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.
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?
In terms of providing good, consistent eduction...yes, our current model is outdated.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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.