United School Administrators of Kansas and the Kansas Association of School Boards are thrilled to announce the 2022 Women’s Leadership Summit Keynote Speakers. Our keynote sessions provide inspiration and thought-provoking questions to sharpen your leadership skills. Read more about our sessions and speakers below. 

Opening Session – Building Trust and Engagement in a Divided Community

Living and leading in a polarizing time is hard, and researchers expect it to get worse. What must schools do to lead, serve and advocate when your community is divided and angry? We’ll explore strategies to build trust and engage the public, grounded in theory and practice. And we’ll learn to build a dialogue around common goals and create mutually beneficial relationships with the people you serve.

Opening Session Speakers:

Cindy Leines and Janet Swiecichowski, APR, from CEL Marketing PR Design

Cindy Leines

Founder and CEO, CEL Marketing PR Design

Cindy Leines is the visionary founder and CEO of CEL Marketing PR Design, who leads with conviction and commitment to the betterment of business, family and the community.

In her 30 years of public relations work, Leines has served leaders in accounting, financial services, health services and education organizations through strategic visioning, stakeholder engagement, crisis prevention and intervention communications.

Cindy has co-authored numerous articles and is a frequent presenter on branding, creative integrated marketing and crisis communications. Whether presenting to groups of regional firms in Minneapolis, Million Dollar Roundtable in Hawaii, school leaders in the Midwest or to the internal teams that drive organizations, the audience leaves inspired and equipped with practical, effective tactics they can use right away.

And in helping her client’s teams find common ground and purpose, Leines has established a culture at CEL where serving others happens every day. It’s a lifestyle, at the core of the work for every CEL team member.


Janet Swiecichowski, APR, Fellow PRSA

Vice President of CEL Marketing PR Design

Janet Swiecichowski, APR, Fellow PRSA is an award-winning leader and veteran in K-12 communications in Minnesota and nationally. From adopting new curriculum and technologies to explaining school funding to crisis and pandemic response, Janet understands what keeps school leaders up at night and how strategic communications can drive results.


Her crisis experience includes serving as a volunteer for the Columbine High School Crisis Response Team, returning a school marching band from China at the outbreak of SARS, managing a student sit-in in response to a racism on campus, and advising school leaders in a myriad of publicly divided societal issues that find their way to the schoolhouse door.

In all her work, she models the fundamentals of school public relations — building relationships, leading the public relations function, the four-step communications process, ethics and law — to build trust and advance key stakeholders toward common goals.

Janet's K-12 leadership career began in a small school district in Wisconsin in 1994; she later relocated to Minnesota, where she served in high-performing suburban school districts. She left K-12 in 2017 to serve as associate vice president for public relations at a private university. In 2019, she was recruited to CEL, where she now counsels leaders in districts ranging from 3,000 to 50,000+ students.

Janet is accredited in public relations and holds degrees in communications, secondary education and strategic communications. In 2019, she was inducted into the PRSA College of Fellows, joining 300 of the nation’s top PR leaders across all industries. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in organizational change and leadership at the University of Southern California—Rossier School of Education. 

A passionate advocate for equity and excellence in education, Janet believes that local schools hold the future of every community and serve as a vital foundation for democracy. As an advocate and advisor, she works collaboratively with school leaders to engage the hearts and minds of parents, staff and communities to support decisions in the best interest of all children.

Reception Entertainment and Remarks - Miss Kansas, Taylor Clark

Enjoy Miss Kansas as she entertains on the drums during our Women’s Leadership Summit reception near the patio. Miss Kansas will share brief remarks on her leadership journey and service initiative during dinner. 

Taylor Clark 

Miss Kansas 2021


On July 10, Taylor Clark of St. John, Kansas, a senior at Kansas State University majoring in Music Education, was crowned Miss Kansas 2021. As Miss Kansas, Taylor will make over 400 appearances during her year-of-service, many of them motivational presentations to students in Kansas schools. Taylor’s social impact initiative is Sound for Common Ground: Music Connects. Her focus for this initiative is to break down barriers and have courageous conversation around inequities, hardships and unforeseen circumstances.

Throughout her year-of-service, Taylor will work to connect her social impact initiative with the Miss America and Miss Kansas Organizations. She will serve as an ambassador, representing the organization across the State of Kansas.

Taylor represented Kansas at the 2021 Miss America Competition at the Mohegan Sun Resort in Uncasville, Connecticut, in December of 2021. She performed a drum solo for her talent and competed with 50 other young women from across the nation for the title of Miss America 2022.

Miss Kansas travels throughout the state working closely with the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kansas, and with the Kansas Department of Transportation, providing education, establishing relationships, and learning more about individuals of all ages for whom she will advocate during her year as Miss Kansas.

In addition to her work with her social impact initiative, Taylor is musically talented. While she claimed the title of Miss Kansas with a drum performance, her skills as a percussionist include being able to perform on timpani, marimba, piano and all percussion instruments.

Not only the first Miss Kansas to have also been awarded the title of Miss Kansas’ Outstanding Teen, Taylor also participated in the organization’s mentoring program as a Sunflower Princess.

This involvement and accomplishment resulted in Taylor being awarded nearly $17,400 in cash scholarships through the Miss Kansas, Miss Kansas’ Outstanding Teen, and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen competitions to apply toward her education.

The Miss Kansas Organization is a state licensee of the Miss America Organization, one of the nation’s leading achievement programs and the worlds’ largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. The Miss Kansas Scholarship Foundation, a 501(c) (3) organization, makes available academic, community service, and other scholarships to women between the ages of 17 and 25. Annually, the Miss Kansas Organization provides over $5,000,000 in cash and in-kind scholarship assistance.

For information on booking Miss Kansas for your event, please email bookings@misskansas.org. You can follow Taylor on social media @missameriaks on Facebook and Instagram.


Dinner Keynote - Dr. Deb Mercer, Dean of the College of Education at Kansas State University


Dr. Deb Mercer 

Dean of Kansas State University’s College of Education


Debbie K. Mercer serves as dean of Kansas State University’s College of Education. Mercer’s accomplishments as dean include a commitment to technology by instituting state of the art classrooms and a college-wide iPAD initiative. She has also led the College’s concentration on international education and outreach through a number of different programs. A strong supporter of the military, Mercer signed on to the nation’s Joining Forces Educate the Educator program. In addition, she commissioned a number of video documentaries focusing on diverse issues impacting education to enhance the educational opportunities of the College’s preservice teachers, graduate students and alumni.

Mercer’s leadership and guidance have had a statewide impact on teacher recruitment, preparation and retention. She has provided extensive service to the Kansas State Department of Education, including chairing the Professional Standards Board and accreditation-related activities such as consulting for KSDE accreditation training workshops, serving as a program reviewer and a Board of Examiner for onsite visits. Additional KSDE work includes service on the Kansas Education Commission, Kansas Education Leadership Commission, Kansas Teaching Commission and Kansas Educator Evaluation Project. She was named by Gov. Sam Brownback to the Mid-Continent Regional Advisory Board and later appointed to the Central Comprehensive Center Board.

Her road to the deanship at K-State began as a library media specialist then a Kindergarten teacher in a rural Kansas school district. She then accepted a faculty position at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan. She quickly ascended through the ranks and was named dean, a position she held until her appointment at K-State.

Mercer holds four degrees from Kansas State University including: a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading and English as a Second Language; a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in reading and language arts; a bachelor’s in elementary education; and a bachelor’s in family and child development.

Closing Keynote - Dr. Mary Banwart, Professor at University of Kansas and Program Director of Kansas Womens Leadership Institute

Dr. Mary Banwart 

KWLI Program Director and Professor


Dr. Banwart is an Associate Professor in the Communication Studies Department and directs the interdisciplinary Leadership Studies Minor at KU. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership and communication as well as political communication. Her primary research focuses on political campaign communication and the influence of gender in political campaigns, with specific attention directed toward political advertising, campaign web sites, and mixed-gender debates.