Kristy Nerstheimer uses a WebEx connection to read her book about baseball great Buck O’Neil to the students at East Antioch Elementary School.

Kristy Nerstheimer uses a WebEx connection to read her book about baseball great Buck O’Neil to the students at East Antioch Elementary School.

Courtesy SMSD Communications

A Shawnee Mission School District educator has written a picture book about Negro Leagues legend Buck O’Neil. She shared it with students in a special way earlier this month.

Kristy Nerstheimer is the innovation specialist at East Antioch, 7342 Lowell Ave. in Overland Park. She’s also the author of “The Greatest Thing: A Story About Buck O’Neil,” which recounts O’Neil’s kind spirit, his devotion to the Negro Leagues and the hurdles he overcame as a black baseball player.

The school commemorated Black History month and started Read Across America Week with Nerstheimer reading her book to the entire school via WebEx. Students listening remotely were encouraged to hit a heart emoji each time they saw the red KC heart depicted on O’Neil’s jersey. (The heart originated on the jerseys of the 1942 Kansas City Monarchs baseball team.)

Besides hearing the story, the students asked questions and learned from the author about college and career potential.

“I was fortunate enough to get to see Buck in person many years ago and became an instant fan,” Nerstheimer said. “As a teacher, there have often been times I have wanted to share his story with my students but there wasn’t a picture book about him.”

Nerstheimer compiled information for the book through research that included conversation with O’Neil’s niece. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City also provided information and endorsed the effort.

All elementary libraries in the district have received a signed copy of the book.

Old courthouse coming down soon

Demolition is about to begin on the former Johnson County Courthouse, which was replaced in early January by a new courthouse across Santa Fe Street in downtown Olathe. The land under it will be part of a new green space called Johnson County Square.

Barriers and fencing have gone up, and the J.E. Dunn construction company expects to begin exterior demolition in early April, according to a Johnson County news release. That work will continue through July, but the area will be off limits to pedestrians through October.

County to use old warehouse for vaccinations

To create a temporary dedicated clinic for COVID-19 vaccinations, the Johnson County Commission has approved a short-term sublease agreement on former warehouse space in Lenexa.

The commission OK’d the deal on March 4 with Dimensional Innovations. The company’s former warehouse is at 15500 W. 108th St.

Olathe wants to build faculty from ground up

The Olathe Public Schools is embarking on a program to encourage students to return to the district after college — as teachers.

The Olathe Hire Our Own Program is a collaboration between the district and its 21st Century Future Educators Academy at Olathe East High School.

“Research shows that many education graduates have a desire to give back to their community by returning and teaching in the district from which they graduated,” Cathy Donovan, director of staffing and talent acquisition for the school district, said in a news release.

“We hope that our Future Educators Academy will provide quality teachers for hard-to-fill areas and a more diverse workforce.”

The program was announced March 1 to students in the Future Educators Academy. Those who advance through interviews will sign offer letters on May 6. The students sign a statement of commitment outlining program requirements and participate in a mentor program during their college years.

Ideally, successful graduates would go to work for the Olathe Public Schools.

“This program has been a dream since I began work in the district,” said Shelley Staples, who facilitates the Future Educators Academy. “This initiative will work to prevent teacher shortages by focusing on workforce development at an early age, creating a culture of collaboration and promoting the positives of a career in education.”

Merriam names Police Officer of the Year

Detective Jared Ruby is Police Officer of the Year in Merriam, an award in which honorees are nominated by their peers.

The city said Ruby spent much of 2020 training new officers and instructing colleagues on the range. But in August, Ruby saved a life by using CPR and a defibrillator on a man who had stopped breathing.

Capt. Chris Brokaw said Ruby “constantly represents our department core values by demonstrating ‘courage, sacrifice, and compassion.’ ”

Ruby said it was gratifying to be recognized by his co-workers. “There are many officers here that deserve this award, and I’m thankful I get to work alongside them.”

Suicide prevention sessions for SM parents

The Shawnee Mission School District is working with Johnson County Mental Health to provide three online training sessions for parents on suicide awareness and prevention. All are on March 23.

The free sessions focus on QPR (question, persuade, refer), where participants will learn about suicide warning signs and know to ask tough questions of someone who may be considering suicide, persuade the person to get help and make appropriate and timely referrals.

Those interested may choose one training time: 9 to 10:30 a.m., 2:30 to 4 p.m. or 6 to 7:30 p.m.

To register or for questions, call 913-715-7880 or email [email protected]. For more information on QPR, visit

Road work in Lenexa

Lenexa officials say motorists should be aware of two major road projects that could cause traffic delays this year:

87th Street Parkway and Interstate 435: Interchange and road improvements will continue into 2022 in this corridor between Renner and Maurer roads.

Work is starting first on the north side, with the widening of westbound 87th Street Parkway and southbound Maurer Road, trail realignment and improvements to I-435 ramps north of 87th.

The second phase will focus on the south side, including the widening of eastbound 87th Street Parkway, trail realignment and improvements to those I-435 ramps.

During the final phase, crews will build median islands on 87th Street Parkway.

Quivira Road, from 75th Street to 87th Street Parkway: Construction should begin this spring and wrap up in the fall on improvements to the pavement, curbs, medians, traffic signals, street lights and storm sewers. New or improved turn lanes are planned at 83rd Street and Quivira.

New name sought for Mission Park

As it looks to revamp the park built on the site of the former Mohawk Elementary School, the city of Mission is seeking suggestions for a new name for the park.

The city purchased the property, at 67th Street and Lamar Avenue, in 2003; demolished the school and kept the playground and trails for its new green space, according to the city’s latest newsletter.

Email name suggestions to Penn Almoney at [email protected].

Kansas Athletic Director of the Year

Pat Butler of Olathe West High School has been named the 2021 Kansas Athletic Director of the Year by the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association.

Award winners were nominated by Kansas athletic directors and selected by association members and the past president council.

Butler also is an assistant principal at Olathe West. In a news release, Olathe West Principal Jay Novacek described Butler as loyal, dedicated, passionate, hardworking and an advocate for high school athletics.

“There are not many athletic directors who can say they helped build an athletic department from the ground up and then later navigated through a pandemic,” Novacek said. “In addition to being a great athletic director, Pat is a dedicated assistant principal who supports and guides students.”

‘If I Were Mayor Contest’ as Mission turns 70

As part of its 70th anniversary observance this year, the city of Mission is offering students a chance to win $100 for submitting big ideas in its “If I Were Mayor” Contest. Entries will be accepted through March 22.

Students will compete in one of three categories: a poster contest for students in kindergarten through sixth grade; an essay contest for grades seven and eight; and a digital media presentation for high school students.

The contest is open to Mission students, whether they attend public or private schools or are homeschooled. For details and entry forms, go to

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