Your Shawnee Mission Board of Education election primer

Candidates running for the Shawnee Mission Board of Education discussed a range of issues at our forum at the Johnson County Library Central Resource Branch.

Advance voting in person began Monday, Oct. 28 in Johnson County and Election Day is Tuesday, Nov 5. As residents start heading to the polls to cast their ballots for the Shawnee Mission Board of Education and other races, we’re putting together our election primers to give people an easy way to find out where the candidates stand on the issues.

SHAMELESS PLUG: No other news outlet devotes as much attention to giving Shawnee Mission area voters a way to find out where candidates running for local office stand on the issues facing our community. If you value having a news outlet provide this kind of coverage, we hope you’ll consider becoming a subscriber if you aren’t already.

Who’s on the ballot

Three of the four seats up in this year’s cycle have contested elections. Brad Stratton is running unopposed for re-election to his at-large seat on the board. To see which of the other race may be in your area, you can you can look up your sample ballot via the Johnson County Election Office here.

The candidates in each race listed below. We’ve linked to their campaign websites where possible.

School District Member 1 (SM North area)

School District Member 3 (SM South area)

School District Member 5 (SM Northwest area)

Candidate Questionnaires

Earlier this month, we published the candidates’ responses to the questionnaires we developed with input from our readers. You can find each of the five questionnaire items linked below:

  • Question 1: Since last fall, a group of parent advocates have raised persistent questions about the district’s 1:1 technology initiative. Among the concerns they’ve voiced is that elementary students have been exposed to inappropriate content on their district issued devices even with the filtering technology the district has in place, and that students are spending hours of screen time each day on their devices. Are you comfortable with the implementation of the 1:1 initiative at the elementary school level? Why or why not? Read the answers here.
  • Question 2: What’s your view of the board of education’s relationship to the superintendent and administration? How much accountability and oversight should the board be exercising over district staff? Read the answers here.
  • Question 3: Relations between teachers and the administration have been strained at times in recent years, with secondary teachers raising concerns about their six-section teaching schedules, and the NEA-Shawnee Mission dissatisfied with contract negotiations. What’s your view of the current status of administration-teacher relations in SMSD? What, if anything, do you think the district should be doing to improve them? Read the answers here.
  • Question 4: The district is considering a new bond issue that would in part pay for the demolition and reconstruction of three schools in the near-term, with the potential for other building replacements possible in the mid-term. Do you support the idea of a new bond issue that would in part fund building replacements? What process should the district be using to identify priority projects for the bond funds? Read the answers here.
  • Question 5: There have been two high profile incidents involving guns in the district this year, with a shooting near Highlands Elementary and students bringing guns to school at Hocker Grove. Some parents have expressed frustration with what they perceive as a lack of communication about those incidents. Was the district’s response to these incidents adequate in your estimation? If not, what should be done to improve communication about such incidents? Read the answers here.

Candidate forums

Earlier this month, we hosted an in-person forum for the school board candidates. You can watch the video of the forum below. Topics covered during the forum are noted with time codes below.

Shawnee Mission Board of Education Candidate Forum

  • Was the vote to approve the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars on the 1:1 technology initiative the right one? Why or why not? Discussion starts at 10:45.
  • The student population in the district has gotten increasingly diverse, but the staff has remained overwhelmingly white. What can the district do to recruit more teachers of color? Discussion starts at 25:00.
  • With guns found at Hocker Grove three weeks ago, are you comfortable with the district’s efforts to communicate to parents about these kinds of incidents? Discussion starts at 39:00.
  • Do you think creationism should be taught side-by-side with evolution in schools? Discussion starts at 45:50.
  • Should secondary teachers in Shawnee Mission be teaching six sections each day? Discussion starts at 46:20.
  • Would you support a policy to eliminate cell phone use in the classroom? Discussion starts at 47:45.