Fostering engagement with the community, building trust among stakeholders and moving the needle in terms of educational equity, particularly for racial minorities, are among the topics that candidates for the Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education are discussing in the run-up to the Nov. 5 general election.

Voters in the district will choose three members to join the board. In District 1 north attendance area, board member Sara Goodburn is seeking reelection but faces two challengers, Lisa Feingold and Brian Koon. In District 3 south attendance area, Jessica Hembree and Brian S. Brown are the candidates. For District 5’s northwest attendance area, voters will choose from Jamie Borgman and Devin Wilson.

Read more about each of the candidates in their own words below. For readers interested in learning more about Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education candidates, please click on the jump link to read the survey responses from that district.

Editor’s note: To help readers make their voting choices in the Nov. 5 general election for local offices, The Journal, the Kansas Leadership Center’s quarterly magazine, sent out a survey to more than 250 candidates in communities where our magazine’s readership is the largest. What follows is information from your local candidates, in their own words.

Update: Click here for Tuesday’s unofficial election results.

Click here to view survey responses of candidates for the Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education

Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education

Lisa Feingold, candidate for Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education, Position 1 (North)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I have personally experienced district successes and failures as a student, parent, and employee, navigating district systems including special education, curriculum development and implementation, and human resources. While my candidacy is a result of these combined experiences, my primary motivation is that of a parent seeking progress via honest conversations, respectful interactions, and productive collaboration. I want to help SMSD operate to its fullest potential and directly address the needs of employees, students, parents, and community members invested educational success stories and innovative leadership.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

I see the most pressing issue for improvement as rebuilding and establishing trust amongst SMSD stakeholders. The lack of trust between administrators and employees, students, parents, and the community must be addressed to ensure our district thrives and progresses. A lack of trust within the SMSD community creates an inability to collaborate effectively, and the result is stagnation and inability to set – and accomplish – necessary goals.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

The impact of school climate on our teachers’ decisions to remain at – or leave – SMSD is real. Teachers lack meaningful input in shaping curriculum, selecting building leadership, setting performance standards for students, and advising discipline policies. If elected, I would work to empower teachers and site administrators by focusing on refining and improving the district’s administrative structure, consolidating redundancies, and redistributing decision-making responsibilities to directly include teachers and administrators. I would also focus on establishing and implementing a system of checks and balances to ensure administrators and building personnel are collaboratively creating cooperative, positive learning environments at all school sites. As part of this work, it is imperative to include the wider SMSD community (staff, parents, and students) to identify, prioritize, and address action items that require little to no budgetary commitment.

Brian Koon, candidate for Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education, Position 1 (North)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

In 2013 I began to get involved in public education advocacy, with an emphasis on raising awareness about funding cuts. In 2014, after HB 2506 was signed into law, my advocacy was focused on increasing overall public education funding and restoring teacher due process. That year was also the first time I worked closely with pro-public education candidates on their re/election campaigns, and I have done so each year since then.

In 2015 I joined Kansas Families for Education (KFE), a nonpartisan public education advocacy organization, and raised money to fund pro-public education candidates for the next Statehouse election cycle. I was the KFE lobbyist for the 2016 and 2017 legislative sessions, including the special session. I argued persuasively against forced consolidation into countywide school districts, a host of terrible funding formulas that simply didn’t add up, voucherizing public education in Kansas (both overtly and through business tax credits), and an amendment to the Kansas Constitution that would have stripped the Supreme Court of its constitutional checks and balances in order to allow the majority party to reduce public education funding. I argued for higher public education funding, restoring teacher due process, and full funding for KPERS, among other things. When SMSD reduced the number of classroom aides, I volunteered extensively in my kids’ classrooms to support their teachers. During board meetings, I spoke out against high salaries and large raises for administrators while teachers received no raise. I have rallied for, and spoke in support of, higher teacher salaries ahead of contract negotiations. Now I’m running for school board to help make my district better, and recover from nearly a decade of under-funding by the state.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The single most important issue is fairness, and there are three parts to this issue:

1) making sure SMSD is fairly and effectively disciplining students regardless of skin color; 

2) ensuring students have fair access to college credit/AP courses regardless of skin color or socioeconomic status;

3) adopting a Non-Discrimination Ordinance (NDO) or similar measure to protect LGBT students and staff from abuses other students and employees are already protected from.

With regard to the first two, the ProPublica data (“Miseducation”) suggests that students of color are over represented with regard to discipline in some schools, but also under represented in college-tracked high school courses. Basically, I’m running to make sure that everyone is treated fairly regardless of their skin color, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I have spoken with hundreds of potential voters and several school board members, and there is already a groundswell of public support for each of my three goals. My course of action is to review the internal data to isolate the contributing factors, build consensus with school board members around the evidence, and then make policies that create the environment we desire to ensure the best outcomes for SMSD students. I support requiring cultural competency and empathy training for all district employees, as well as clearly written policy to offer guidance to building principals.

Sara Goodburn, candidate for Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education, Position 1 (North)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am a SMSD graduate (SMS ’82) as well as a graduate of the University of Kansas (BS in Journalism ’86). I have lived within the Shawnee Mission School District boundaries for over 50 years and in the North attendance area for 29 years. My husband, Kelly, and I have two sons who are both graduates of Shawnee Mission North. I have been elected two terms to the SMSD Board of Education, currently in my ninth year of service. I was elected to be the Vice-President of the Board twice (2013-2014, 2014-2015) and President (2015-2016, 2016-2017). I have also been elected to serve as the board’s representative to SMAC-PTA twice and the KASB Nominating Committee this past school year.

In the community, I have served on the board of the Baptist Trinity Lutheran Legacy Foundation for 15 years, and am currently serving as the board chair. As the incumbent, I have eight years plus experience on the school board so I possess a wealth of knowledge and history about the board, policies, the district and community. If the voters choose me to represent them, I will be the senior member of the board of education and can provide mentoring and advice to those newly elected to the board. I have proven leadership skills and have served in leadership roles in every organization I have been involved since college. I am an independent, non-partisan, positive, and a proven consensus builder on the board. I am well respected within the community and able and willing to serve and represent our school district to the best of my ability.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The single most important issue that I would like to see improvement on during my third term would be addressing the gaps that are present in student achievement data in our diverse student population. The Shawnee Mission School District has gaps in achievement data that mirror gaps that other districts see. Our new strategic plan, which was developed with the input of over 200 community members, staff members, students and parents, identified this work as an area of emphasis over the next five years. The district has hired a new director of diversity, equity and inclusion and also invested in system-wide training of administrators and staff members over the next three years. These are two important steps and I look forward to seeing progress made and helping us close those gaps over my next term in office.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

As a member of the board, I think it will be important to work along with the superintendent and other board members to ensure that we support the work in this area and continue to monitor and assess the data to see if the measures that have been put in place are working to close the gaps. I think it will also be important to share out the data, not only at board meetings, but other forums when possible to let our community know how the district is doing towards the goal of having every child achieve to his/her potential.

Jessica Hembree, candidate for Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education, Position 3 (South)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I spent the last 11 years at a local health foundation working as their policy director. In this role, I was able to manage multiple children’s health efforts, one of which was a focus on school-based behavioral health. This piqued my interest in the intersection of health and education and I completed a nine-month Education Policy Fellowship, which ended this past May. Having developed a deeper body of expertise around education policy and a passion for advancing educational equity, I am eager for an opportunity to put my knowledge and skills into action to advance educational success in my community. Being able to represent my community on the school board feels like a special kind of service that I can offer. I have three children, ages 9, 6, and 2, so I anticipate a long-term investment in our schools. I have a track record of advocating on behalf of children, having previously worked at the Children’s Defense Fund and the National League of Cities’ Institute of Youth, Education and Families. Children don’t have votes and they rely on adults to put their interests first. That’s what I intend to do as a School Board member.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

I am proud to be part of a school community that has taken early and important steps toward educational equity. I believe that every student in our district should receive a quality education regardless of their skin color, ethnicity, language of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or zip code. Achieving this goal requires embracing the diversity of our community. The diversity of our schools is their strength.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

The Shawnee Mission School District, like many districts in the state, has a proficiency gap between black and white students on both math and language arts tests. This gap is significantly higher in the Shawnee Mission School District than any other large district in the state of Kansas. If elected to the school board, I will advocate for better data transparency so that SMSD administrators, principals, teachers, and parents can understand how our district is serving students of color. I hope that this data will help mobilize our community in support of educational equity for all our students.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education, Position 3 (South), candidate Brian S. Brown.

Jamie Borgman, candidate for Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education candidate, Position 5 (Northwest)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My name is Jamie Borgman. I am an Emmy award-winning writer and producer and former journalist. I have three kids, one in each building level: elementary, middle and high school. I am plugged into what’s going on at every building level within SMSD. My campaign is and has always been about what is best for children of the Shawnee Mission School District and I can’t wait to bring that same vision and dedication to the board.

I look for ways to engage and connect with the community whenever possible. For example, I am the Founder of the SMSD Circle of Kindness service project. It involves a number of elementary and middle schools coming together to serve others in need. Our goal is to spread kindness, create community, and serve others. It is important for me to help students throughout their entire educational journey. I am an Executive Business Mentor for the College of Business at Kansas State University. I was fortunate enough to win Kansas State University’s College of Business Mentor of the Year in 2019 for my work volunteering with college students. 

Additionally, I am a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer. I work with kids who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect and advocate for them in court. I serve on several boards including a volunteer-based cancer foundation as well as the City of Shawnee Parks and Recreation Advisory Board. As a well-rounded community leader with a heart for service and helping others (especially kids), I know how to connect and engage with others to bring out the best in our community.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Equitable and inclusive achievements in academics and culture. The SMSD community came together to create a five-year strategic plan. That plan includes equity and inclusion as one of its main areas of focus. As a member of the board, I intend to uphold this priority. Additionally, the strategic plan includes specific timelines for action items to be completed. I will make sure we are working the plan and staying focused on the needs of ALL children.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

The Shawnee Mission School District invited 180 individuals including students, teachers, parents and community members to create a five-year strategic plan. In total, approximately 1600 people within our district came together to help frame the strategic plan in some way. That is a lot of community engagement! I was incredibly pleased to see one of the top priorities listed in the strategic plan as, “We will relentlessly create a fully unified, equitable and inclusive culture.”

There are specific action items including timelines, progress monitoring and who is responsible for each item within the strategic plan. As a board member, I intend to uphold this working document by speaking out and voting appropriately. Additionally, I will make sure we are staying focused and meeting timelines and objectives.

Finally, I represent the Shawnee Mission Northwest Area on the district site council. I also serve on site councils at the elementary and middle school levels. This is another avenue I plan to ask questions and monitor the progress we are making to ensure the success of ALL students.

Devin Wilson, candidate for Shawnee Mission USD 512 Board of Education candidate, Position 5 (Northwest)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My name is Devin “Brick” Wilson, and I am a 1991 graduate of what was then White Rock High School in Burr Oak, Kansas. Access to a quality public education with talented teachers allowed me to continue my education at Kansas State University receiving a degree in Agriculture, Agronomy. Employment opportunities took me to Johnson County where I married Holli and started a family. Seeing temporary cuts to education due to the recession become permanent, I started asking questions over six years ago and joined Game On for Kansas Schools to find answers, and became active in my local, district, and Kansas PTA to share what I found. Bringing my knowledge to Shawnee Mission School District Board of Education is the next step in my advocacy work, ensuring that everyone has a voice.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Community engagement is the most critical issue facing our school district. It is important that district decisions are data-driven and include stakeholder input, but some voices are not being heard. We must seek out underrepresented persons and bring them to the table. The district has made great improvements in the past few years at including more people in policy discussions, but more work must be done.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

I will work to engage the community in a variety of ways. First, I will hold periodic listening sessions to listen to concerns and offer an avenue for patrons to offer new ideas. Second, I will regularly attend community gatherings in my attendance area things like PTA meetings, meetings of parents with specific concerns, and seek out community organizations for their perspectives. Third, I will leverage my social media platforms as another venue for feedback. Finally, I will remain open to other forms of communication that will allow people to voice their thoughts and feel connected to our work in SMSD.

Related resources:

Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education

Three school board races will be decided by Blue Valley USD 229 voters in the Nov. 5 general election. Incumbent board member Tom Mitchell and Ashish Patel are running for the at-large seat. Incumbent board member Patrick Hurley and Renee D. Batholome are running for the northwest’s District 2 position. The race for the District 3 South seat featured Stephanie James and Jodie Dietz.

Read more about each of the candidates who submitted responses in their own words below.

Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education, At-Large

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education, At-Large, candidates Ashish Patel and Tom Mitchell.

Patrick Hurley, candidate for Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education, District 2 (Northwest)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am seeking re-election to a second term as the Blue Valley School Board member, Position 2. I am passionate about public education and have been an advocate for more than 10 years. Educational excellence, early childhood development, mental health, partnerships and fiscal responsibility are critical as we move forward. We need someone who understands school funding, the operations of a large school district, the Kansas legislature, and how important quality education is to the community, the economy and Blue Valley patrons. The best interests of all district children need to be advanced and protected. Growth. Innovation. Students First.

I have established professional relationships with parents, staff, patrons and board members to keep the district moving forward without disruption. I believe my proven leadership, professionalism, insight and trusted experience are needed as a respected voice for our schools and kids. I bring my state budget, education funding and operations knowledge and experience to continue to build upon the excellent education programs in Blue Valley schools, so our children will continue to have the best education. I am committed to ensuring the district continues to have great and safe schools. Excellent public schools are the foundation of our community and there is no more important responsibility we have than to preserve and improve. Blue Valley Schools need to remain academically strong. Our children, community and future depend on it. Now is the time for consistent and steady leadership on the board.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

Improve social and emotional well-being and awareness for staff, students and parents. We understand that within our communities and across this nation there is a mental health crisis. This requires community engagement and commitment. Each student’s health and wellbeing is an important daily developmental component that should not be overlooked in the educational environment. Educating and developing the whole child includes social and emotional well-being and awareness.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

  1. Every child should have a personal connection with a teacher. 
  2. Every child should have a personalized social, emotional and academic learning plan. 

iii. Continue to educate parents and our communities on current issues, like bullying and suicide and continue to develop awareness and intervention.

  1. Limit cell phone use during classes in high schools.
  2. Participation of every parent. 
  3. Reimage school counselor role. 

 vii. Increase retention of special education teachers. 

 viii. Implement KU Ci3T program in elementary schools.

  1. Improve knowledge and timely access to needed medical and mental health services if required.

Renee D. Bartholome, candidate for Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education, District 2 (Northwest)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

My name is Renee Bartholome and I have been a Blue Valley resident for the past 15 years. As a parent of four very different children going through Blue Valley Schools, I understand every child is unique in their learning styles and circumstances. It is imperative that Blue Valley continues on our upward path toward academic and personal success for each and every student. I have had many wonderful opportunities to volunteer and serve in a variety of roles for the last 13 years in the schools, at district level, and in the community. I’ve held many leadership positions and am known for my integrity, open-mindedness, and ability to connect with others. I always work to encourage collaboration, advocate, and follow through on my commitments. I have the compassion, dedication, and common sense it takes to make decisions that will positively impact the students of Blue Valley. I also understand the time commitment this position requires and am ready to step up, work hard, and work smart for this community.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

We must continue to advocate for students’ mental health and other social-emotional needs while still preparing them academically for a changing world. Every member of our Blue Valley district staff; administration, certified and classified, is dedicated to providing education beyond expectations for ALL students. Everyone in this community plays an important role in assisting to accomplish this dream for every child in every school. We must work together to provide opportunities for ALL students to achieve academic and personal success.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

  • Provide personalized learning plans to ensure all students have the tools to reach their full potential 
  • Embrace our district’s growing diversity and champion inclusion of all 
  • Pursue opportunities to provide more mental health support
  • Continue strong efforts in the areas of recruitment, retention, and support of quality educators and staff
  • Develop stronger ties between the school board and parents/community members on topics that affect our students; vaping, substance abuse, bullying, suicide intervention, as well as mental health and wellness issues
  • Encourage more involvement with our business community in helping prepare our students for occupations. Opportunities exist to introduce career paths for those students not interested in the traditional 4 year college path

Stephanie James, candidate for Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education, District 3 (South)

Please provide a brief introduction and a description of why you are running for office.

I am a parent of two children in the Blue Valley School district and have been very involved in all areas of the schools for the past 16 years. If elected I want to make sure that we are keeping the district academically strong and kids prepared for their future.

Should you be elected, what is the single most important issue that you would like to see improvement on during your term in office? Please write a few sentences explaining your choice.

The district needs to provide more instruction to help students become ready for life not just in academics but in teaching real world skills.

As an office holder, how would you try to mobilize efforts to address the important issue you identified above? If you have a sense of specific steps you might take, please share those.

If elected I would advocate for more personal finance education, learning communication skills and personal responsibility. Also, the district should offer more alternatives to going to college – technical opportunities, etc.

The Journal has yet to gather responses from Blue Valley USD 229 Board of Education, District 3 (South), candidate Jodie Dietz.

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