Races assured for Board seats
With a total of eight candidates for three spots, there will be a race for every open seat on the De Soto school board this year, as well as a primary election in one.
Tallied after the filing deadline of noon Tuesday, four people signed up to run for Position 5 on the USD 232 Board of Education. Shawnee residents Janine Gracy and Brian Hunter filed Friday to challenge incumbent Jim Thomas, who filed for re-election the same day. Bob Burkhart, Shawnee, added his name to the list Tuesday.
Each of the other seats will be a race between two candidates.
In Johnson County, primary elections are only held when at least three candidates run for a position.
For De Soto representatives, voters in the primary vote only for the at-large position and the representative from the district where they live. Voters may vote for all positions in the general election.
The primary election for the Position 5 race will be March 1. The general election will be April 5.
Gracy, who has two children attending De Soto schools, is director of the Regional Prevention Center. The center, which serves three counties, works with law enforcement and the community to reduce substance abuse and other problem behaviors, Gracy said.
She has lived in the district four and a half years.
Gracy said she thought the De Soto school district was among the best in the state but that she hoped to benefit the board by providing fresh opinions.
"I'm not dissatisfied with the way things are going," she said. "But I just really think it would be an honor and a privilege to serve the community."
Gracy said her work gave her insight into problems that youth face today, as well as experience teaming with others for solutions.
"This job has allowed me to work with many different factions," she said. "That in itself gives me a different perspective on the kids that are at risk and what we can do for those kiddos."
Gracy said she had experience writing grants and advocated the arts as part of a complete education. She said education should be a team effort between students, parents and teachers.
Hunter, who has lived in Shawnee five years, also has two children in the district.
He owns Talent Scouts Inc., a recruiting agency specializing in finding information security professionals and information technology auditors for businesses.
Hunter said he volunteers at his sons' schools and scouting events and serves on the board of directors for the Python Sports Association.
Even though De Soto's explosive growth demands much immediate attention and money, carefully considering the future is essential for the district's long-term health, Hunter said.
"To ensure a fruitful future, short-sighted solutions are not the answer," he said. "When it comes to not only my kids but children of the school district, there's no cost burden I wouldn't bear to provide an education for them."
Hunter said he supported local control for schools. A former adjunct professor at Labette Community College, Hunter also said he supported teaching in ways that made students think for themselves instead of rely on rote memorization.
"We really have to prepare the students to be successful and make positive life choices as they graduate," he said. "I want to know that we're in good hands."
Burkhart, who described himself as a non-traditional environmental educator, eco-futurist and adult lifelong learner, moved to Shawnee from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area last year.
He said he did pro-bono work with environmental, governmental and educational entities with a goal of "conserving landscapes and preserving mindscapes."
Burkhart said his abilities to look, listen, learn and think outside the box would benefit the board.
Burkhart said he was a proponent of "edu-tainment," or recreation-based learning activities.
He has two grown daughters and said science could make a difference in achieving their dream of seeing world peace in their lifetimes.
Another new candidate, Shawnee resident Denise Taylor, filed Thursday for Position 6 on the De Soto Board, a seat vacated by Jim Plummer of De Soto. She will face Larry Meyer, Shawnee, who filed Tuesday.
Taylor is an area education jet-setter -- she has children who attend school at Mize Elementary and Lexington Trails Middle School, teaches part-time for Shawnee Mission Northwest High School and substitutes in the Olathe and De Soto districts.
Taylor said she chose to run for the Board of Education because she wanted to do her part to help invest in the future of district schools.
She said being a mother of five and a teacher would give her a broad perspective.
"I'm going in hoping that I have a little bit of flavor in everything," she said. "Having children puts you at one end of the spectrum of education; a degree in education gives me some additional information on the other side."
Meyer also has experience with several area school districts. He currently works for Greenbush education consortium as a psychologist and administrator and has been a high school math teacher and elementary principal in the past.
He retired with the Olathe district, where he was a school psychologist, and has two daughters at Mill Valley.
Meyer said much of his career experience was with special education but that De Soto's challenges with rapid growth and finance would be of special focus for him if elected.
"I really want to make informed decisions about school funding and assisting in that area," he said.