Last month, we asked our readers to tell us what you want candidates running for local office talking about ahead of the Nov. 7 election.
We received dozens of responses, some directed at particular races and many more broadly asking questions of all or most candidates.
For school board candidates, many of our readers zeroed in repeatedly on a few themes, including wanting to hear whether candidates support schools’ diversity and inclusion efforts and what their stance is on increasingly frequent calls to remove some books and materials from school libraries.
Below are the questions we’re asking candidates running in races for Blue Valley Board of Education.
We will publish the candidates’ responses to these questions the week of Oct. 23, just ahead of early voting, so you can make as informed a decision as possible about which candidates most represent your views and priorities.
Remember: The Post will also host a live, in-person forum featuring the Blue Valley school board candidates on Wednesday, Oct. 4, at Leawood Pioneer Library.
That event is being co-sponsored by Johnson County Library. RSVP for that event here.
Blue Valley school board questions:
- Diversity, equity and inclusion: With an increasingly diverse student body, school districts like Blue Valley are putting more resources into training teachers and staff on ways to make schools and classrooms more inclusive and welcoming to all students. These initiatives, at times, have come under scrutiny, with critics saying diversity and inclusion efforts can take away from academic instruction or politicize the schoolhouse. Do you agree with how Blue Valley is currently approaching diversity, equity and inclusion? Why or why not?
- Removing books: School boards, including Blue Valley’s, have in recent years been faced with requests from some parents to remove books and other materials from school libraries or classrooms, often because of the books’ sexual content. The American Library Association says many of the books most frequently targeted for challenges last year were those with LGTBQ themes or authors. As a board member, what principles and standards will you use to determine whether a book or other material should be removed from a school library or classroom?
- Teacher retention: Teacher and staff retention has been a concern for years in local schools, a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Districts continue to enter each new year with dozens of vacancies, most notably among special education teachers. Schools are also having trouble filling classified, non-teacher staff roles, like paras and custodians. What, if anything, can the school board do to help schools recruit and retain qualified staff?
- Student achievement: By some metrics, including national standardized tests like NAEP, Kansas schools’ academic performance has declined in the wake of COVID-19, and student achievement has yet to fully return to pre-pandemic levels, especially in math. At the same time, Blue Valley remains one of the highest achieving school districts in Kansas when it comes to state-level assessments and graduation rates. How do you assess Blue Valley’s current level of achievement? What, if anything, are you most concerned about?
- Mental health: The mental health of students remains a priority for local schools three years after the COVID-19 pandemic upended traditional modes of education and forced students to learn from home on computers for long stretches of time. Some educators continue to report lasting impacts of that experience, including ongoing behavioral issues and increased rates of stress among students. How effectively is Blue Valley dealing with this issue? What more, if anything, can the school board do to help?