going to hit the ground running,” Stratton said, “Spend some time looking at these folks and finding the best one to serve our district moving forward.”

The board elected SM Northwest representative Patty Mach to serve as board vice chair for the remainder of the school year.

Video of the outgoing board members’ remarks at their reception is below:

Reception for outgoing SMSD board members

Posted by Shawnee Mission Post on Monday, January 8, 2018