Both candidates in the 1st District race for the Kansas state school board agree:
Deep experience will be important for a board that is shepherding Kansas’ version of the Common Core State Standards, bringing on new state assessments, weathering statewide financial strain and searching for a new education commissioner.
Janet Waugh, the incumbent Democrat from Kansas City, Kan., is seeking a fifth four-year term on the board. She has weathered the past battles over evolution in science standards, sex education and vouchers. That came after 16 years on the Turner School District board.
Republican challenger Nancy Klemp of Leavenworth spent most of those same years as a high school biology teacher, many as the department chair, and then the past five years on the Leavenworth district school board and as its president since 2013.
The Leavenworth board set up a committee that found some $2 million in savings, Klemp said, while it completed a search for new leadership after Leavenworth’s previous superintendent abruptly resigned last December.
In other words, both candidates claim to be battle-tested as their campaigns for the Nov. 4 election sprint for the finish.
“I know I have the knowledge, background and experience to help Kansas kids,” Waugh said. “I believe passionately that the future of the city, the state and the world is sitting in these classrooms.”
Klemp believes her direct experience in the classroom should make a difference.
“There are a lot of things (a former teacher) can bring to the table,” she said.
Unlike in some past state school board elections, the political divisions of the board are not so tenuously split on the hot issues of the moment. And the candidates’ mostly cordial campaigns are not staking stark ideological differences.
Waugh is part of the majority on the board that has endorsed the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards that reflect the much-debated Common Core standards.
They encourage more rigor while leaving districts and teachers the creative freedom in curriculum and lesson-planning, Waugh said.
Klemp does not oppose Common Core, but she wants the state to take another look at the standards and make their own uniquely Kansan standards.
The Leavenworth School District has implemented Common Core standards, has trained its teachers well and is supporting that work, Klemp said.
Waugh believes the state board has established a positive track and would thrive with continuity, while Klemp believes the board has not done enough to encourage school districts to seek out ways to be more efficient with public resources.
The seats in the five odd-numbered districts are up for election this year. The 1st District represents school districts in Wyandotte, Leavenworth and eastern Douglas counties.
3rd District board member John W. Bacon, a Republican, is running unopposed. His district represents much of Johnson County and northern Miami County.
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Democrat Janet Waugh
Education: Attended Kansas City Community College
Occupation: Retired car dealer
Elected experience: Kansas state board of education member, 1999-present; Turner school board member, 1983-1999
Republican Nancy Klemp
Education: Undergraduate degree in science from University of St. Mary, Leavenworth; master’s in education from Webster University, Kansas City.
Occupation: Retired high school teacher; current warehouse business owner
Elected experience: Leavenworth school board member, 2009-present