NewsPoliticalKansas City-area elections


Lee's Summit school board candidates weigh in key issues

Posted at 12:57 PM, Apr 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-03 14:22:47-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A school district's Board of Education has to handle many aspects of public education from finance and operations to performance and outcomes.

Candidates for the Lee's Summit school board will run for three open seats currently held by board members Kathy Campbell and Kim Fritchie, and former board member Megan Marshall.

Each candidate will serve a three-year term.

One candidate, Campbell, responded to KSHB 41’s questionnaire.

Answers have been lightly edited for AP style and grammar, but we hope the answers help voters better understand the issues and candidates ahead of the April 4 primary election.


Why are you running for the Board of Education? If elected, what will be your priorities?

Kathryn Campbell - I’m passionate about our LSR7 students and their educational opportunities. I’ve served for the past three years as a board member and the past year as the board president. I’m bringing experience, stability and balanced leadership to this reelection run with students at the center of all decision-making, celebrating district success and continuing to work hard to resolve district challenges by asking tough questions to close barriers and engage all stakeholders as part of the process and listening to ensure our strategic direction and decisions as a Board is seen in the success of every one of our LSR7 students.

My Priorities for LSR7:

  • Strategic planning – Lead, listen and learn to continue in partnership, advancing our students’ educational opportunities and district facilities. 
  • Accountability – Promises made, promises kept! Tracking metrics to ensure progress on our commitments to students, families, staff & community. 
  • Transparency – Commitment to stakeholder engagement at all levels – with students always at the center. 
  • Partner through change – Championing the changes needed for our district for sustained growth. 

Is there a particular issue that motivates you to serve on the board of education?

Kathryn Campbell - There is not one issue that motivates me – there are thousands. We have close to 18,000 students and families, over 2,900 staff members and many community members. When we think about the importance of all of us working together and focusing on the education and opportunities for every one of our LSR7 students, that motivates me in board service!

What experiences or skills have prepared you to serve as a board member?

  • Board of Education experience since June 2020 and board president since April 2022 
  • Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) Master level certification board service – homeowner board president and secretary, Somerset at Charleston Park 
  • Professional qualifications include management, leadership, organizational change management, process management, program/portfolio management, team dynamics and team building board service – homeowner board VP, Tower Park 
  • LSR7 volunteer and officer roles as a parent (PTA, PTSA, classroom volunteer, ProjectGrad chair, LSHS booster club and gridiron club, LSHS robotics mentor) 

What differentiates you from the other candidates and/or board members?

Kathryn Campbell - What differentiates me from other candidates is my board service experience and deep learning and training in board governance. I’ve worked to understand our policies and the processes of our district. As we’ve discussed accountability related to both superintendent and district performance, I’ve focused on working across the board and administration, identifying metrics to track success and leveraging the data to aid us in decision-making.

Here's why voters should vote for me:

  • I am an experienced board leader focused on building relationships and collaboration; I respect and value different viewpoints and expertise in others as I gather info, evaluate options and make decisions with an eye to our shared mission – Preparing each student for success in life! 
  • I’m a change champion focused on how change impacts people, ensuring there is transparency on why the change is important and ensuring we engage people to become part of the change. 
  • I am not afraid to ask tough questions for clarity or to spur discussion or debate. Sometimes tough conversations are needed to accelerate us to get to our shared goals. 

While the campaign can be very competitive and it’s important to identify why people should vote for me, I’m also clear that board service and board governance is about being one of seven board of education members. So in board service, while I may bring different strengths or skills to the board, the focus of effective board governance is that we collaborate to work effectively as one board. We accept and champion board decisions and votes, even if I individually may have voted a different way.
Clarity of Purpose

What are the factors on which you will base your decisions as a school board member?

Kathryn Campbell - As a board, we are student-centered in our decision-making. I ensure that we’ve brought in policy for guidance and it’s also critical that we rely on our experts whether we’ve put together a committee of our community, students and staff or if there are key administrators. As a board, I’ve worked really hard to ensure that we may provide direction or collaborate with the superintendent on that direction. Still, it’s important that we honor and trust the hard work that goes into recommendations to the board and support those recommendations or return them to committee or administrative work if we feel like something needs additional research or evaluation.

What specific steps would you take as a school board member to improve transparency and make school district information more widely available?

Kathryn Campbell - I work hard on this area, and we discuss it deeply as a board. Our district does an outstanding job of sharing information. It’s a lot of information and I think we continue to identify the best ways people can easily consume the information to act on it. An area I think we have a great opportunity is how we bring information in from the community, those two-way communications or inbound. We’re currently evaluating a few tools that I think will really help us in this space and will be firing up a committee to evaluate that as well.

As a school board member, from whom will you seek advice or input in weighing key decisions?

Kathryn Campbell - All of our stakeholders – our students, our families and parents, our staff and our community. I rely on the expertise of our superintendent, staff and administrative leadership team. I trust and value them as I know they have students. I will also seek advice from every student at the center of their work. I also rely on MSBA expertise and legal expertise. As a board member, it’s critical to understand in a district of our size, you cannot know and be the expert in every subject, so you have to trust and rely on the district resources that are our experts. Lastly, I will listen and learn from my fellow board members as well. Whether we all need additional data or information to aid in our decision-making or another viewpoint or question that I had not thought of that helps me view things from a different angle. I appreciate all these people, these relationships and my learning that drive me to be a better board member serving our students.=

Finance and Operations

What are your thoughts on the current and the proposed budget for your school district? How would you determine your budget priorities?

Kathryn Campbell - I’ve served all three years of board service on the Finance Committee and we’re fortunate in our district to have excellent leadership in our finance division. We evaluate our budget against actuals every month and in addition to the district budget. In 2020, our voters approved a significant bond initiative and following that, I requested that we’ve tracked the project budgets for transparency and accountability to our community as the district worked to deliver these large projects over the past three years. We also track our budget across the next five years, which allows us to consider longer-range projections as we monitor the impacts of decisions across multiple years. Our budget planning is now in process and as a board, we provide clear direction in that board budget priority should follow our board priorities and strategic plan (CSIP). I’m very excited and appreciative that we’re implementing zero-based budgeting across our admin and building teams this year. This helps us ensure that all items are included in the budget, reducing financial risk and surprises and ensuring that dollars are not duplicated across multiple departments.

What are the district’s greatest capital needs right now? How do you think those needs should be addressed?

Kathryn Campbell - In the last year, our associate superintendent of operational services worked across our district to create a long-range capital plan that addresses maintenance as well as upgrades in facilities and technology. This map gives our board clarity to ensure that we’re proactively planning and budgeting for the best for our students and reducing risk to the district from a financial and safety standpoint. We will begin planning for a new comprehensive master facilities plan for our district in the next few months. Being forward-looking and future-ready is important to our district in serving our students’ educational needs.

How will you enlist support for bond issues or public school spending from voters or taxpayers with no children in the public schools? How can the school board prove itself accountable to those citizens?

Kathryn Campbell - In our LSR7 community, we are fortunate to have a very engaged and active community. People understand how a strong, vibrant community builds a strong, vibrant school district and vice versa. The community supports the district and collaboration across our City leadership, the Chamber of Commerce and various business and community groups. Our community engagement committees have strong members and engagement as well as the information shared with the community from the district in a monthly magazine, webinars and podcasts that are shared and available to everyone in the community. Additional in-person events have been added, and we will continue to grow in the future. With that ongoing engagement, we build relationships based on trust with our community.

The board ensures accountability with the community by focusing on effective board governance and being engaged and transparent:

  • Setting strategic direction 
  • Collaboration with the superintendent 
  • Monitoring district and superintendent performance 
  • Community connection and engagement 
  • Responsible leadership    

We continue to drive for opportunities to engage with students, families and our communities. I’m excited that we’re looking at several tools to help us with two-way engagement.
Teacher starting salaries continue to be an ongoing discussion here in Missouri. How will you be able to keep and attract staff despite having some of the lowest salaries in the nation?

Kathryn Campbell - LSR7 continues to be a destination district with a high retention rate for teachers and staff. We are at the top in the region for our benefits to our staff. As other districts have worked to increase staff salaries, we’ve fallen behind on staff pay. We have a ballot issue asking our voters to approve a no-tax increase levy transfer, moving 20 cents from the debt service levy to the operating levy with the intention of increasing staff salaries. But to be clear, retention isn’t just about salaries and benefits. We also are looking at climate and culture to hear from our staff on areas that may be opportunities for change.

Performance and Outcomes

How will you engage the community to improve public schools in the district?

Kathryn Campbell - We engage through committees, both board and superintendent-directed, surveys and are evaluating several tools to help us. We continue to look for new ways and opportunities for engagement!

In your view, what has the district done well over the past year? In what areas could the district improve?

Kathryn Campbell - We are doing so many things well. It’s exciting to see our “Real World Learning,” “Explore” at the elementary level, “Ignite” at the middle school level and “Experience” at the high school level as our district builds those pipelines for students, whether college-bound or career ready. Being a data-driven district, we are leveraging our NWEA student date and our student well-being survey data and Schoology for grades. Teachers and administrators are working to identify where students may need additional support or rigor. Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) ensure we meet each student where they are and provide the support they need to succeed. Our equity work focused on belonging continues to drive engagement and opportunities for all of our staff and students. We are seeing significant increases in students engaged in clubs and extracurricular activities, understanding the benefit of this engagement as it directly impacts and builds student success.

How should the district address underperforming schools?

Kathryn Campbell - We are a data-driven district. This ensures that each of our building teams is actively engaged and evaluating each student and that administrative teams are in the buildings and collaborating with them on success measures as well as the opportunities for MTSS and how we support our students in their success.

How should school board members evaluate school and student performance in your district?

Kathryn Campbell - We have monthly reporting in our board meetings that are reviewed to see where things are exceeding targets and where we may be seeing gaps. Plans are shared and those plans are monitored for improvement to ensure we close gaps.

What metrics will you use to assess district leadership’s attainment of key goals? How will you know when a program or decision has been successful?

Kathryn Campbell - We work closely with the superintendent and his leadership team. It’s important with any program we’re rolling out that we have a clear plan, the metrics we’ll be tracking for success and the frequency of that review as well as the long-term goals and how we will evaluate the scalability of the programs for broad district-wide growth.