Author

Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is a lifelong Kansan.

Dana Chandler in court

Shawnee County judge agrees to change venue for new trial in double-murder case

By: - September 29, 2022

TOPEKA — Shawnee County District Judge Cheryl Rios agreed Thursday to lower Dana Chandler’s bond and change the venue for a new trial in her 20-year-old double murder case. Last month’s trial ended in a hung jury, with the 12 members unable to agree on whether Chandler killed her ex-husband, Mike Sisco, and his fiancee, […]

Terri Anderson testifies

Prosecutors persist in Topeka double-murder case despite vexed jurors, flawed testimony, no science

By: - September 28, 2022

TOPEKA — As juror Ben Alford listened to Terri Anderson’s sensational story at last month’s high-profile double-murder trial in Topeka, he scribbled a big “WTF” in his notes. The decision by prosecutors to place Anderson on the stand, even though they knew her story lacked credibility, and their request for a new trial demonstrate their […]

Shawn Keough, faculty senate president at Emporia State University

Emporia State University faculty leaders wait for answers after rapid firing of tenured professors

By: - September 22, 2022

Editor’s note: Sherman Smith is a 2004 graduate of Emporia State University with a degree in English and a minor in journalism. He took classes from English professor Mel Storm. EMPORIA — Faculty leaders at Emporia State University are alarmed by their administration’s lack of clear direction following the sudden layoffs of 33 professors and […]

The Kansas Department for Children and Families, with headquarters in downtown Topeka, provides oversight of the child welfare system. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Independent review of Kansas foster care system points to progress and ongoing failures

By: - September 19, 2022

TOPEKA — An independent evaluation of the Kansas foster care system shows the state is improving the stability of children in state custody but breaking its promise to end the practice of children sleeping in offices overnight. The report released Monday by the Center for the Study of Social Policy found that 53 foster children […]

Young Kansas voters embrace political power in fight to preserve democracy

By: - September 15, 2022

TOPEKA — Isabella Vermooten is the kind of person who “literally went through and pestered everyone in my contacts” until they showed her evidence they were registered to vote. The 18-year-old from Lawrence was eager to cast a ballot for the first time in the Aug. 2 primary, where access to reproductive health care was […]

Derek Schmidt, the Republican nominee for governor, received $46,000 in campaign donations from law firms that also received contracts from Schmidt for legal services. Some of the same law firms also donated to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

National advocacy group criticizes Kansas law firm donations to Schmidt

By: - September 12, 2022

TOPEKA — A national government advocacy group says Republican gubernatorial candidate Derek Schmidt deserves scrutiny for taking campaign contributions from law firms who received contracts from him as attorney general. Schmidt’s spokesman denounced the criticism as an uninformed partisan attack, pointing out that some of the same firms also donated to Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s […]

Dennis Pyle, an independent candidate for governor, refused to give up his front row seat to the Kansas State Fair debate, despite objections by Republicans. Pyle wasn't allowed to participate in the debate. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

Dennis Pyle mocks Kansas State Fair ‘unibate’ between Republican and Democratic candidates

By: - September 10, 2022

HUTCHINSON — Dennis Pyle took a front row seat to the Kansas State Fair debate between gubernatorial candidates — over objections from supporters of Republican nominee Derek Schmidt. Pyle, who is running for governor as an independent, wasn’t allowed to participate in the debate, even though his name will appear on the ballot in November. […]

The American Association of University Professors urges Emporia State University to rescind dismissal notices issued to as many as 33 faculty in wake of the personnel shakeup ordered by ESU president Ken Hush. (Margaret Mellott/Kansas Reflector)

Professors frustrated by Emporia State University plans to eliminate tenured faculty and programs

By: - September 8, 2022

TOPEKA — Emporia State University’s proposal for dealing with financial strains identifies reasons the school will use to get rid of tenured professors, including market considerations, enrollment, revenue and employee conduct. Faculty members say they are concerned by the lack of communication they have received from administration about its plans, and the short notice they […]

Kansas foster care provider reviewed failures in Nebraska before agreeing to end contract

By: - September 7, 2022

TOPEKA — Officials from Saint Francis Ministries met with Nebraska regulators on Dec. 9, 2021, to review the organization’s failure to comply with the terms of its state contract. The Kansas-based foster care provider had struggled to provide medical records for all the children it served, or documentation of in-home services and monthly visits, or […]

Kansas native Alex Tretbar won the PEN America first-place award for poetry writing in this year's prison writing contest for his "Variations on an Undisclosed Location." (Submitted)

Summoning inspiration from solitary, Kansas native wins PEN America prison writing award

By: - September 7, 2022

TOPEKA — Alex Tretbar scratched Lou Reed lyrics into the concrete “rhomboid exoskeleton” of an Oregon jail’s solitary confinement hole, then found the strength to write about it. “Some people work very hard,” the song goes, “but still they never get it right.” Tretbar, a Wichita native and University of Kansas graduate, references the experience […]

Dana Chandler, far right, sits with her lawyers Thursday while a Shawnee County District Court jury concludes deliberations without a verdict in her double-murder trial. Her first conviction was reversed by the Kansas Supreme Court due to prosecutorial misconduct. (Pool photo)

Shawnee County jury can’t reach decision in high-profile, double-homicide retrial

By: - September 1, 2022

TOPEKA — A Shawnee County District Court jury reached an impasse Thursday on whether to convict Dana Chandler of first-degree murder in the shooting deaths of her ex-husband and his fiancee. Judge Cheryl Rios brought deliberations to an end after six men and six women of the jury had met for six days without agreement […]

Kansas foster care provider criticizes coverage while Nebraska lawmaker asks for fraud inquiry

By: - September 1, 2022

TOPEKA — Kansas’ largest foster care contractor responded to Kansas Reflector reporting on the organization’s finances and litigation by pointing to a turnaround under current leadership and a willingness to cooperate with investigators. Saint Francis Ministries said statements published in an Aug. 12 story are “inaccurate” and “false,” but wouldn’t identify specific statements in question. […]