Lawrence father files again for election to school board; campaign to focus on technology, equity

Ronald G.R. Gordon-Ross

Lawrence resident Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross has filed for election to the Lawrence school board.

Voters may remember Gordon-Ross from his 2015 run for the school board. Two years ago, the father and IT professional said serving on a school board had been on his bucket list since high school, when his mother, he said, became the first woman elected to the school board in his hometown of Kearney, Mo.

These days, his motivation in running for a spot on the Lawrence board is much the same.

“She really taught me the value of public education, and I really believe in public education,” said Gordon-Ross, 42. “I believe that we as a society are only as strong as our ability to educate our children.”

Gordon-Ross moved to Lawrence as a college student in 1996, eventually graduating with a pharmacy degree from the University of Kansas. He now works remotely as a health care IT professional for a hospital in Montana. Of course, that’s when he’s not volunteering on behalf of his five children — Gordon-Ross has kept busy over the years, he said, helping out in the classroom, on field trips and with various school groups.

Ronald G.R. Gordon-Ross

In 2010, he also was invited to serve on a district task force to evaluate school efficiency, which ultimately led to that group’s recommendation to close the now-shuttered Wakarusa Valley School.

His own kids — ranging in age from a fourth-grader at Prairie Park Elementary to a senior at Lawrence High School — have benefited from the education they’ve received over the years, Gordon-Ross said. Now, he said, it’s his “civic responsibility” to make sure all students in the district have the same opportunities to learn and succeed academically.

“Over the last year or two, I think the board has done some really good work to make that happen,” Gordon-Ross said. “In the last six to eight months, I think some of the transparency that the community wants from the board has been lost.”

And, Gordon-Ross said, while he doesn’t necessarily disagree with “the ultimate decisions that were made,” he also wants to serve as a “voice” urging the board to “bring some of that transparency back,” he said.

Because he’s an IT professional, Gordon-Ross said, his own kids have been lucky enough to have access to high-quality technology through their dad. But, he said, he rarely saw his son bring home his district-issued iPad while an eighth-grader last year at South Middle School. While he’s excited about technology as an educational tool, Gordon-Ross also said he’s not sure an iPad, for instance, makes the most sense for middle schoolers. (Elementary school students, yes, but not so much with older kids, Gordon-Ross said.)

Part of his platform as a school board candidate, he said, would be striving for “the right balance” within the district’s technology initiatives — “you can spend a lot of money on technology and get nowhere, or you can spend a little on technology and get really far,” he said.

“I think an efficient and effective use of technology would probably be another key point, and to continue the equity work the district has already started,” Gordon-Ross said, along with transparency. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s still a lot work that’s left to be done, and that can’t get lost.”

As of press time Tuesday, Gordon-Ross was one of six candidates to have filed for the school board. The others are Jill Hayhurst, James Alan Hollinger, Kelly Jones, Steve Wallace and Melissa Johnson, who is currently serving on the board through January 2018.

Johnson was appointed to the school board after the resignation of Kris Adair in February. Hers is one of three seats up for election this year, along with those of school board president Marcel Harmon and longtime board member Vanessa Sanburn.

The deadline to file for the school board is Thursday. A primary election will be held Aug. 1 if at least 10 candidates file for the board. The general election is slated for Nov. 7.