UPDATED — At-large school board candidates Joseph Shepard and Sheril Logan are advancing to the general election following Tuesday’s primary.
“I truly just am thankful for the opportunity to have been in this race and grateful for the opportunity to move forward,” said Shepard, who had 32.7 percent of the vote.
Shepard, 26, said he wants to “engage in the tough conversations” and “acknowledge where we’ve fallen short” to keep momentum going in the school district.
He and Logan, who had 29.9 percent, were close in votes all night.
It “is kind of what I expected,” said Logan, who has served on the board since 2011 with three stints as president and one as vice president.
As Logan, 74, watched returns, she said she and her committee were already planning her general election campaign.
“I’m committed to this race. I’m committed to the kids in Wichita.”
Candidate Trish Hileman, executive director of the nonprofit Thrive Community and president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, had 24.7 percent of the vote. Candidate Brent Davis, director of an educational services company that specializes in preparing high school students for high-stakes standardized tests, had 12.7 percent.
Board members set policy and oversee a budget of $737 million for a district with about 50,600 students — the state’s largest. Members serve four-year terms and earn no pay for twice-monthly meetings and other work.
There are a number of issues facing the district, including aging buildings, difficultly in filling open positions — particularly in math, special education and science — and more than 35,000 children who are considered “at risk” with issues that affect their behavior and ability to achieve at school.
Shepard noted that 76 percent of the district’s students come from impoverished homes.
“I grew up in poverty. I remember sleeping in a car in front of a Walgreen’s, waking up the next morning, getting washed up in a McDonald’s restaurant and going into school,” he said. “I know the trauma . . . and I understand the damage that did for me, and I want to be able to ensure that no other child experiences that.”
Logan said she and Shepard are different but are similar in some ways.
However, she said she believes that she’s “the most qualified, and I believe I have the plan to make this district go forward.”
“We’re looking at the results, and we are thinking about what we can do to get the message out that I’m the candidate to get the district going in the direction to make sure each student is successful.”
Logan said the school district’s most pressing issue is implementing its 2018 strategic plan.
That includes raising the graduation rate, increasing third-grade reading proficiency, making more certifications and college credits available to students and increasing school safety.
Shepard, who is the director of multicultural engagement and campus life at Newman University, said the district must focus on the holistic development of students by pushing for academic advancement while “boldly” addressing the trauma students face.
Shepard, who identifies as bisexual, has said that some schools aren’t doing enough to protect LGBTQ students and staff.
He has a master’s degree in public administration and is the former student body president of Wichita State University, where he frequently pushed back against university leaders and lobbied for more public discussion of university business.
“It’s all about providing a quality education for our young people,” he said. “Our students are our number one stakeholders, and without them we don’t have a need for our schools, so it’s really about doing what’s best for them.”
Early in the evening, Shepard expressed gratitude for an early lead thanks to early ballots.
He said he felt “humble and grateful” for his lead “and really grateful that a lot of people turned out for early voting.”
“That has been our goal — really to push our young people to the polls early and really as many people to the polls as early as possible.”
He said he would be committed even without winning but feels it’s important when addressing the needs of young people to have young voices at the table.
“I’m really passionate about doing what’s best for our support staff, our teachers and our students,” Shepard said. “I hope that other people can see that passion in me.”
Logan, who has a masters degree in education and has served as a teacher, elementary school principal and assistant superintendent in Wichita schools, said the district is “moving in the right direction, and I think I have a subset of skills that will help us get there.”
“I really want to be elected, so I’m going to do whatever I can to get there.”
Hileman expressed disappointment early in the evening as returns came in.
All five of her children, including two with special needs, will be attending Wichita schools this fall, which Hileman said gives her a unique perspective. She has advocated for greater transparency and said she hoped to improve the board’s community engagement.
Davis has said Wichita schools are inadequately preparing students for college and careers and said incentives must be implemented to encourage learning and promote efficiency within the district.
Ernestine Krehbiel, the district 3 incumbent from south-central Wichita, ran unopposed.
The only other contested school board race — District 4 representing southwest Wichita — didn’t have enough candidates to justify a primary. Stan Reeser and James W. Kilpatrick Jr. will face off in the general election for that seat.
In all, there are seven seats on the school board. Terms for the other four members expire in 2020.