Community partnerships key to improving lives of local students, says school board candidate Hill
photo by: Dylan Lysen
As a community health professional, Erica Hill has focused on ways to improve the health of the Lawrence community, and she recently realized the best place to start.
“What better way to make an impact on the community than investing in our youth?” said Hill, a candidate for the Lawrence school board election this fall.
Editor’s note: The Journal-World over the next several days will publish profiles on candidates for city and school board offices.
To do that, Hill said she wanted to help create more partnerships between the Lawrence school district and community organizations that can offer additional learning opportunities for students.
Hill, who is a finance and operations manager for LMH Health Foundation, led the creation of a paid summer mentorship program, the LMH Leadership Academy, that invited three Lawrence students to shadow and learn from health professionals during their summer break.
She said the program was an example of how the school district could work with other organizations to improve the postsecondary success of its students. She said one of the three girls who participated in the program realized a specific health care profession she was interested in was actually not for her, which could help her in the future.
“They have the experience to explore and be innovative without worrying about making a mistake,” Hill said.
The partnerships can also help address issues in the school district that Hill wants to focus on, because they can provide more real-world educational opportunities to students. Along with postsecondary success, her other focuses are improving graduating rates and addressing achievement gaps among student groups.
“When you see an achievement gap, chances are you are going to see an opportunity gap as well,” Hill said. “They are interconnected.”
Hill said she believed that health care and education were human rights. She said the school district should be offering opportunities to students that help them all find success after high school, whether that’s postsecondary education or entering the workforce in a new career.
Hill’s focus on postsecondary success is in line with the Kansas State Department of Education’s recent push to redesign public schools. Lawrence is one of many Kansas communities participating in the state’s redesign program, which moves away from an approach of relying on standardized testing and instead focuses on developing personalized education plans for students. Hill said she was serving on the committee to redesign Free State High School, one of four Lawrence schools participating in the program.
“We have an obligation and responsibility to prepare all students for lifelong success, whatever that means to the student,” she said.
She also has experience working with local youth as a former member of the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence. Through her work as a health care professional, she has also served on the Douglas County Community Health Plan steering committee.
“I’m very invested in the community,” she said. “I see a need, and I want to be part of the solution.”
Hill, originally from Hutchinson, first came to Lawrence to get her undergraduate degree in human biology from the University of Kansas, and she returned in 2012. She got her master’s in health care leadership from Friends University.
She lives with her husband, Jeffrey Skar, their 20-month-old daughter and her 14-year-old son, who is a high school student in the school district. Skar also has a son, 20, and daughter, 24.
Hill is one of five candidates running for the four at-large positions on the Lawrence school board that are up for election. The general election will be Tuesday, Nov. 5. Advance voting will start Wednesday, Oct. 16, and the last day to register to vote is Tuesday, Oct. 15.
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