Shawnee Mission interim superintendent pleads for end to 'ugliness' at school district

Posted at 7:49 AM, Dec 19, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-19 08:49:56-05

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - In a surprise announcement, the Shawnee Mission School District's interim superintendent said Monday incivility between the administration, staff and parents could hurt the district's chances of getting a great, permanent superintendent.

Kenny Southwick told everyone at Monday's school board meeting to "stop the ugliness."

Southwick called the current situation at the district "troubled times." Of late the district has struggled with criticism about an alleged lack of transparency and focus on students.

The superintendent resigned in June. In November, voters elected three new school board members who take their seats next month. 

Monday, the district's communications director, Erin Little, announced her resignation.

And last month, the Shawnee Mission East High School football coach stepped down suddenly, citing disagreements with administration. 

"I am calling tonight for the end of the divisiveness between administration and our staff and our community because it does not serve the good of the Shawnee Mission School District," Southwick said, referring to rants and rumors on social media as examples.

At Monday's meeting Southwick announced he is not interested in a contract extension keeping him at the district once his current contract expires in 2020. The board chairman wanted to keep Southwick on staff as the deputy superintendent for another year.

Despite calling the offer an honor, Southwick turned it down. He said the staff at all levels of the district is great and urged for more civility, especially as the districts hunts for its next superintendent. 

"This next person right now is in tune to what's going on in the district," Southwick warned. "Again, now is the time to stop. For I fear we will drive away the next great superintendent for the Shawnee Mission School District."

The district has received 65 applications. 

Thirty applicants are current superintendents. Thirty-two are deputy, assistant or associate superintendents. Fifty-four applicants are men. Fourteen are minorities. Two of the applicants are currently working in another country. 

The school board will meet Jan. 20 to select six or seven finalists and schedule formal interviews with them. The board expects to pick the new superintendent in March.