Joy Eakins. The Wichita Eagle File photo
Joy Eakins. The Wichita Eagle File photo


Eakins will not seek second term on Wichita school board

By Suzanne Perez Tobias

May 15, 2017 09:07 AM

Joy Eakins will not seek a second term on the Wichita school board, she announced Monday.

Eakins, who was elected to the board in 2013, said in an e-mailed statement that she will endorse Patricia Hileman for the District 2 seat, which covers much of east Wichita.

“This was a difficult decision, mainly because I feel there is more work to be done. But I also realize that leaders should empower others to lead,” Eakins said in the statement.

“At this stage of my life, I have four years left before my son graduates high school and my business has tripled over the last four years. As a wife, mom, and business owner, I felt I needed to invest my time in those endeavors.”

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As a wife, mom, and business owner, I felt I needed to invest my time in those endeavors.

Joy Eakins, member of the Wichita school board

Hileman, a mother of five, said in a separate announcement that working with Eakins on school issues the past three years has helped her connect to parents and leaders. She filed for office on Monday.

Two of Hileman’s children have autism, which she said has taught her “how to work within the system” to craft an education that meets their needs. Her children attend Northeast Magnet High School and Christa McAuliffe Academy.

She said staff morale is one of several major issues facing the district and that board members should find creative ways to reward and show respect for teachers while dealing with budget constraints.

“I would like to stop dictating the school day as strictly as we do. … Teachers need to be given leeway in their classrooms to be the professionals that they are,” she said.

Hileman said she would support letting teachers decide how they spend professional development time and funding.

“Let’s not say, ‘This is what you will learn,’ but let’s say, ‘What do you want to learn?’ ” she said. “Let’s free them up a little bit.”

She said she favors more transparency and open dialogue among board members.

“When I’ve been to school board meetings, it seems like there’s very limited discussion going on. It sort of makes me think, ‘Where did they get their opinions from? How did they come to that decision?’ ” Hileman said.

“If we made some of those discussions more in-the-public, teachers and everyone might understand the thought process a little better.”

So far, two other candidates have filed for the District 2 school board seat: Julie Hedrick and Debra Washington.

Eakins, whose term ends in January, often has been a dissenting voice on the Wichita board. She has spoken out against dismal state test scores, voted against financing a lawsuit against the state over school funding and expressed frustration over what she said were unanswered questions about a new Southeast High School.

For the past two years, Eakins was the sole vote against a revised calendar that shortened the school year and made school days longer.

She said she decided to endorse Hileman after getting to know her as an active District 2 constituent.

“The more I learned about her, her passionate advocacy within our system, and her servant heart for the people of Wichita, the more I became convinced that she would make a great Board member,” Eakins said in her statement.

School board races have a primary election if four or more candidates file for one seat.

The filing deadline for school board seats is noon on June 1. The primary is Aug. 1, and the general election is Nov. 7.

Suzanne Perez Tobias: 316-268-6567, @suzannetobias