Gone for nearly 15 years, advisory groups set to return to Shawnee Mission School District

Superintendent Mike Fulton said he plans to reintroduce advisory councils to the school district.

Shawnee Mission School District Superintendent Mike Fulton announced this week that he has taken steps to reinstitute a channel of communication between the central administration and different stakeholder groups that’s been gone for nearly 15 years.

Fulton told the board of education in an update on his first three months on the job Monday that his administration was forming four new advisory groups: one for teachers, one for parents, one for students and one for classified staff.

Though the structure of the groups will differ from the advisory councils that existed up until 2004, which were organized around high school attendance area, they will largely mimic the original councils’ function: providing a standing channel for two-way communication.

“The advisory groups are extraordinarily helpful,” Fulton said. “I get to hear what’s on their minds. I also get a chance for us to share what’s happening big picture, not just in Shawnee Mission but also in the state of Kansas and how that impacts our work here.”

The teacher council has already held its first meeting, Fulton said, noting that the administration had reached out to building principals to solicit the names of teachers who would be interested in participating. The parent council — which will include individual school PTA leaders — will meet soon.

The district is still working to form the student and classified staff groups. Fulton said those groups would be up and running by the second semester.

State statute required the Shawnee Mission School District to maintain an advisory council for each high-school area following the rocky battles over district consolidation in the late 1960s. The councils, the thinking went, would help ensure that the central administration was getting consistent feedback from the school communities that had been leery about giving up local autonomy by joining Shawnee Mission.

When the requirement to maintain advisory councils here was eliminated by the legislature in 2004, the district simply dissolved the groups.

Current school board president Brad Stratton was a member of the SM East area advisory council board at the time, and lobbied for their preservation even without the legal requirement that they persist. Last year he told his fellow board members that he was interested in having them reintroduced in some form.

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