Mar. 23, 2019

Name: Mike Allen
Occupation: Independent Financial Investment Advisor Representative
Education: Bachelor of Arts in Economics, University of Missouri – Columbia
Years lived in LS: 21 years, moved to Raintree Lake Development in 1998
Previous elected offices held: None

Why are you running for school board?

I feel a responsibility to serve my community and contribute where I can. I want to continue the standard of excellence in education that we’ve come to expect and cultivate in our community. I am engaged for our two daughters and for the all students enrolled now and in the future. Human capital is our greatest resource. LSR7 is not an island within our community or region and it is incumbent on us to raise the level for all educational organizations; public, private, home-school, etc.

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

I have been an active volunteer with the LSR7 School District since working in the City since 1997. You will notice my engagement at various levels of the District in the next answer. I have worked with employees of the District in their personal financial planning, but not directly with the District as an institutional client. My wife and I have two daughters enrolled in the LSR7 District at the elementary and middle school level.

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

Current involvement: LSR7 Partners in Education, LSR7 Business Round Table, Rotary Club of Lee’s Summit (President 2013-14), LS Educational Foundation Board (President 2012-13), LS Chamber (Government Relations Committees Legislative Committees & Education Committee), LS Cares, Deacon at our church. Former involvement: LSR7 Destination 2021 CSIP, LS Chamber-Leadership Lee’s Summit, LSMO-Citizens’ Police Academy, LSMO-Citizens’ Leadership Academy, LSMO-LS 360 (Education KPA Chairperson), LSMO-21st Century Planning in 1993.
Experience learned? I have learned that the City of Lee’s Summit functions at a higher standard when stakeholders are engaged with a collaborative spirit. We are more successful when we share in decision making after strong, responsible and respectful debate in open and honest dialogue. I have found that a leader shares a common goal with the participants of an organization. Leadership can come from anywhere in an organization, not just the person holding a title. The person(s) at the “top” of the organization need to understand the multifaceted aspects, talents and vulnerabilities it takes to be successful in reaching broad, long-lasting goals.

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

Focus on our students by keeping our mission statement in mind – “We prepare each student for success in life”. I would encourage collaborative conversations to support the implementation of relevant best practice by educators, administrators and staff to promote highest personal achievement. Our Board members should cultivate positive and meaningful relationships with employees, education stakeholders and the citizens of Lee’s Summit and surrounding communities for the benefit of our School District.

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

Strength: Our strength starts with our stakeholder involvement, including the LSR7 employees’ dedication to serve the students in an effective manner. Our strengths have been based on collaborative best practices in our classrooms, educators, staff and administrators who continue to grow professionally and welcome constructive ideas to better prepare our students for life.
Weakness: As much as it pains me to say, but to be directly candid, I perceive a lack of trust among the levels of Administration and between the Central Office and School Buildings across our District. Without trust, sustainable growth and long-term success can be very difficult if attainable at all. That said, all organizations have transitional periods and anything can be attained with deliberate, authentic communication and diligent preparedness.

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

We have an opportunity to create a top-notch, unique learning environment with the processes learned through our experience of the Comprehensive School Improvement Plan, phase one. The CFMP was not perfect, but the experience can prepare us for a hurdle that I foresee in student growth, city expansion, changing demographics and careers that are constantly changing. Our community was involved throughout the process and will continue to be involved as long as people there is sustainable value for our future.

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

We need to first reflect on our Cost Containment decisions in years of 2011-2013, to understand our history. We can then identify the financial commitment it would take to return those lost extracurricular activities in today’s dollars. Our next step would be to critically analyze any impact to current curriculum, classrooms, etc. We should also consider alternative, cooperative community partnerships if that’s a reasonable opportunity.

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

We should continue to examine curriculum that other Districts have in place across the country. We can examine cooperative arrangements with Districts, community colleges and traditional four-year universities that are utilizing training that is not traditional to the four-year degree. We need to understand what funding opportunities are being created at the State and Federal level that may assist us in those non-traditional decisions.

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

Presently it does not appear that the financial management of the District is very transparent. We have employees at the financial management level who have limited experience within our District and their understanding of our history is reflective of that. We have traditionally shared financial information with the Business Roundtable and the Community Advisory Board for full disclosure and accountability. A conversation with those organizations would be a great step.

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

A teacher’s evaluation should be much broader than simply based on test scores. Educators’ roles and responsibilities have grown into so many aspects of a student’s life (socio-economic dynamics, mental health awareness, adverse childhood experience recognition, nutritional understanding, etc.), a measure of test score is only as a single measure of a student’s success. We can never pay an educator what they are financially worth, so it is an injustice to limit their evaluation on a single aspect of a student’s life.

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

We have a level of involvement and awareness at the high schools with Student Liaisons. I would like to see that involvement at the middle and elementary school levels. I realize that there is only so much of the budget to go around, but the levels of engagement at the youngest ages can dramatically improve the trajectory of a student.

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?

As our school board has approved the “Equity Plan” to address the achievement gap, among other topics, I would like to have a broader, more collaborative investment in the Plan from teachers. I would like to see links or resources on the LSR7 website for diversity, Team LS, LOVE and any other groups that are working in our district.
As to the community conversations, I’ve experienced two different frameworks utilized within these conversations; one based on the aspects of the book Courageous Conversations, while the other has been based on a more open dialogue with open-ended questions and answers. Each framework may have their place, but the open dialogue experienced at Bernard Campbell Middle School moved conversations and relationships forward in a much stronger sense of cultural identity and a positive understanding of personal, cultural experience.

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?

I would immediately have an honest conversation between the BOE, the Superintendent and the Administrative team. Ask each individual for their 3 to 5-year vision of the District. If it’s not congruent, then identify why and what needs to be changed or aligned. Start there, identify a shared vision that can be verbalized in a cogent manner, then build consensus throughout the organization with acknowledgement for feedback and investment.

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

I am to be held accountable to the highest standards expected in this public service role. A school board member should model a standard of excellence represented throughout all aspects of our District. We should advance truth, promote constructive passionate debate, inspire commitment, insist on accountability, and recognize team results. Be authentic and honest.

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

We should continue to have a seat at the table during conversations around planning; including TIFS but we’re not in the City’s business. The District has continued (and will continue) to ask questions, meet with the City Administration on a consistent, collaborative basis and fully understand what is coming down the pipeline of development. The District has had dialogue with LSEDC and other organizations over the years and that should continue. To offset aspects of tax increment financing, the District has been the recipient of PILOTS (Payment in leu of taxes) and the practice should be continued.