In 2004, Rick Ingram was living in Dallas with his wife and a newborn daughter. Ingram is a Kansas University alum and his wife is a Wichita native, but they didn't have any plans to return to the Sunflower State.
Even so, when KU called his wife about a job, Ingram said, they leaped at the chance to head to Lawrence because "the schools here are great."
Knowing how much the public school system had benefitted him, Ingram, a professor at KU, started volunteering to give back. In 2011 he was elected to the Lawrence school board for the first time, and now he's running again, along with six others, for four spots, each worth a four-year term.
Address: 15010 Crescent Road
Occupation: Psychology professor
Education: Bachelor's degree, San Diego State University; master's and doctorate degrees, Kansas University
Family: Wife, Nancy Hamilton, and one daughter
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"I think public education is really the foundation of everything we do and everything that made this country great," Ingram said. "I want to make sure that I advocate for strong public education for the kids that come behind me."
Ingram is a psychology professor. He spent most of his life living in San Diego, where he grew up, before attending — and later becoming a faculty member at — San Diego State University. He attended KU and received masters and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology in the 1980s.
After his family moved back to Lawrence and his daughter started school, his volunteering ranged from co-founding a running club at his daughter's elementary school to advocating that the district not close any schools during the 2010 budget shortfall.
That propelled him onto the board in 2011, and he served as its president during the 2013-14 school year. He speaks highly of the board's performance during those years, having seen the arrival of new initiatives such as all-day kindergarten, blended learning (where classrooms are supplied with ample mobile devices for increased online learning), and the Advancement Via Individual Determination classes (which instruct students with average or below-average grades on good study habits).
It's those kinds of initiatives that Ingram takes a special interest in. He is often one of the most talkative members at board meetings, but seems to show added enthusiasm during classroom-related topics.
"Part of my interest in (running for the board) was I had some expertise in curriculum development, so curriculum is something I get excited about in a nerdy sort of way," he said.
Those programs will also play a big role for what Ingram said is his "top priority" for a second term on the board: improving graduation rates and closing achievement gaps.
According to the Lawrence school district, within the highest and lowest achieving racial and ethnic subgroups of students, the graduation rate gap shrunk from 41.6 percentage points from 2008-09 to 13.3 points in 2013-14. The district had an overall graduation rate of 90 percent in 2013-14 year, four points better than the statewide rate from the 2012-13 school year, the latest numbers available. Notable differences between males and females within racial and ethnic subgroups still remain in Lawrence, however.
At a candidate forum in March, Ingram said he is "hopeful that (gaps) will decrease" as programs aimed at closing them mature and more students enroll in them.
"It's important not only to decrease that gap, but increase the graduation rates for everybody," he said.