Lawrence school board selects Bob Byers as new member

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Post last updated at 8:14 p.m. Monday, June 26; photo updated at 8:25 p.m.:

The Lawrence school board on Monday selected Bob Byers to fill a vacant board seat for the remainder of the term, through Jan. 12, 2026.

After former board member Kay Emerson resigned on May 26, the board went through an application process to fill the empty seat.

The remaining six board members during their meeting on Monday evening interviewed four applicants before taking a ranked vote to determine who would join the board. They chose Byers for the task, citing the importance of his prior years of experience serving in the district.

Board members had selected Byers, Rachel I. Thomas, Rebekah Gaston and Paul L. Carttar out of eight total applicants during their previous special meeting. After taking a 15-minute recess to mull the decision over, board members reconvened to briefly discuss and vote.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Bob Byers, right, reacts to being named a new Lawrence school board member, June 26, 2023.

They initially had a tied vote between Byers and Carttar. The two applicants received the same number of first- and second-place votes, but Carttar did not receive any third-place votes, which broke the tie in Byers’ favor.

“I continue to prioritize the amount of experience a person has within the district and their knowledge of it, while still balancing other skill sets that folks might bring to the table and gaps where they can fill,” board member Kelly Jones said ahead of the vote. She ultimately voted for Byers first, Thomas second, Gaston third and Carttar fourth.

Board president Shannon Kimball said experience was an important consideration in her thinking, also. She voted for Carttar first, Byers second, Thomas third and Gaston fourth.

“I have also been focused on aspects of people’s experience that demonstrate experience with board governance, systems thinking, a focus on strategic planning, but also unique experiences and perspectives that would be an added benefit to the experiences and perspectives that we already have at the table,” Kimball said. 

Board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood said she was considering ties to Lawrence that are meaningful. She said the pool of candidates was robust, but at the end of the day, she was looking at the person who was able to look upstream, find out where the problems are and get to their roots. She voted for Gaston first, Carttar second, Byers third and Thomas fourth.

Byers, who’s a 45-year resident of Lawrence, previously served on the board from 2009 to 2013 and then again by appointment from 2014 to 2015. He’s also a retired developer of child welfare programs for Kansas.

Byers will be officially sworn in during the board’s July 10 organizational meeting. 

Upcoming primary election

Five additional school board seats will be on the ballot in the Nov. 7 general election, and there will be an Aug. 1 primary election for one of those seats. In addition to the Lawrence school board, three Lawrence City Commission positions will also be on the ballot. Click here for the full list of candidates.

The deadline to register to vote in order to cast a ballot in the Aug. 1 primary is Tuesday, July 11.

Advance voting begins Wednesday, July 12. Douglas County voters can check their voter registration, register to vote or request an advance ballot by mail at

Candidates who make it through the primary will be on the ballots for the general election, coming up Tuesday, Nov. 7. See candidates for other local governments in Douglas County at this link. Learn more about voting in Douglas County at this link.

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Robert (Bob) A. Byers speaks to the Lawrence school board on June 26, 2023.
August Rudisell/Lawrence Times The Lawrence school board interviews Robert (Bob) A. Byers on June 26, 2023.
August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Paul L. Carttar speaks to the Lawrence school board on June 26, 2023.
August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Rebekah Gaston speaks to the Lawrence school board on June 26, 2023.
August Rudisell/Lawrence Times Rachel I. Thomas speaks to the Lawrence school board on June 26, 2023.
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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

— Reporter Mackenzie Clark contributed to this article.

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