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Chat about the Lawrence School Board race with candidate Scott Morgan

March 21, 2007

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

Scott Morgan, who lost his re-election bid in 2003 by 66 votes, following a period when the school board decided to close and consolidate four elementary schools. "If that cost me the election, it was an easy price to pay. Not because I revel in closing things, but because that was so long overdue. The kids will be so much better served," Morgan said as he was finishing out the final days of his term four years ago.

Moderator:

Hello and welcome to our chat today with Scott Morgan, one of eight candidate running for four open seats on Lawrence's school board in the April 3 election.
Scott, thanks for coming down to the News Center today to take part in this digital discussion. We have several questions already, so we can get started.

Scott Morgan:

I'm looking forward to it. Let's go ahead and get started.

EmJones:

Why all-day kindergarten? I don't think all children are ready for all-day school at this age. I think we push them too hard, too soon, already.

No Child Left Behind has no fans among any of the teachers or parents that I know. Is there a chance Kansas will opt out of this deeply flawed program?

Scott Morgan:

I think that it is very likely that Kansas will move toward all-day kindergarten. It seems to be more of a question of funding. I personally think that it is a good program for many kids. I think there are a number of issues to be cleared up before we introduce it district wide in Lawrence. Primarily we need to be sure of our funding.

When we do introduce it, I do think that it should be optional for parents. My wife and I worked hard to adapt our schedule so we could take turns being home with our kids and parents should be give that option.

rhd99:

Mr. Morgan, you were among those who voted to close Centennial Elementary School. Can you please tell me how Cordley Elementary meets or exceeds the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, as it applies to children? How will closing Centennial Elementary school & other schools benefit children in the future?

Scott Morgan:

I first want to say that voting to close schools was among the hardest and most unpleasant of decisions I made while a member of the board. I have no interest in going through that again and look forward to being given the opportunity to serve on the board again without school closings being an issue.

That being said, choosing between Cordley and Centennial was a very close call for me. There were factors in favor of each but, in the end, I weighed those factors and voted to keep Cordley open. Some of the reasons included the spacing between schools and other elementary schools that would remain open and the possibilities of how we could use the land at Centennial for purposes at LHS. The large lot next to Centennial had been purchased by the district and that combined with the Centennial lot could be used for a number of purposes by LHS. There were legitmate concerns raised about ADA requirements and Cordley but I believed those concerns either had been met or would be met in the near future. Remember that we were also proposing a bond issue that would have put money into Cordley. Although that bond failed, the district has continued to make improvments at that school.

concernedvoter:

Scott - Some would say you are crazy for putting yourself "out there again". Thank you for your willingness to serve.

What are your thoughts on the district's wellness policy. Am I right that this pretty much another mandate from the federal government that districts have to worry about? Thanks.

Scott Morgan:

I appreciate your concerns about my mental health. Serving on the school board brings a fair amount of stress but it also brings a great deal of rewards. This is especially the case when one, as I do, has three children in our schools. I know how important good schools are to our community. With regard to the specific question concerning the wellness policy, I have said that this would fall into my basic philosophy of "all things in moderation." While it is true that the new federal government regulations are the reason behind the policy, it seems that different districts in Kansas have taken a different tack with regard to the required changes. I think it is entirely appropriate that the district "clean up" the food it offers for sale in the lunch room. I think it is important that we teach our children the importance of healthy eating. However, I think taking all sweets out of the school is bordering on the absurd. A number of people say that the schools don't want to be the food police but I am not fond of the district having policies that are written with the idea that enforcement would be sort of optional. Let's help kids move toward healthy living by being reasonable and appropriate. Cookies at parties are not why we have heavy kids.

kaylakula:

Why do you find it necessary to run for school board again after being defeated the last election?

Scott Morgan:

I'm not sure I find it "necessary." I did lose by 66 votes four years ago. I guess I could have taken that as meaning I was never again supposed to run for school board but I took it more as people upset about the board deciding to close schools while I was president. The position is voluntary, meaning there is no pay but a lot of hours. I was raised that part of being in a community was that you took your turn doing some of the duties required to keep a community strong. With three kids in our schools, I know how important schools are and I believe I have something to offer. I know not everyone agrees with me on everything but I think most people believe me to be a person of good faith who is willing to work with people of different views. Too often we seem to have people who think that someone who disagrees with you on important issues is somehow a "bad" person. I think the whole point of elected to office is to work toward solutions that are, in this case, best for all 10,000 kids in our district.

Moderator:

This is Dave Toplikar, the Journal-World's K-12 education reporter, and I forgot to identify myself as moderator earlier. Can you tell us what you think about the board's recent decision to create neighborhood sites to teach English as a Second Language. The board picked Sunflower and Schwegler schools.

Scott Morgan:

I should disclose that I am a parent of a Sunflower student. In fact, we have had at least one of our children in Sunflower since it opened 13 years ago. I think the board is absolutely right to work toward bringing as many of our kids as possible into their neighborhood schools. It is my understanding that as many as 65 of the elementary qualifying for ESL live in our Sunflower neighborhood. These kids should be able to attned Sunflower. My concern with how the district implemented the decisions was the seeming lack of communication with the communities and teachers directly affectecd. The word went out from some of Sunflower staff that the training requirements were excessive. Our parents did not react favorably to being told that a number of valued teachers were considering leaving. I think the district needs to be more sensitive to concerns of staff and parents. I know it can be frustrating when you are trying to do what you believe is right but sometimes taking a little bit longer to get where you want to be leads to better results. A good example is how early dismissal at the elementary and junior high level was dropped as a surprise on the community and it still causes some friction. By contrast, the high schools took a year, involved community, staff and students and came up with a much more welcomed late arrival program for staff development. Both are good programs but one took a little longer to get where people wanted it and the product is probably better. The same goes with the ESL changes. I look forward to the kids joing the school, the program is at SWJH and LHS and adds a great deal to the richness of those schools. The district just needs to bring staff and community into the process.

Moderator:

That will be the last question.
I'd like to thank our readers for their questions. And Scott, thanks for coming in today to have this dialogue with our readers.

Scott Morgan:

Thank you for the opportunity to write really long answers to questions. Sorry about the length of some of these. I do hope people get out to vote on April 3rd or take advantage of early voting at the courthouse. My basic philosophy is getting the best education possible to all 10,000 of our kids. To do that we must get teachers the resources they need, include parents as partners and all the while respecting taxpayers and how much they provide. We must be good stewards of our limited resources. Thanks again for the opportunity.

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