Lawrence school board candidates outline priorities focused on equity, district budget

photo by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World

Lawrence school district offices, pictured in April 2021.

Five of the six remaining candidates running for election to the Lawrence school board laid out their priorities on Sunday, focusing on equity among students, wages for faculty and staff, and balancing the district’s budget.

Their comments came during a forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, the NAACP, the Lawrence Public Library and other community partners. The forum, which was moderated by League of Women Voters Vice President Kristin Salmans, began with a “speed dating” format in which candidates were given two minutes each to give presentations.

In her statement to the audience, Incumbent Kelly Jones said her priorities were focused on the district’s equity work, noting that she helped craft the board policy on equity that was approved earlier this year. She said she also wanted to focus on increasing wages for faculty and staff, which is done through bargaining with the unions representing teachers and support staff.

She also said that she served as the board’s president during the pandemic and she wanted to build on what she learned during that time.

“I would like the opportunity to continue that work I’ve done and really grow Lawrence schools to a space that we’re proud of,” she said.

G.R. Gordon-Ross, who is also an incumbent, said he was proud of the work the board had done during his first term, including hiring Superintendent Anthony Lewis and developing a strategic plan to improve academic performance in the district.

He also said he wanted to focus on what the district learned during the pandemic and not “letting those lessons be lost.” He didn’t elaborate on what those lessons were.

Kay Emerson said her priorities were improving student access to opportunities. She also said wanted to focus on providing “equitable experiences” for both students and staff.

Nate Morsches said he wanted to focus on several things, such as mental health of students and staff, preparing students for careers and providing financial stability in the district. He said he believed he would be good at helping to govern the district.

“I’m a serious, devoted and creative person and I can get things done in our community,” Morsches said.

Elizabeth Stephens, who is Hispanic, said she believed in diversifying government structures to reflect the perspectives of the people they serve, whether that be racial or socioeconomic differences. She said she also wanted to prioritize the students “in the margins,” such as those in foster care or who are homeless, in the district’s policies.

The sixth candidate, Andrew Nussbaum, did not attend the forum. Salmans said he was unable to attend because of a family emergency.

The general election for the three school board seats will be Nov. 2. The last day to register to vote in that election is Oct. 12.

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