Lawrence IT professional Edward ‘E.J.’ Gonzales files to run for Lawrence school board
photo by: contributed
Lawrence IT professional and self-described regular parent Edward “E.J.” Gonzales has filed to run for the Lawrence school board.
Gonzales, who is originally from Topeka, moved to Lawrence in 2002 to attend the University of Kansas. He has four kids in the district, and it’s his experience as a parent that motivated him to run for school board, specifically having to witness his son’s heartbreak when his orchestra teacher decided to leave the district amid its budget challenges and teacher reductions.
“As a parent you want to protect your kids through everything, and this was something that I couldn’t necessarily protect him from,” Gonzales said. “And so the best thing I could do was to not necessarily complain about the changes, but try to actually make different changes for him in future. That’s the sole reason I’m running, is to hopefully make a change for future students.”
Gonzales has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in leadership and development with a focus in information technology and works for a company called BankOnIT, which provides IT for smaller banks and credit unions. His four children attend school at Sunset Hill Elementary, West Middle School and Free State High School.
Other top issues that Gonzales said he’d like to address are administrative structure and teacher pay. He said based on comments he hears from other parents, there is concern that the district seems a little “top heavy” administratively, and he’d like to look at the staffing structure.
“Really, what a lot of parents point to is the way the pay structure is currently set up, you know, from the top down,” Gonzales said. “It seems a little bit top heavy, and they don’t see where the funds are actually going to schools. It seems it’s going more to administration than anything else.”
As the Journal-World has reported, the district has 24 administrators on staff, 16 of whom make more than $100,000 per year. Though there were reductions to administration as part of last year’s budget cuts, no administrative positions or salaries have been cut as part of this year’s budget cuts.
Gonzales said he is also concerned about teacher compensation, and he expressed concern about the number of teachers who have left the Lawrence district for higher pay elsewhere.
“We are seeing a lot of teachers leaving for higher-paying jobs in other school districts,” he said. “We are almost like the breeding ground for Kansas City teachers, it seems like.”
In addition to competitive pay, he also wants to make sure teachers are provided the materials and other classroom supplies they need to be successful. He said teachers often reach out to parents for help with supplies, and he thinks teachers should be equipped with all the supplies they need — glue, markers, construction paper, etc. — and not have to pay for or gather those materials themselves.
Gonzales said he knew he probably wasn’t the strongest candidate on the ballot, but that he hoped to bring attention to the concerns of regular parents.
“I want them to know there are avenues that we can take to fight for our kids if we need to,” he said. “… I’m that common person that’s just trying to bring awareness to the whole situation.”
The terms of school board President Shannon Kimball, Vice President Paula Vann, Past President Erica Hill and board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood will expire at the end of this year. In addition to Gonzales, eight other candidates have filed for election: Rachel Stumblingbear, Anne Costello, Yolanda Franklin, Cadue-Blackwood, Kevin Coronado, Brandon Moore, Jody Meyer and Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross. The general election will take place Nov. 7.
In addition to the four four-year terms up for election, there is a special election for the remaining two years in the term of Andrew Nussbaum, who resigned last year. The board appointed Gordon-Ross to fill that seat through the end of this year. Four candidates have filed for that seat: Justine O. Burton, Tierra Teske, Ariel Miner and Kimball. Burton also filed for election to the Lawrence City Commission. Because the number of candidates who filed for the special election is more than three times the number of open seats, there will be a primary on Aug. 1 in the race for this seat.