The History of KASBAustin Harris
The Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) had its beginning in the Board of Education Department of the Kansas State Teachers Association (KSTA). Although some references to meetings of boards of education can be found prior to 1918, the Board of Education Department of the Kansas State Teachers Association was formally created in that year with W. P. Lambertson of Fairview as president. Mr. Lambertson later became a United States Congressman from Kansas. The only record of activity in the early years was an annual meeting, which was usually held in Pelletier’s Hall in Topeka.
In 1934, the Board of Education Department reorganized, adopted a formal constitution and changed its name to the Kansas State School Boards Association. In 1937, the Association affiliated with the League of Kansas Municipalities and adopted the Kansas Government Journal as its official publication. Some degree of affiliation with the League continued into the 1970s.
In 1954, the name of the Association was changed again to its current name, the Kansas Association of School Boards. An arrangement was made the same year with the University of Kansas to provide, on a part-time basis, the services of Dr. Carl B. Althaus, a professor of educational administration, as the executive secretary of KASB. Dr. Althaus was nationally recognized as an expert in the area of school finance. Under his leadership, KASB became actively involved in leading the development of early programs for state assistance in school funding.
The Kansas Association of School Boards moved its office to Kansas State University in 1957 when Dr. O. K. Fallon, a professor of educational administration at KSU, was named as the part-time executive secretary of KASB. Operating part-time out of a college professor’s office was the norm for many state school boards associations into the 1960s. During the time of Dr. O’Fallon’s leadership, a newsletter for school board members was started, and the Association began to offer inservice training opportunities for local school board members.
By the end of the 1950s, the increasing involvement of the state and federal governments in educational policy made apparent the need for a more vigorous Association. In 1960, KASB had only 161 member boards of education out of the more than 1,000 school districts in existence. The total budget of the Association for that year was $7,500. Several major decisions were reached that year under Dr. O’Fallon’s leadership, including support for hiring a full-time executive director and moving the Association office to Topeka, where it would be in closer contact with state government.
In the late spring of 1961, Dr. M. A. McGhehey was hired as the first full-time executive director of the Kansas Association of School Boards. At the time of his employment, Dr. McGhehey was serving as a specialist in school law in the U.S. Office of Education in Washington, D.C. In 1953-54, he had been on the staff of the Arizona School Boards Association while serving as an assistant professor of education at the University of Arizona. From 1954-1960, he had served as executive secretary for the Indiana School Boards Association while on the faculty of Indiana University.
A new dues schedule was adopted for the 1961-62 fiscal year, which raised the Association budget to $35,000. A small, three-room suite of offices was rented in the Washburn View Shopping Center in Topeka. The Kansas School Board Journal, which had previously been published sporadically, was reinstated and made the official publication of the Association. An expanded meeting program for school board members was established, including spring and fall regional meetings in the then seven regions of Association governance. In addition to a regional vice president, each of the seven regions had an educational advisor for its programs, utilizing the services of a college professor from one of the state colleges and universities. Some professors served more than one region.
The KASB Board of Directors set three major priorities for action in conjunction with the establishment of a full-time staff and office: the development of a foundation school finance plan, the unification of Kansas school districts, and the elimination of the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. All of these goals were substantially accomplished by the end of the decade.
At the same time, the size of the Association staff began to increase, and the initial office space was rapidly outgrown. In 1964, a house at 825 Western in Topeka was purchased for $15,000 as the office for the Association staff, which then consisted of five people. Contributions were accepted from individual board members and superintendents at the Delegate Assembly that year to make the down payment, and $2,700 was collected.
The basement of the Association office was remodeled in 1967, and a press and auxiliary printing equipment were installed to enable the Association to control printing production. By 1969, the Association had again outgrown its space, and a second house was purchased at 1237 Fillmore for the expanding staff. During this year, the Association constitution was also amended to divide the state into 10 regions and provide for an executive committee, which included the president, president-elect and past president. In 1970, the Association moved into the computer age by remodeling the building at 1237 Fillmore to accommodate an IBM Systems 3 computer, which was initially used to store and disseminate school board policies. In 1973, the KASB written policy service was initiated and, for the first time, recommended policies were developed for local school boards.
The early years of the 1970s saw a dramatic change in areas of school governance and Association services. The enactment of the Professional Negotiations Act and the Teacher Due Process Act created an era of bad feelings between school boards and teachers. The administrators who were ejected from the Kansas State Teachers Association, which changed its name to the Kansas-National Education Association, formed a new umbrella group called the United School Administrators of Kansas. Relations between these organizations and KASB would be tenuous for many years.
In the midst of this external turmoil, strained relations between school boards were exacerbated with the 1973 enactment of the School District Equalization Act, the first major effort by the Kansas Legislature to seek to redress imbalances in spending and taxation by school districts based on their wealth.
The KASB Constitution was also amended in 1972 to provide that the four largest districts in the state would be separate KASB regions with automatic representation on the KASB Board of Directors.
As the demand for services from school boards increased during this period of change, KASB was once again faced with facilities’ needs. The Association staff had expanded to 14 people, and the inefficiencies apparent in operating two buildings, separated by nearly half a mile, were becoming unacceptable. In 1974, four vacant lots on the west side of Topeka were purchased, and plans were made for the construction of a new office building. The new building at 5401 SW Seventh Street was dedicated in the summer of 1976, with several hundred school board members and superintendents in attendance. KASB dues at the time were raised sufficiently to allow the building to be paid for in three years.
In September 1982, the Association suffered the tragic loss of Dr. McGhehey as executive director when he suddenly passed away from a heart attack. During his 21-year tenure, however, the foundation had been laid and a pattern established for the growth in effectiveness of this fledgling organization. During the year following Dr. McGhehey’s death, Dr. K. D. Moran, who had previously been the assistant and then the associate executive director, served the Association as executive director. He had first been employed by the Association in 1968, following stints as the superintendent at St. Marys and principal of the lab school at Pittsburg State College. He was largely responsible for the development and implementation of the KASB written policy service. During his year as executive director, steps were taken to improve KASB recordkeeping and financial accountability.
In August of 1983, John W. Koepke became the third full-time executive director of KASB. He began work for the Association as the director of publications in 1970 and later became both assistant and then associate executive director. Prior to becoming the executive director, his primary area of responsibility was as the Association lobbyist. Sixteen full-time employees worked for the Association in the fall of 1983. Koepke retired in 2010 after 40 years of service to KASB, including 27 as the executive director.
By the 1987-88 fiscal year, the KASB staff had grown to 25, and space pressures were once again leaning toward a review of KASB facilities. An architectural firm was hired in 1989 to conduct a facilities study, and a lot for construction of a new office building was purchased later that year. In 1990, due to controversies over school funding, plans for construction of a new office building were put on hold. At the same time, the staff continued to expand. As an interim measure, a second KASB office building at 5425 SW Seventh Street was purchased in the spring of 1991. With the passage of a new school finance plan in the 1992 Legislative Session, building plans were revived. However, in the fall of 1992, an existing office building of almost exactly the same dimensions as the proposed new building came on the market. In September of 1992, the current office building at 1420 SW Arrowhead Road was purchased at approximately half the cost of the proposed new building. Once again, a three-year plan to pay for the new building was developed. The building is now fully owned by KASB, and all previous properties have been sold.
In 2000, a Western Kansas Field Service Specialist was added to the KASB staff to better serve members located in western Kansas.
The KASB staff now consists of 30 full-time staff in a wholly owned 40,000 square foot office building. Plans for the future focus on further development to meet the needs of member boards of education and their staff. The explosion of technology has also created opportunities to better serve our members.
Dr. John Heim became the new KASB executive director on July 1, 2010, following a successful career as a superintendent of schools in several Kansas school districts.