Shawnee Mission board approves hiring of former EdCounsel attorney as in-house counsel

The Shawnee Mission School District is brining on an in-house counsel in hopes of reducing total legal expenses.

The Shawnee Mission Board of Education this week approved the hiring of Rachel England as in-house counsel for the district.

The board and administration began discussing the idea of hiring a staff attorney last year in hopes of better coordinating various legal issues the district is involved in — from the execution of contracts, to real estate sales and purchases, to various types of litigation. The move comes in part in response to concerns about growing legal expenses in recent years.

England, who will start her new position with the district July 1, has most recently been of counsel at PH Business Law Advisors. Prior to joining that practice in 2017, she was employed by EdCounsel, the firm tapped by former Shawnee Mission Superintendent Jim Hinson early in his tenure to handle much of the district’s legal work. During her time with the firm, England performed work on Shawnee Mission School District business. (After retiring from the Shawnee Mission School District in spring 2017, Hinson took a job in the firm’s school governance consultation division, where he is still employed).

Shawnee Mission saw its tab for legal services, which were provided exclusively by outside firms, rise steadily during Hinson’s tenure, increasing from $178,970 during the 2013-14 school year to $714,707 in 2016-17, Hinson’s last year with the district. For the 2018-19 school year, the district spent $502,306 on legal expenses — including tens of thousands in fees to EdCounsel for the district’s defense of a First Amendment suit brought by students in relation to attempts to censor speech and press coverage of National Walkout Day protests last year.

England will be paid $131,000 per year in salary, $3,100 per year in deferred compensation, and $500 per month for an automobile allowance.

She received her bachelor’s degree from Truman State University and her law degree from UMKC. Since Jan. 2018, she has been an adjunct professor at JCCC.