Voters Guide: Lawrence school board candidates discuss district’s future in their own words

photo by: Contributed and Journal-World Photos

The five candidates for the 2019 Lawrence school board election pictured from left: Carole Cadue-Blackwood, Shannon Kimball, Erica Hill, Thea Perry, Paula Smith.

Editor’s note: The Journal-World asked the Lawrence school board candidates to provide brief statements outlining their vision for the school district. The candidates’ statements appear here as submitted, and have only been edited for spelling.

Carole Cadue-Blackwood

I would like to focus on the district’s vision and mission statements on building relationships, seeking multiple perspectives, setting high expectations and holding each other accountable for equitable access to rigorous, culturally relevant and seamlessly aligned curriculum and ensure that we improve graduation rates and our students are college and career-ready. We are truly in a state of crisis. There is a national teacher shortage and our children are paying the price. The Lawrence Journal-World reported that Lawrence teachers are earning less than neighboring districts.

I hope to use my skills as a social worker to implement the district’s five-year strategic plan and enforce the Kansas Supreme Court’s decision to improve our educational services and increase mental health services. The decision ensured that we are closer to recruiting and retaining our high-quality teachers. Teachers often cite pay as the number one reason for quitting. The decision to increase the salaries demonstrated to the community that our kids won’t suffer from losing high quality teachers and give them the respect that they deserve.

I am hopeful about the future for our school board and district. The district has partnered with the University of Kansas, Peaslee Technical Institute and can build an even stronger partnership with Haskell Indian Nations University. Our students are our greatest investment and will possess to graduate with skills that will help them transition from high school to their adult futures. Kansas is facing a labor shortage and our students will have potential to graduate with college credits and apprenticeships.

Erica Hill

I believe education is a fundamental human right – not a privilege. Every scholar has the right to reach their full potential academically, socially, and emotionally. My vision for Lawrence Public Schools is forward thinking and puts students’ needs at the center.

Children need a level of readiness to be successful when they begin their educational journey. Many families have resources, such as reading materials and time to spend with their children. Many do not. My vision is for all children to have equitable access to early childhood education.

My vision is for the district to continue engaging with the community to increase community commitment and support – together the board of education and community partners will create an improved system of public education for our scholars.

While educators are not primarily motivated by pay, they have important jobs, and should be compensated accordingly. Addressing pay equity will also position the district to attract and retain high-quality educators. My vision is for our district to create and implement a comprehensive plan that addresses compensation.

My vision is for all our scholars to be inspired to do their best, be exposed to multiple career paths, feel safe, have learning experiences designed uniquely for them, and be successful after they graduate.

As a school board member I will listen, question, advocate, learn and support our scholars and the work the school district is doing. I am honored to have the opportunity to serve my community in this capacity.

Shannon Kimball

I want our community to proud of our schools, and to trust that the district is putting forward its best efforts to ensure that our children grow and thrive as learners, so that they are well-prepared for their futures. My vision aligns with our recently adopted strategic plan–a cohesive curriculum, student-centered learning, safe and supportive schools, effective and valued employees, and data-driven decisions, all accomplished through an equity lens. During the next four years, I will:

• Ensure our strategic plan is implemented, and hold our district accountable to meet the goals in the plan;

• Work to address some of the biggest concerns I hear from staff and the community around teacher and classified staff compensation;

• Continue my work on our facilities upgrades and successfully completing the $175mm+ in bond projects that our community has approved over the past 6 years; and

• Continue my advocacy and policy work at the local, state, and national levels in support of equity, adequate funding, and special education needs, among other areas.

We have made progress in many areas during my tenure on the board – particularly in our offerings to support college and career readiness, and in meeting the facilities needs of our district–but I still see much work to do and want to have a seat at the board table to ensure that our work in these priority areas moves forward to successfully meet the needs of our students, our staff, our families, and our community.

Thea Perry

Our schools should provide a safe, supportive environment where goals are achieved and resources are available so that every student can have their needs met and perform to the best of their ability so they will have the education and tools required for a productive and positive future. We should strengthen existing and seek new partnerships that will reinforce our student-centered approach to improving post-graduate outcomes. To support the district’s strategic plan, we should expand our collaboration with the city and county governments to address issues of disparity and inequity. As leaders, let’s make sure we are listening more than we are speaking and continue to ask who else should be at the table.

As a former early childhood educator, I will advocate for increased access to Pre-K education. Access to early learning would be a meaningful step toward closing the achievement gap, is a valuable resource for families, is critical to early identification of needs and intervention, and is a frequent factor in parental parity. Utilizing statewide connections built during years of advocacy work, engagement with decision makers will be needed at both the state and local levels.

Of the opportunities for growth and improvement that parents, students, and teachers have shared, many are related to communication, accountability, and equity. These are some of the same concerns I have experienced as a parent in the district. I’d like to be part of a more engaged and available board of education, and I’m ready to have honest conversations and listen.

Paula Smith

Over the next four years, I want to see the district become a trusted resource and community partner. In the first year, the district can begin to expand parent-led equity committees such as the Native American Student Services, Delta, and Equity Council into school board decision making.

Our district has the potential to be a leader for school-integrated mentoring programs across K-12 that will build stronger teacher-student relationships. I would like our district to grow our own teachers by setting high standards and expectations for all students regardless of their racial and socioeconomic background. This means we remove barriers to access and opportunities for all students.

Importantly, by year four, it is critical we ensure a quality education for all youth in our community and drive innovative efforts that narrow the achievement gap for students of color and historically marginalized students. This will help our district deliver our promise that, “Lawrence Public Schools will ensure that students of all races, backgrounds, and abilities achieve at high levels, demonstrate proficiency in reading by the third grade and in math by the eighth grade, and graduate on time prepared for success in college and careers.”


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