Shawnee Mission School Board names interim superintendent

Posted at 6:35 PM, Apr 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-26 23:13:19-04

Shawnee Mission School Board members unanimously voted to appoint Deputy Superintendent Ken Southwick as the interim superintendent.

According to a statement from the SMSD sent to 41 Actions News, the board will begin the search process in July and plan to have a new superintendent selected in March or April 2018. You can read the SMSD's full statement at the bottom of this story.

Southwick has 37 years of education experience and has served as the deputy superintendent for the SMSD since 2014.

Southwick said his focus will be on students and parents, while the board handles the search for a permanent replacement.

"We're going to look at things we are doing right now under my tenure and decide what we pull the reins back on, what we put to sleep until a new superintendent comes in, and what are the critical things we have to move on," Southwick said. 

On Monday the board officially accepted Dr. Jim Hinson’s resignation; he unexpectedly announced his retirement last week.

Hinson had been the superintendent of the district for four years. In December, the board approved a contract extension for him until 2020. 

According to his resignation letter, his last day will be June 30. In the meantime, the board is expected to appoint an interim superintendent. 

"We want to make sure the Shawnee Mission School District is a place where teachers want to teach and kids want to learn. And the administration is hugely critical to that process,” said Liz Benditt. 

Benditt’s two children attend school in the district. She is also a member of Education First Shawnee Mission, a group of parents now advocating for transparency in the district.  

"The way things work currently, it’s impossible to know whether you’re being accurately represented,” she said. "The board has a public meeting but all votes are always unanimous, how do you know where the conversation is.” 

Tucker Poling, a parent from Prairie Village, agrees. 

During Monday’s meeting, he asked board members to hold off on selecting a new superintendent until after the November School Board Election. 

"These issues of what are our priorities in the next superintendent are going to be a key topic of discussion. I think that discussion process will help the entire community come forward in a more unified manner,” he said. 

Four years ago, it took board members six months to hire Hinson. They are expected to outline their plans during Wednesday night’s meeting. 

The SMSD sent the following statement to 41 Action News after announcing Southwick's appointment:

The Board of Education has unanimously voted to name Dr. Kenny Southwick as interim superintendent of the Shawnee Mission School District, effective July 1, 2017. The announcement came during a special meeting held tonight. Dr. Jim Hinson remains acting superintendent until his

June 30, 2017 retirement. 

Southwick has 37 years of education experience, and is a familiar face to our community as he has served as deputy superintendent for the Shawnee Mission School District since 2014. Before coming to Shawnee Mission, Southwick served the Belton School District for 22 years, with 12 of those years as superintendent. 

“I am honored and humbled the Board of Education has selected me to lead the team through this time of transition,” Southwick said. “Our focus will continue to be on our students, staff, parents and community. Great things happen every day in our classrooms. Our job is to continue to ensure every student reaches their full potential.” 

Dr. Southwick graduated from William Jewell College in 1976. After working as a social studies teacher, counselor, and football and baseball coach, he moved back to his home town of Excelsior Springs to teach and coach in 1979. Coaching and counseling once again became his passion and in 1980 he became the head football coach of the Tigers. In 1985, he moved to the central office to become the director of special education.

Sara Goodburn, president of the district's board of education, said, "We believe Dr. Southwick is a visionary and will be a great leader for our staff, students and community during this time of transition. His dedication to our district over the past three years is proven. With our innovative curriculum, signature programs and state-of-the-art facilities, our district has never been stronger."

Southwick added, "Our first priority is to close a successful school year for our teachers and students. Then, in June, we plan on having a new funding formula from the state that will allow us to prepare for the next school year." Following the completion of those top priorities, the Board of Education will begin the search for a new superintendent.

Goodburn, added, "The board will engage the community to understand what our patrons want in a leader. We feel confident the district will attract top talent, so we will continue to offer the very best education possible to all students."

Anticipated Timeline for Superintendent Search

July-August – Issue Request For Proposal and select search firm.

September-October – Community engagement surveys conducted.

October – Search firm presents community survey results to board.          

November-January – Superintendent candidates recruited.

February-March – Candidate Interviews conducted.

March-April – New superintendent selected.