Tuesday March 22, 2011: Read transcript
LJWorld.com asked Ola Faucher five questions about issues facing the Lawrence school board:
1. Where, specifically, in the district's budget would you look first to make cuts to offset anticipated declines in state funding? Where would be the last?
Administrative costs often do not contribute directly to the quality of education in the classroom. While I believe in a well rounded education, extra-curricular activities can also carry heavy financial burdens. So I'd look first at administrative and extra-curricular program costs. Anything that affects the delivery of education in the classroom would be the last place I'd look. Many teachers already fund a lot for their students out of their own pockets because of inadequate student per classroom funding. School closings are a last resort.
2. What is the best way to "close the achievement gap" in schools?
Educators in the classroom are most knowledgeable about the educational needs of their students. Models exist nationally for successful educational programs for K - 12. Classroom teachers and principals should be engaged in a consortia to identify strategies for improving our educational programs, including seeking ideas externally. Our Lawrence public schools are not in dire straits with educational quality so the project is not one of total remediation; it's one of improvement.
3. What would you include in a proposed bond issue?
I wouldn't propose a bond issue until there was a long-term plan about how that money would be spent. Many of our schools do need renovations but we must assure that a plan to address those infrastructure upgrades is established in the most effective way. If consolidations occur, those need to be part of that long term plan. Since more community discussion needs to occur on consolidation and/or closing, the best a bond issue could do at this point would be to address infrastructure upgrades if and when a long-term plan is in place. It's counter-intuitive to the community voter to close schools to save money and then ask for money to consolidate schools - even if the funds come from different sources of budget allocations.
4. How would you increase public participation in district decision making?
You often have to take issues to where people normally gather. Town hall meetings with the school board in the neighborhood schools on specific topics would be one good approach. You also have to communicate in a variety of ways since not everyone "listens" in the same way. Use of the media and technology are good communication facilitators. Public participation starts in many schools with parental participation. Teachers and principals have a good sense of the support or lack of parental support for their schools, as do the PTO leaders. Those groups working together, with a focus on what's best for their own schools, could serve as a rich source of ideas for improving decision-making. School board members could meet with these groups to solicit ideas.
5. If you could send a tweet — that's 140 characters or less — to legislators in Topeka on behalf of the Lawrence school district, what would you say?
You hold the future of Ks in your hands w/ public school funding. Uphold Ks commitment to educated, contributing citizens by funding public ed.