Shawnee Mission school board seats new members, elects Heather Ousley president

Jamie Borgman (from left), Brad Stratton, Sara Goodburn and Jessica Hembree took the oath of office for the Shawnee Mission Board of Education Monday. Borgman and Hembree were seated for the first time this week following their elections in November.

The Shawnee Mission Board of Education swore in two new members Monday and unanimously elected at-large member Heather Ousley to serve as president for the coming year.

New SM Northwest representative Jamie Borgman and new SM South representative Jessica Hembree took the oath of office for the first time after being elected in November to replace outgoing members Patty Mach and Deb Zila, who each stepped down after 12 years of service. Stratton, an at-large member, was sworn in to his second term and Goodburn, the SM North representative, was sworn in to her third.

Merriam resident Heather Ousley, seen above at a candidate forum during the 2017 election cycle, was unanimously named board president Monday.

In remarks at the start of the meeting, Stratton, who had served as board president the past two years, and who led the process to hire a new superintendent in 2018, noted how significantly the make up of the board has shifted in recent years. Just two years ago, three members of the board had served for around two decades each. Today, Goodburn is the most senior member with eight years experience. Five of the seven current members of the board have served two years or less.

Stratton said he was excited about the cohesion among the group and felt they were poised to set the stage for a successful second half decade for the district, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

“We are a very young, new board. But I’m very confident that we are the board that can begin to help mold the next 50 years,” Stratton said.

As part of the annual organizational meeting required by state law, the board unanimously elected at-large member Heather Ousley to succeed Stratton as board president.

The seating of the new members and change in board leadership comes as the drawn out dispute over a teachers contract nears its final stages. Both the administration and the National Education Association-Shawnee Mission last week made arguments before a state-assigned fact finder, who will issue a report with his recommendations about how the parties should come to terms in the coming weeks. The board may be tasked with giving an up or down vote to a contract based on the fact finder’s recommendations if the parties can’t reach a deal themselves.

Ousley appeared to acknowledge the significance of the moment in remarks after she accepted the board presidency.

“Had I known a year and a half ago the exact moment and the timing and context of what it would be like to step into the role of president, I likely would have had a significant deal of hesitation about stepping into the role of vice president,” she said. “I think that we are at a fairly monumental time for the district… So I want you to know that I don’t take this lightly. And I do it with a tremendous deal of trepidation. And a tremendous amount of concern that I do it to the best of my abilities.”

SM East representative Mary Sinclair was elected to take Ousley’s place as vice president.