Shawnee Mission Post: School board candidates on the issues: How can Shawnee Mission attract, support and retain quality teachers?
Mandi Hunter: Hiring a superintendent, early recruitment, engaging teachers in the communication process and providing them support are essential to attracting and retaining quality teachers for our district. Shawnee Mission needs to hire a superintendent that will make it once again a desirable district in which to teach. The superintendent must foster a collegial environment, one that supports the teaching profession through professional development and mentoring, and have a personality that makes him/her approachable, regardless of whether or when you agree with him/her.
Being proactive and vigorously recruiting teachers when they are in college to get the best teachers available is imperative to attracting quality teachers to the district. Furthermore, providing an excellent K-12 education and exhibiting the teaching profession as one of high personal and professional growth will encourage students to become the teachers we want to hire.
The district must provide open channels of communication with our teaching professionals – and not only listen to them, but seek to implement policies to improve the workplace environment. The implementation of advisory boards and town halls that include teachers, paraprofessionals and staff should be created to assist with the development of district policies and procedures. Part of that process should include restoring planning periods and a reduction in class sessions, or at a minimum, a reduction in class sizes.
And the Board can provide direct avenues of support to our teachers. The Board should ensure due process protections for teachers in their contracts. In addition, the creation of a finance committee for the district will ensure a review and proper allocation of funds within our district’s budget to support arguments for adequate compensation and to provide professional development that is needed in both the general and special education populations.
Being the most established district in Johnson County coupled with our community engagement provides an excellent opportunity for teachers, paraprofessionals, and staff. With the implementation of the foregoing, the Shawnee Mission School District will be a flagship district for the county and state and a district where teachers will choose to make a career.
Shawnee Mission Post: Shawnee Mission school board candidates on the issues: What qualities do you want to see in a new superintendent?
Mandi Hunter: Choosing the next superintendent is in fact the biggest immediate challenge for the district. Over the past several years, our stakeholders have felt increasingly alienated from the process. It is imperative that we restore the community’s trust in the Board and the administration. In hiring the next superintendent, the Board members must look beyond a candidate’s resume. Credentials are important but a candidate’s demeanor, method of operation of the district and interaction with staff, parents, teachers and the community must all be evaluated to determine the best candidate for our district.
Given the concerns over transparency of the Board and Dr. Hinson, the next superintendent must have a personality and demonstrated experience that reflects a willingness to embrace change within a similarly-situated district and experience that reflects openness in the candidate’s interactions and communications with both the members of its Board and the constituents of the district. Pointed questions concerning the use of a consent agenda and the proposed use of a finance committee to review budget allocations should be addressed in interviews.
Our district needs to open channels of communication between the administration and constituents. A candidate for superintendent that has demonstrated a willingness to engage advisory boards to assist with the district’s initiatives is imperative to bridging gaps and creating community partnerships to which Johnson County has grown accustomed.
The next superintendent must be proactive and supportive of his/her Board, administrators, staff and teachers. A superintendent with a positive and collegial demeanor will permeate the district and create a working environment that ensures teachers and staff want to build their careers in the district which benefits the parents and ultimately, our children. This can be accomplished through seeking recommendations from teachers, paraprofessionals, and classified staff within the candidates’ current districts to discern the relationship with employees.
We have an excellent opportunity with the hiring of our next superintendent and I look forward to being part of the solution.
Shawnee Mission Post: Shawnee Mission school board candidates on the issues: Is board conformity a positive or negative for the district?
Mandi Hunter: There are two issues presented by this question: one being the lack of public discussion and the other being the unanimity of the Board’s votes. The lack of public discussion is troubling because it does not provide the Board’s constituents with the opportunity to know 1) whether any questions are being asked concerning agenda items, 2) if questions are being asked, whether the inquiry is relevant to the constituents and issues, and 3) the ensuing discussion which resulted in the final vote at the Board meeting. The unanimous votes, although unusual given the number of issues decided by this Board, are not in and of themselves, a point of contention. But the fact that the public is not aware of the discussion to reach that unanimous vote casts a shadow of doubt on each vote. And because the lack of transparency has caused a public perception of distrust in the current Board, it is a negative for the district.
The Board is making the vast majority of its decisions concerning the use of taxpayer dollars, so the public’s concern over the transparency of the Board’s decision making must be addressed. In order to remedy this, I propose complete openness in all Board discussions. Throughout the course of this past administration, Dr. Hinson made it a practice to meet with one to two board members to discuss agenda items (which does not trigger the requirements of a “public meeting”). It appears that most pertinent discussions concerning agenda items occurred at these individual caucuses. However, there are no public records of these meetings and therefore, the constituents of our current Board members are not privy to the discussions and are not given any assurance that their board members are advocating on their behalf. If elected to the Board, I propose that a record be made of all meetings, including the Board’s work sessions, where discussions are had concerning agenda items. One way to bring this process out into the open is to launch a finance committee with open meetings, which incorporates staff, administration, and two board members. Currently, the administration is developing the budget and finance proposals, which are introduced to members of the board without the opportunity for full public debate or discourse. The openness of meetings can ensure the public that relevant discussions are being had concerning items that reach the final agenda for the monthly school board meetings.
Mandi Hunter, Robert Roberge enter race for at-large seat on Shawnee Mission board, triggering primary
SHAWNEE MISSION POST - POSTED BY JAY SENTER
There will be a primary in the race for the at-large seat on the Shawnee Mission School Board that’s been occupied by Cindy Neighbor since 1997.
Attorney Mandi Hunter of Leawood and security systems salesman Robert Roberge of Merriam have in recent days filed paperwork with the Johnson County Election office, joining Neighbor and attorney Heather Ousley as candidates. Under Kansas law, there must be four candidates filed in a school board election for there to be a primary.