Lawrence school board to swear in 3 new members

photo by: Mackenzie Clark/Journal-World File Photo

The Lawrence Board of Education meeting room at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, is pictured in this file photo from Feb. 25, 2019.

Three new faces will soon officially take their positions on the Lawrence school board.

Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew will swear in recently elected members Erica Hill, Carole Cadue-Blackwood and Paula Smith during the board’s first meeting of 2020 on Monday.

The new board members will replace Jessica Beeson, Jill Fincher and Rick Ingram. Board member Shannon Kimball, who was also elected in the fall, will retain her seat.

Along with board President Melissa Johnson, the three new members will create a majority on the board consisting of people of color. Superintendent Anthony Lewis previously told the Journal-World that the new board is believed to be the first in Lawrence with that kind of majority.

In other business, the school board will consider updating its 2020 legislative priorities list to add another priority related to gun control and to voice support for local control over funding decisions.

The board’s current priority list, which was approved in December, includes asking for the Legislature to consider a new measure on gun control and to make it harder for students to access tobacco products.

It also includes priorities from the board’s 2019 list, such as providing adequate and equitable funding to public schools as outlined in the state’s constitution, keeping school board elections nonpartisan and supporting local control over school curriculum.

If approved, the updated list would add a request for the Kansas Legislature to consider “child access prevention” laws. Such laws make it illegal for adults to keep firearms in a way that a child can easily access them. The proposed update says the laws are needed “to decrease the number of gun-related incidents, and hold adults responsible instead of minors.”

The proposed update also adds a statement from the board supporting local control over the use of state funding for at-risk students.

“USD 497 believes that local districts, with guidance from (the Kansas State Department of Education), should have maximum flexibility in determining how best to use at-risk funds for the benefit of at-risk students in our schools,” the statement says.

The statement appears to be in response to a state audit that found that school districts are not properly using those funds, according to a Kansas City Star report. The audit has led to lawmakers calling for hearings on the topic during the 2020 legislative session, according to the report.

The board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday at the district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Full agendas can be found on the district’s website,

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