Yolanda Franklin, leader of nonprofit dedicated to feeding the homeless, files for election to Lawrence school board

photo by: Contributed

Yolanda Franklin

Yolanda Franklin, the leader of a local nonprofit dedicated to feeding the homeless and low-income families, has filed for election to the Lawrence school board.

Franklin grew up in Illinois and moved to Lawrence with her four children in 1996. Though her children are all now adults, she does have grandchildren who are enrolled in the school district and are gearing up to attend Billy Mills Middle School. Franklin has another school district connection, as she also used to work for the district at now-closed Riverside Elementary as a library assistant.

Today, Franklin works for Veterans Evaluation Services, which provides support for veterans in the medical disability claims process. Outside of that work, Franklin runs the nonprofit Nothing Unique, which feeds homeless folks and low-income families. She’s also working to start a second-chance program for felons.

Franklin told the Journal-World she was inspired to run after seeing how the issues her grandchildren face in school today differ from what her children faced in the 1990s. She has seen it unfold firsthand as her granddaughter wrestled with bullying in middle school that never stopped.

“Bullying is a major issue in our schools and it looks totally different today than it looked back then,” Franklin said. “There’s this new age of bullying that’s going on that really needs to be addressed in the schools.”

To address that, Franklin said she would work to get more support for teachers and staff to identify bullying as it’s happening. She’d also want to see support not only for students who are being bullied but also for the culprits, who she said may be dealing with their own complicated issues at home.

That ties into another area of focus for Franklin if she were to be elected to the school board: the need for wraparound supports for students and their families in Lawrence’s neighborhood schools.

“All our schools should provide resources that students and communities need to thrive,” Franklin said. “There should be mental health workers in the schools, there should be more nurses in the schools, there should be more resources for parents to be able to have access to from their school that’s in their community. They should be able to go to GED classes at the school that their kids go to instead of having to go to a different school.”

Franklin said she also wants to see more student-centered classrooms, particularly geared around students of color and Indigenous, LGBTQ+, special education and low-income students.

“So they’re more in on what’s being taught to them in school,” Franklin said. “And our kids need to have input on what schools are on the chopping block, so to speak, and which are not.”

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. Cadue-Blackwood has already filed for reelection. In addition to her and Franklin, five others have filed for election: Rachel Stumblingbear, Anne Costello, Kevin Coronado, Ariel Miner and Edward Gonzales.

In addition, Justine Burton has filed specifically for the vacated seat of former school board member Andrew Nussbaum, who resigned in 2022, less than seven months after being sworn in. The school board appointed GR Gordon-Ross to fill Nussbaum’s seat through the end of this year, triggering a special election as part of the November 2023 general election to determine who should hold the seat through January 2026. Burton is the only candidate who has filed for that two-year term so far. She has also filed for election to the Lawrence City Commission.

The filing deadline for the Lawrence school board race is noon on June 1. Candidates will have an Aug. 1 primary, if needed, and the general election will be on Nov. 7. Primaries will be scheduled only if the number of candidates who file is more than three times the number of open seats.


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