Heather Guernsey has a vested interest in becoming the newest member of the USD 413 Board of Education, and is one of three candidates vying for a recently-vacated board seat.
“I have four children,” Guernsey told The Tribune, with three currently enrolled in the district. “So I’m invested in the success of our school district. I’m hopeful to get on the board because I really do feel I can be an asset.”
Guernsey has been actively involved with the district’s future plans, serving as an advisor for the implementation of its strategic action plan. Guernsey’s focus was on one of the major strategies contained within the plan. She also has a seat on the high school and elementary site councils.
Guernsey’s additional qualifications include her previous experience as an elementary school teacher in Olathe. Her educational background includes education-related Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Emporia State University.
“And I do sub in the school district,” she said, adding that her background in education makes her knowledgeable in the area of curriculum-related issues.
Guernsey said that if selected to fill the seat, she would not enter into her new role with an agenda.
“I just want to do what’s best for everyone in our district,” she said. “Not only for students, but teachers and admin — everyone who works in the district. When all the adults are happy and feel like they’re being heard, then they’ll do a better job with the students.”
Guernsey referenced the district’s “Students First” motto.
“That’s more than just giving the kids what they need; it’s also giving all of the support staff what they need so they can help the kids as well,” she said.
Guernsey said she won’t be one to just automatically rubber-stamp the board’s agenda.
“I’m not afraid to ask questions if I don’t understand something, or just to clarify,” she said, noting that she will also be transparent and approachable. “I’m a person that people in the community can come and talk to. If they have questions, I would love to answer them.”
Guernsey, along with fellow contenders Alex Rodriquez and Dennis Franks, is slated to be interviewed by the board at a special meeting June 21. The board will then look to quickly make a decision on filling the seat. While the term is set to expire in December, Guernsey also plans on running for one of three open board seats in the November general election.
“It is great to have individuals who are invested in the community, individuals who are running for the board, and running for the right reasons,” said Superintendent Kellen Adams. “And I think you see that with all three candidates.”
Guernsey said she plans on emphasizing her educational background during the interview.
“I would tell them that I want to be a positive voice,” she said. “And a positive listening ear as well.”
Guernsey said she thoroughly enjoyed her six-year teaching stint in Olathe.
“They have super-high expectations for their teachers and admin,” she said. “I think because of that, they’ve really lived up to those high expectations. I think all of my past experiences in education will help me to empathize with everyone.”
Guernsey has been further involved with the district, volunteering her time to assist with musical productions at Chanute High and Royster Middle School. She’s also assisted with other district-related functions and fundraisers.
“When they need something, I’m always willing to help out,” she said.
Guernsey praised the district for the handling of a delicate situation related to her youngest son, who has a serious food allergy. She said she was extremely nervous six years ago when he entered kindergarten.
“’I’m going to send my baby to this school, are they going to keep him safe?’” Guernsey recounted.
Guernsey said that former Chanute Elementary Assistant Principal Matt Koester and the CES administration calmed her fears with the creation of a 504 plan for her son. The purpose of a 504 plan is to ensure that a child with a disability attending an elementary- or secondary-education institution is afforded accommodations that will lead to academic success, as well as access to that learning environment.
“They helped to not only keep his environment safe, but they really reassured me that he was going to be okay while at school,” she said. “(Koester, and more recently, Royster Principal Don Epps) put all my fears to rest, and helped us create a plan that was perfect. I know that everyone around him is working to keep him safe. We need to keep supporting our admin and teachers so they can continue to keep doing that for other families.”
Guernsey and husband, David, a medical doctor, have four children: Jacob, Jeanette, Ella and Nathan. Guernsey’s hobbies include crocheting and riding her brand new scooter “Daisey” around town.
The Guernseys relocated to Chanute in 2010.
“We’ve just had such positive experiences here,” she said. “Great town, great schools, and I would just really love to continue to be a part of that. I think everyone on the board is doing a really great job.”