Shawnee Mission taps district veteran Paula Bunde to be new school health services chief

Paula Bunde SMSD

Paula Bunde will be Shawnee Mission's health services coordinator beginning July 1 — after 18 years in the district as a nurse and then as part of the COVID-19 team. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

The Shawnee Mission School District is welcoming a new health services coordinator, who will be in place in time on July 1, in time for the 2022-23 school year.

Who it is: Paula Bunde has been with Shawnee Mission for 18 years, first as a school nurse at Merriam Elementary (now Merriam Park Elementary) for 10 years.

Bunde then became the Apache Elementary nurse in 2014. Three years later, she helped open Arrowhead Elementary to use her psychology expertise.

When Bunde was asked to join the district’s COVID-19 response team in 2020, she said she didn’t hesitate. For the last two years, she’s helped field questions on the COVID-19 hotline and navigate COVID-19 guidelines with nurses and families.

Since she’s worked closely with outgoing health services coordinator Shelby Rebeck and helped during the pandemic, Bunde said, she felt she could help navigate nurses to get to a “new normal” post-COVID-19.

What is health services: The health services department oversees school nurses in SMSD and also is in charge of the district’s immunization efforts and other health-related policies, including schools’ response to things like vaping and head lice.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put an unprecedented strain on the department the past two years. The district’s nurses were asked, at times, to hep contact trace, adding to their workload.

The district’s health policies and response to rising and failing case numbers — particularly mask rules that were approved by the school board — also created an unusual level of public scrutiny, prompting protests at school board meetings and lawsuits, one of which made its way all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court.

Rebeck stepping down: After leading Shawnee Mission before and through the tumult of the pandemic, Rebeck is leaving SMSD.

Rebeck declined to speak with the Post about this story or comment on her time with Shawnee Mission.

Her LinkedIn profile says she has been the district’s health services coordinator since 2011.

Several district officials, including board members and Superintendent Michelle Hubbard, recognized Rebeck’s contributions to SMSD at the May 9 board workshop meeting.

Michael Schumacher, the district’s associate superintendent of human resources, told the Post in March that Rebeck had “built the [health services] department into something really, really special.”

Rebeck and her team stepped up during the pandemic, he said, and she kept “the best interest of our community” top of mind.

Rebeck is now helping Bunde transition into her new role, district officials say.

Key quote: “I am here to serve,” Bunde said. “I am here to serve our students, our staff, our families and our nurses in whatever way helps us to support our students. My underlying motto always is nurses are here to help students be healthy, safe and in the classroom learning.”