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Lawrence school board candidate Ola Faucher live chat

March 22, 2011

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

Ola Faucher

Lawrence school board candidate Ola Faucher will chat live with LJWorld.com users Tuesday, March 22 at 11 a.m. Submit your question in advance below.

Moderator:

Hello everyone. We'll be starting our chat with Ola Faucher here in a few minutes. There's still time to send in questions — now, or during the chat itself...

Moderator:

Hello again, everyone.
I'm Mark Fagan, schools reporter for LJWorld.com and the Journal-World, and Im moderating today's chat with Ola Faucher, one of nine people campaigning for four available seats on the Lawrence school board.
She will be with us for an hour, answering your questions online.
The general election is April 5.
Thank you for coming in to The News Center today, Ola...

Ola Faucher:

Thanks, Mark, for the chance to make a cyber connection with members of the community. I'll enjoy our electronic visit.

Moderator:

Now for our first question...

gardenks:

What partnerships should be sought with the community and corporate world that would benefit the Lawrence schools?

Ola Faucher:

We have to deal with current challenges but also plan for the future as part of the overall community. From that viewpoint, we'd need to make connections with the community planners like the Chamber of Commerce, the City and County Commission. The corporate connections can include those industries here in town but should also reach into some of the larger corporations like Sprint, Black and Veatch - KC metro corporations who are interested in developing technology and who take a social role in communities to share resources. We also have a significant educational presence in our community with 2 institutions of higher education - KU & Haskell. We could investigate partnerships with those institutions who share a common goal and have "customers" (their children) in our school system. Looking into grant funding opportunities is also not out of the question.
Then there are partnerships with our own constituents - neighborhood associations, etc. While those sources may not be a funding source, they can provide a wealth of ideas for improvements and future planning.

Moderator:

We have two questions on the same topic, so I'll post them both here...

MaddyAbby:

At the Cordley Candidate Forum when the question was asked regarding the recommendation from the elementary school task force - you mentioned there should not be any sacred cows when looking at budget cuts. Would you elaborate on what you meant by this statement?

ksbeast:

You are quoted as saying you would examine “sacred cows” such as athletics and extracurricular programming for budget savings. What are the specifics of which of these you would cut?

Ola Faucher:

When faced with budget cuts, no options should be overlooked. I know that budget cuts have already been made to other segments of the school district budget. However, this budget cut is not focused on just elementary education. We need to look at ALL the financial resources of the school district without regard to protection of self interests. Those are the "sacred cows" - areas of the budget that have tacit agreement as being too sensitive or politically volatile to consider. The athletics program in our high schools, district administration are very likely two of those sacred cows. As I become more familiar with the district budget there may be others identified. Those "sacred cows" should not, cannot be eliminated from consideration when we face drastic budget cuts.

logical_parent:

What are your views regarding a STEM program in schools? How would you go about implementing such a program into the schools?

Moderator:

A reminder for folks following the chat: STEM is short for science, technology, engineering and math.

Ola Faucher:

Globally science and math are critical factors in a competitive market. That begins in the school system. Partnerships with technology corporations, KU and Haskell could all be considered to supplement our science and math programs. We might also be able to identify mentorships for students will stellar performance in the STEM fields with KU, Haskell, corporate partners. But we also have to be sure all our students have the needed level of skills in those areas; we can't overlook the basics. There are also a number of professional and research organizations in STEM fields that could be a source of partnerships and even funding. A focus group with some professionals in these fields, including our own teachers, could come up with a good list of options to consider.

ksbeast:

Do you support the Task Force recommendations including consolidating six school into four with major reconstruction?

Moderator:

A little background on the task force: That would be the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force, which was formed more than eight months ago by the board to come up with a vision for the district's elementary school sites and buildings, while recognizing both the community's vision and the district's limited resources... The task force eventually recommended closing one school next year — Wakarusa Valley School — and then recommended pursuing consolidation options for turning a list of six schools into either three or four within three to five years. Schools the task force recommended for consideration for consolidation: Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New Work, Pinckney and Sunset Hill.

Ola Faucher:

There is still a lot of work to do before acting on the recommendations of the task force. All the parties involved have clearly stated the need for community engagement. Not just the task force report but focus groups, discussions with the broader community. NOTHING can be finalized without that vital component. I'm also very concerned that the high quality work of the task force had a very narrow focus - closing and consolidation of elementary schools. How about a parallel process to consider other options as well. At this point, without those further considerations I wouldn't vote to consolidate or close any schools. The Wakarusa community, for example, still needs to be heard. I appreciate the solid foundation for this difficult question laid by the task force. But we have a lot more work to do before major decisions can be made.

MaddyAbby:

What factors or considerations would you use to determine a school closing?

Ola Faucher:

There are a number of factors, including the following:
1. Student/teacher ratio by class of where the students would end up - not just average class size.
2. Affect on the neighborhood.
3. Any students in special programs that would be affected - ESL, title programs, special needs students.
4. Diversity of student body.
5. Related to other factors, affect on school boundaries.
6. Quality of curriculum.
All these factors in some way boil down to assuring the best education and most supportive environment for our students. When you get down to it, it's all about the kids!

vocal:

Ola--when we lost the alternative high school, teenagers began to slip through the cracks--the only program that offered real assistance was the WRAP program--what is your solution to giving the kids that need alternatives--a chance?

Ola Faucher:

That's one of the sad features of our current national approach to education - teach to the test. Education ideally is about adapting our instructional techniques to the way a student learns. When we don't build in that kind of flexibility, we lose a lot of the kids "on the fringe." The best approach for such students is first acknowledging that we have a problem and a responsibility to address the need. The second option in my mind would be to bring together folks who really know about alternative learning methods, including successful educators in our own system. (Debbie Green comes to mind from LHS.) Partner those educators with parents of the students and, if we can engage them, the learners themselves. That group can be our "think tank" to identify some answers we might overlook. Naturally, there are traditional options like more e-learning, home schooling. Those can also be features to consider and the professionals in those fields would be a good resource. There are also some model schools around the nation that have found answers that are workable; visit them. Another key factor really boils down to the teachers in the classroom. Give them the support they need to truly teach and personally touch the lives of our students - not just hit a test score. I don't have the answers but the process I've described should give us some viable options to consider.

acornwebworks:

Hi Ola!

I don't know if you remember me...Kendall Simmons, KU Libraries (retired)...it's been a long time :-)

Anyway, I'd like to know your opinion on what seems like educational "fad" decision-making.

1) We initially moved 9th graders out of high school because that was the current educational "best practice". Now we're moving them back again. (Even though Lawrence High did *not* achieve AYP in 2010 in many categories, including all Reading categories.)

But why do we actually have to change our school names from junior high to middle school? As long as the kids in the school are being taught appropriately and well,
what legal requirement is there for us to change? I ask because we're talking about spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars at least at a time when we're considering closing schools because we can't afford them.

2) Pinckney is one of the schools still being considered for closure because of it's "smaller than desireable" classroom sizes...even though some of Langston Hughes, built in 2000, classrooms are the same size or smaller. (As an aside, the current superintendent supports 'mega-schools', rather than neighborhood schools.)

However, the two elementary schools with the lowest AYP scores in the most categories aren't included among the list of schools considered for closure.

What do *you* think should be the primary factors in determining which schools...if any...should be closed?

Thanks, and good luck!

Ola Faucher:

Hey, Kendall! Good to hear from you; hope you're doing well. (Sorry, folks, Kendall & I have known each other for a few years.) I'm afraid public education is social forum that suffers often from "fads." I have to frankly admit that I'm not in favor of changing school names, especially in a time of budget constraints. Yes, yes, I understand that money comes from different budgetary buckets, with associated constraints. But there's also a credibility factor which name changing breaches. We should use money, even from THAT bucket, for something more meaningful. But the name change decisions will be in place before the new board members join the group. Although we may have some control over how the money is spent afterwards.

As to your second question, Kendall, see the question above. If you need further details, let me know.

vocal:

Regarding no child left behind--do you think that teaching for the TEST is still the best solution for education? Is there another way to produce outcomes and measurement of how our schools are doing?

Ola Faucher:

I'm not in favor of teaching to the test. I know it's the "law" so we have to meet the requirements. Our society has not agreed upon what represents educational quality. We continue to struggle with that at the state and local level. Tests are an easy way that our society has developed to gauge success. When you talk with test developers you'll know just how prone tests can be to errors. Other outcomes and measures will be harder to establish and track because it will require follow-up beyond the school experience - things like holding down a job, income level after graduation, percent of students achieving a higher education. Within the school system to measure our outcomes, we can look at GPA, graduation rates, faculty evaluation of student success, self-evaluation of students. Once again, I wish I had all the answers, but we could also look for models that work nationally. If you can engage a student in learning, hook them with something of interest to them, they'll succeed. So creative teaching techniques is another key within the school system. Our teachers are way cool; I think they'd have some good ideas on this topic.

Ola Faucher:

I'm not in favor of teaching to the test. I know it's the "law" so we have to meet the requirements. Our society has not agreed upon what represents educational quality. We continue to struggle with that at the state and local level. Tests are an easy way that our society has developed to gauge success. When you talk with test developers you'll know just how prone tests can be to errors. Other outcomes and measures will be harder to establish and track because it will require follow-up beyond the school experience - things like holding down a job, income level after graduation, percent of students achieving a higher education. Within the school system to measure our outcomes, we can look at GPA, graduation rates, faculty evaluation of student success, self-evaluation of students. Once again, I wish I had all the answers, but we could also look for models that work nationally. If you can engage a student in learning, hook them with something of interest to them, they'll succeed. So creative teaching techniques is another key within the school system. Our teachers are way cool; I think they'd have some good ideas on this topic.

Moderator:

Looks like we probably have time for one more question...

gardenks:

Are you familar with the waiver McPherson KS school district has obtained from US Dept of Ed that allows the district to pursue their own citizenship, college and career ready program? How can Lawrence schools position themselves to do better than the No Child Left Behind program?

Ola Faucher:

I'm not familiar with that program but it sounds like an idea worth investigating. Programs like that could be a model for our schools. If we make the effort to look outside our own system, I think we could find others. I know there's an elementary school in inner-city Atlanta for kids who had been pegged as "losers" by their own school system. This school uses "whole body" engagement in learning - singing, motion, movement. Naturally the teachers in the system are insanely devoted to the success of their students; and they're achieving it. Even if we beta test some programs like these, it would give us ideas about how to broaden the programs. I'm betting we could find some good teachers in Lawrence who would be willing to "think outside" the test score "box."

Moderator:

Time for one more question, asked during a previous chat: What can Lawrence public schools do to compete with the salaries schools in Johnson County pay their teachers?

Ola Faucher:

Johnson County is the richest county in the State as I recall. It's hard to match salaries in metro KC for ALL employers in Lawrence. We still have to make progress. That means a long-term strategy of salary studies and incremental increases as finances allow. Budget cuts years are not good years to expect an increase. That's the sad reality. But finding other ways to recognize our quality teachers shouldn't be out of the question. Recognition and support isn't always in the form of salary. In the interim and with a long term salary administration plan, we can at least make gradual movement. I believe salaries are also a negotiated item with KNEA? That also has to be taken into consideration in any long or short term plan.

Moderator:

That's all the time we have for today. Thanks to Ola Faucher for visiting us here in The News Center to share her thoughts with voters and others, here online...

Ola Faucher:

Thanks, everyone, for joining me in this chat. I've enjoyed our interaction. I'm open to knowing about all your issues and ideas so you can contact me at olaforschoolboard@yahoo.com or find me on FaceBook at Ola for School Board. I'd like to serve the community as a member of the school board. I hope you'll consider me when you vote on April 5. Most importantly - vote!

Moderator:

And thanks go out, as well, to readers who sent in questions, and who follow this and other chats online.
More chats are coming up, bother later on today and tomorrow:
• Jim Clark, 12:30 p.m. today.
• Tyler Palmer, 1 p.m. Wednesday.
For these and all other chats, feel free to log in and submit questions ahead of time. Transcripts from completed chats are available for review, also by following the links.
Another reminder: The general election is April 5.

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