By Dania Jumpa, Staff Writer
Joseph Shepard, director of multicultural engagement and campus life of Newman University, recently announced his candidacy to serve as an At-Large member of the USD259 School Board.
Shepard has kept busy since his hiring in November, leading inclusion initiatives at Newman such as establishing the Diversity Round Table.
He said that he has always been “passionate about education.” When Shepard was in high school, he said he initially thought about becoming a public defender so that he could help ensure proper treatment for young people in the court system.
Shepard said he decided that if he had the opportunity to get involved with young people before they became involved in the criminal justice system, he could make the same impact in education. This same ideal that caused him to switch his career path to education has also led him in the decision to run in the citywide election to become a member of the school board.
Shepard said the position is a nonpartisan, unpaid position and is completely voluntary. The position would involve going to a school board meeting once a month, visiting various public schools across Wichita and meeting with several different people every so often.
Shepard said that at the meetings, based on what he sees and hears firsthand, he would be able to “provide a different lens to ensure that what we are doing is in the best interest of parents, guardians, teachers and, most importantly, students.”
As a member of the school board, Shepard would be able to advocate for the education needs of all the students from K to 12. He says that he would want to ensure that they receive quality education and that teachers have the resources available to them to lead effectively and efficiently in their classrooms.
Shepard said that with the position, he would be able to vote and have input on the distribution of the Wichita Public Schools budget and work with the state legislature to make sure that the schools are adequately funded.
Shepard said ever since he moved to Wichita in 2011, he heard about the opportunities to be in the Wichita School board, but he says that he finally decided that “as a young voice, more young people need to be at the table when talking about the future of our young people.”
Shepard, who has been the father figure for his nephew who goes to a USD 259 school, says that he sees firsthand the importance in providing quality education to encourage students to take their education seriously and know that college is an option open to them in the future.
Shepard said that if there are primaries, they would take place on Aug. 6, but the general election will take place on Nov. 5.
Despite the extra responsibility, Shepard has no thoughts about leaving Newman University behind.
“My passion lies in higher education, and I have become connected with the Newman students, and I have an affinity for the students that I serve here,” he said.
PHOTO: JOSEPH SHEPARD was a two-term student body president at WSU and worked at the Kansas Leadership Center before he took the job of Director of Multicultural Engagement and Campus Life at Newman. Courtesy Photo, Joseph Shepard