Mary Sinclair.

Mary Sinclair’s career with the Institute on Community Integration was focused on student engagement and dropout prevention, and she has carried that passion with her over the last two decades.

Sinclair is about to complete a four-year term on the Shawnee Mission [Kansas] School District board, currently serves as board vice president, and will run for re-election this fall. She also serves as a member of the Kansas PTA leadership and is a member of the Governor’s Council on Education. Her advocacy work has focused heavily on supporting and funding public education. 

“The work I’ve done for the Kansas PTA district and state boards really mirrors the research-to-practice bridges we built at ICI,” Sinclair said. “I adapted ICI’s research brief model to create 1- and 2-page issue briefs and ‘myth busters’ on topics such as Common Core. It was a great tool to bring to state advocacy and it helped close the gap between legislation and the real implications for parents of public-school students.”

Having served as co-principal investigator for ICI’s Check & Connect program and other roles over 15 years, Sinclair returned to her hometown in the Shawnee Mission area in 2002, working as adjunct faculty for the University of Kansas and Missouri University-Kansas City. She earned a doctorate degree in special education at the University of Minnesota and a master’s degree in education at Harvard University.  

Honing her technical and research skills at ICI also served her well for later advocacy work on school funding issues and preparing data-informed testimony, she said. 

“We fought so hard to restore funding for public education (which had plummeted in 2009 amid a deep recession and took a second dive in 2012), that I wanted to be on the school board to help ensure that renewed funds were used well,” she said. “I know of several other people from ICI who have been on school boards, and I think it’s a well-suited way to serve. What’s particularly effective in Minneapolis/St. Paul is that you have the synergy created from having the state department of education, the University, and the capitol all in close proximity. With the push today for evidence-based practices in policymaking, it’s a great fit.”