School board leaders on Tuesday told the Journal-World they’re pleased with the pool of candidates vying for the board seat left vacated by Kristie Adair last month.
Board members on Monday heard presentations from each of the 18 applicants, not including Daneka Vann, who did not attend that night’s meeting. Shannon Kimball, the school board’s vice president, said she was “very impressed” by the candidates, many of whom have extensive volunteer experience in the school district or boast professional backgrounds in education.
“I think the candidates are in tune with the big issues we’re facing as a district,” Kimball said. “Most of them mentioned school finance and our equity work, and those really are two of our top priorities that we will be grappling with for the remainder of this year and moving forward.”
Marcel Harmon, the board’s president, said he felt heartened by the turnout in the application process. In 2014, Harmon was selected from a field of 14 candidates to fill the open seat left by departing board member Adina Morse. That same year, Bob Byers was appointed to Keith Diaz Moore’s former seat on the school board, beating out 13 other candidates for the post.
This time around, the district received 18 applications, not counting the three candidates — Enoch Kaulaity, Victoria Anderson and Craig Comstock — who have since withdrawn their applications. It’s an indicator, Harmon said, “that we have people who really care.”
“I have some candidates that have kind of risen to the top, but I’m still thinking through that,” Harmon said on Tuesday.
“Some of the factors that I’m considering are their passion for public education, how that has come out in their statement and their application, what their experience is, I guess, and how that speaks to that passion,” he added. “I also think it’s pretty clear that we need a little more diversity on the board at this point, so having someone who has the life experience as a person of color — for me, that’s an important factor to consider.”
About half of the 18 applicants identify as people of color, and several applicants spoke Monday about being motivated to apply for the school board specifically in response to the district’s ongoing equity issues.
Also important, Kimball and Harmon agreed, is a willingness to retain the seat after the end of Adair’s term on Jan. 8. Harmon asked each of the candidates that question Monday, and nearly all said they were interested in running for the position in this year’s school board election. The filing deadline for that election is June 1, with primary and general elections slated for August and November, respectively.
Only a handful of school board meetings remain between now and June, Kimball said, and a candidate's interest in retaining the seat is “part of them demonstrating their commitment to the work that needs to be done” as a board member, she said.
Each board member will independently review applications, narrowing favorites down to three top choices, before discussing and announcing the new appointee at a public meeting March 27.
In the meantime, Kimball and Harmon are encouraging all candidates to stay involved with the school board and district. School site councils and the District Equity Leadership Team Advisory committee are both good places to start, Kimball said, as well as the Educate Lawrence advocacy group and the “Vote Yes” campaign in support of the district’s upcoming $87 million bond issue and election.
“I believe we will have a tough decision to make in choosing just one person out of that group,” Kimball said of the candidates. “It’s a great situation to be in, knowing that you have so many positive choices.”
The 18 candidates vying for Adair’s open seat are: Mary Loveland, Margaret Weisbrod Morris, Fatima Khan, James “Alan” Hollinger, William “Bill” Roth, Steve Wallace, Mitzi Robinson, Syed A. Jamal, Kyung Hwang, Melissa Johnson, Linda J. Sheppard, Jesse Brinson, Jo Ann Trenary, John Rury, Ruben Flores, Norine Spears, Lori Hutfles, and Vann.
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