The Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) is one of six school districts in Johnson County, KS. The district formed in 1969 when 13 individual school districts in northern Johnson County became Kansas Unified School District 512 as the result of action by the Kansas Legislature. The district operates five high schools, seven middle schools, 38 elementary schools, one alternate high school and one technical school. In 2011 the district had 27,872 students enrolled and employed 3,382 teaching and support staff.
The first school in what is now the Shawnee Mission School District was Shawnee Grade School. The school was a four-room wooden building located at the corner of Johnson Drive and Flint. It was established in 1858 when the territorial government provided money for public education. The district bought a brick building on the same spot many years later and operated it as grade school until 1969.
In 1921 there was a vote to establish a new rural high school, and with 1,049 votes in-favor and 975 votes opposed, Rural High School District Number Six was born. In 1922 the new high school opened and was named Shawnee Mission High School. The district had 187 students in grades 10-12, and an operating budget of $22,490. In 1948 Robert Bennett (a senior at the time) petitioned the legislature to rename the school to more accurately reflect the school’s suburban location. With the opening of Shawnee Mission East in 1958, Shawnee Mission High School became Shawnee Mission North (SMN).
In 1948 District 90 built South Park elementary as an alternative to Walker Elementary. Walker was a two room school building that had no cafeteria, no telephone and two outdoor toilets. When South Park opened it’s doors in 1948 it did not allow colored students to attend, forcing them to attend Walker Elementary. Outraged at the segregation, teachers Corinthian Nutter and Hazel Weddington began homeschooling colored students. Nutter and Weddington home schooled the students for almost a year, collecting money from parents and the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In the 1949 Kansas Supreme Court Case Webb v. District 90, the court ruled that a public school system could not segregate students because of race.
In 1964 there was an attempt to unify the 12 elementary districts and the Shawnee Mission High School district. The plan failed in June of the same year, with 5,733 patrons voting against unification and only 2,903 voting in-favor of unification. However in 1969 the Kansas Legislature passed Senate Bill 58 which unified the 13 individual districts. The new district included four senior high schools, 10 junior high schools and 50 elementary schools. At the time of unification there were 45,115 students enrolled and 1,862 teachers. It was estimated at the time that the unification would result in savings of up to $240,000 a year. In 1970 the district reported it’s highest enrollment to date of 45,702 students.
The current superintendent of the Shawnee Mission School District is Dr. Gene Johnson. The Board of Education consists of seven members elected by residents of the district. Current members are Deb Zila (President), Craig Denny Ph.D. (Vice-President), Donna Bysfield, Patty Mach, Cindy Neighbor and Larry Winn III. In 2008-2009, SMSD was 241st largest district in the Nation. Per the 2000 census, the district has a population 219, 949 with 93,221 households and 59,084 families.
The district has been bestowed with over 800 awards in the last 50 years, including 18 U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbons and a Gold Medal rating from Expansion Magazine. SMSD has produced three Kansas Teachers, 614 National Merit finalists since 1987 and 38 Presidential Scholar candidates since 2005. SMSD also supports two internationally acclaimed programs: the Center for International Studies and the International Baccalaureate program. The Center for International Studies was established at Shawnee Mission South in 1991 and has earned recognition of excellence from the American Association of School Administrators. The first International Baccalaureate program was established at Shawnee Mission East in 1993 and in 2008 a second program was instituted at Shawnee Mission Northwest. The Shawnee Mission School District reports a 92 percent graduation rate with ACT/SAT scores above state and national average.