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Lawrence school board candidate Shannon Kimball live chat

March 11, 2011

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

Shannon Kimball

Lawrence school board candidate Shannon Kimball will chat live with LJWorld.com users Friday, March 11 at 11:30 a.m. Submit your question in advance below.

Moderator:

Hello. This is Mark Fagan, and I'll be moderating our chat this morning with Shannon Kimball, a candidate for Lawrence school board.
Shannon has arrived, and we'll be starting the chat soon...

Moderator:

OK, it's time for our chat with Shannon Kimball, candidate for Lawrence school board. I am Mark Fagan, and I cover schools here for LJWorld.com and the Journal-World.
The general election is April 5, and there are four seats available. Nine candidates are actively campaigning, and we look forward to all candidates stopping by to chat.
With that said, welcome, Shannon.

Shannon Kimball:

Thank you for having me here today Mark.

Moderator:

OK, here's the first question:

kugrad:

What equity issues (or perhaps I should say, "inequities") have you observed in the Lawrence public schools?

Shannon Kimball:

Through my work on the Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force, I have learned a great deal about the facilities-related needs of our elementary schools. Our study of these facilities showed that there are equity issues at our elementary schools in terms of the quality and quantity of learning spaces. For example, we have schools that need improvements for ADA compliance and upgrades to mechanical systems; we also have a number of equity issues related to learning spaces such as libraries, gymnasia, music, art, and other spaces for specials.

Moderator:

You mentioned the task force. Here's another question, one regarding that effort...

nativeson:

How has your participation in the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force changed your thinking about the needs of the school district?

Shannon Kimball:

I began my work as a Task Force member with a desire to shape a positive future vision for our elementary schools. After eight months of studying budgets and finance, research on instructional best practices, facilities conditions, and community planning issues related to schools, I have learned that we are at an important crossroads for our future. We have an opportunity, through continued community involvement and planning, to implement changes that will improve learning and instruction for our students. We also have substantial challenges in meeting our students' needs, given continued and substantial declines in state funding.

Moderator:

A little background on the task force, for folks following the chat: The Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force met for eight months, and was charged with recommending "a community vision and plan for the school district’s elementary facilities that reflect the varied community and educational values and how to best reflect those values given the restraints of current and anticipated district resources."
Shannon served on the task force — and, specifically, its subcommittee to "research class size, school size, educational and facility factors to be considered in new or remodeled school, educational history schools."
Monday night, school board members will discuss the task force's recommendations, including one that calls for closing Wakarusa Valley School next year, and to pursue consolidating other schools within the next three to five years.
With all that said, here's another question related to the task force...

ksbeast:

Do you support the elementary task force's recommendations?

Shannon Kimball:

Yes. The twenty-five Task Force members took their charge very seriously and put hundreds of hours into reviewing research and data upon which we based our consensus recommendations.

lawrencemom2:

What sets you apart from the other school board candidates? Why should I vote for you? Thanks.

Shannon Kimball:

Two things - knowledge and experience. As a Task Force member, I have intensively studied the very issues that will be at the fore of the Board's work. I have worked for many years as an attorney and education policy specialist, working with K-12 public schools. I look forward to the opportunity to use this knowledge and experience to serve my community and our schools.

Made_in_China:

Congratulations for having the courage to toss your hat in the ring. Do you have any strategies for seeking suitable funding from the legislature, or do you believe the schools 'already have plenty of money' as some assert?

Shannon Kimball:

One of the responsibilities of a board member is to advocate for policy that supports the mission of our public schools. I will work to be a visible voice with our legislators in support of our schools. I do not agree with the assertion that our schools "already have plenty of money"; it underestimates the needs that our districts must meet to provide an excellent education to every student.

Moderator:

Another money-related question...

DennisAnderson:

How can Lawrence public schools compete with the generally higher salaries being paid to teachers in Johnson County public schools?

Shannon Kimball:

Our district must work hard to remain competitive in this area so that we can continue to attract and retain high-quality teachers. In addition, Lawrence has many advantages and amenities to offer--we have to use those things as tools to recruit and retain teachers in our community.

Moderator:

A little follow-up here: We hear a lot about money these days, as it relates to schools. District officials have indicated that they will be planning to have $3 million less revenue for the next school year — continuing a pattern of declining revenue, and one that officials fear will continue in the years ahead. How would you describe your approach to dealing with such pressures?

Shannon Kimball:

Because we have made substantial cuts to programs in recent years, and because approximately 85% of the district's costs are salaries and benefits, we are going to be faced with difficult choices to balance our budget in this climate of declining state support. I will review all areas of the budget and prioritize cuts by focusing on protecting those things that have the greatest impact on student learning and achievement in the classroom--as a Task Force member, I researched the issue of best instructional practices and impacts on student achievement, with the goal of providing information to the Board that could guide exactly these kinds of decisions. I will also give serious consideration to the recommendations of the Task Force.

oneeye_wilbur:

What plans if you were elected would you implement to reduce the mill levy? Persons and families on fixed incomes have no way to continue to pay more for schools. Parents eat out, the kids have cell phones, why aren't the families asked to give up something. We have no more money.

Shannon Kimball:

The School Board has a responsibility to taxpayers to make responsible fiscal decisions. Part of that responsibility is to evaluate these concerns and ensure that the financial support we ask from our community is necessary to achieve our mission of learning for all students. As a board member, I would constantly strive to fulfill that responsibility when making decisions about the budget.

Moderator:

A little follow-up context on the issue of "mill levy," which is another way to describe the district's tax rate: District officials have said that as previous bond issues go off the books in the next few years, the district would have the ability — with voter approval, of course — to add more debt for renovation/expansion/construction projects in the next few years, without having to increase the current property tax rate for schools... The task force discussed this prospect quite a bit, and even envisions a bond issue to address needs of the district's elementary schools... Questions: What would you see in an upcoming bond issue? Should there be an upcoming bond issue?

Shannon Kimball:

Yes, we should continue to plan and build community support for a bond issue to address substantial facilities needs at our elementary schools. That bond issue should address the building needs and deficiencies identified by the Task Force--for example, ensuring that our elementary schools are ADA compliant and getting rid of portables at the numerous schools that have them. We will have the ability to make these investments without raising taxes, which is something that I am excited about for our students and our community.

Clevercowgirl:

Would you support closing additional schools ahead of scheduled consolidation if any school was requiring maintenance funds far in excess of District/Task Force estimates?

Shannon Kimball:

Thanks for your question--it highlights an issue that I, along with other Task Force members, felt we needed more information about. We know from our facilities review that there are substantial needs at some of our schools. However, further evaluation by architectural and building professionals is needed to accurately determine the costs associated with these needs. I support seeking that data to inform any further decisions about closings or consolidations. This also highlights an important aspect of my approach to the Task Force and as a potential member of the Board--I will seek to involve the community as well as make evidence-based decisions.

consumer1:

How do you feel about making teacher accountable for pay raises? Teacher are getting raises when noone else does. Why should they get raises with accountability. Please don't quote state testing scores. They mean nothing.

Shannon Kimball:

Teachers and District staff have been working for the past couple of years on improvements to the District's process for teacher evaluations. I look forward to learning about the results of this work at the upcoming negotiations session later this month; this information is important to evaluating the District's current practices with regard to teacher pay increases.

Moderator:

OK, we're approaching the end of our chat time. Here's one more question...

kugrad:

What do you feel is a reasonable elementary class size? Do you believe it should be the same for all children in the district, or should race and SES play some sort of factor when that is possible?

Moderator:

And going back to the previous question, consumer1 offered this...

consumer1:

Corrections Teachers without accountability. Sorry.
And, test scores really don't measure anything except a person's ability to memorize.

Moderator:

Now, back to the question about class sizes...

Shannon Kimball:

I support the current school board policy regarding goals for class size--up to 17 students in grades K-3, and up to 26 students in grades 4-6. These goals align with the research I reviewed as a Task Force member regarding class size as it relates to supporting student achievement. Our District's current average class size falls with this range as well, although given adequate resources the District could improve in meeting its goals for the early grades. The needs of students do matter in this discussion, and the Task Force recommended that, given adequate resources, for students living in poverty and students with other special needs class sizes would ideally trend toward the lower end of the ranges set out in our Board's current goals.

Moderator:

Well, our time is up. Thanks for your participation, Shannon, and to everyone who sent in questions.

Shannon Kimball:

Thank you for this opportunity. Please vote on April 5!

Moderator:

Our next chat is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, with Rick Ingram, another candidate for Lawrence school board. Be sure to check in for all our chats with board candidates, and don't forget that you can send in questions ahead of time. And, of course, don't forget to vote: As Shannon noted, the general election is April 5.

Comments

skimballku 3 years ago

For additional background information, here is the LJW's candidate profile: http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2011/mar...

More information is available at www.kimballforschoolboard.org or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/kimballforschoolboar...>

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skimballku 3 years, 1 month ago

squeakcat - the Task Force recommended a set of schools for consideration based on the criteria we developed and the information we gathered throughout our 8-plus months of study. While our study was extensive, there were certain areas that the Task Force felt needed additional professional expertise and input--in particular, architects and construction professionals putting together thorough professional estimates for the maintenance/repairs/upgrades that are needed at the elementary school buildings. That is the additional information I was referencing in my response.

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squeakcat 3 years, 1 month ago

I am confused. She was on the facilities task force. Why would she need more information before she offers an opinion about consolidation or closing additional schools. Wasn't that the task force's job?

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years, 1 month ago

So Shannon has no plan either to reduce the mill levy. Dever has no plan from the city. Anyone see where this is headed?

Thank you Mr. Moderator for asking the question posed. Maybe with luck some candidate has a plan to reduce the mill levy for the school district so that it doesn't take 150 homes paying $2,000 a year in taxes to fund the Superintendent's salary. Even the teachers have not done the math and now wilbur believes the candidates have not done their math either.

The great experiment continues at any cost!

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