Less than a week after Shawnee Mission Schools Superintendent Jim Hinson abruptly announced his intention to retire from the school district this year, the school board unanimously approved the superintendent’s resignation.
Hinson, who has not spoken publicly since the district announced his retirement on April 19, did not attend the meeting.
In his absence, unexplained to the public, school board members unanimously passed a resolution affirming student rights in situations related to immigration and naturalization issues.
The resolution follows reports that district leaders mishandled a case involving a third grader who was removed from school and taken into custody by law enforcement while his mother was detained by immigration agents this past March.
A letter from the ACLU states that the Briarwood Elementary student was traumatized by the incident and that the district did not attempt to notify the boy’s emergency contacts, as many district’s policies explicitly require in such cases.
The incident marred the district in the weeks preceding Hinson’s announcement and fueled an outcry from dismayed parents and students.
Director of Safety and Security John Douglass said the situation at Briarwood Elementary indicated the importance of establishing clear protocol for immigration-related issues in the school district.
The new Shawnee Mission resolution approved Monday compels the district to minimize traumatic effects on children, reach out to emergency contacts and request proper documentation in cases in which the law requires a child to be placed in police custody.
Douglass said he worked with El Centro President Irene Caudillo to develop the resolution. The pair are also discussing ways to improve the way the district collects emergency contacts, he said, especially for households in which English is not the primary language.
“If (law enforcement agencies) are coming into our school for any reason they need to provide us with the proper identification and the opportunity to seek counsel,” Douglass said.
While many parents that packed the school board meeting applauded the new resolution, several community members used the meeting’s open forum to urge school board members to hold off on selecting a new superintendent until after the November school board elections.
“It feels like the trust between the community and the district is damaged,” said Tiffany Johnson, the mother of two Shawnee Mission students, who urged the district not to rush in finding a new superintendent.
Although the district accepted Hinson’s June 30 resignation and school board President Sara Goodburn reiterated that community input would be welcome during the upcoming search process, little information was presented regarding what comes next.
The school board met in executive session at the conclusion of the meeting to discuss the process board members will use to find Hinson’s successor.
“He has brought incredible, incredible things to our district,” said school board member Patty Mach, glancing over at Hinson’s empty seat.
Also at Monday’s meeting:
▪ District officials reported increased participation in middle-school sports programs that have returned to the district.
▪ School board officials also approved a three-year, $3.3 million annual contract with Kelly Educational Staffing Services to manage its substitute teacher program. District officials say that the district doesn’t have the resources to recruit, process and train the substitute teachers that the district needs. But some parent and teacher groups have criticized outsourcing these services, and expressed concerns about bringing in instructors that do not have teacher’s licenses and may not be prepared to teach classes with one-to-one technology.