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Lawrence school board candidate Keith Diaz Moore live chat

March 17, 2011

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

Keith Diaz Moore

Lawrence school board candidate Keith Diaz Moore will chat live with LJWorld.com users Thursday, March 17 at 11 a.m. Submit your question in advance below.

Moderator:

Hello, everyone. We're about to start our chat with Keith Diaz Moore, candidate for Lawrence school board. Keith has arrived here at The News Center, and we're getting him set up to answer your questions. And don't forget: There's still time to send some in.

Moderator:

Hello again. I am Mark Fagan, schools reporter for LJWorld.com and the Journal-World. Today we're chatting online with Keith Diaz Moore, an associate professor and associate dean of graduate studies at Kansas University's School of Architecture, Design & Planning. He's one of nine people campaigning for four available seats on the board, and the general election is April 5.
Welcome, Keith, and thanks for coming in today.

Keith Diaz Moore:

Hey, Mark. I'm looking forward to it. It's great to be here on a spring-like St. Patrick's Day -- a great day for a parade.

Moderator:

Time for our first question...

rhd99:

I am sick and tired of our incompetent state government cutting funding for schools!! When will this madness stop? I want full funding restored. What are you going to do to make sure Topeka hears our outrage loud and clear? Thanks.

Keith Diaz Moore:

Thanks for this question which gets at the heart of our problem. The state is charged with making suitable provision for the funding of public education and in my opinion, they are clearly not doing that. I am more than willing as a citizen as well as a hopeful school board member to take this message to the state legislature. They are clearly not taking a long-term view, or a return-on-investment point of view because an educated citizenry is essential to future economic development. I would also encourage every citizen to contact family members across the state to advocate for the same message. The more directions from which this message is delivered the more it will potentially resonate.

Moderator:

It's clear that folks in the Lawrence district — and elsewhere — aren't happy with the state for its financing plans. But do you think there actually will be a change in the financing approach, for the better, anytime soon? And how could you help foster that?

Keith Diaz Moore:

Mark, the change that I think we all hope for does not seem to be gaining traction in Topeka, largely because I believe there is a crisis management perspective toward some decisions, overlaid with a political perspective that questions government's role in education. I think if we can realize that our children are our best investment, that generations of Americans have felt that way, we may yet come to our senses and restore investment in public education. I think I might be able to foster that in that I take a long-term view of issues and as an architect have worked o develop ways of navigating differences in values to come to a common vision. But, this question is way larger than one person. It will take sustained collective action.

thoughtpolice:

I attended the Cordley School forum last night. With neighborhood schools potentially closing, what can be done to preserve the sense of neighborhood where these schools are located?

Moderator:

Some background on the forum at Cordley School: Candidates were invited to attend, to address issues regarding elementary schools; Cordley has been part of discussions for potentially closing and/or consolidating schools in the district...

Keith Diaz Moore:

This is an excellent question, and one with which both school board candidates and city commission candidates ought to be concerned. As I discussed last night, given that the task force has presented a plan that calls for a broad-based participatory process, this is an opportunity for the affected communities to discuss and inform responses to questions such as this. Certainly, thinking broader about the learning mission and how buildings may serve other community functions is a possibility. But in general, I would hope we would challenge ourselves not just with the question of what schools to consolidate, but how we can make schools even stronger centers of community as we move forward.

Moderator:

Following up on that a bit — a question from a previous chat actually did wonder about specific schools...

Moderator:

That question...
TNPlates:
The Facility Vision Task Force recommended the closing of one school and the possible consolidation of 6 schools into 3 or 4 should be considered. There are at least two other schools - Woodlawn and Broken Arrow - that by the Task Force's criteria should also be considered in this mix. Why aren't these schools also being considered for consolidation? Shouldn't the conversation be 8 schools into 5 or 6?

Keith Diaz Moore:

I think it will be incumbent upon the next school board to revisit and discuss in its entirety the reports and recommendation of the Task Force. As I read the recommendation, I see it having much more confidence in the need for participatory processes to inform decision-making than in specific suggestions for consolidation (as it offered a range of possibilities to explore). The focus needs to be on what communities may be able to be formed in a reasonable way and with community buy-in.

consumer1:

HOw do you feel about reducing the top heavy administration at the board of ed building? What can be done to ensure that more money actually reaches the students instead of fat salaries and benefits for administrators? And can you do this without constantly passing the cost on to the tax payer?
Thank you

Keith Diaz Moore:

As we discuss budget reductions, I believe everything needs to be on the table and that we need to begin by protecting the instruction resources as best we can. With that said, I certainly think administrative costs are something to consider and further savings may be available, but we need to keep in mind that there are administrative functions directly related to instructional support which is vital to a strong school district. These and all other reductions need to be made in-line with the long-term goals that need to be collectively shaped.

gdiepenb:

What do you believe the working relationship should be between a school board and district administration? What should the focus be for each group?

Keith Diaz Moore:

District administration is responsible for the day to day operations and they are to operate within the budget and policies set by the board and they are to be striving to achieve the goals set by the board. The board, on the other hand, sets the vision and goals for the district which should then inform budget and policy directions. Thus there has to be a strong partnership between superintendent, staff and the board. Collectively they play a powerful role in establishing the school climate in the district. This means the board is then responsible for ensuring that the administration is moving appropriately toward the achievement of the set goals. Great question.

ahyland:

What kinds of connections could you help facilitate given your work at KU and your potential role on the school board?

Keith Diaz Moore:

I think this question gets at the hear of what sets Lawrence apart. This is an education community, and with great higher education resources such as KU and Haskell right here, partnerships between them can be mutually beneficial. As a community, we are discussing enhanced learning opportunities as an important future consideration, and it would seem that discussions with the School of Education may lead to innovative responses. I think our School of Social Welfare may be able to assist the district in providing essential assistance in our social support area. These are just two possibilities of how service-learning may provide the community, the university and its students and faculty
with a great benefit. I hope the school district can begin to think creatively about partnerships not only with KU but also with the business community.

DeMontfort:

Who designed your yard signs? I think they really stand out (that's a good thing).

Keith Diaz Moore:

Well, thank you for the complement. Christy Schnieder, a local author and illustrator, created our sign design. She deserves all the credit.

Moderator:

You've talked in the past about how being an architect can provide a solid approach for decisionmaking, etc. (and I'm not talking about just yard signs). How would this help you during the next four years, if elected?

Moderator:

To clarify: You selected well on a person to design your signs, judging by the previous question...

Keith Diaz Moore:

First, I absolutely love being an architect because it gives a person a chance to work with people to solve real-world problems in a creative way. In order to do so, an architect needs to be an active listener, be able to navigate different values, involve the community in the process and in the end, shape a long-term vision in which stakeholders take pride. Given the complex problems, the difficult constraints and the different values that need to be navigated in these tough budget times, I believe this kind of design-thinking will prove useful. While the budget constraints create a difficult context, being an education community, we do have the opportunity to not only weather this storm, but lay a solid foundation for this district to become a model district. That's the architect in me -- we always think long-term and I think that will be a critical component of making wise short-term decisions over the next few years.

Currant:

What do you see as the main benefits and drawbacks of school consolidation?

Keith Diaz Moore:

I think this question may be getting at the difference between closure and consolidation. Closure essentially erases a school -- its staff, students and community gets scattered. In consolidation, those aspects remain together and that is what forms the heart of what makes the places we hold dear. Compared to closure, I see that as a benefit. I think another potential benefit is to have the affected communities come together and shape an innovative vision of how a consolidated school may potentially serve as an even stronger anchor for community. There's that design thinking -- there are always creative possibilities to be explored. The main drawback of consolidation is that we lose part of our system of schools that has clearly served this community so well. That is why in moving forward, I think the Task Force made a very wise recommendation in emphasizing the importance of a broad-based (community members, administrators, teachers) participatory process to shape next steps. We will have one chance to get it right.

Moderator:

Something that hasn't come up today but has during previous chats is teacher pay. Do you have any thoughts about how to address teacher pay, especially as districts in Johnson County, in general, pay more than here in Lawrence?

Keith Diaz Moore:

This is a critical question as this difference has resulted in the district losing some excellent teachers over the recent past. As the district moves to continually excel, the retention of excellent teachers is essential. I do think we need to look at both the entirety of the compensation package (beyond just salary) and also promote the quality of life here in Lawrence. This is difficult in these budgetary times, but it is certainly something the district needs to keep its eye on. But I also think that we can move toward broader participation of teachers as stakeholders in decision-making processes, adopt a wider-range of best practices including in the professional development area, and make our district one in which to aspire to teach. To a person, every teacher my children have come across seeks excellence in instruction and focuses on the achievement of every child. If we make the school culture as supportive and innovative as possible, that can play a powerful role in teacher retention.

Moderator:

Time for one more question. And it's an easy one.
What's this I hear about you having a connection with the Green Bay Packers?...

Keith Diaz Moore:

You, of course, mean the "Super Bowl Champion" Green Bay Packers. Well, having grown up in Wisconsin, I bleed Green and Gold. So much so, that my wife and I actually bought a share of stock in the Packers about 15 years ago. I hope people know it is the only publicly-owned professional sports franchise and that is why a town of the size of Green Bay (not much larger than Lawrence) is able to host a football team. So Mark, I am probably the only professional sports team owner in the country running for school board.

Moderator:

That's about all the time we have for today. Thanks to Keith Diaz Moore for visiting us here in The News Center to share his thoughts — and sports investments — with everyone here online...

Keith Diaz Moore:

My pleasure Mark. To learn more about me, please visit mooreforschoolboard.org. Advanced voting has started and Election Day is April 5th. And speaking of green, it is now time to head out for the St. Patrick's Day parade that starts at 1:00. A great Lawrence tradition.

Moderator:

Yes, enjoy the parade.
And we also thank all of our readers who sent in questions, and who continue to follow this and other chats online.
We'll be doing more candidate chats next week.
Next up is Bill Roth, a retired engineer, at 11 a.m. Friday.
For these and all other chats, don’t hesitate to log in and submit questions early.
Remember: The general election is April 5.

Moderator:

Quick clarification: Bill Roth is this Friday, March 18. Then, next week, we'll have more candidates in for chats.

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