VOTER GUIDE: Get to know the 10 candidates for Lawrence school board; also, see their views on equity issues

photo by: Lawrence Journal-World

Lawrence school district offices, pictured in April 2021.

Advance voting is about to begin in the Lawrence school board race, and with five seats up for grabs and 10 candidates running, this election could significantly change the board’s composition. Candidates recently spoke about their reasons for running, and the Journal-World also asked them about their stance on equity issues in the district.

There are two separate pools of candidates on the ballot this year. Eight of the 10 candidates are vying for a set of four four-year terms on the board — Carole Cadue-Blackwood, Anne Costello, Yolanda Franklin, Edward “E.J.” Gonzales, Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross, Jody Meyer, Brandon Moore and Rachel Stumblingbear. The other two candidates, Ariel Miner and Shannon Kimball, are competing for a single two-year term that was originally vacated when former school board member Andrew Nussbaum resigned in 2021.

Another candidate, Kevin Coronado, was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of driving under the influence, and he subsequently announced that he would be dropping out of the race. However, his name will still appear on the general election ballots, because they had already been printed.

The general election is Nov. 7, and the deadline to register to vote in the election is Tuesday, Oct. 17. Advance voting by mail or in person at the Douglas County Elections Office, 711 W. 23rd St. #1, begins Wednesday, Oct. 18.

Candidate overview

Here’s a brief summary of the candidates’ backgrounds and why they’re running. The Journal-World asked the candidates about their reasons for running earlier this month, and the background information was taken from the Journal-World’s election guide published in advance of the August primary election and from past stories on each candidate published after they filed for election.

Carole Cadue-Blackwood (incumbent)

photo by: contributed

Carole Cadue-Blackwood

Cadue-Blackwood is a social worker and current school board member. She said she was seeking reelection to continue advocating on behalf of public schools.

“I would like to continue community engagement at a deeper level,” she said. “As a board member, we really need to dig down and show this community where our priorities are with our budget. Our paraprofessionals, custodians, substitutes and food service workers are not paid very well. This will be critical to move the community forward.”

• • •

Anne Costello

photo by: contributed

Anne Costello

Costello is a member of the Lawrence Schools Foundation and the Superintendent’s Advisory Board. At a forum this past week, she said the various boards and committees she has served on have given her experience in the area of school finance.

“But it didn’t allow me to have a very big impact,” she said at the forum. “So that’s what I’m looking to do, is have an impact.”

• • •

Yolanda Franklin

photo by: Contributed

Yolanda Franklin

Franklin is the leader of a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to feeding the homeless. She said she was running because the “community needs a bridge (and) safe passage to cross” in order to address the school board about “decisions being made,” and that she is “willing to be that bridge.”

“I would prioritize the teachers and other classified staff,” she said. “In order to truly support our students, we must begin with the everyday workers. Teachers, lunch staff, office staff, nurses, library aides, band and art teachers. The ones we have entrusted our children with five days a week.”

• • •

Edward “E.J.” Gonzales

photo by: contributed

Edward (E.J.) Gonzales

Gonzales is an IT professional for a firm in Kansas City. He said his interest in running was sparked by “concern about my kids and their education and the lack of 1-on-1 (instruction).”

“I want to see our district flourish,” he said.

• • •

Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross (incumbent)

photo by: contributed

Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross

Gordon-Ross, a current school board member, works as a software developer. At a forum this past week, he said he was running because his “children have been immensely blessed by the opportunities” they had been afforded in the Lawrence school district, and that he “wants to work to provide those opportunities to every student that comes through this district.”

“We’ve had an opportunity to set up a strategic plan,” he said at the forum. “Because of the pandemic and other factors, we haven’t been able to finish the work we’ve started, and I want to continue that work to be able to provide for teachers and students.”

• • •

Shannon Kimball (incumbent)

photo by: contributed

Shannon Kimball

Kimball is a current school board member who has served in various public leadership roles since 2008, including as a member of the Kansas Association of School Boards board of directors from 2016 until January of this year. She is seeking a fourth term on the board, and at a candidate forum this past week she said that her experience and expertise “sets me apart as a candidate” and will help pave the way for positive outcomes for students.

“Our students deserve the best education that we are possibly able to provide to them, and that is what has motivated me to serve for the past 12 years on this board,” she said at the forum, “and it’s what’s motivated me to ask for your vote to continue serving on this board.”

• • •

Jody Meyer

photo by: Matt Resnick | Journal-World

Board candidate Jody Meyer participates in a candidate forum on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.

Meyer is an attorney. At a candidate forum this past week, she said she was running because she was concerned about “some of the decision-making made by the board during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“I’ve had several friends who are former administrators and teachers of USD 497, and have seen things happen while my kids have been in school that concern me, need to be changed, and that seem to have been ignored by the school district for all these years,” she said at the forum. “I think we need to take a different step forward and focus on some of the things that seem to be more pressing.”

• • •

Ariel Miner

photo by: Contributed

Ariel Miner

Miner is a member of a grassroots campaign that seeks to fully fund K-12 education in Kansas. She said she was running for a board seat in order to “protect and restore confidence in the public education system here,” and because of “my belief that education is the bedrock of our democracy.”

“I would like to find long-term, equitable solutions to budget and organizational difficulties that put students, teachers and staff first, and do not harm our community,” Miner said. “I will prioritize integrity, honesty and transparency from district leadership.”

• • •

Brandon Moore

photo by: Contributed

Lawrence school board candidate Brandon Moore, pictured here with his children.

Moore is a district manager for area Little Caesars restaurants. He said he was running because he wanted to play a role in boosting teacher retention.

“We’ve lost a lot of really great teachers,” Moore said. “The district has underpaid and undervalued teachers for years.”

• • •

Rachel Stumblingbear

photo by: contributed

Rachel Stumblingbear

Stumblingbear is a Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health clinic assistant for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC. Stumblingbear said that she was running so that she could have a positive impact on students’ education.

“It is important for our students to learn how to learn and make use of that life skill that they will continue to use throughout life,” she said.

• • •

Equity in the district

Candidates were also asked to discuss what they would do to improve equity in the district. The district approved the current version of its equity policy in 2021, and it calls for involving a variety of advisory committees and programs in the district’s strategic planning, including the Parents of Color Advisory Committee, the Equity Advisory Council and Native American Student Services. These bodies are supposed to work together with district staff to “analyze trends, identify gaps, and develop racial and other equity priorities.”

The Journal-World asked the candidates for written responses of 100 words or fewer about their stances on equity issues. It received answers from all of the candidates except Franklin. Here’s what the candidates said:


“There should be an increased focus on the students who were impacted by closing schools. The district has the power to evaluate for disparate impact or treatment by examining the decision to close schools and begin by creating an impact analysis to those neighborhoods. Pushing people out of these neighborhoods can change the composition of the neighborhoods and drive families out creating greater gentrification. The district can work with our partners to increase and reduce costs to provide intercultural proficiency to better understand and value the cultural needs, background, and experiences of our BIPOC, LGBTQ+2S students.”


“The district should work to promote equity by reducing disparities in resources and opportunities, addressing achievement gaps, and creating a safe and welcoming environment for all students, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, gender, etc. We must incorporate diverse perspectives into the curriculum to ensure students are exposed to a wide range of ideas and voices. Representation matters. And we need to increase diversity and representation among school staff and leadership positions. We must also actively listen to the concerns and experiences of students, staff, and parents from marginalized communities and use that feedback to inform policies and decision-making.”


“I want to create:

• “Equal funding (and) ensure fair allocation of resources to schools based on need.

• “A diverse curriculum: Develop inclusive, culturally relevant curricula.

• “Teacher training: Provide diversity and inclusion training for educators.

• “Accessible technology: Ensure all students have access to technology for remote learning.

• “Support services: Offer additional support for students facing socio-economic challenges.

• “Community partnerships: Collaborate with community organizations to address equity gaps.

• “Regular assessment: Continuously evaluate progress and adjust strategies as needed to promote equity in education.”


“The board must adopt an equity-focused approach in every decision/report, prioritizing marginalized students’ welfare. We should consistently evaluate the impact on marginalized students, collaborating with staff to address disparities in enrollment and representation in AP classes for example. Regularly assessing the effectiveness of our plans is crucial, with a commitment to modifying or replacing them if needed. Engaging with individuals with lived experiences related to these issues is essential for a comprehensive understanding.

“I support the district’s Equity and Dress Code Policies and believe in strengthening social and emotional support for marginalized students to provide timely assistance when required.”


“I will continue and expand numerous efforts already under way. I co-authored the board’s equity policy, focusing the board and the district’s work on closing opportunity gaps and providing equitable learning for all. We have improved instruction, increased graduation rates, and raised Kansas Assessment scores.

“Additionally, I have led work to expand special education programs for 18-21 year-olds, expand support services to Native American students, and build infrastructure to close the ‘homework gap’ through installation of the district’s private fiber wide area network which will, in the future, provide more equitable Wi-Fi access for USD 497 devices at students’ homes.”


“It seems that the district speaks in generalities a lot when it comes to equity issues. We need to establish some measurable goals and outcomes. Within the umbrella of equity issues, we should make some priorities.”


“In order to address inequities among our buildings, district leaders need to be honest and admit inequities exist. Improving equity will require a more critical eye on the allocation of funds, and more accountability and oversight built into district finance policies. We should strive to create a system where no matter what school a student attends in USD 497, they receive a world class education with highly qualified teachers. The introduction of a magnet school will further the inequities already present among buildings. Students need smaller class sizes, more mental health resources, and equitable access to opportunity across our district.”


“We need to create more diversity in all schools to help balance the socioeconomic diversity of the schools.”


“I think it is important to point out that our school district is already making great strides in their equity work. I think continuing with a standards-based grading system that allows staff to see student progress based on skills will help them see what each student needs help with. By defining what the standards are for parents, it allows them to see where their child is struggling, so then they can partner with the teacher to help their child. With the standards-based grading system, lessons and practices or homework can be more focused on what the individual student needs.”


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