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Topeka: Council candidates see work that needs to be done

Building community pride. Breaking past stagnation. Creating conversations. Fixing streets and making better financial choices. Turning around outward migration.

The candidates running to join the Topeka City Council in the Nov. 5 general election see a lot of work that needs to be done in the Capital City. There are contested races in three of the four council district on the ballot this fall.

In District 2, which covers north Topeka, Will Pope, Christina Valdiva-Alcala and Tamika Terry are vying to fill the seat being vacated by an incumbent. Clark W. Trammell, Hannah Naeger and Lucas Ryan are running to become the District 6 representative for the west central part of the city. In District 8, incumbent Jeffrey J. Coen faces a challenge from former mayoral candidate Spencer Duncan to represent a southwest Topeka district.

Read more about each of the candidates in their own words below or click on the jump link to read the survey responses of school board candidates.

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

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.

Click here to view survey responses of candidates for the Topeka USD 501 Board of Education
Click here to view survey responses of candidates for the Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education
Click here to view survey responses of candidates for the Shawnee Heights USD 450 Board of Education

Topeka

Topeka City Council, District 2

Will Pope, candidate for Topeka City Council, District 2

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

I grew up North Topeka, and lived in Oakland during college. These are neighborhoods that have been neglected by the city for decades. I’m fed up with poor city management, and I’m running for city council because the north side of town needs a representative with resolve and tenacity to force the difficult conversations that need to be had.

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.

Prioritizing our budget is the single greatest issue in Topeka. Our city is $444 million dollars in debt, is failing to maintain basic infrastructure, and lacks an overarching economic development strategy. Topeka can be a great place to live if we get the basics right. Prosperity has eluded us because we haven’t prioritized the essentials in city government.

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.

Topeka has been stagnant for five decades. To turn this city around, we need a change in vision and a change in culture. If residents see a better path ahead, that change becomes much easier. As an elected official, my job will be to cast a vision for where we are going, and offer a path to get there. Too often local governments propose tax increases as a solution. That doesn’t have to happen if we get smarter in our approach to economic development. Study after study has shown that targeted incentives don’t work. Rather than throwing $5 million a year at corporate incentives, we can begin to invest that capital in ourselves. If we revitalize our roads and the condition of our neighborhoods, Topeka will attract economic growth and soar to new heights.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Topeka City Council, District 2, candidates Christina Valdiva-Alcala and Tamika Terry.

Topeka City Council, District 6

Hannah Naeger, candidate for Topeka City Council, District 6

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

I am a local dentist, and I am now taking the next step in my community involvement by running to represent District 6 on the Topeka City Council. Born and raised in Topeka, I have a long history of involvement in the community. I am a lifelong member of First United Methodist Church, danced with both Ballet Midwest and Metropolitan Ballet, and graduated from Topeka High School. I moved away while pursuing my undergraduate degree and then continued on through dental school, living first in Memphis and later in Oklahoma City. This afforded me the opportunity to experience life in cities undergoing their own revitalization and renewal of civic pride.

After graduating, I returned to Topeka and invested directly in the community by becoming a homeowner in the 6th District and a small business owner with the purchase of Shunga Family Dental Care. I have enjoyed knocking on doors to promote NIA events in Topeka, graduating as a member of the 2018 class of Leadership Greater Topeka, serving on the Topeka Performing Arts Center board, participating on FUMC’s mission team, and singing with both the church choir and Shawnee Choral Society. Living in other cities put into perspective the value of growing up with the supportive environment of the Topeka community. I have a renewed appreciation for her hometown and want to take an active role in securing its 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.

Topeka has long had a systemic issue with civic pride. From kids growing up in our school system to the representatives in our city government, the message for years has been that time, money, and effort invested in our city is wasted. This simply is not true. We have started to turn a corner in realizing that we can become an attractive community that not only retains talent but attracts it. This starts by investing in our infrastructure and our human resources, including the police department. We can build a better Topeka.

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.

Our main goal as a city government should be to provide a sense of place that retains and attracts people and businesses.

Lucas Ryan, candidate for Topeka City Council, District 6

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

I believe in due diligence. I have grown up in the Topeka community, and it taught me that taking your time to do something right, and finding the right tools for the problem is worth the delay. I don’t believe that is the current approach, and I am running to bring a long term, sustainable approach to government.

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.

Sustainability. As a direct underpinning philosophy, I would like to see us shift the focus of the city on long term, sustainable solutions. This approach shifts our approach to economic development, youth engagement, and infrastructure.

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.

Creating conversations around other solutions. The current city council takes the suggestions made to be the only possible solution. Starting conversations about things that aren’t typical, or how it is traditionally done is the key path to find new, sustainable paths towards innovative policy.

Clark Trammell, candidate for Topeka City Council, District 6

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

A seasoned business man with a successful professional background in the fields of business, banking, entrepreneurialism, transportation and economic development. I am running for office to give back to my community and to bring my years of broad based, successful hands-on experience into the community/city conversation for better decision making. To achieve the successful attainment of Topeka’s quality of life/place goals.

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.

There are several key collective issues that are on the highest step of importance which overlap with each other to create the “most important issue”:

  • community safety;
  • streets/infrastructure-code enforcement;
  • job creation-out migration of population; 
  • affordable housing; 
  • economic development; 
  • Transportation

Combined they dictate the level of community health, welfare and fiscal 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 leadership in decision making
  • create collaborations in the planning and decision making process that develops and enhances the initiative to build diversity not adversity … inclusion not exclusion.
  • bridging the younger generation up and preparing them for leadership and community involvement.
  • structure an effective economic development process out of the current JEDO (Joint Economic Development Organization)
  • actively reach out to all parts of our community for input and conversation to make for better community relationships.
  • build community pride and work to create a community that speaks collectively as one voice with understandable goals and vision for the future.
  • be a good leader using my years of experience to better Topeka/Shawnee county with it’s initiatives current and future for a better quality of life/place for everyone.
  • subscribe to my motto/slogan “Topeka, a community for everyone.
  • build a platform and create a business plan for Topeka to become a global economy for fiscal and economic growth sustainability.
  • develop a business/action plan to support the sustained growth and operation of a successful in town transportation service program.

Topeka City Council, District 8

Jeffrey H. Coen, candidate for Topeka City Council, District 8

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

I am running for re-election to Topeka City Council District 8. I am running to try and keep city spending under control and to not raise property taxes.

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.

Fix more streets, and make better financial choices for the city.

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 topics come up, those who are ‘motivated’ usually start speaking out. I am a representative of the people and don’t dictate to my constituents.

Spencer Duncan, candidate for Topeka City Council, District 8

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

I am a native of Topeka, who has spent the majority of my life in my hometown, and now is raising a family there. I am a small business owner, operating a company that does association management and government affairs. The groups I represent are primarily associations representing small businesses across Kansas. I am running out of a desire to improve our community. Our current city government is not as receptive to the needs of the citizens as it can and should be. I want to ensure that our City has clear direction and that the voices of the citizens are being represented.

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.

Outward migration. For a decade Topeka has seen population decline. This has to be stopped in order for the city to thrive.

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.

We have to have a focused plan that addresses the reasons Topeka is losing population. We cannot continue to use a scattershot approach. This means listening to why people choose Topeka, and reinforcing those strengths. It means improving public transportation, job training programs and supporting our schools so that companies are attracted to move to Topeka or continue to stay. It means creating a regulatory environment that encourages business development. And it means supporting the quality of life areas that citizens directly say they will invest in, as opposed to pet projects that the city hopes will find an audience.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Topeka USD 501 Board of Education

Three seats on the Topeka USD 501 Board of Education will be decided in contested races during the Nov. 5 general election. Read more about each of the candidates who responded to The Journal’s survey questions in their own words below.

Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, District 1, Position 4

TJ Brown, candidate for Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, District 1, Position 4

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

To serve the children, parents, teachers, staff and administration of the USD 501 Topeka public school district to ensure every child has a quality education.

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.

Improved collaboration, cooperation, and communication between the district’s administration and teachers leading to a better working partnership for the benefits of the students.

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.

By working collaboratively with all parties – students, parents, teachers, staff, administration and other board members towards this objective.

Lalo Muñoz, candidate for Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, District 1, Position 4

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

I’m running because I want to ensure all children have a chance at a successful 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.

I think closing the equity gap experienced by children who grew up in poverty.

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 would listen to students, parents and community members about their experience and create a trusted communication process.

Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, District 2, Position 5

Sue R. Bolley, candidate for Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, District 2, Position 5

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

I am a retired teacher. I retired three years ago and I decided I was not done giving back to children and families. I have a BS in Science and a Masters of Science. I believe a teacher should be at the table on a school board and I want to be that teacher. Who better to understand what is needed in our education system than a teacher that has worked for the district?

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 most concerned with the amount of teachers that are leaving our district to go to neighboring districts. We must find what is making our well trained educators want to leave our district and find the support that is needed to keep our best educators. Our students deserve the best.

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 need the members of the board to understand the seriousness of this drain on our personnel and I would like to create specific exit interviews and then a year from exit interviews, to find what the true reasons that our educators are leaving our district and then to find the correct support to keep them in our schools.

Tracy Routsong, candidate for Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, District 2, Position 5

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

We chose Topeka when we moved in 2007. Some of the things I had heard about the district from others had not been positive, but after speaking with teachers and principals during a visit, I knew it was a great choice for my children. Believing in the idea that many hands can accomplish much, I have volunteered hundreds of hours in and out of the classroom, serving in leadership positions (President, VP, and Secretary) on PTO and the District Citizens Advisory Council (DCAC), as well as an active member of Site Council and other school district committees. After spending nearly a decade on DCAC where we learned about, served, and researched topics for the district, I would like to continue working for positive change and sustain the amazing things that the district is already doing.

My son currently attends Topeka High School and my daughter graduated in 2017. I feel it is important to have a current parent on the board that has experienced all grade levels with their child, including that transition post high school. At the same time, I have noticed that many of my children’s teachers left the district or took positions outside the classrooms which is problematic for multiple reasons. While I am an active volunteer, I still can provide that outsider perspective. 

Last, I have taught and advised students in post-secondary education for close to twenty years. I feel that this has provided me with a unique insight into the future of our students. Whether their path is direct to employment, technical programs, post-secondary education, or military I would like to see every student, from preschooler to graduate, find their personal pathway prepared for success.

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 think closing the equity gap experienced by children who grew up in poverty.

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.

With preschool, College Prep Academy, and TCALC (Topeka Center for Advanced Learning and Careers), we need earlier outreach promoting the programs so that guardians and students can take appropriate steps in making informed decisions. (This would be the same recommendation for college level courses being offered at the high schools as well.) 

For the recruitment and retention of quality teachers, my first step is a root cause analysis to determine why the issues exist. Listening to teachers where they do not fear retaliation, exit interviews with those who leave, and observing classrooms and programs will also provide insight for information gathering. I also support the “Grow Your Own” educator program which encourages students interested in education to pursue that degree and then return to the district. 

Enrichment programs such as the fine arts, dual language, and STEM are essential to a student’s growth and well-being. I would look at the recent DCAC report for the recommendations that could be implemented with little to no cost, and then work to find funding to expand enrichment opportunities throughout the district. 

While many district classrooms currently meet the standards for class size, there are still those that do not, including Topeka High School. Looking at technology, it would be possible to use an online system to allow students from multiple schools to take classes together without losing time due to transportation. This might also aid issues with providing access to electives and advanced courses. 

Continuing to build community partnerships and networking will also aid our students to be successful. Expanding paid internships can help students not only learn important skills, but could keep a student in school instead of dropping out to work. Similarly, community networks can help provide relief for students who need continued services while not in session, especially for those with mental health needs.

H. Dean Zajic, candidate for Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, District 2, Position 5

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

I have three young daughters enrolled in Topeka Public Schools, and I want to ensure that they, along with all Topeka kids have the same access to the kind of quality public education, that my wife and I had. That is only possible with regular, and candid communication between the district and families, and between district leadership and classroom educators. I believe my unique perspective as an educational systems expert and parent of students in the district makes me the ideal candidate to drive improvements in Topeka schools. 

I am employed by the Kansas State Department of Education as the state and federal programs coordinator for the Special Education and Title Services Team, where I work to ensure that all students in the state have equitable access to an evidence based education and inclusive and caring environment. 

I serve on the Kansas Council for Developmental Disabilities, and am a recipient of the Kansas Association of Special Education Administrators’ “Kids First Award.” I support local, early education by serving on the board of directors for TDC Early Learning Centers, a non-profit early-learning organization dedicated to meeting the needs of kids from all backgrounds, aged birth through five years old. I work to expand education opportunities for all students nationally through my service as a board member for both the Association of Educational Federal Finance Administrators (AEFFA), and the National Association of ESEA State Program Administrators (NAESPA).

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 believe that Topeka Public Schools have excellent teachers and engaged families, but struggles with coordination and communication at the district level. The lack of a coordinated vision has resulted in a patchwork of ineffective initiatives that varies by building, and even classroom. At the same time, the deficit in candid communication with families that has eroded trust and has the potential of creating a long-term rift between parents and the school district.

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.

First, we need to recognize that a student can be simultaneously excelling in one area and struggling in another. We also need to acknowledge that a child’s strengths and deficits change over time, just as they do for adults. I believe, and there is an abundance of research to support, that all children can succeed if the district provides a cohesive system of differentiated supports to our students that is grounded in evidence, supported with effective professional development and mentoring for teachers, that utilizes candid feedback and critical oversight of implementation at all levels, and that incorporates regular input from students and families.

Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, Member At-Large

C. Richard Bonebrake, candidate for Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, Member At-Large

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

I am a retired physician and have seen firsthand the devastating effect of identity threat as a significant cause of minority underachievement and is clearly worth fixing. Children are the most precious resource and stereotype threat can affect their performance and potential with effects even preschool.

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.

Identity threat is perhaps the single most cause of minority underachievement. How does a white teacher give critical feedback to a black student so that the feedback is trusted and motivating? Claude Steele wrote a fascinating book titled, “Whistling Vivaldi,” which explored many of his studies. One of which was that the teacher would use high intellectual standards and believe the student could meet them. The student would feel less racial jeopardy and they become highly motivated and actually progressed educationally. He also tried 15 minutes of self reflecting, in which the student would write down two or three of their most important virtues then write a paragraph about how old those virtues and values are important to them. They would put those value statements in the form of a personal narrative. The simple 15 minute action was shown to reduce the stereotype threat which causes under performance. Students who are asked to describe their least desirable characteristics actually showed a downturn in performance.

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 would like to see more teacher education on how to deal with identity threat. I’m sure they all identify it but subconsciously they probably also fear of being seen as racist which in itself is a stereotype threat. How do we make it easier to approach people different from us. We need to teach people to have a learning goals when interacting with people from different groups and yet we don’t want to be negatively stereotyped either. I am suggesting encouragement of advanced degrees in teaching which would increase teacher compensation as well as developing techniques to give positive critical feedback to minority students. The majority of teachers in Minnesota have masters degrees and typical income is around $75,000 annually. This is probably $20,000 more that a typical Kansas teacher makes at time of retirement. Forty years ago, nurses and teachers were very similar in starting income and ultimate pay. There is now a significant disparity despite Kansas teachers getting the largest pay increase In over 25 years.

Keith Tatum, candidate for Topeka USD 501 Board of Education,Member At-Large

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

I believe in the power of public education. As a young man growing up in Topeka, I attended school in USD 501 and experienced this power firsthand. I went on to earn degrees from Washburn University and the University of Kansas, and learned the value of public service through employment with the State of Kansas. Now, the time is right for me to utilize my 20 years of public service, public policy, and community leadership experience to help develop the same district that developed me. That is why I have chosen to run for the Topeka School Board. My priority is on empowering our next generation of citizens and leaders through the opportunities and resources of Topeka Public Schools. This means striving to make gains in high school graduation rates, improving 3rd grade reading and math scores, keeping class sizes low, and closing the student achievement gap that often disadvantages students of color. As a graduate of USD 501, and a father of kids who attend schools in the district, I will continue to fight to ensure our children have a brighter tomorrow.

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.

Maintenance of adequate funding. School funding directly from the State has an immediate impact on the ability to put materials and resources directly into the classrooms where they will be most effectively utilized. While the Kansas Supreme Court’s recent decision on the adequacy of school funding levels is positive, it’s entirely dependent upon the will of the Legislature to maintain from year-to-year. We need to continue the fight to ensure the State is living up to its obligation to properly fund our district and to support the academic success of every student in the USD 501 school system.

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.

In order to safeguard our funding levels, we first need to develop and maintain active coalitions of support consisting of parents, teachers, community-based nonprofits, advocacy groups, and others with a vested interest in the success of the district. Secondly, we need to ensure these coalitions are equipped with the information, tools, and resources needed to educate the general public on issues relating to public school funding. Lastly, these coalitions (and others involved) must make it a priority to develop constructive working relationships with legislators who can be allies or points of contact when concerns of school funding are at work within the Legislature.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Topeka USD 501 Board of Education, Member At-Large, candidate Brent Hall.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education

Voters in the Auburn-Washburn school district, which covers portions of southwest Topeka and the surrounding area, will cast ballots in two contested races this fall. Read more about each of the candidates who responded to The Journal’s survey questions in their own words below.

Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education, District A, Position 1

Matt Bult, candidate for Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education, District A, Position 1

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

My family and I moved to Topeka in 2011 from South Dakota and since have made Topeka our home. After a quick adjustment period, we haven’t looked back and continue to grow in our community. My community involvement spans the following areas:

  1. Cornerstone of Topeka’s board, where I get to sit as board president.
  2. All the revitalization activity in Topeka has allowed me to participate in initiatives like Momentum 2022, where I help lead the Smart City team. .
  3. Volunteering with Youth Entrepreneurs (USD 501), Junior Achievement (USD 437), and Corporate Bigs (extension of Big Brothers, Big Sisters) has been a great experience plus helps me understand some our school functions.

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 have a great board, superintendent, and district. I’m interested in promoting STEM, athletics, and healthy student environments; with the overall goal to build upon the groundwork already created.

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 first thing I would do is gain a better understanding of processes, obstacles, and current allocation models within the district. Understanding the root factors of our issues, including success, would help identify where to focus our efforts for change. As these things progress, we as board would need to understand when to challenge and support each other.

In the USD 437 district, we can utilize additional outside resources and volunteering efforts, like those in Youth Entrepreneurs and Nintendo Labs (used at Jay Shideler Elementary) to expand our focus and keep costs to a minimum.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education, District A, Position 1, candidate David S. Hines.

Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education, District C, Position 3

Tara Dimick, candidate for Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education, District C, Position 3

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

Hi! I am Tara Dimick. I’m the Senior Vice President of Business Development at Envista Credit Union. In addition to working for Envista, I am the owner of E2 Communications, Inc. (E2), a strategic planning and marketing company. E2 publishes TK Business Magazine.

I enjoy being active in the community and serve on the Topeka Community Foundation Board and Executive Committee, Kansas Chamber Board, Stormont Vail Foundation Board, Topeka Credit Union Foundation Board, and KTWU’s Community Advisory Board.

I graduated with a BA and MBA from Washburn University and have a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt. My husband, Braden, and I have three children, Hope, Cordell and Harmony. Hope is 16 and will begin her junior year at WRHS. Cordell is a freshman and will begin his first year at WRHS. Harmony is a first grader at Jay Shideler Elementary School.

As an employer, team member, coach, neighbor, community member and parent, I know that our kids are the most important asset. They are the future and it is critical to ensure that we are supporting their future, considering the new challenges that they are facing as technology moves at the speed of light, and ensuring that they are work force ready. We must be an example to them, understand their challenges and look for ways to ensure their future success. The administration and teachers in USD 437 do important work and I am proud to be in the district. I want to support them in their efforts. The students are outstanding and we are their support system.

Simply put, I want to help. I have gained valuable skills from KLC (Kansas Leadership Center) on leadership, I have led teams and built a business. These are skills I can use to help our school district. As a mom, I love my kids with all my heart, and that love and care stretches to their friends and the parents of their friends. We are in this together. I am just doing my part.

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.

Preparing our students to be ready to take on the world as responsible citizens. Preparing our students effectively for the changing world by having an understanding of technology, innovation, leadership and emotional intelligence.

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.

Engage all that are involved and have a stake in the conversation, change or need. Gain an understanding of how the issue is viewed by the various parties and what makes it important to them, especially when the parties have a difference in opinion. Listen and work to a shared purpose to bring people together on the issue. Find ways for people to participate in the decision to help them take ownership of the idea. It can’t be my idea, it has to be ours. Once a shared decision is made, provide ways for people to act. Not just take it over.

Ethel A. Edwards, candidate for Auburn-Washburn USD 437 Board of Education, District C, Position 3

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

My name is Ethel A. Edwards. Since I started kindergarten, I have been in education – as a student, a paraprofessional, a bus driver, a teacher, a library media specialist, and an administrator. I am running for this board of education seat because there is no one on the board who has walked the walk of an educator.

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.

At this point, the most important issue is teacher retention. Hiring a new teacher in a district like ours can cost up to $20,000. With 40 to 50 new hires each year, that is between $800,000 to $1,000,000. Those funds could be used in a myriad of other ways to benefit students and staff.

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.

Analyze hiring and management practices, working conditions, and compensation package; and then work to make the necessary changes.

Your Local Candidates: In Their Own Words Nov. 5 2019 Kansas local election

Shawnee Heights USD 450 Board of Education

Shawnee Heights USD 450 Board of Education

Lauren Tice Miller, candidate for Shawnee Heights USD 450 Board of Education, District A, Position 1

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

I am a graduate of Shawnee Heights and was raised in a family where education was not only a passion; it was a priority. I have always believed that there is no such thing as too good or too much when it comes to education. This remains true today.

The quality of education I received from Shawnee Heights prepared me for success at Kansas State University where I earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Communication Studies and a Certificate in Technical Writing. I’ve also recently become a Certified Digital Marketing Leader from the Digital Marketing Institute, an internationally recognized program. I’m currently the Communications Director for Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley. In all, I have more than 10 years of experience in the communication field, including teaching public speaking and English Composition at the collegiate level, serving as the Assistant Basic Course Director for public speaking, working in communication, marketing, and event planning roles for non-profit associations, and owning my own business. 

I was elected in April 2015 as the 7th woman in the history of the district to serve on the school board. In addition to serving on the Shawnee Heights School Board, I serve on the advisory board for the graphics technology program at Washburn Technical Institute. 

My husband, Matt and I, have three children James (7th grade), Arianna (3 years-old), and Adeline (infant). I moved back to the school district after college, knowing it was where I wanted to raise my family. After getting involved in Cub Scouts, PTO, and my son’s classroom, I decided I wanted to do more for the district.

It is an honor to serve as a school board member. I work to ensure Shawnee Heights provides – as it has done for years – the quality of education that is essential to creating well-rounded students who are prepared for a world of opportunities. This includes working to recruit and retain quality teachers, increasing communications between the district and patrons, and increasing academic rigor for students while also practicing fiscal responsibility.

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.

Fiscal responsibility and transparency. I believe these always go hand-in-hand. With the increase in school funding from the Kansas Legislature, it’s crucial that we exercise sound fiscal management as we decide how to invest it and that district patrons are kept informed throughout the process.

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 would prioritize making investments in our teachers to enable us to recruit and retain the best, and in programs that increase academic rigor to ensure our students are adequately prepared for higher learning and careers.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Shawnee Heights USD 450 Board of Education, District A, Position 1, candidate Matt Stadler.

The Journal did not receive responses to its survey from Shawnee Heights USD 450 Board of Education, Member At-Large, candidates Joel Manzanares and Jason A. Schulz.