Archive for Thursday, March 2, 2017

Lawrence school board won’t formally interview candidates as part of process to fill vacancy

Lawrence USD 497 school board

Lawrence USD 497 school board

March 2, 2017


Lawrence school board members told the Journal-World on Thursday that the board would not formally interview the 11 candidates vying for the seat left vacant by Kristie Adair last month.

Instead, board members will review applications independently after Monday’s submission deadline, select three applicants as their top choices, then discuss the merits of those applicants at a public meeting March 13, the same meeting in which they are also expected to appoint the new board member.

There’s an option of contacting applicants before that date, school board vice president Shannon Kimball said, “but that’s left up to each individual board member.”

It’s the same process used twice by the school board to fill vacancies created by board members who left for other positions, said Kimball, specifically when Bob Byers and current president Marcel Harmon were appointed to the board months apart in 2014.

The Journal-World began inquiring about the process after one school board candidate, Steve Wallace, told a reporter that he hadn’t been contacted for an interview and wasn’t sure if he would have the opportunity to meet with board members before the March 13 meeting. He found that “lack of communication,” as he put it, puzzling and concerning.

“I would love to know the answer,” Wallace said earlier this week. “I don’t think you can make a decision based solely on the application, unless I’m supposed to be having my friends and everybody call the board members. I have no idea.”

Longtime board member Vanessa Sanburn said the board wasn’t provided ethical guidelines that would mandate how and where school board members might contact or meet with candidates during the selection process, which was loosely based on common-practice guidance from the Kansas Association of School Boards. And she defended the process Thursday when asked about its fairness.

“I think we are all fairly engaged in the community, and I think it’s fairly easy to search someone’s name and know who they are through the process of vetting candidates,” Sanburn said, adding, “We are public servants that are elected to a role, and we can meet with anyone who requests to meet with us to provide insight, guidance and general information.”

The school board, notably, differs from the City Commission in this appointment process. When former Mayor Jeremy Farmer resigned from the City Commission in 2015, his fellow commissioners embarked on a lengthy — and very public — process to find his replacement.

The City Commission first established an advisory committee to review and evaluate applications. That committee then narrowed the applicant pool down to 12 semifinalists, presenting those applications to the City Commission during a public forum where applicants were permitted to make brief statements and answer any questions posed to them by the advisory committee.

Those committee members then voted to select six finalists for the position, a list of which was provided to the City Commission in a public meeting where commissioners selected candidates to be interviewed in another public forum days later. After that public forum, in which candidates were asked questions submitted to them in advance, the City Commission met for a final public meeting to nominate and elect its new commissioner, Lisa Larsen.

But Kimball and Sanburn both argued it’s unwise to compare the City Commission and the school board. One glaring difference, Sanburn pointed out, is the relative lack of interest she said she has seen for school board races over the seven-plus years she’s served on the board. While she appreciates the idea of engaging the community in the appointment process, she also said “no one” on Lawrence’s Voter Education Coalition wanted to host a public forum when Harmon first applied for an open seat on the board in 2014.

“Maybe that’s our fault and we need to try harder to promote this,” Sanburn said. “I guess I’m hard-pressed to think that if we would have put more time and energy into hosting lots of meet-and-greet forum opportunities, that they would be well-attended enough to help us inform the decision.”

But Sanburn also said she’s “thrilled” to see the level of engagement from community members in filling the seat. Harmon agreed. He said that while the school board “typically struggles to get public notice and participation in these kinds of things," the board may have received more applications during its current appointment process than the last two appointments combined. And that, he said, is a good thing.

“Being more clear on that ahead of time,” he said, referring to giving the candidates notice of the process, is a valid suggestion. And in the future, Harmon and the board might consider making public interviews a part of the appointment process. However, he said he doesn’t see it happening this time around.

As far as what Sanburn and her colleagues are looking for in a new board member, willingness to take on the challenge of an “underfunded” Kansas school system, she said, is key. Parents and those with experience in education, Harmon said, also make attractive candidates.

And, in the face of ongoing racial equity issues (including the wide achievement gap between white students and their peers of color) that have prompted criticism of the all-white school board as of late, Harmon and Sanburn both agreed that candidates of color would be strongly considered. Kimball has also publicly said that she supports the idea of diversifying the school board.

“We definitely want someone who is willing to come at this problem with that lens,” Sanburn said. “Obviously, a person of color that brings a perspective that our board is currently lacking is important, and I think that is a quality that we have an opportunity to address in this appointment.”

The deadline to submit a school board application is 5 p.m. Monday. School board members will review applications at their March 13 meeting and then appoint one applicant to serve the remainder of Adair’s term, which ends on Jan. 8, 2018.

Profiles of applicants to fill vacancy on USD 497 school board
The Journal-World has published information, as it became available, on applications for the spot vacated by Lawrence school board member Kristie Adair.

March 10 — Lori Hutfles
March 10 — Norine Spears
March 9 — Ruben Flores
March 9 — John Rury
March 8 — Jo Ann Trenary
March 8 — Jesse Brinson
March 7 — Linda J. Sheppard
March 7 — Melissa Johnson
March 6 — Kyung Hwang
March 3 — Syed A. Jamal
March 2 — Mitzi Robinson
March 1 — Steve Wallace
March 1 — William “Bill” Roth
Feb. 28 — James Hollinger
Feb. 25 — Dr. Fatima Khan
Feb. 24 — Margaret Weisbrod Morris
Feb. 23 — Mary Loveland


David Holroyd 1 year, 1 month ago

Since they are not getting paid, it makes little difference who the three are as long as the one who bought a house for her daughter to go to a different high school is not one of the three.

Get some new blood on the board. After all they will bleed like crazy while serving.

Snarky in , over and out!

Greg Cooper 1 year, 1 month ago

" One glaring difference, Sanburn pointed out, is the relative lack of interest she said she has seen for school board races over the seven-plus years she’s served on the board."

In the past, lack of interest, in my opinion, has been from the board not being transparent about its selection procedure. At least one candidate has related that he/she came to the conclusion that it was who one knew as opposed to what one knew that made the difference. I don't know this for sure, but it seems, along with the rather disjointed way in which this process is going, that that might just be the case.

Bob Forer 1 year, 1 month ago

Sounds like they already know who they want and don't give a damn about even an appearance of following best practices

Melinda Henderson 1 year, 1 month ago

I'm not sure this policy came from the board. Sounds more like it came from Hayden and they just found out today and are dealing with whiplash.

Scott Criqui 1 year, 1 month ago

As the Chair of the Voter Education Coalition (VEC), I can address the 2014 selection/appointment process. The VEC covers ballot votes since our goal is to make sure we have informed voters. The first time the VEC did an appointment/selection process was when the Lawrence City Commission asked the VEC to assist with Jeremy Farmer's open seat. I have not heard from any school board member or school district official about the need for assistance in 2014 or this year.

The VEC would be happy to assist the school district in this process or future needs. I will reach out to the school board to open communication and to make sure they know the VEC is a willing partner.

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you for the work you and Patrick do in the community. VEC is an asset that I hope people take advantage of.

Scott Criqui 1 year, 1 month ago

Thank you, Matthew. I appreciate it you saying so.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

Public Education is a powerful economic growth issue. We need it.

I've never known USD 497 to have equity problems necessarily. This is quite a diversified district with outstanding credentials among teaching staff. Tough to beat.

In fact before locating to Lawrence about 30 years ago quality of public schools was on our table. Never mind that we home schooled our children which we did more out of convenience because of our desire to pack up and hit the road from time to time. There is a wealth of educational opportunities available to we taxpayers on the road. The list is long and deep.

However parents never know when public school will surface therefore in the event the issue surfaced we wanted good schools. Lawrence at that time was among highest rated school districts in the USA. USD 497 worked with our home school group pleasantly and professionally meaning this district was extremely helpful. Hats off to USD 497.

I commend the school boards who saw the light and took on the rehabilitation of neighborhood schools which has been a monster effort. Money well spent and fiscally responsible to say the least.

When it comes to money issues directly connected to curriculum and such look at the politicians who lost their way. Teachers should be well paid to say the least. Teachers should have college level credentials which they do.

I see USD 497 as a smooth operation once the taxpayers stopped the closing of neighborhood schools. There will be bumps from time to time no matter who is on the board.

We do like the "Blended Learning" technique. Enhance this approach at every opportunity. Expanding the VO-Tech experience at every opportunity would also be healthy for the school district.

Richard Heckler 1 year, 1 month ago

  1. Dr. Fatima Khan
  2. Margaret Weisbrod Morris
  3. Steve Wallace
  4. James Hollinger

The above are who I would select ......... of course after interviews the list might change.

Tony Peterson 1 year, 1 month ago

Not interviewing people and making a decision based on what's submitted on a piece of paper is pretty dumb. I used to be part of a hiring committee and reviewed literally thousands of resumes to select candidates and sat through hundreds of interview.

There were a lot who looked great on paper but were complete duds during the interview and some that were at the bottom during the selection for interviewing but ended up being the person who was hired. The interview is an opportunity for both the person applying and the person doing the hiring to probe deeper and ask questions.

Zoe Flowers 1 year, 1 month ago

Anyone as long as it isn't Mary Loveland. Worst thing that ever happened to Lawrence schools.

Doug Weston 1 year, 1 month ago

Loveland was on the school board when Free State HS was approved and the boundaries set. She later claimed that she "didn't know" that the house they bought outside city limits was within the LHS boundary. Depending on who you talk to, she was either granted a transfer for her daughter to attend Free State, or bought a duplex north of 15th and used it as her daughters address for registration at Free State. Either way, unethical. Since she was on the school board when the boundaries were established, she should have known where they were! And BTW, she ran for school board last year and the voters said NO! I think a lot of people will be pissed if she gets anointed...I mean appointed... :-(

David Holroyd 1 year, 1 month ago

Finally, a couple of commenters said "Loveland". Snary was afraid to spell out the name..for fear of being snarkyized..over and out.

Have to admire the board members for no pay, no say, and no's about a board member that understands money and finances and where the funding comes from to run a district that slops at the trough? Got your new valuation yet? Go figure, do the math and then come back with a candidate that can say NO, NO way, NO how, ..time to save money.

Over and out... Snarky on a really nice Sunday someplace where money is understood and valuations are real! Taxes low!

Lawrence is wasteful. BTW, is the Superintendent's wife still teaching? If so, why can't that family live on his $200,000 a year?

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