Two newcomers, three incumbents win Lawrence school board seats; one incumbent voted out

2015 Lawrence school board election winners, top row, from left: Shannon Kimball, Jessica Beeson, Jill Fincher. Bottom row, from left: Rick Ingram, Marcel Harmon.

The Lawrence school district will see two new faces join its governing board this summer — Jessica Beeson and Jill Fincher — while one incumbent, Bob Byers, will make an exit.

Three incumbents will return to the board: current president Shannon Kimball, an attorney; Rick Ingram, a professor of psychology at Kansas University; and Marcel Harmon, an applied anthropologist who was elected to a two-year term. All other winners will serve four years.

“I’m very excited. I’m very humbled that the community has chosen me for this post,” said Beeson, a Lawrence High School graduate who works as a director of alumni and community engagement at KU. “I’m overwhelmed right now.”

Fincher, the other newcomer, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. She is a board member for the Lawrence Schools Foundation, which raises money for the district, and she manages a family business based in British Columbia.

Unofficial counts placed Kimball at the top of the field with 5,418 votes. She was followed by Beeson, 5,050; Fincher, 4,951; Ingram, 4,758; Byers, 4,015; Lindsey Frye, 2,669; and Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross, 1,819.

For the lone two-year term, Harmon defeated Mary Loveland, a 20-year veteran of the board who has not held a seat since 2011, by a count of 5,107 to 4,245. That was a reversal from the primary election in March, with two other opponents present. Loveland received the most votes then, besting Harmon by almost 500.

The candidates differed little in their positions on a range of issues thrown at them over the course of the election, placing a larger emphasis on priorities, their knowledge of education — local and statewide — and their background.

Harmon, who was appointed to the board last fall to fill a vacancy, said he thought his past volunteer work in education and his expertise as an engineer are what put him over the top in the general election.

“Hopefully enough people heard the message, I guess,” he said.

Kimball and Ingram both cited their four years’ experience on the board as a reason for their re-election. Kimball said she was excited for the continued implementation of the $92.5 million bond issue to improve buildings and construct the upcoming College and Career Center. Ingram said his priorities over the next four years included closing achievement gaps.

Beeson said she hoped it was her “message of protecting our vulnerable kids and teachers” that earned her a seat.

Byers, an administrator for the Kansas Department for Children and Families, could not say Tuesday if he would run again. He served on the board from 2009 to 2012 and was appointed to fill a vacancy last summer. He currently sits on the district’s negotiations and boundary advisory committees and said he would continue to stay involved in the district nevertheless.

“I know all the people that were newly elected; I think all of them will do a good job,” he said.

Loveland, an active volunteer, also said she did not know if she would run for the board again, but did say she would continue to support local education in other ways.

USD 497 School Board unexpired term (one seat)

Candidate Votes
1. Marcel J. Harmon 5,107
Mary L. Loveland 4,245
Precincts reporting 86 of 86

USD 497 School Board at-large terms (four seats)

Candidate Votes
1. Shannon Kimball 5,418
2. Jessica Beeson 5,050
3. Jill Fincher 4,951
4. Rick Ingram 4,758
Bob Byers 4,015
Lindsey Frye 2,669
Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross 1,819
Precincts reporting 86 of 86