Longtime school board member and current president Shannon Kimball files for election to 2-year term
photo by: contributed
Longtime Lawrence school board member and current board President Shannon Kimball has filed for election to a two-year term on the board.
Kimball, who was first elected in 2011, said she continues to have a steadfast commitment to supporting public schools, and believes she has the expertise and experience to continue progress on the district’s priorities. Those include goals for student achievement and staff compensation and retention.
“My service to the community in this role has been incredibly rewarding and I think incredibly important for seeing our district through what has been some pretty difficult time, especially the last few years,” Kimball said. “We’ve been working as a board and as a district on a number of priorities that I think are finally starting to fall into place.”
Kimball is originally from Atwood in northwestern Kansas, and first lived in Lawrence in the mid-1990s when she was a student at the University of Kansas. Kimball received her bachelor’s degree in political science and Spanish from KU and went on to get her J.D. from the University of Michigan law school. Kimball worked in various roles as an attorney from 2000 to 2008, when she moved back to Lawrence with her family. Kimball has three children, a sixth grader, a 10th grader and one recent Lawrence public schools graduate.
Since 2008, she has served various public service roles. She first got involved with the district in 2010 as a member of the Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force and was subsequently elected to the school board. Kimball served in various roles and leadership positions as a member of the Kansas Association of School Boards board of directors from 2016 until January of this year. She was a member of the board of directors of the National School Boards Action Center for two years, served four years on the NSBAC policy committee and was a member of Gov. Laura Kelly’s council on tax reform from 2019 to 2021.
Kimball said she thinks the top issues facing the district in the upcoming term include compensation for teachers and classified staff, school finance and student achievement. She said she thinks there is a crisis in the teaching profession, both nationally and statewide, because fewer people are choosing to go into education. She said lagging state funding has contributed to the fact that in Kansas a teacher with a bachelor’s degree makes 25% less than other professionals with the same level of education.
“Our state funding is not increasing at a rate that has allowed any district to keep up with the rate of inflation in terms of its teacher compensation,” Kimball said. “So in real dollars, teachers make less now than what they did 10 or 15 years ago.”
Kimball said she has been helping lead the board’s work to improve teacher and staff pay, especially this past year. As the Journal-World has reported, the district has tentatively agreed to $3.6 million in raises for teachers and $2.58 million in raises for classified staff. Still, Kimball said that has meant making some very difficult decisions.
“I feel like we are poised to make some historic progress in that area as a result of prioritizing that work and my leadership, particularly this year as board president, in getting things aligned so that that would be possible,” Kimball said. “That is not easy work and certainly the board has had to make some very difficult decisions last year and this year in order to be in the position to make progress on that goal.”
Kimball was among the four school board members to vote to close Pinckney and Broken Arrow elementary schools as part of an effort to free up money for raises. At the state level, she said she has spent a great deal of time working with advocates to increase funding for schools, particularly for special education. Kimball said the last time the state fully funded special education was 2011, which means districts must cover those shortfalls with general fund dollars.
When it comes to student achievement, Kimball said the district has milestones to celebrate, such as improving the graduation rate, but must continue making progress on closing achievement gaps for students of color, low-income students and special education students.
The terms of Kimball, Vice President Paula Vann, Past President Erica Hill and board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood will expire at the end of this year.
Kimball filed to run specifically for a seat vacated by former school board member Andrew Nussbaum, who was elected in 2021 but resigned less than seven months into his term. The board appointed Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross to fill Nussbaum’s seat through the end of this year. Along with Kimball, Ariel Miner, Justine O. Burton and Tierra Teske have filed for that seat as part of a special election. Because the number of candidates who filed is more than three times the number of open seats, there will be a primary on Aug. 1.
Nine candidates have filed for the four, four-year terms: Rachel Stumblingbear, Anne Costello, Yolanda Franklin, Cadue-Blackwood, Kevin Coronado, Edward (E.J.) Gonzales, Brandon Moore, Jody Meyer and Gordon-Ross. The general election will take place Nov. 7.