Shawnee Mission superintendent announces 3 new advisory groups, says much of work will be open to public observation

Shawnee Mission Superintendent Mike Fulton. File photo.

The Shawnee Mission School District is set to convene three groups tasked with fleshing out parts of the recently completed strategic plan, Superintendent Michael Fulton announced on Monday — and the groups’ work will be open and observable to the public.

That openness is a notable change from the work of the Digital Learning Task Force, which met earlier this year in closed door meetings and whose work was criticized by some members as being “designed to silence critics and stifle debate.” The Shawnee Mission Post filed a Kansas Open Meeting Act violation complaint against the district for closing the Digital Learning Task Force meetings from observers. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office informed the Post this summer that it was continuing to investigate the complaint.

Fulton presented information to the board of education Monday on the newly formed Real World Learning Task Force, Facilities Task Force and Site Council, noting that they were just the first of a series of groups that will be formed to advance specific portions of the strategic plan. Fulton first discussed the idea of implementing such advisory groups last fall.

“Some of them are going to be open for public observation,” Fulton said of the new advisory groups. “If people would like to come and observe the conversation, they can.

Here’s a look at the groups announced Monday:

• The Real World Learning Task Force will be looking at steps the district needs to take to ensure every student has a “personalized learning plan that prepares them to be college and career ready and have the interpersonal skills needed for life success.” Part of this work is made possible by an $80,000 grant the district received from the Kauffman Foundation. The group will be made up of a wide range of teachers, parents, counselors administrators, business and community leaders and district officials.

• The Facilities Task Force will look at the state of current district facilities and consider what projects might be funded by a future bond issue. Funding from the bond issue approved by district patrons in 2015 has been almost completely allocated, and leaders are now looking at a new phase of building replacements and facilities upgrades. If approved by voters, the bond issue would not require a tax increase, district officials say. That group has the following meeting dates set:

  • Tues. Sept. 10, 5-6:30 p.m. at the Center for Academic Achievement, Room 2043
  • Tues. Oct. 1, 5-6:30 p.m. at SM East
  • Tues. Oct. 8, 5-6:30 p.m. at SM Northwest
  • Tues. Oct. 15, 5-6:30 p.m. at SM West
  • Tues. Oct. 22, 5-6:30 p.m. at SM South
  • Tues. Oct. 29, 5-6:30 p.m. at SM North
  • Tues. Nov. 12, 5-6:30 p.m. at the Center for Academic Achievement, Room 2043

• The District Site Council will be charged with “representing the district’s parents, community and business/industry.” Up until 2004, the district had a group of parent-led advisory committees organized around each high school. They were disbanded in part due to lack of participation. But in recent years, members of the board have suggested that getting input from patrons who are not employees of the district was an idea that had merit. The first District Site Council meeting will be next Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. at SM West.