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Archive for Thursday, February 23, 1995

SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES SOUND OFF ON EQUITY

February 23, 1995

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Equity manifests itself in bricks and mortar, books and playground equipment. To some, it also means racial and socioeconomic balance in the classroom.

All of the 14 candidates for Lawrence school board encourage school equity, but their visions of what equity means and how to achieve it are diverse.

The Journal-World asked each candidate the same set of questions in separate telephone interviews.

Kerry Altenbernd

He advocates making equity the top consideration in school board decisions to improve community trust in the board.

Altenbernd will propose the idea of a high school format with ninth- and 10th-graders at one building and 11th- and 12th-graders at the other, instead of two separate high schools.

He advocates collaboration with the city to ensure a sampling of family housing costs throughout Lawrence.

He opposes busing or boundary changes that interfere with neighborhood schools and parental commitment to them.

Sees problems with asking outside sources to donate to a common pool rather than to specific schools.

Jamie Beletz

Supports putting dollars where they're needed most, rather than sticking to "hard and fast" formulas. If funding is scarce, Beletz favors asking schools to submit priority lists.

He advocates more meetings between the board and sites to identify needs that affect equity.

He opposes busing for ensuring racial and socioeconomic balance among schools. Instead, favors neighborhood schools.

To help close gaps from outside donations, he says he would personally promote partnerships and donations for schools with the most needs.

Don Binns

Binns sees challenges to equity from differences in socioeconomics and disparity in support from surrounding communities to individual schools.

He cautions that the problem is tricky and that district involvement could be limited to providing equal facilities and quality of staffing in each school.

Binns opposes busing policies or boundaries that take students outside of their neighborhoods. His reasons: Patrons want to keep children in their own neighborhoods, and the district saves money on busing.

He supports the idea of a common district pool for outside donations to be distributed by the district.

Michael Chappell

Chappell supports equal student access to all district programs. He proposes the idea of rotating faculty from building to building occasionally.

Chappell supports the 15th Street boundary for the two high schools.

He likes the concept of neighborhood schools but would not be opposed to busing to solve racial imbalances, if such imbalances exist. He says busing should be optional.

Chappell favors a common donation pool for individual and business donations but not for PTA/PTO donations.

Mark Creamer

Thinks the district should provide schools in low-income neighborhoods with more resources as needed to ensure equality of educational opportunity.

Creamer sees good teaching as a better way of helping students understand diversity than busing or changing boundaries.

He supports pooling a limited percentage of outside donations that the district would then distribute to schools according to gaps in equity.

He promotes a technical education track as a viable alternative to college preparation for students who aren't inclined to attend college.

Virginia Keen

She sees a problem with the district ordering textbooks that individual building principals later choose not to use. And she says she thinks all children should be able to use the books taxpayers are buying for the entire district.

Keen favors an optional busing policy when racial or socioeconomic imbalances arise. She says parents should be able to choose whether their children will be bused or stay at their own school.

She advocates a common pool for outside donations. She says if everybody in the community is for all children, they should be willing to donate to a common pool rather than to individual buildings.

Carol Linhos

Linhos sees equity not as giving each school the same amount of money but as ensuring a minimum level of excellence for all schools, using a sliding scale of resource allocation if necessary.

She thinks the board should constantly evaluate equity in curriculum and the budget to avoid emergency inequities in facilities, leading to bond issues.

Linhos supports boundary adjustments but opposes busing to arrive at balanced racial and socioeconomic diversity among schools.

She favors an "equity bank" of donated resources as a way to bring the community together. Outside donations would be pooled and distributed to schools according to needs.

Mary Loveland

Loveland sees problems with public perception of equity. She thinks the 1994 bond issue went miles to improve equality of facilities.

She advocates hiring principals who are well-versed in hiring quality personnel as a way to ensure that all schools have talented teaching staffs.

Loveland thinks a diverse racial and socioeconomic school population introduces students to the real world. She favors neighborhood schools in primary and junior high schools, when children depend on others for transportation. At the senior high level, she favors boundary changes to ensure balanced racial and socioeconomic diversity.

She supports a districtwide clearinghouse to distribute outside donations or approve requests for donations to individual schools.

Lynn S. McCreary

McCreary sees an equitable delivery of educational quality throughout the district but sees inequitable quality of amenities from school to school.

She thinks a solution to "leveling the playing field" of amenities is to invite input from parents, teachers and students about needs, then listen to them.

McCreary supports diverse student populations and favors a minority enrollment policy, perhaps including busing and boundary changes.

She regards outside donations to schools as valuable and does not favor a districtwide clearinghouse for donations. She says donated school playground equipment is available to the whole community.

Carl Slaugh

Slaugh thinks the district has done a good job overall ensuring that resources are distributed equally. He advocates better communication from board members to turn around a perception of inequity.

He cites technology laboratories and the 1994 bond issue renovations as areas to keep an eye on.

He takes a conservative approach, favoring maintenance or renovations for older facilities before building new classrooms.

Slaugh opposes busing children to schools outside of their own neighborhoods based on race or socioeconomic status.

Deborah Snyder

Snyder sees a "crisis in denial" about differences between schools on the west side of town and schools on the east side. She criticizes former boards for a lack of planning and communication.

She opposes formulas for distributing a baseline of resources. Instead, she favors distributing resources based on needs identified by parents, teachers and principals at individual sites.

Snyder disagrees that teachers have to be of the same race to be role models or that schools must have a certain racial makeup in order to educate children about diversity.

Elizabeth Swearingen

She sees the 1994 bond issue as a positive step toward equalizing facilities but wants to ensure that plans are carried out as promised.

Swearingen favors publishing test scores for every building to generate communitywide awareness of needs and inequities.

She opposes busing children away from neighborhood schools for the sake of balancing racial and socioeconomic populations. She sees busing as using children as pawns to balance statistics.

Swearingen advocates more public information about private and parent-teacher group donations to improve the perception of district efforts toward equity.

John West

West thinks the 1994 bond issue was a step in the right direction toward ensuring equitable facilities. He favors studying a high school format with ninth- and 10th-graders at one building and 11th- and 12th-graders at the other.

He sees problems with facilities at the Lawrence Alternative High School and favors improvements.

West doesn't oppose busing or boundary changes to keep an equitable racial and socioeconomic mix of students at schools. He sees it as an unavoidable legal issue. And he thinks students benefit from exposure to people of different ethnicity.

He says the school board should study a definition of multiculturalism before implementing it in curriculum.

Maley K. Wilkins

She supports a flexible distribution of resources to ensure an outcome of equality for all schools. Wilkins acknowledges that schools in lower socioeconomic areas might need more help to achieve equity.

She opposes busing as an answer for ensuring the same level of racial and socioeconomic diversity at every school. Wilkins said she could support minor boundary changes, and she favors neighborhood schools.

She sees outside donations as creating inequities in resources among schools, and supports the concept of a common donation pool.

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