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Archive for Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Attorney Shannon Kimball’s work on education task force confirmed desire to run for school board

Shannon Kimball is seeking a seat on the Lawrence school board. In this video, the stay-at-home mom who previously has worked as an attorney on school issues answers three questions about her campaign.

March 15, 2011

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2011 Lawrence school board election

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Shannon Kimball

Shannon Kimball

Shannon Kimball spent eight months immersed in the reality of one of the Lawrence school district’s most pressing issues: how to balance the needs of its 15 elementary schools against a dwindling pool of resources, all while upholding the community’s expectations and vision for valuable and effective education.

In the end, the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force recommended closing one school next year and pursuing consolidation from among a list of a half dozen others within three to five years.

Kimball, an attorney who put her career on hold to stay at home with two young kids, not only served on the committee but also embraces its findings as she campaigns for a seat on the Lawrence school board.

“I really feel strongly that with the task force experience that I’ve had, it’s been like an eight-month training course,” she said. “It’s been eight months of preparation, in terms of study and looking at facts, and understanding how the district works, and what the needs are in terms of facilities and instruction and programs.

“These are all issues that the board will be dealing with.”

Kimball, 37, is among nine candidates campaigning for four available seats on the seven-member board. Winners in the April 5 general election will take office in July.

As an attorney who has worked on educational equity issues in private practice and for the Georgia Department of Education, Kimball is counting on her professional experience giving her insights both appropriate and necessary for grappling with the complex issues now facing the Lawrence school district: shrinking budgets, a widening achievement gap, needing physical upgrades to buildings.

“I’m ahead of the curve, in terms of the knowledge base I have,” she said.

Her work on the task force only confirmed her desire to help lead the district.

Kimball saw how assessing the district’s facilities needs — that is, school buildings — in connection with actual and anticipated availability of resources — that is, money — could lead to a clear plan for addressing major needs in the district.

The 24 volunteers who were drawn from a variety of professional and personal backgrounds, neighborhoods and school communities, spent eight months studying the issues, collecting data, discussing values and assessing needs before recommending concrete steps for addressing shortcomings: close one school and pursue consolidating others.

The task force also established a dozen criteria to use when considering school needs well into the future.

“I’d like to see us do that same kind of work for our middle and our high schools,” Kimball said. “Having a clear vision of where we’re going helps all of us understand the steps we’re taking to get there.”

Among other initiatives she wants to pursue:

• Build effective and productive relationships. Parents at Wakarusa Valley School, for example, have established partnerships with faculty and researchers at Kansas University to help build an effective program that emphasizes STEM — that’s science, technology, engineering and math — education at the school. She’d like to see such efforts replicated throughout the district on STEM and other initiatives.

“There are opportunities we are not accessing, in terms of relationships with KU, with relationships with the city,” she said. “Especially with resources being more and more limited, we need to be working with other agencies and organizations in the community.”

• Look, listen and learn. Transparency needs to be a major priority for the board’s work and the administration’s operations, she said. Working on the task force exposed Kimball to “depth of division” on issues in schools, and she figures that improved communication could go a long way toward bridging the gaps.

“One place to start is to be sure that when someone is looking for information, it’s easy to find,” she said, citing the challenge of finding and understanding financial information, even online. “The budget, it’s difficult to use on its own terms. Let’s not make it more difficult to find, or hard to access.

“We’re a public institution. All the business we do needs to be in the public eye, completely.”

When it comes to finances, Kimball said that her approach to any budget cuts would involve preserving things considered most important to classroom instruction. Among them: Placing and keeping quality teachers in the classroom; providing quality instruction; fostering strong relationships between students and teachers; and providing professional development for educators.

“Everything else is on the table,” she said. “There’s not anything obvious, no one thing you can do to solve the problem. We’ve gone beyond the point there are easy answers.”

Kimball grew up on a family farm and attended public schools in Atwood. She went on to earn a bachelor's degree in political science and Spanish at Kansas University and then a law degree at the University of Michigan.

Today, she volunteers at Langston Hughes School. That’s where she and her husband, Jason Kimball, a hospitalist at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, have their 5-year-old son, Ian, in kindergarten; another son, Logan, is 3.

The Kimballs had lived in an urban area of Atlanta before choosing to move to Lawrence, in large part because of the public schools. Now, Shannon Kimball wants to work to make the schools the best they can be.

“I have a lot of professional experience in public schools, and I see this as an opportunity to help my community and give back to my community,” she said.

Comments

Kat Christian 3 years, 1 month ago

Well my question is: What is the School board going to do about the substandard food they feed our children? They need real kitchens in these schools with experienced cooks at the helm fixing healthy and appetizing food for our kids. I wouldn't feed my dog what they feed these kids daily. Soggy sandwiches, bread dipped in sauce, dry/hard peanut butter sandwich, watered down milk, chemical tasting/smelly salad, canned veggies. Where is the real meat, potatos and milk? When I was a kid we have meat loaf and mashed potatos and green beans with bread for lunch. Pineapple upside down cake for dessert and real milk not watered down "2% or skim milk which I think is bad for kids. They need that whole Vit D milk for their growing bones. Its the junk food these schools fee these kids and lack of exercise that is making them fat. Get back to the basics in feeding our kids. Perhaps then they will be more attentive in class and not as lethagic and moody. We don't need larger schools, we need real food for these kids. So who is going to take on this task School Board?

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logical_parent 3 years, 1 month ago

Among other initiatives she wants to pursue: • Build effective and productive relationships. Parents at Wakarusa Valley School, for example, have established partnerships with faculty and researchers at Kansas University to help build an effective program that emphasizes STEM — that’s science, technology, engineering and math — education at the school. She’d like to see such efforts replicated throughout the district on STEM and other initiatives.

I find it interesting that this concept wasn't already in place and replicated throughout the school district since KU is one of the biggest resources here in Lawrence.

Can you tell me how as a school board member you would pursue this endeavor, since you are not an administrator with the school district and do not make the curriculum decisions?

“There are opportunities we are not accessing, in terms of relationships with KU, with relationships with the city,” she said. “Especially with resources being more and more limited, we need to be working with other agencies and organizations in the community.”

If anyone should have developed relationships with KU, it should have been the eastside schools. I believe this is where the majority of the professors live and where their children attend school. I would like to thank you for pointing out in the article about Wakarusa Valley School, it seems funny to me that Wakarusa Valley School IS the only school accessing relationships with KU and able to master the feat of getting KU and the school district working together and you have voted to close it. Not so sure it was such a wise choice on your part. Please don't go "pissing off the parents" at Wakarusa and mess up a good concept. I would love for THEIR idea to come to my child's school sometime soon.

A friend of mine told me about the science night at LH, I went with my children and their friends and I spoke to the people there and asked “How can I get this at my child’s school and they informed me it was a lot of work and dedication on the chairpersons part.” Not so sure many people are willing to take on that task. Just because Langston Hughes had a science night doesn't automatically make the STEM's program portable. It seems to me that it takes time and dedication to make this program happen and many people do not have that dedication in mind.

One thing I do know that Central Junior High has an excellent science program due to good teachers but it is not as easy to replicate; that is why all the other junior high schools haven't done so already. I guess replication may not be as easy as you believe.

Since you seem to have all the answers can you look into your crystal ball and tell me when this program will come to my child’s school since you were one of the people leading the way to close Wakarusa Valley School? I hope your dance with the devil was well worth it and remember you may have jeopardized my child’s chance at learning something of value.

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gr3sam 3 years, 1 month ago

"Parents at Wakarusa Valley School . . . have established partnerships with faculty and researchers at Kansas University to help build an effective program that emphasizes STEM — that’s science, technology, engineering and math — education at the school. She’d like to see such efforts replicated throughout the district on STEM and other initiatives."

Shannon, get a clue! You voted to close the school you are now lauding!! How about this, close a school that actually puts a dent into the $3M shortfall, and send teachers from other schools to Wakarusa to learn from those teachers how to do a STEM initiative? Have PTO from those other schools learn from the Wakarusa PTO?

To parrot Synjyn, Dr. Kimball took the hippocratic oath. You appear to merely be a hypocrite!

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SynjynSmythe 3 years, 1 month ago

Apparently, Ms. Kimball knows nothing about math: she "not only served on the committee but also embraces its findings," i.e. she believes closing a school to save $351,000 will solve a $3M deficit. Is she married to a doctor? Dr. Richard Kimball? Maybe her math sense has gone "fugitive"!

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Paul R Getto 3 years, 1 month ago

Sounds thoughtful, interesting and nonideological. That's something for the voters to work with.

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