2019 Johnson County Community College Trustee Primary Election – Laura Smith-Everett

Good Morning, I’m here with Laura Smith-Everett, candidate for Johnson County Community College Board of Trustees on behalf of the Johnson County Public Policy Council, thank you Laura for being here today. The Johnson County Public Policy Council is made up of ten chambers of commerce serving the businesses of Johnson County and provides information about public policy issues impacting area businesses. Laura, let’s go ahead and get started. Tell me a little about yourself and why you’re seeking this office.
Sure. Well, I’m a mother of three and an educator, I’ve been an educator for 16 years. Most of that time I’ve been dedicated to working in the urban core, where the issues of equity and inclusion are top priorities for us. So, I really have been thinking about those issues and wanting to contribute to my community. Seeking this opportunity is just a way to extend my belief that making Johnson County a great place to live and raise a family should be all of our priorities. I’m also the daughter of a JCCC culinary instructor and so I have had the benefit of kitchen table conversations about the college with my family and I have always participated in the arts that are offered at the college, either through the museum, or the wonderful fine arts events that are there. So, I really feel like that gives me the opportunity to see the college from a number of angles and I’m looking forward to serving in my community. So, Laura, if elected, what would be your top three agenda items as a Trustee that you would work towards the ber-, the betterment of the college and the education it provides?
So, my top priority will really be to focus on transparency and open communication. In the last year, the college has received some negative press about the decisions that have been made and the way they have communicated those decisions with the public and with all stakeholders. It’s really important to me that stakeholders are part of the decision-making process. That they’re all at least heard, and they get to have a chance to come to the table and we get to hear their input before decisions are made. But then after those decisions, we need to make sure they are communicated clearly with the community. Second for me is looking at our transfer agreements with our Kansas universities. Some universities do a great job and we have great agreements where all of our students’ credits transfer. But for some universities, our students aren’t able to transfer all of those and that really puts a debt, an undue burden on them incurring more debt by repeating a class where they can’t get the credits to transfer. Finally, I think that Johnson County Community College is uniquely suited to be able to pursue college for all, offering tuition-free Associate’s degrees for Johnson County citizens. And I think we can really pursue that and look into how we can offer this as a way to set us above all other community colleges.
Thank you. So with respect to paying for the cost of educating the college’s students where do you stand regarding tuition increases versus mill levy increases, and what is the appropriate way to balance those? I do think it’s a balance and I think that’s the most critical part. You have to take into consideration that over 50 years ago, our citizens chose to invest their tax dollars into a great institution like a community college. And we need to respect that and make sure that within reason what we are asking of those tax dollars and how we are using them. But I think for me, personally, I tend to really focus on the students, the burden placed on them. If this is a Johnson County Community College, then students who come from Johnson County shouldn’t have to have an undue burden of higher tuition. That’s taxation, double taxation, and it’s not really fair. So I always tend to look at the student first, and whether the burden would be on them when raising the tuition fees, and then look at what the community can afford and make sure that we are using the money well and making sure we are making all efficiencies possible to make that the lowest rate OK. As you know, Kansas is experiencing all-time low unemployment rates, and employers are struggling to find qualified workers, especially technical and skilled trades. What role should Johnson County Community College play with regard to workforce readiness, both locally and statewide?
I think this is a really important thing when we are in an economic situation like we are are now where the economy is really good. And so, in order to make sure we we are still relevant, we need to be communicating with the labor force. Our local business owners that’s small and large businesses but also our regional and state business leaders. Making sure we know what those skills are and communicating and reinvesting in our faculty, that they have the skills to teach the classes that are most relevant. That’s for people that are already in the market and they’re coming back to get some new skills. We’ve also got some partnerships, I’d love to expand partnerships with businesses that have sent their entire staff or part of their staff to get reskilled at the community college. I think that’s a niche we could offer. Finally, I think it’s really important that we are looking at labor projections and we know where the labor market is going. so that our skills and our long-term class offerings match what they are going to require out of their workers and they are going to get a really great value-add out of JCCC students. OK. so what is your vision of college, for the college, ten years from now? I think for me, a lot of it should be the same. It is a really wonderful gem in our community. It’s a place where people come to experience the arts they come as a social gathering place, and they come for a whole myriad of different reasons to take classes. Some just to explore something something new. Some because they want to go on to a university and they know they get a great value by coming to the college first. before pursuing a university. I think the only areas where I want it to be different and change in the next ten years is really that it’s more open and receptive to the community. I think, in this day and age, with social media, things can take off in a negative or positive direction really quickly. And so, we need to make sure we are as open as possible and that we are communicating and welcoming the community into our decisions. and clearly communicating those.
So any other thoughts on why someone should vote for you? You know, I think last time I added it up, or I read, I think there’s five out of seven trustees are lawyers. And, you know, that’s great but I think we need a little balance and experience. So I’m coming with an educator’s perspective and I think that’s really important to have different perspectives on a board. And that allows for us to have a really great, robust decisions. So, I would appreciate people’s votes and support for a trustee and a mother in the community that’s wanting to make a difference. Thanks Laura, we wish you the best in this year’s election. Thank you so much, appreciate it.

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