In running for the Olathe school board, Claire Reagan says her top priority is early childhood education. She says it provides long-lasting benefits, and if elected she wants to help build on what she says is an already strong program in Olathe.
“We have amazing programs and we have amazing staff but we can’t expand those things without more funding,” she said in her first interview since announcing her candidacy last week. “Making sure that our kids have a really strong start and are fully kindergarten-ready is a great way for our community to invest in the future so that we aren’t investing in the outcomes that are negative for society. Early childhood education lowers crime rates. It raises earning potential. It also raises civic engagement. Having an informed population who care about their communities. It starts when little kids are little kids.”
‘Willing To Serve The Public’
Reagan, 38, has three children age 8 and below, two of whom have been through Olathe’s pre-K programs. She’s been a teacher in both private and public schools, and currently does substitute-teaching in addition to staying home with her kids. Her husband is a social studies teacher and an academic services director in a private school.
Among her public roles are serving as PTO president at her children’s school, Sunnyside Elementary. She’s also the vice chair of the newly-established Johnson County Public Health Leadership Council, and a 2022 graduate of Leadership Olathe.
“I have seen myself as willing to serve the public for a while but just not completely certain where I would plug in” Reagan said. “Given the way that people have been talking about public education with such vitriol and anger and forgetting about the individual teachers and professionals who support and guide our kids, I want to do what I can to shore up this extremely important part of our community because not just my kids future but all of our futures depend on it. I have never been one to sit on the sidelines when I know I can help.”
Reagan grew up in Bellevue, Neb., and got her undergraduate degree in English at the University of Nebraska. She also earned a degree in secondary education at Nebraska. She moved to the KC metro area in 2007 for her first teaching job.
Reagan says she is well equipped for the role of a school board member. She is seeking a seat in District 1, Position 4, which is currently held by board president Shannon Wickliffe, but he told the Olathe Reporter last week he is not running again, and is in fact serving as Reagan’s campaign treasurer. District 1 is in the south part of the city, generally south of 143rd Street.
“I have been going to school board meetings for a couple of years now. I am very aware of how business is conducted. I’m very comfortable having conversations with varieties of people and most importantly, I just really care about our schools. I care about our kids and the more I have gotten to know our city through being involved in various organizations, everything in Olathe comes back to our schools,” she said.
’I Am Prepared For The Work Of The School Board’
If Reagan had to summarize her campaign with one word, she said it would be advocacy, and her top priority is early education. The issue with funding that program – and others – is that the purse strings are largely controlled by the state government.
“The Kansas legislature sets early childhood investment policy, but as a local school board member, I will be an effective and determined advocate for early childhood investment because the return on that investment benefits all of us,” she said. “Considering Oklahoma has seen the value of early childhood investment and has provided universal Pre-K to all 4-year-olds with no income requirements since 1998, surely we can compel our legislature to do the same during this time of unprecedented budget surplus.”
Some of her other priorities include student mental health, recruitment and retention, and a caring atmosphere.
“Having an environment where we engage each other in a productive and collaborative and respectful way is really important. That we as a community recognize the value that our schools have. We model for our children the way we conduct ourselves with teachers and staff and making sure that we have a community that is supporting our schools and being a role model from that regard,” she said.
Reagan says she has done her homework and is ready to take on the role and the responsibility.
“I am prepared for the work of the school board,”” she said.
“I was always taught that education is a right but it is one that we cannot take for granted and that utilizing it to its fullest extent is really important,” Reagan said.
Other school board positions up for grabs in the November election are those currently held by LeEtta Felter, Brad Boyd, and Joe Beveridge on the seven-member board that oversees the second-largest public school district in Kansas. None of the incumbents have indicated whether they intend to run. There could be a primary election in August if enough candidates file. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 7. The filing deadline is June 1.
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