Key leaders

Serving on the Lawrence school board is a tough job, but we hope some able candidates will step up to the challenge.

January 20, 2011


There is no more important job in Lawrence than serving on the Lawrence school board.

Lawrence residents like to think of this as a community that values and supports education. We’re the home of the state’s largest university, for Pete’s sake. We have a highly educated population. Students educated in Lawrence public schools have gone on to prominent positions of leadership in the nation and world. We’re all about education.

Until, apparently, it comes to being willing to step up and take on one of the community’s most important volunteer jobs: serving on the school board that makes the key decisions that guide the future of our public schools.

Although the filing deadline is less than a week away, only two people have filed for election to one of four school board seats that will be filled this year. One is Marlene Merrill, who is serving her first term on the board; the other is Shannon Kimball, a member of the task force currently studying elementary school facilities. Three incumbent board members have indicated they don’t plan to seek re-election.

That’s fair. All three have served multiple terms on the board. It’s time for some other people to take a turn.

Three seats on the Lawrence City Commission also will be filled in the April 5 election. Four candidates have filed in that race, which is enough to fill the seats, but there’s plenty of room for additional candidates in both the city and school races.

Unfortunately, while serving on the school board is one of the community’s most important jobs, it’s also one of the most thankless. Board members receive no pay, but they are the targets of plenty of abuse when they have to make tough decisions. Given the prospects for additional cuts in state funding for public schools, there are likely to be many tough decisions ahead.

That’s why the community should make every effort to have smart, well-motivated people on the board that will make the decisions. Current and former board members noted in a recent Journal-World story that serving on the board is a rewarding experience, a way to make a concrete contribution to the future of Lawrence and its residents.

They are absolutely right. We hope some great candidates will surface before the filing deadline at noon Tuesday along with a cast of volunteers that will support them not only during their election campaigns but after some of them are elected to office next April.


cato_the_elder 7 years, 4 months ago

The defining characteristic of Lawrence school boards for decades has been the lack of board members who are gainfully employed in the private sector, especially those who own their own businesses or are in private sector management positions, in favor of those who either work in the public sector or are unemployed. That move has had a profound impact on the board's spending decisions, and far too few who have complained about it have been willing to run.

Many more capable school board candidates could be found if board terms were reduced from four years to two. The public education lobby has always opposed this. Perhaps in the current legislative session something can be done to rectify this situation and remove a significant barrier to running for public office.

happyrock 7 years, 4 months ago

Great. Run for office so Dolph can tell you what to do. And if you don't he will run you out of town.

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