Mar. 23, 2019

Name: Michael McMenus
Occupation: Senior Process Specialist, Kiewit Engineering
Education: HS, Kickapoo Springfield, MO 1977; BS Life Science Missouri University Science & Technology 1981; 32 graduate hours Molecular biology, genetics, immunology 1982-1984 Missouri State University; MS Environmental Management, University of Maryland, University College, 2010
Years lived in LS: 17
Previous elected offices held: None

Why are you running for school board?

I am a parent of students in the R7 district. 2 of my children have graduated from R7 schools and my 14 year old daughter is a freshman at Lee’s Summit West. I believe the school board needs members who can bring skills beyond education experience to the board. As an employee of Kiewit Engineering I bring project management and financial management skills to the board. I also bring the experience Kiewit diversifying its workforce to the board. I also have educational experience as an Adjunct professor in the Environmental Health and Safety program at Metropolitan Community College of Kansas City.

What ties, personally or professionally, do you have to the LSR7 School District?

I have a 14 year old daughter who is a freshman at west. I have 2 older children who graduated from the school district. I have worked with Team Titanium off and on since 2009. I have provided recommendations to multiple students for internships at Kiewit Engineering.

What other volunteer/civic involvement have you had? What have you learned from that experience?

I am a past president of the Midwest Section of the Air and Waste Management association. I am a past board member of the Heartland Chapter of the Hazardous Materials Management Association. I am a member of the MidAmerica Regional Council (MARC) Local Emergency Planning Commission (LEPC). I am a member of the Water Environment Federation. I am a member of the Industrial Water Reuse Association. I was the pool committee chairman for the Winterset HOA.
All of these board positions were volunteer positions. I learned to manage expectations of both board members and patrons of these organizations. I learned prudent financial management of public resources. I learned that direct open communication is the best way to reduce conflict.

If elected, what would be your top priority as a board member?

The district has been giving lip service to hiring a more diverse staff for at least 15 years. The district has failed at improving the diversity of the staff. While stating the goal for a diverse staff, they have not made any changes to the hiring practices. I would push the HR department to adopt industry standard hiring practices such as anonymizing applications, having the district develop a pool of teachers that individual schools would then hire from the preapproved pool. Expanding the schools that we recruit from to achieve more opportunities for diverse hiring. I have many more examples from the companies that I have worked for that have significantly improved their employee diversity when they have made it their goal. All of these companies have seen significant gains in production and profitability with increases in diversity.

In your opinion, what are the strengths and weaknesses of our school district?

Our teachers, students, parents are our greatest strengths. Our teachers are the best in country at providing an education to our students. Our students love to learn. Our parents are involved in the district because they care about the students and the teachers.

What do you foresee being the biggest hurdle facing the district in the upcoming years?

Social media is a challenge to the district. Rumors get in circulation with no or little basis in fact. A single public relations person in the district cannot stay ahead of the rumor mill when parent levels of concern are high. Social media is also the new platform of bullying and it occurs outside of the districts control and yet impacts the district student performance. I believe in communication and openness but I believe we must have a single set of facts to discuss and believe the school district is putting the kids first.

What are your plans for returning funding to dwindling and lost extracurricular activities?

First we must acknowledge we live in Missouri and the state foundation funding formula is where we get our funds. We must make it known to all or state representatives and senators that we want the foundation formula fully funded. As the tax base in Lee’s Summit grows, we may receive additional funds that we can use for these activities.

How can the school district better prepare students for careers that don’t require a traditional four-year degree?

We need to sell the idea to both students and parents that not getting a 4 year degree is not a failure. We also need to make it understood an apprentice program or trade skill also requires math, language arts, science and history to achieve success. You cannot be a pipe fitter and not know some chemistry and a lot of trigonometry.

How do you view the financial management of the district? Would you do anything to change it?

Based on the last financial audit of the district, we have managed our citizens tax dollars very well. An identified risk was the proliferation of purchase credit cards (P-cards). Purchases made using the P-cards are outside of the purchasing department, and are difficult to track. I would reduce the number of available P-Cards and review the review of the P-cards.

Do you believe that a teacher’s evaluation should be based on student test scores?

I do not believe a teacher’s evaluation should be based on test scores.

What are your ideas for addressing suicide education and awareness at all school levels?

I believe we need to support the programs of youth advisors in the high schools to provide trained peers as a frontline group for students to go to. Teachers need to be trained to recognize kids who are troubled. Parents need to have training to recognize their kids and their kid’s friends who may be considering suicide. We need more school counseling resources. We spend a lot of time and resource focusing on active shooter events but teen suicide is a far higher risk to our kids we need to spend the same amount of time and resources on this topic.

What are your thoughts on the community conversations regarding equity and race relations, including the board’s recently adopted LSR7 Equity Plan, and how will you help move the district forward?

I support the recently approved equity plan. As I stated earlier I believe bringing corporate hiring practices will help with staff diversity and a diverse teaching staff will help us recognize areas where equity is a challenge.

There has been criticism of the current superintendent and administration that has gone from constructive to unreasonable, particularly on social media. How do you propose creating a constructive dialog with the community?

We need lots of meetings like the CMFP town halls. We need lots of meetings with various community groups. Finally we need to hire more communication staff, as was recommended by the most recent communication audit, to stay ahead of rumors in social media.

How do you plan to address public concerns and improve openness and transparency, including responding to Missouri Sunshine Law requests?

I believe all meetings should be as public as permitted by law. In fact, I believe that if a meeting, report, presentation is not prohibited from being public, it should be public. The recent financial audit and communications audits should be posted to the LSR7 Website. These audits show the district is performing well and does have a few areas that need improvement. I believe we should talk about our successes and acknowledge our problems early and often. Transparency means the citizens and parents of the districts see how we reached a final decision on any topic. This is especially important in decisions they may not agree with. Transparency does not mean we always follow the direction of the public. Our mission is to put the children first and sometimes that may be counterintuitive to the public’s wishes. The most recent example of this is the redistricting.

What do you think the relationship should be between the city and the school district concerning plans for additional growth in Lee’s Summit?

I believe the school district should be an active partner in the city zoning and planning department. The district needs to immediately meet with developers and ask them how they can help us with managing overcrowding at schools they are advertising on their new development websites as a reason to move to Lee’s Summit. I would recommend a school board member be a permanent liaison to the planning and zoning commission. The school district needs to make sure all new developers understand that the city and school district are separate political entities. If the developer is from outside the region they may not understand this.