Two years ago, motivated by a desire to “give back” to her community, Norine Spears ran for a spot on the Lawrence school board.
Now, as one of the 19 official candidates vying for the seat left vacant last month by Kristie Adair, the communications consultant and mother of three says she’s driven by “a lot of the same things” that fueled her 2015 campaign.
“The school board does represent the community, and it’s good to have the perspective of people on the ground,” says Spears, 48. “While being here on the ground, I have been active in parent-teacher organizations and site councils and trying to help identify challenges and find solutions where possible. We have a lot of initiatives in our district right now, and we need to make sure they’re working from a practical standpoint.”
Spears says she grew up in South Dakota, eventually matriculating to South Dakota State University and earning bachelor’s degrees in communications and political science. Since settling in Lawrence 13 years ago, the communications consultant has seen one of her kids graduate from Lawrence High School and has another set to graduate this year. Her youngest, a sophomore, attends classes part-time at both LHS and Lawrence Virtual School.
As a communications professional, Spears says she believes she can help the district with its ongoing outreach to parents, students and others in the community. Part of that, she says, is the district’s upcoming rollout of the 1-to-1 device program this fall at Free State High School and Lawrence High School. Spears says she’s done “everything from IT work to project management” in her career, and feels she could help make the district’s technological transition a smooth one.
Improving communication between the district and those stakeholders, including school staff, is one of the school board’s goals for the 2016-2017 year. The board and district leadership have been criticized in recent months for what has perceived as a lack of communication and transparency surrounding the controversial investigation of a South Middle School teacher who had allegedly made racist comments during class last fall.
In the months since, overarching concerns about equity — including the confusion, as some students have described it, surrounding the reporting process for such incidents — have remained at the forefront of many board meetings and community discussions.
“They’re frustrated that they don’t even know the process,” Spears says. “It’s something that I think the school board is obviously aware of, but we can look at the processes that other districts do and see what works for them and what we can implement here as well.”
Spears also says she’d like to see more involvement from “different ethnic groups” in school site councils. She says the site council at Lawrence High School has been “somewhat successful” in its efforts to engage with parents of color, but “not as successful as we’d like to be.”
“Equity is a huge issue,” she says, and it isn’t limited to race. “It just comes down to communication. Not only that, but the willingness to get to the root of the problem and follow through with a solution.”
Norine Spears is one of 19 official candidates to apply for the school board seat vacated by Kristie Adair. The school board will meet with candidates during its regular meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.
Profiles of applicants to fill vacancy on USD 497 school boardThe 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