Brad Stratton elected to full term as Shawnee Mission board president, Heather Ousley named vice president on split vote

At-large member Heather Ousley will replace SM Northwest representative Patty Mach as board vice president.

The desire for continuity during a period of transition with a new superintendent versus the desire to ensure new members had the chance to gain leadership experience were competing interests in the selection of a vice president for the Shawnee Mission board of education for the 2018-19 school year.

On a 4-3 vote Monday, the board elected first-year at-large member Heather Ousley as the board vice president for the 2018-19 school year. She’ll serve alongside at-large member Brad Stratton, who was unanimously elected board president.

Ousley will take over as vice president from SM Northwest representative Patty Mach, who has served in the role since January and who was nominated to continue for the coming school year.

SM East representative Mary Sinclair nominated Mach for the vice president role. Sinclair acknowledged that with four seats on the board up for election next year, including Stratton’s at-large seat and Mach’s SM Northwest seat, there was the possibility that Mach and Stratton may no longer be on the board in January 2020, and that she understood the desire to have someone else gain experience so they could serve a full term in 2019-2020 without the prospect of a mid-year leadership transition.

But Sinclair said that on balance she believed it was important to provide some continuity given that Stratton and Mach had stepped into the president and vice president roles in January. Stratton, who was elected vice president last year, took over as president after Craig Denny, who was defeated in the November 2017 election, left the board. Mach, who has served as president before and is in her fourth term on the board, took over as vice president when Stratton became president.

“Mrs. Mach’s reappointment would provide some continuity at a time when the district is in a very critical transition period,” Sinclair said. “We’ve been in transition with new board members, with an interim superintendent, with a new superintendent. So we already do have a lot of turnover and transition.”

Mach and Stratton echoed those sentiments in comments they made supporting Mach’s continuation in the vice president role.

But the other four members of the board — SM North rep Sara Goodburn, SM South rep Deb Zila, SM West rep Laura Guy and Ousley – gave more weight to the need to train other members for leadership roles.

Zila, who nominated Ousley for the spot, said she thought it was important for the new members to get the chance to serve in leadership roles.

“Since all of the four seasoned board members will be up for election in 18 months, I thought this gives time for one of our new members to sit as vice president and kind of learn the ropes of leadership of this board,” Zila said. “I thought Heather was an excellent candidate for that, and that’s why I nominated her.”

Guy said she wanted the board to be proactive in ensuring a member not up for reelection in 2019 had experience as vice president.

“I support the nomination of Mrs. Ousley because I think we need to have someone start as vice president now to get a year of learning under her belt so that next summer we can have a president of the school board who is not up for election or is not considering leaving the board,” Guy said.

Stratton pushed for the open nominating and voting process used in this year’s leadership selection process starting in 2016 after noting that the previously used process did not guarantee board members the chance to vote in favor of a candidate they supported.