New Lawrence superintendent Rick Doll to chat
September 10, 2009
This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.
New Lawrence public schools superintendent Rick Doll will take your questions on Thursday, September 10 at 11 a.m.
Welcome to today's chat with superintendent Rick Doll. I'm K-12 Education reporter Lindsey Slater and I'll be moderating today's chat. You can still submit questions for superintendent Doll at any time during the chat. Thanks for joining us today, Rick.
We'll jump right in with questions.
Do you see anymore tax (school) increases for property owners? If so, what for?
The budget has been set for this year, so there will be no more increases beyond what was published in the paper in August. Future tax increases would depend on whether the board chooses to increase the capital outlay mill rate.
I have had discussions with a number of high school teachers who say that their "core classes" are full; this is especially true in the sciences. If this is the case, why is the district considering bringing 9th graders an alreadly full school? I have also heard from administrators that the cafeterias can barely accomodate the kids that are already there, again, why would we consider adding more kids into this setting?
The board of education will establish goals at its Sept. 14 meeting. Reconfiguration of the schools is a potential goal. If we move 9th grade to the high school, teachers will be moved with the students, so class sizes would not necessarily increase. The question is whether we have physical space for the 9th graders. We are presently investigating that question.
The Lawrence School District releases its students at 2:15 p.m. every Wednesday.
That procedure is an anomaly.
No other school districts in this area (in the region, perhaps) cancel school on Wednesday afternoon.
Lawrence School District's early release on Wednesday deprives students of time in the classroom at a time when educators are saying that MORE classroom time is needed.
The early release is a pain in the neck to working parents and grandparents who have to arrange special pick ups for their children up from school at that odd time and on that odd day.
The early release on Wednesday protocol was passed by the School Board after extremely heavy lobbying by the Teacher's Union.
Public input on the early release protocol was minimal. It was a "stealth" protocol.
Is your administration going to review the early release on Wednesday protocol?
If you administration reviews the early release protocol and finds that it is essentially nothing more than a boondoggle for teachers, will you change the policy?
When teams of teachers take responsibility for all students they need time to collaborate. Recent increases in test scores would indicate that the Lawrence Public Schools are doing a better job of educating students. I understand that early release time on Wednesday is a hardship for parents, but it is paying dividends in student achievement.
Many school districts utilize an early release or late start program to provide this collaboration time. I always evaluate programs for effectiveness.
Welcome to Lawrence Superintendant Doll!
As a Lawrence citizen, I am troubled that a small group of litigious neighbors holds so much sway over the construction of the new LHS field. I know many decisions predate your taking this position. Has this small group's pressure caused some of the delay in finishing the field? And, why shouldn't all of us Lawrence citizens have an equal voice regarding how it is completed?
First of all, we want to be good neighbors with all of the neighborhoods that surround our schools. The issue at LHS is particularly difficult because athletic fields are being squeezed into a tight space. Prior to my tenure in the district the neighborhood association filed a lawsuit to clarify site plans. No recent action by the association has caused a significant delay in the completion of the project.
Teachers are in a unique situation where they represent knowledge and learning from an authoritative position. They are entrusted by parents and the community to instruct young minds according to the curriculum. Those same students and community leadeers also trust teachers to teach in an unbiased and without partisanship. My daughter has come home on more than one occassion repeating negative partisan comments made by teachers against conservative politicians. I do not send my child to school to be taught bias, based upon personal teacher opinion.
What is your plan to stop the abuse of power by teachers who use their authority to espouse their political agenda's?
Over the past several years I have taught an advanced placement government class. I prided myself on keeping my personal views to myself and challenging students to see both sides of the issues. This is a difficult task. It is like teaching about religion without advocating a particular religion.
Parents who have concerns about teachers who are blatantly espousing their political views in class should contact the teacher and express their concerns. If these concerns are not dealt with, then the appropriate administrator should be contacted
Has there been any investigation or reprimands handed down recently to assistant principal Hill of Free State, for misconduct? If no, why not? An investigation of allegations is a must to have any credibility as a new Superintendent, don't you think?
All legitimate allegations are investigated. Personnel matters are confidential.
Is the district in a hiring freeze, and if so why are there classified jobs listed as being available and open? 20 years of experience and a first round budget cut last year, should warrant an interview, don't you think?
The district has implemented a rolling hiring freeze. This means that every vacancy is evaluated to make sure that it is absolutely necessary and to determine if other personnel in the district can fill the position. For example, we recently had a vacancy in the Foundation/LEAP office. The position was filled in-house by reassigning personnel. This is not always possible.
Dr. Doll: Welcome to Lawrence. It appears to me Lawrence is experiencing enrollment stagnation similar to many other midwestern college towns. "Baby boomers" are retiring to these communities and do not bring any young children with them. Do you see enrollment growth in Lawrence's future? If so, what are the signs? It seems that most of the recent growth has been in the virutual school.
Don't know your role in building the 2 High Schools football fields , but I think it was a mistake. With very tight school budgets, how can 497 justify those expenses, especially, in view of cutting back in educational programs. Too much emphasis on sports programs, too little on real education.
My guess, a couple of options would have better served the community:
1. Upgrade Haskell Stadium, played there when at LHS in the 1950's. or
2. Build a District stadium that could be utilized by both schools; would have more ammenities than 2 more minimals; also, the 2 on-campus further divides the community.
We do not anticipate much enrollment growth in the near future. Houses are not being constructed at the level of a couple of years ago. This year our enrollment was stable with slight increases at the elementary level. The slight decrease at the secondary level can be attributed to the closure of the secondary virtual school.
The K-8 virtual school is growing. Interestingly, most of the students who attend the virtual school are not from Lawrence.
My understanding is that the district tried to work with Haskell to upgrade that stadium. Through no fault of the local Haskell officials this was not possible. It is expensive the rent the Haskell stadium.
Your point about building one stadium was discussed by the board.
The general fund budget is very tight. But, capital projects like the athletic fields are not funded through this fund. Capital outlay, lease purchase and remaining bond funds were used to finance the athletic facilities. Instructional programs cannot be funded with capital funds.
Sorry about putting two questions in a row. The two answers from Rick follow. My computer is just a little faster than the one he is using in the NewsCenter!
You can still submit questions. We have just a few left.
Welcome to Lawrence, Dr. Doll. One key element in our selection of Lawrence as a "hometown" was the quality of education -- can you share your plans to continue to elevate the education our children receive in your schools.
First of all, Lawrence has a tradition of academic excellence. I intend to continue that tradition and work with the board and educators to make it even better. Specifically I believe that we need to focus on expanding our definition of academic excellence beyond the requirements of "No Child Left Behind". We must close the achievement gap for our non-majority students and for our special education students, while elevating the achievement level of all students.
I am particularly excited about plans to investigate additional career and technical education programming for our secondary students.
I invite patrons to participate in this discussion. The board of education will set goals for the upcoming school year at the Sept. 14 meeting.
Any big events coming up for the district anytime soon?
Next Friday the Lawrence Schools Foundation will be hosting its annual community education breakfast. I understand this is an exciting event where we feature student achievement and hear from an esteemed alumnus. I invite everyone to attend.
In follow-up to a previous question about the new athletic facilities, won't the maintenance of the new facilities come from the general fund in future years? It seems that having 2X facilities will burden the general fund more in future years.
The district already had seperate facilties at each high school. Quality, equity and safety were the primary reasons for the upgrade.
It will actually cost less to maintain the fields because of the artificial turf.
Most maintenance expenses, other that personnel, can come from the capital outlay fund.
That's all the time we have. Thanks for joining, us Rick.
Thanks, Lindsey, I look forward to doing this again.