Shawnee Mission Board of Education – Jessica Hembree, District 3


good afternoon I’m here with Jessica
Hembree candidate for Shawnee Mission School Board on behalf of the Johnson
County Public Policy Council Thank You Jessica for being here today
of course the Johnson County public policy council was made up of ten
chambers of commerce in Johnson County our goal is to provide information about
public policy issues impacting area businesses are you ready to get started
I am so as a candidate what are your top three policy issues I have been talking
to a lot of voters all around the Shawnee Mission School District and my
three priorities really stem from the conversations I’ve had with voters and
with parents and with teachers in the district my first most important
priority is making sure that we are doing everything we can to support
classroom teachers in terms of what actually impacts educational outcomes
for kids there’s two really critical things the first is that they are coming
to school ready to learn and the second is the kind of relationship they have
with their teachers so I think it’s important that we probably Ora ties that
relationship with parents my second priority unsurprisingly is also making
sure that kids do have what they need to be coming to school ready to learn
so that means thinking about social and emotional learning and mental well-being
in our schools and then my third priority is embracing all of the
diversity inside of our community our Shawnee Mission School District has been
diversifying quite a bit in the last 20 years I think that is a real strength I
think that makes educational outcomes better for my kids and for every kid in
this district we just have to be ready as a community to embrace that change
and make sure that we serve every single kid to the best of our ability every
single day the Kansas Supreme Court recently ruled the current school
funding formula is both equitable and adequate however the court retained
jurisdiction over the case to assure that funding is maintained briefly what
are your thoughts on the new formula and the additional dollars that have been
added to the K through 12 school funding I think that the changes that we’ve made
to the school funding formula are really positive in terms of making progress
historically funding for public schools has grown by 1/3 in the last five years
in the state of Kansas and that on a per pupil level has actually put us in the
bottom half of states the United States and not having the
funding that we need as a district really hurts our ability to do a bunch
of critical things one of them that makes me the most concerned is that if
we don’t have that the funding that we need adequate funding as a district we
can’t recruit and retain the teachers that we need for our communities so I I
think the school funding formula change is a good step in the right direction
but we really need to keep putting pressure on Topeka to keep on funding
the Shawnee Mission School district and every district in the state at the level
that they need to be funded and with that recent Supreme Court ruling that
the new funding formula and related funding are constitutional it’s likely
the Legislature will look closely at accountability measures for student
performance can you describe the accountability measures you support and
believe are reflective of student achievement yeah for me one of the big
priorities in our schools is acknowledging that for students to be
successful they need more than just the ability to pass a test but academic
achievement is a much more holistic concept for me than just can you pass a
map test or dibbles test so I think we need to be making sure that our schools
are looking at a whole host of outcomes related to kids not just academic
achievement not just tests but also things like growth student growth from
year to year is one of our best ways to gauge the effectiveness of teachers we
need to have that information I also have such a strong passion around the
diversity of our community and our teaching staff right now does not in any
way reflect the diversity of our population in Shawnee Mission so I think
that’s one of those process measures we should be looking at as a district is do
we have an increasingly diverse teaching stuff that mirrors the diversity of our
population Kansas is experiencing all-time low unemployment rates and
employers are struggling to find qualified workers especially in
technical and skilled trades how do you see the Shawnee Mission School district
helping to meet our business community’s future workforce needs through technical
education and training I’m a small business owner myself so I have a real
heart and acknowledgement that the strength of this community depends on
the strength of this workforce and the strength of our workforce is very very
closely tied to the strength of our public education
so I think it’s really important that we address one of the current strategic
plan goals at Shawnee Mission School district is making sure that kids are
college and career ready and I think it’s important to notice that we’ve said
college and career career ready not college or career ready to me it’s
really important that our district offers those as opportunities to kids
and we have to be really careful that they don’t become a one or the other
where I’m a freshman and all of a sudden I found myself on a track where college
is no longer an option for me we need to have Career and Technical Education
available as a as an add-on and as a piece of an educational program but not
sort of a substitute for a college readiness program and other than funding
what do you see is the greatest challenge facing the district um i-i’ve
talked about diversity already but I really do think that’s one of our
biggest struggles knowing that there is a gap between students of color and
white students in our district and the that get back out might be present in
other districts in the state of Kansas but it’s particularly pronounced and
heightened in the Shawnee Mission School District I think we have to do better on
that I think a big piece of that is actually talking about that data having
access to that data putting that data in front of patrons of our district and
collecting as much information as we can to understand why that gap is not just
here because it’s here in many places but why it’s particularly pronounced in
our district well just as we wrap up tell us why you’re seeking public office
yeah um I am the mother of three children two of them go to trailwood
elementary school in Shawnee Mission School District one of them is not yet
school-aged um I I have a real passion for kids and I firmly believe that
children they do not get to vote until they turn 18 so they really rely on the
adults in their lives to be their voices I see so much happening in our district
around children’s health behavioral health that I think I can be a really
important piece of making those issues better I’ve worked for the last 11 years
and children’s health policy and a really big chunk of that focused on
school-based mental health services and that’s a body of expertise and passion
that I have that I think I can to the board that’s not there right now
well thank you for spending some time with us this afternoon and we wish you
the best of luck with the election thank you

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