USD 413 Board of Education Member Heather Guernsey was recently recognized for her participation in a statewide leadership program.
Guernsey is the district's point person for the Kansas Association of School Boards, and was selected as a member of the organization's Leadership for Tomorrow group. As one of 25 individuals to be selected, the group includes school board members, superintendents and principals from across the state.
The selection process entailed an application, and Guernsey also had an endorsement from Superintendent Kellen Adams.
The group spent roughly a year traversing the state, visiting and observing the operations of other school districts. They traveled as far as Goodland in western Kansas, with other stops in Abilene, Atchison, Larned, St. Francis, Manhattan and Leavenworth.
"We got to find out what was cool and unique about those school districts," Guernsey said. "We got to see how other districts functioned."
After the visits, the group held classwork and discussions. They focused on what goes into making an effective board, principles of trust, and effective leadership skills. The group also traveled to the Statehouse in Topeka and met with legislators and those on the education committee to discuss their findings.
"We talked about functioning as a cohesive team and competing values," Guernsey said. "That's where conflict can arise, is when you have competing values. So how to navigate that and make the tough decisions."
Guernsey said the experience was invaluable, adding that those discussions led her to conclude that the overall health of USD 413 is in very good shape.
"Our school district is doing really well," she said, adding that networking with others involved was a highlight of the experience. "Just making those connections. So if I have a question or I need to think something through, I now have a cohort of people I can contact and get their take on things."
Guernsey said the visit to Leavenworth USD 453 was a fascinating experience.
"It's a different community, so they have different struggles than we do," she said, noting the military makeup. "But looking at how they impart all the different things for their students, they love their kids just like we do. They have all these programs, just like we do."
At the Manhattan stop, the group was able to observe an active-shooter drill.
"That was really intense, because all these shootings had just happened," she said. "It was really good to see the involvement by the police and fire departments and EMTs, and how they work together."
Guernsey documented her journey, sending summaries of each stop to Adams and Board President Brad LaRue. Guernsey received a certificate of graduation from the program this past weekend in Wichita, where Adams was also in attendance.