Meet the 13 applicants for the Lawrence school board vacancy

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Post last updated at 6:57 p.m. Monday, Aug. 22:

The call for community members interested in filling a vacant Lawrence school board seat has yielded a baker’s dozen responses.

All 13 applications were published with the board’s agenda materials. Current board members will discuss them on Monday and decide which four candidates they want to interview.


Here’s a quick glance at who applied, in alphabetical order by last name, plus their answers to one of the questions from the application: “Explain why you want to serve on the board, including relevant experience and/or expertise you would provide in this position.”

Responses are not edited. Applicants were asked to limit their responses to each question to 300 words.

Kimberly Beets

Lawrence resident for: “15 years”

“I have been primarily engaged in the higher education community for the past ten years, but my life and our society at large has taken a trajectory that inspires passion for the K-12 system. I am in the final stage of my PhD in Social and Cultural Studies in Education, currently writing a quantitative dissertation using nationwide census data regarding educational attainment. I worked for the School of Education at KU for five years with current and future educators, and learned about about the KSDE requirements for schools and educators, so I am familiar with the infrastructure we must conform to and abide by to meet state standards, while also deeply understanding the obstacles we face as a community to meet the standards of the teachers and children/families in Lawrence. I would like to serve on the board because I have a unique mix of experiences within and outside of the educational system, and because I am a parent in the school district. I want to contribute my knowledge and experience to helping children in the community while being supportive of our district’s teachers and staff.”

Trevor Bollinger

Lawrence resident for: “01/01/2020-Present”

“I have a strong desire to benefit the community I live in. Despite only living in Lawrence for two years, it has become home for myself and my growing family. I want to play a part ensuring the children in Lawrence have access to the best educational opportunities possible. To do so, I believe the teachers in Lawrence public schools need a strong board of education capable of taking on difficult budgetary requirements in a manner that maintains the confidence and support of those teachers. Currently, Lawrence is not especially competitive insofar as pay and benefits compared to surrounding schools. I believe finding ways with the current budget to allocate resources to maintain teacher happiness will in turn create a better educational environment for the students through better retention and overall more satisfied teachers. My expertise that I can provide in these efforts are predominantly critical thinking and deep analytical skills derived from my legal education as a student at KU Law. Outside my legal education, I have held positions in various financial institutions as an insurance agent, underwriter, and business analyst.”

Anne Costello

Lawrence resident for: “I have been living in Lawrence for over 15 years, not including the years I lived in Lawrence while attending the University of Kansas.”

“Learning is a life-long endeavor and schools play such a huge role in that. I have a long-held passion for learning. One of my degrees is in middle-secondary social studies education. I stumbled into my current career as a buyer after graduation. Despite a love of teaching, I cannot afford the pay cut it would require to start teaching. My current job has provided me with bountiful experience in managing a budget and balancing competing priorities, two things that will be helpful to me as a member of the board.

“My first experience with a school board came in high school, when the Olathe schools were looking to ban a book. As I attended meetings in opposition to the ban, I was exposed to the role of the board in student’s education. I remember wondering at the time if the board ever spoke with students to understand their perspective. It was then that I first thought about running for school board at some point. After watching the budget issue play out over the last year, my desire to run for school board was solidified. I have 2 children in the district as well as a husband that works for the district, so the success of the district is very personal to me. I want to ensure that the children of Lawrence receive the best education possible. As a college town, we should value education highly and I want to be a part of making that happen. That and some encouragement from friends led me to apply.”

Alicia Erickson

Lawrence resident for: “Since fall 1997 with the exception of 8 months”

“Service on a board of education is an important way I can work toward the betterment of our students, staff, and community. I have the passion and perspective to serve in a way that listens to all various points of view.The USD497 board has many effective policies and procedures and works hard to engage with various voices. I believe there is room for improvement in engagement with district staff. I also think we can do more to seek out more diverse voices. This would strengthen the district’s connection with the community and build trust with staff. I have worked with people of differing perspectives and passionate beliefs, both through Save our Schools 497 and through my professional work experiences. My time with SOS497 has refined my ability to listen to different perspectives and work toward ensuring all people feel seen and heard regardless of our perspectives about a given situation. I have heard concerns from staff and community members to understand better people’s lived experiences from many diverse situations.

“I served as the board president at Ten Thousand Villages for four years. Maintaining a respectful and effective relationship between the board and manager while supporting the voices of the employees and volunteers directly relates to serving on the USD497 board.

“I believe board members need a detailed understanding of budgetary policies and limitations. I have attended as many BPEC and boundary meetings as possible and worked with experts in the community to expand my understanding of the district’s current budgetary needs. I worked as a branch manager for a local bank for years and have experience in communicating complex budget issues with customers simply and effectively. I worked at KU on grant management — spending most of my time understanding, adjusting, and presenting budget projections and reconciling actual expenses.”

Ronald “GR” Gordon-Ross

Lawrence resident for: “26 Years”

“Public education has always been very important to me. My mom set an example for me of serving on a school Board when I was younger, and it was always a goal of mine to do the same. There is a lot of work to do within USD497. During my time on the Board a lot of good work was accomplished. We laid the foundation for a student-centered approach to the work with the Strategic Plan that was created. But there remains work to do. That work required an understanding of that student-centered, equity lens that started it – as well as a broad vision of all the areas impacted by the Board’s decisions. I have both recent and current experience with the issues the Board is facing and will be able to step in immediately and help move forward in accomplishing the district’s strategic goals.”

Amy McVey

Lawrence resident for: “14 years”

“Both of my children attended Lawrence Public Schools (one will be a senior at Free State High School this year). I appreciate this community; and now that my children are older, I want to give back. I also do a lot of facility upgrade work for other school districts and counties, and I believe my contribution in the areas of procurement and mechanical system knowledge/green energy could be beneficial to ensuring Lawrence Public Schools enjoys excellence from their construction vendors.”

Clint Ramirez Stephens

Lawrence resident for: “since 2017”

“The upcoming years will be a new chapter for USD 497 in post-pandemic education. My experience and expertise are highly relevant to the challenges ahead.

– Ph.D. in Education, focusing on quantitative analytics
– Research expertise in how educational organizations thrive after budget cuts
– 11 years of teaching in higher education
– Curriculum development and assessment in leadership education of youth
– Experience serving on community and non-profit boards prior to joining the Lawrence community”

Phil Riedel

Lawrence resident for: “Two Years”

“I was a career Educator. I was a teacher, coach, sponsor and administrator during my Educational Career. I feel my experience as a parent, teacher, coach and building administrator would serve me well as a school board member.”

Jeanette Smith

Lawrence resident for: “11 years”

“In my previous life I was the Executive Director for an Alzheimers Community. At that time I needed to be an advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves. I now am a foster parent for intensive level children and have the awesome responsibility of helping them navigate a dysfunctional system while trying to get them educated and create as normal of a life as possible. We also help them create a life they want goong forward.”

Heather Sprague

Lawrence resident for: “Three years”

“I have worked in state politics for many years, and have closely observed the education committees and policies. I have a great depth of knowledge about the state‘s education system, funding, and am an advocate for schools in my work. I have always wanted to participate more locally, and I care very much about Lawrence schools and my daughter, and all of our children’s, education. I believe I could bring a fresh voice and ideas to the table along with my expertise in education policy.”

Justin Thomas

Lawrence resident for: “7 years”

“I have attended many USD 497 functions over the years as my wife, Rachel Thomas, used to work under Julie Boyle. So I’ve been to Free State High football games and I’ve been to (and participated in) Lawrence Schools Foundation events. I worked closely with Maria Englebrecht in staffing Paraeducator positions for the district while I worked at Express Employment in Lawrence.

“I’ve also served at many Chamber of Commerce events, usually acting as an emcee for some of their monthly events. And I am also still an active substitute member of Douglas County Connections. I’ve given my personal business to many of these local companies in my time as a member & participant and therefore have only intertwined myself more heavily into the health of the local Lawrence community.

“And although I never saw this to complete fruition, I was working on setting up a monthly resume workshop with the Center for Great Futures at Boys & Girls Club through Express Employment until I found my most recent position at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.”

Travis Tozer

Lawrence resident for: “15 years”

“I’ve wanted to serve on the board since 2020 and wanted to serve my community since I was 10. I think almost any person of at least moderate intelligence with a strong conscience is inevitably drawn to public service. And public education has always been essential to building well rounded adults and positive individual outcomes. In that vein, I can think of no better use for my time than to do my part for the Lawrence school district. This is why I ran for the board in 2021.”

Lindsay (Lou) Wilson

Lawrence resident for: “18 years”

“I have children in the district, which keeps me invested in the schools. I helped organize during the Save Our Schools rally’s. I do not have previous experience but no one does when they start out, I would like an opportunity to get my foot in and help keep my community and the schools positive and safe for my children and others.”

The current school board members during their meeting on Monday, Aug. 22 will discuss the applications received and decide which four people they want to interview. At a special board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 30, the board will interview the selected candidates and appoint one to serve on the board until Jan. 8, 2024.

Monday’s meeting will start with a work session at 5:15 p.m., and the regular meeting — when application review will take place — starts at 6 p.m. Meetings are open to the public at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. They are also livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

Here are all the applications (or click here to download the full PDF). The candidate’s last name and the page number are stamped in the bottom left corner of each page to help tell the responses apart.


Find each individual application online with the school board’s agenda materials.

Voters will next weigh in during the November 2023 general election, when five total board seats will be on the ballot.

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