Kansas Advancing Women endorsed the following candidates for the General Election on November 7, 2017:
Libby Albers — Newton
Lindsey Constance — Shawnee
Lisa Cummins — Westwood
Cummins is a life-long resident of Kansas. She attended grade school-high school in the Shawnee Mission School District. She has been employed at the Midwest Transplant Network, a non-profit organization, for almost 35 years and the offices are located in Westwood.
Cummins became a block captain in Westwood almost 10 years ago and has served on the 47th Street Commission, is on the Board of the Westwood Foundation and is currently on the City Council. Cummins was appointed by Mayor Ye following a vacancy in October 2015. From the beginning of a nearly two-year process, Cummins has been involved in the Comprehensive Plan process, and the plan was recently adopted. Cummins listened to her neighbors on what part of the plan was desired and what was not, which made the whole process work. Cummins says to be a public servant, you have to look beyond your front door, beyond your driveway and your street, and you need to look at what is best for the City as a whole.
Sollie Flora — Mission
Solana (“Sollie”) Flora grew up in Johnson County, attending public schools. After graduating high school, Sollie attended college out of state (B.A., Grinnell College, Sociology and Gender & Women’s Studies) before pursuing a law degree (J.D., University of Michigan Law School). She then returned to Kansas to complete a judicial clerkship at the Kansas Supreme Court with Justice Carol Beier.
After the completion of her clerkship, Sollie joined an internationally-renowned law firm in Chicago (Winston & Strawn LLP). After three years in the windy city learning her trade, she decided to bring her skills back home to live and work in the Kansas City area.
Sollie was drawn to Mission’s central location, well-established neighborhoods, and charming business district. She is now a homeowner in Mission’s Milhaven neighborhood. You’re likely to spot her walking her rescue dog, Max, or frequenting Mission’s restaurants with her boyfriend, Dave.
Sollie works as a local attorney at Berkowitz Oliver LLP, located near Crown Center. Her practice primarily focuses on business litigation and intellectual property matters.
Sollie also invests substantial time and energy in giving back to the community. She serves on the board of directors of SAFEHOME, a not-for-profit Johnson County agency that provides critical support to victims of domestic violence. Sollie is also a regular foster parent and shelter volunteer with Unleashed Pet Rescue here in Mission.
Jen Hill — Roeland Park
Five years ago, Hill was house hunting for the third time. This time it was for a safe neighborhood, a friendly and welcoming community, a place with great schools, community involvement, and a home to raise her boys. Luck, fate, karma, and prayers were answered when I had the good fortune of buying in Roeland Park.
The cornerstone of the city, St. Agnes, welcomed her family to both the school and the church. She is honored to live in the city of trees known for its progressive thinking and openness toward all.
Hill’s experience teaching in public schools for twenty-three years has taught her to work collaboratively with others under difficult circumstances; even when opinions are differing. She believes the public office is not a place for personal opinions — rather a chance to serve the community and its needs.
Melissa Rose Hodges — Salina
As a life-long Salinian, Hodges has continued her families’ tradition of community service as a long-time volunteer. She has served as a volunteer for the Stiefel Theater, USC305, Heritage Commission and her church. She is the former executive director of Salina Downtown, Inc. and has been a City Commissioner since January 2017.
Hodges says the 2016 election cycle convinced her that it’s time to step up or shut up. Nearly 20 percent of Salinans live in poverty and projections show a declining workforce population. Economic development isn’t just a slogan — its about the survival of Salina’s community and will determine the success of major downtown investments like downtown STAR bonds, rive renewal, a new water treatment plant, Schilling contamination cleanup and other infrastructure projects. Hodges says the city needs to ensure that it is making decisions in the best long-term interests of all Salinans.
Hodges’ slogan is a “good government begins at home,” and that although running for office may be uncomfortable we can’t afford to stay on the sidelines any longer. Future Kansans are depending on us to overcome our discomfort, to enter the arena and to make a difference.
Stacy Knipp — Lenexa
In February 2017, Stacy Knipp was appointed to the Lenexa City Council to fill an open seat left by long-time council person Diana Linver.
Knipp is an Air Force vet, stay-at-home parent, active Lenexa Chamber of Commerce member, and dedicated community volunteer. Listening to her kids, ages 11 to 20, their friends, and parents keeps her in touch with what it takes to attract and keep young talent in the city. Her husband and she are part owners of a Lenexa-based business so they know firsthand what it takes for a city to be appealing for businesses and their employees.
Public & Community Service
Lenexa Chamber of Commerce
Whispering Hills Homeowners Association Secretary of the Board
School Volunteer – Manchester Park Elem & Olathe Northwest HS
Olathe Northwest Band Board
Lenexa Parks & Rec Advisory Board 2015-2017
Variety Show KC Co-Chair 2016
Lenexa Citizen Advisory Committee, Lenexa Fire Department
Lenexa Citizen Advisory Committee, City Center Grand Opening
Team manager: Rush Soccer, 2008-2013 & Club Volleyball 2010-2011
Religious education teacher, 1996 to 2008
Deann Mitchell — Olathe
Mitchell is running for Olathe City Council because she realized she needed to be involved, we all need to be involved, in the political process to make voices heard.
Mitchell moved to Olathe 32 years ago. She has watched the city grow from 50,000 residents to 140,000. The diversity of the City has changed dramatically but the leadership has not. Mitchell says Olathe deserves leaders that will better address the challenges of a growing city, specifically public safety needs. Mitchell is a leader who will embrace diversity and promote the city’s common goals.
She has been in Financial Service industry for over 30 years and is a Certified Financial Planner helping people manage their finances and wealth using best money management practices. She also a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, specializing in assisting clients going through difficult times with the loss of a loved one, or divorce.
Mitchell has been involved in community service for years, beginning as a PTO member and president at Scarborough Elementary. She leads local non-profit that serves Veterans, Veterans Voices Writing Project. She has been appointed to two separate State Committees, the Kansas Credit Union Council and the State Behavioral Health Services Planning Council.
Mandy Stuke — Lenexa
Mandy Stuke was appointed to represent Ward 4 of the Lenexa City Council in 2011. She was re-elected in April 2013. Prior to her appointment, Mandy served more than six years as a member of the Lenexa Planning Commission and Board of Zoning Appeals.
School Board Endorsements
Angela Becker — Newton
Becker is senior budge analyst, with a Master’s Degree in finance from Pepperdine University and is running in Newton for USD 373.
The state of Kansas and our schools are in an economic crisis. Schools are continually expected to do more with less. Becker will use her expertise in finance to find ways to offer the best education possible to our children. As a school board member, she will focus on:
• Advocating for fair school funding
• Ensuring money is being spent properly
• Incorporating the community in the discussion
• Uniting the board on major decisions
Becker wants great schools for our children and the community. Because she is not yet a parent, educator or administration, she will bring an unbiased opinion to the board and ensure decisions made are fair to the entire district.
Becker serves as a board member for the Second Century Library Foundation and volunteer at at the YMCA.
Karen Bertels — Neodesha
Bertels has a background in the field of education and has worked in all levels of education for more than 25 years. Bertels taught and served in supervisory positions, including not only in the academic forum, but also within a broad range of technical programs.
One of the top challenges Bertels sees to the Neodesha district is that limits to state aid to schools has resulted in more reliance on local property taxes to adequately fund local districts. Bertels says school boards must insure that all funds are handled in a manner that is both fiscally responsible as well as allocated in a manner that best meets the needs of the local community.
Bertels is currently an officer for the P.E.O. Chapter serving Neodesha, a member of the Fredonia Arts Council, and serves as a a member of the Board of Trustees for a local food bank.
Jurdene Coleman — Manhattan/Ogden
This year, the state Supreme Court ruled that the funding for our Kansas Public Schools is substandard and has been for quite some time. As a parent and a citizen of this state, this is unacceptable. Kansas kids have the right to quality education regardless of rural, suburban, or urban residency. Although funding is not something we can fix overnight, we can do our part locally to put our USD 383 kids first. This includes finding new funding sources outside of the state budget and continuing to implement wise spending practices.
Manhattan is known for coming together to make change and our kids deserve our hard work and support to ensure a quality education, world class educators, and a physically and emotionally safe learning environment.
As a mental health professional, Coleman sees kids every day who are impacted by bullying within our schools. Her personal mission on the board will be to work to end bullying and create an environment in our schools that promotes celebration of differences, positive individual self worth, and inclusiveness. It’s everyone’s job to make everyone feel welcome and connected. Join me in standing up for the mental health and well being of our USD 383 kids.
Jill R. Gillett — Fredonia Unified School District
Gillett is a local attorney and serves as the Guardian ad litem for the children of Wilson County, which covers three school districts. She makes difficult decisions every day weighing all the evidence and forming opinions based on fact and law. Gillett has been a special investigator for the Kansas Open Meetings Act so understands the importance of holding open meetings that are accessible to the public.
Who better to help set up a new truancy program than someone who has worked with it for years as Gillett has. As a lawyer, Gillett stays up to date on the issues directly affecting the school funding and budget. She understands the budget issues and would be able to make the best decisions for the budget.
Gillett belongs to the Fredonia Business Women, Chanute Business and Professional Women, is the President of the Neosho County Bar Association, and is a member of Cultivate Fredonia.
Laura Guy — Shawnee Mission School Board
Laura is running for the West school board seat because she believes we need pivotal change. Guy says transparency is needed on the Board decision-making process so parents, teachers, administrators, and the community trusts the Board to make decisions after thoughtful consideration and with the best interest of the students in mind at all times. Guy says the Board faces many challenges including:
- Hiring a new superintendent who will set the course for excellence in our district for the next decade
- Creating school boundaries based on changing attendance patterns in a manner that is equitable
- Attracting and retaining the best teachers in the state of Kansas
Buy brings a pivotal change, turning in a new direction that will create a new culture of cooperation between parents, schools and the community.
Karla Hagemeister — Manhattan/Ogden
Hagemeister has lived in Manhattan since 1993. She attended Kansas State University and obtained a B.A. in Social Work. After two years working as a social worker for Social and Rehabilitative Services in Junction City, she now works as a Victim/Witness Coordinator at the Riley County Attorney’s Office.
Hagemeister married Scott in 1997, and has two children. They have an eighth grader at Eisenhower Middle School, and a third grader at Woodrow Wilson.
Both of her children have thrived in their schools. They have been surrounded by dedicated and engaged teachers, staff and administrators who go the extra mile every day for the children they serve. Their educational opportunities have gone beyond the basic academic subjects and they have participated in projects such as the Geography Bee, History Day, science fairs, STEM nights, and many more. She hopes to serve on the USD 383 board so she can be part of a team that will continue to move us forward.
Mandi Hunter — Shawnee Mission School Board
Hunter says Shawnee Mission Schools are at a critical juncture. As a Shawnee Mission graduate, married to a Shawnee Mission graduate, a Shawnee Mission parent, and an attorney in private practice, Hunter has a uniquely relevant skill set to represent patrons, continue progress, and make the necessary changes for the district to ensure Shawnee Mission remains a flagship school district for the county and the state.
Ramona Newsom — Salina
Newsom’s 15 months serving on the USD 305 School Board has given her the experience necessary to do the work of the Board of Education. Newsom has been part of many accomplishments thusfar. In the 15 months since my appointment she has gained the experience necessary to do the work of the Board of Education.
Newsom says it’s important to have experience on the board, especially as the district begins a search for a new superintendent. According to the Kansas Association of School Boards, the hiring of the superintendent is the most important vote a board member will ever take. As important as Newsom’s experience is, she says the board also needs diversity. Diversity of ideas, diversity of backgrounds – and the diversity of issues our population faces.
Some of the challenges Newsom sees for the district includes School Finance. Newsom says although it is a fiscally sound District, they must continue to monitor legislative decisions and be good stewards over our finances in anticipation of any potential shortfalls. She also sees Career and Post-secondary readiness as a challenge the district faces. However she says the Board has already made great strides in preparing our students for success in this area. As a result of the 2014 Bond projects, all of the schools have an increased capacity for creative learning, and with the STEM and CTE additions to our high schools.
Heather Ousley — Shawnee Mission School Board
Heather Ousley is a public education advocate from Merriam, Kansas.
She believes that every child deserves access to an excellent education opportunity, and for the last five years has advocated for fully funding Kansas Public Schools.
She attended Shawnee Mission Schools from kindergarten through graduation, and attended the University of Kansas for both undergraduate and law school. A recipient of the KU Law Rice Scholarship, Heather’s law practice primarily consists of civil rights work.
Heather is well known for walking to Topeka from her home in Merriam, to raise awareness of the need for constitutionally funded Kansas schools and the risks associated with privatization efforts.
The selection of a new Superintendent directly impacts her children’s education experience, and this skin in the game has motivated her to run for a seat at the Board table.
Her three children attend Shawnee Mission Schools, with her oldest entering middle school next fall, and her youngest graduating from kindergarten this spring. She has served as both PTA President and as a Girl Scout Troop Leader. She’s been an active advocate for our schools for years, at both the local and state level. She’s the only candidate endorsed by all four public education groups: MainPac (Mainstream Coalition); NEA Shawnee Mission; Education First Shawnee Mission; and the Network for Public Education.
Heather values transparency, community input, and ensuring children and educators have a strong voice speaking on their behalf.
Jennifer Prewitt — Manhattan/Ogden
Prewitt believes a mental health perspective is essential on any school board to ensure that all students’ psychological well-being is considered and promoted to the best of our community’s abilities. She wants to work with the Board of Education, superintendents, principals, teachers, and students to eliminate bullying and suicide. She also want to work to ensure that all parents are aware of early childhood interventions that are available for their children.
Prewitt is a clinical psychologist, licensed in Kansas and Connecticut. She specialized in neuropsychology. She currently work as a therapist and neuropsychologist at Ft. Riley where she see Soldiers and their dependents. Part of her job entails being on-call in the Irwin Army Community Hospital Emergency Department where she evaluate Soldiers and their dependents, including children, for suicidal ideation and/or attempt.
Prewitt also have a 4 year-old son who is on an IEP. He attended College Hill Preschool last year and attends Panda Preschool this year. She want to be as active in his school career as possible to help him have the best learning environment possible.
Mary Sinclair — Shawnee Mission School District
Sinclair is running for Shawnee Mission school board to be among the seven members to select the next superintendent. The responsibility for managing district resources, in the daily pursuit of educational excellence for all students, rests with the superintendent. Sinclair says district leadership stems from the superintendent’s office, in collaboration with governance and oversight provided by school board members. Together district leadership sets direction and exercises influence through policy development, allocation of resources, and clear communication.
Sinclair is also running is to bring a more balanced governance approach to this partnership between the school board and superintendent’s office. She will serve as a board member who will ask questions, push for transparency and engage district stakeholders. Sinclair says the Shawnee Mission community is a greatest resources, whose involvement can only enhance opportunities for all our students to excel. The growing diversity, financial barriers to inclusion and rapidly changing societal demands for college and career readiness only make need for community involvement more compelling.
Sinclair has been a member of the Fairway Parks and Recreation committee since before the recession, so she appreciates the municipal perspective of balancing quality services with budgetary limitations and the importance of a meaningful process to gather community input. As a board chair and board member on two family businesses, she appreciates the difference between governance and management, respects the role of fiduciary oversight, and values transparent policies and procedures to guide the decision-making process.