Marlene Merrill, a former Lawrence school administrator, is ready for a comeback.
But it's not to work as an educator in Lawrence again.
Merrill, 62, wants to use her education background to plan the future of local public schools.
She is one of the eight candidates running for four seats on Lawrence's school board. The election is April 3.
"Education needs to be able to address our changing economy and our increasing technological needs," Merrill said at a recent candidate forum. "We want all of our students to be productive citizens, productive workers, to be able to work in teams cooperatively with others and to be problem-solvers."
Merrill took early retirement in 2003 after working for 12 years as the district's director of assessments. She is now a research and testing specialist for Kansas City, Kan., public schools. She has two adult children and three grandchildren.
"I think my background of working in education over the past 30 years has strengthened my abilities to work in this environment and provide new leadership," she said.
Merrill said the school district has three challenges to face during the next few years.
The first is to strengthen early literacy education and to provide for a full-day kindergarten program, she said.
"Full-day kindergarten is essential in a competitive economy," Merrill said. "All students need the skills of school readiness. Full-day kindergarten is the answer to learning in the later years as well."
The school board also faces the challenge of communicating with parents who have children in school and other adults, she said.
"We are becoming more of a community of retired people as well as families who don't have children," she said.
She said the third challenge is provided by No Child Left Behind.
"This law appears to be narrowing the curriculum," she said. "So we need to make sure, as a school board, that we're addressing the needs of gifted and talented students as well as students who have learning needs."
The school board also needs to make sure elementary teachers have enough planning time during their work day, she said, and that the district maintains early retirement benefits.
In order to attract quality teachers, the school district should start its recruitment process earlier, Merrill said.
The district waits to establish its budget until the Kansas Legislature decides how much state aid will go to the local district each year. Lawmakers usually don't make those decisions until the end of April or early May.
"In that delay, you lose a lot of good teachers," Merrill said.