Lawrence school board seats new members, schedules 6 superintendent candidate interviews

Standing from left, G.R. Gordon-Ross, Melissa Johnson and Kelly Jones raise their right hands as Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew, right, swears them into the four-year terms on the Lawrence school board they won in the November 2017 election. Seated is school board member Rick Ingram. Gordon-Ross and Jones are new to the board; Johnson first joined the board with her appointment to a vacant seat in March 2017.

Two new Lawrence school board members quickly got immersed Monday in the district’s search for a new superintendent by helping determine the six candidates who will be interviewed for the position next week.

The meeting opened with Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew swearing in Melissa Johnson, G.R. Gordon-Ross and Kelly Jones to their seats on the school board. All three won their first four-year terms on the board in November, although Johnson was appointed in March 2017 to a vacant seat. Jones and Gordon-Ross won the seats of Vanessa Sanburn and Marcel Harmon, both of whom opted not to run for re-election.

About an hour after being seated, the three newly sworn-in members joined the rest of the board in an executive session to determine the six superintendent candidates to be interviewed next week. Last month, Ryan Ray, president of search firm Ray & Associates, shared with the board the names of 11 applicants he characterized as “must-see” candidates.

Board president Shannon Kimball said after next week’s round of interviews, the board will whittle that list of candidates to the finalists. The goal is to select three finalists, but there could be more or fewer depending on next week’s interviews, she said.

The finalists will be invited back the week of Jan. 22 for a second round of board interviews, Kimball said. The finalists will be identified and the public will have the opportunity to talk with them at separate “meet and greet” events for each finalist that week at Lawrence High School, she said.

Julie Boyle, district communications director, said those attending will have the opportunity leave their written impressions of the candidates.

The board’s stated goal is to hire the next superintendent in February. The selected candidate will start duties with the district July 1.

The board also received a design update for the improvements to be made to middle schools with the $87 million 2017 bond issue. Steve Clark and Jane Huesemann, of Clark-Huesemann Architects, focused on plans for South and Southwest middle schools. The $1.8 million in work at South and $4.3 million of improvements at Southwest would be done this summer; the $4.3 million Liberty Memorial Central Middle School improvements and $9.8 million project at West Middle School would be done in the summer of 2019, they said.

The two architects shared plans that would open up the libraries at both South and Southwest through the removal of interior rooms and making entryways much larger. They also shared plans for locker room renovations that provided private changing areas and private showers.