Chat about the upcoming school year with Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman

August 11, 2006

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Lawrence Supt. Randy Weseman takes questions about teachers, taxes and school reconstruction as the new academic year approaches.


Hi folks. Randy has joined us and will start taking your questions shortly.

Randy Weseman:


Always good to be here.


Don't you think it is about time for the June, July and August "vacation" to come to an end? What's really stopping that from happening? Babe Ruth and Legion baseball? The days of helping on the family farm are gone. Couldn't a different schedule of "breaks" offer students greater success?
Thanks for your consideration.


The school fees increased several years ago when the state made cuts to the budgets. Since then, much of the money has been returned to the school budgets, but the fees charged have not been reduced. When will the fees be reduced?

Randy Weseman:

In terms of providing good, consistent eduction...yes, our current model is outdated. However, the culture of the community would be disrupted if we were to move to a "year round school" system. This is the time kids engage in summer activities, families take vacations and so on. In any event, from a professional standpoint, hands down...a year-round calendar is the best educational approach.


Can you update us on the situation at Hillcrest Elementary - it looks like another portable is located on what used to be basketball courts. Is the Hillcrest school population still increasing despite the creation of a second ESL location at Cordley?

Randy Weseman:

I really do think the board would have taken a good look at our current fee structure. With the Court coming in so late it hard to do much with school starting next week. I think it's time we had a group look at the number and size of fees currently expected. I know this is a burden for parents and would love to see a substantial reduction without program disruption.


Apologies for the order of the transcript. Questions and answers are being posted in order ... but a bug somewhere seems to be mixing them up a wee. We'll try to get that fixed.

Randy Weseman:

You are correct. Another portable was added for the continued presence of ESL kids. Some of the pressure will be reduced as the Cordley model comes on line. In the meantime, the portbable will be needed. Ultimately, the board will need to consider a long-term facility fix for Hillcrest.



We hear about smaller class size but I have seen and heard that classes are larger than ever. What's the problem? Don't tell me money. We have more coaches, specialists etc. yet classes are still large.


Mr. Weseman, will the recently passed school finance bill fund all after school activities in Lawrence? Thanks.

Randy Weseman:

I don't agree that class sizes are larger. The class projections I reviewed yesterday looked very good. Since 2000 we have added several million $$ for class size reduction. When I came to the superintendency there were over 30 combination classrooms and many straight grade-level classes in the thirties. We have areas we are watching that are borderline and will deal with them if the kids show up. Remember, the doors haven't opened so we don't have clean number. In addition, our elementary numbers appear to be up about 50 from our projections so that will cause some pressure points. In summary, resonable class sizes continue to a priority. It's all relative I suppose. People coming in from other areas and states tell us that we have nice class sizes. On the other hand, some see them as still high.

Randy Weseman:

If by "afterschool activities" you mean our elementary and JHS afterschool programs then the funding source is from grants. We just received approval of a 100K grant for Central. Most of this grant money is targeted for what they define as "at-risk" areas. Without going into to great detail I can say that we have put enough funds together to keep our past model running. As you know, federal dollars are drying up so it will continue to be tight. If you are referring to our extra-curricular programs....athletics etc...they are in very good condition. We continue to offer a full plate of activities. However, still no hockey. And yes...we have had a request for a hockey program.


Are there any plans to look at ending the Wednesday early dismissals? I understand the value the school district feels it gets for the teachers, but the hardships this creates especially for single parent families, or families where both parents work, is pretty extreme.

Randy Weseman:

There are no plans to change the current model of early dismissal. This time is part of the negotiated agreement with the teacher's association and any change would need to be discussed at the table. There is no currrent discussion. This time is seen as very valuable to all staff. I don't see this going anywhere unless there is a significant extension of contract days for teachers....and that, is a money issue. I know this creates a tough situation for parents. I've had the experience also.


We'll pose just one more question to Randy.


What are the plans for the Northwest Growth and building a new Elementary and or Jr. High to accomodate this area?
Four years ago when schools were closed and consolidated there was talk of a New School in this area within the next five years? What is the Status of this situation?

Randy Weseman:

Dealing with new growth is an emerging issue. Not only in the Northwest but also to the West and South. Most of the available school district is to the Southwest. We do run up against the Perry/Lecompton district to the Northwest so our exposure is limited. I think the most interesting situation will be when several hundred single-family homes are build within the city limits, but in the Perry district. I predict that a significant number of those families will want their kids in our system. So, here's an example or growth that we can't plan for but will be pressured to accomodate. The Southeast is another potential area for growth. Frankly, I don't have enough data to say exactly where the next elementary will be located. We do have land set aside for an elementary/JHS unit to the West. We also continue to shop for property. Your question is a good one, but tough to nail.


Thanks Randy. A reminder to our readers that we'll have a huge back-to-school section on Sunday, focusing on the costs to families -- feewise and socially -- of getting your kids back in the classroom.


Lori Nation 11 years, 7 months ago

i was disappointed with the reporter all questions should be posted even if they are not answered that way the community can see what we are questioning about our public schools!! very very disappointed and this is the second chat you have had with him that my questions were not posted or answered.

Kathy Gates 11 years, 7 months ago

I was also disappointed in his answer to early dismissal. Of course the teachers like it! And I'm glad to know that he's experienced the huge inconvenience of it, but what difference does that make? It shouldn't make any difference monetarily...the teachers work the same number of hours whether it's spread over 190 or 220 days. The teachers want the same amount of money for fewer actual days worked. Expanding the individual school day hours means they can compress their required work hours into fewer days. Unfortunately, we can't all do that.

usaschools 11 years, 7 months ago

Smgkag, you are misinformed. Teachers do not "want the same amount of money for fewer days actually worked." Here is a news flash for you: WE WORK ON THOSE WEDNESDAY AFTERNOONS! We ARE making a difference for children during that time! In Japan, teachers teach for only a short time a day and are paid to plan for more hours than they teach! I put in hours and hours and hours of unpaid planning time each week (far more hours than I have of paid planning time). I'm not complaining, I'm just pointing it out to you as a fact. I NEED planning time with other teachers, special ed staff, reading staff, and so on. I can't accomplish that all on my own time, as our schedules just don't match. I can't do it during my plan time because each grade has a different plan time and all the needed parties are not available.
Early dismissal is really not a perfect system. I would prefer to work an extra PAID hour a day after school or before school. However, this is the best that could be arranged given that there is not political nor monetary support for paying teachers for their plan time. Anyway, your reasoning is based on the factually incorrect premise that teachers are somehow getting out of work under the early dismissal program. That is just wrong.

Lori Nation 11 years, 7 months ago

We all need to stand together and attend your local board meeting this monday August 14 @ 7pm. I plan on asking questions about the hight school fees for just the education!!

Lori Nation 11 years, 7 months ago

Im sorry but if we get closer to Perry/Lecompton school district people would want to take their to stay in a school district where there are no fees for education just like eudora.

usaschools 11 years, 7 months ago

Macon, you are constantly an ass. No one made any comments that suggest they need to "get a grip," but you just had to whine anyway. You post NOTHING but negative comments about schools, NEVER a nice thing to say. As usual, your facts are wrong as well. A teacher contract is actually for 186 contract days. There are 40 weeks that teachers work (most "good" jobs would include the week off for Christmas and, in this town, spring break, plus most every job has occasional days off, certainly every job that requires a college degree!). I know the days add up to 37ish, but look at the school calendar and figure it out. Sure, good jobs take more time than you get paid for, but very few take AS MUCH extra unpaid time as a teaching. Even fewer that do take more unpaid time have a NEGOTIATED contract specifying the duty day, even fewer are done extremely well by dedicated professionals, and NONE has to deal with the constant disdain of jerks like you. Lets say a teacher works only 10 hours extra a week (which is a vast underestimate for most). During the 37 contractual weeks, that is 370 hours, or 46 eight hour days, or 9 WEEKS of extra work. Forget about the 2 days minimum virtually every teacher in the district has put in during the last few days getting their rooms ready, forget about summer inservices, etc. etc. Consider that the 9 weeks unpaid work is a LOW estimate, and there you have it. Don't feed me a load of bull about every good job being the same. Don't try to tell me that most people work 9 or more weeks a year for free. That's bull. It is a FACT that the average teacher works more hours per YEAR than the average American worker. Yes, others work hard, but they don't have to deal with the likes of you.

The WORST part about teaching is coming home after a day's work to read the negative spewings of uninformed, ignorant, meanspirited, anti-public education, self-appointed experts like yourself.

I usually just present my point of view, but today, after sitting in an un-airconditioned building and working hard for the kids I'll see next week, you have hit a raw nerve. If you meant well, that would be something, but the entire dynamic of your posts is just to put down schools and teachers. If you don't have anything nice to say, do us all a favor and just don't post at all. I've never seen you add a constructive comment anyway.

conservative 11 years, 7 months ago

USASchools, I'm sure many teachers are very dedicated, however I've also known plenty who aren't and are making the same money. As far as the planning time I've got 2 points. 1 is the number of teachers who spend their planning time not in school and not really discussing school matters. Want to find out more, go talk to the wait staff at Henry T's and ask them about the crowd that comes in on Wednesday afternoons while they are supposed to be planning.

Second, why can't the planning time be at the beginning or end of each day. Using Deerfield as an example the Teachers get there at 7:50 and are out of there by 3:15 most days. That is only 7 hours and 25 minutes. How many other jobs let people get away with less than 8 hours and don't forget many companies make you take an unpaid lunch to boot.

As I've said before there are many teachers who deserve to make more, but that are also many who are doing the minimum amount possible.

Early dismissal Wednesdays are bad for the community and really need to be rethought by the teachers union.

I've read many of your posts about how misunderstood teachers are and how they are deserving of so much more. However when teachers get to work after me, get off before me, and work so many fewer days than I do, it is frankly hard to get too worked up about their plight.

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