The recent recognition of SM East as a National PTA School of Excellence is noteworthy in its own right — but it also has an unprecedented element: It marks the first time anywhere in the country that a principal and PTA president have been paired up at two different schools that earned the distinction.
Principal Scott Sherman and PTA President Margo Mikkelson were in those roles when Indian Hills got the honor a few years ago. Sherman moved on to become SM East’s principal in 2018, and Mikkelson became the high school’s PTA president last year.
The National PTA School of Excellence program challenges schools to identify an area for improvement and have the PTA work closely with the school to make progress. At SM East last year, the PTA chose improving school safety and emergency preparedness as its goal. Working collaboratively, the SM East PTA and administration set out to set clear expectations for staff during emergencies, empower students and staff to make the best decisions for how to respond to emergencies, and help parents, students and staff better identify people who might be a threat to themselves or others.
The school also worked to build strong relationships between Student Resource Officers assigned to the building and students.
“It got to be so that by the end of the year, you could really tell there were positive feelings between the kids and the officers,” Mikkelson said. “That is an important line of communication to have open.”
SM East was one of five Shawnee Mission School District buildings to earn the recognition this year. The Belinder Elementary PTA, East Antioch Elementary PTA, Tomahawk Elementary PTA and Indian Hills Middle School PTA all earned the award as well.
Five of the seven schools to earn the recognition this year were from the Shawnee Mission School District. SM East was the only high school in the state to earn the honor, and Indian Hills was the only middle school in the state to earn the honor.