The Lawrence school board heard numerous reports from different corners of the school district Monday night, in a meeting following the board's decision to hire an Illinois-based firm to head the search for Superintendent Randy Weseman's replacement.
In a special meeting preceding the regularly scheduled meeting, the board voted 5-2 to select Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates, of Glenview, Ill., to lead the effort. It beat out Ray and Associates, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based firm.
School board President Craig Grant said the board was satisfied with both firms.
"I think more of the board was satisfied with probably the Kansas school districts that Hazard worked with," he said, pointing to prior searches the firm conducted for the Shawnee Mission and Blue Valley school districts. One of the firm's consultants, Al Hanna, is a deputy superintendent in the Blue Valley district.
Grant said the board considered Waverly Partners, which has a Lawrence office, but the executive search firm does not specialize in superintendent searches.
A contract will be signed in the next few weeks, and the search will cost about $19,000, in addition to some incidental costs. Grant said he was pleased with the price, which is well below the $40,000 he suggested after Weseman announced his retirement. The search could begin before the contract is formalized, Grant said.
Also Monday night, the board heard a lengthy proposal from supporters of a proposed charter school that would focus on environmental science.
The Lawrence Community Environmental School would center its curriculum on sustainable concepts while adhering to state academic standards.
Dana Atwood-Blaine and Rachel Myslivy, co-chairs of the initiative, presented their vision for the school, which could open as early as next fall if the school board and state board of education approve it.
They said the school would benefit all students in the district because the curriculum of the year-round school could be shared with other students.
Despite an impassioned presentation, the board suggested numerous revisions to the presentation.
"The devil's in the details," mused Superintendent Randy Weseman, noting, among other things, that a year-round school would have to comply with the district's general agreement with the Lawrence Education Association.
In other news, Deputy Superintendent Bruce Passman recapped for the board his trip earlier this month to New Orleans for the Summit on Courageous Conversation, which focused on racial disparity in academics.
He noted the lower academic scores of minorities in Lawrence, commenting, "This is part of the tough conversation we need to be having in our community."
He said teachers need to begin having an honest conversation about race and its effect in the classroom.
By acknowledging an uncomfortable subject, Passman said, educators are "starting to heal the wounds ... for all our kids and our community."
The board also heard a report from RSP & Associates, which projects enrollment numbers for the district. Rob Schwarz, the company's principal planner, gave a presentation that showed the company's projections were only 18 students off. He cited numerous reasons, ranging from economic hardships to education offerings, like English as a second language, as factors affecting enrollment.
The board also listened to several students enrolled in the district's community transition program, known as C-Tran, which assists students with disabilities to transition from school to adult life. They told the board about the importance of public transit in their lives.
"This community needs to understand that people need public transportation. We need to be able to get around the community," Ken Beard said of the sales tax initiatives to fund public transportation that will be on next week's ballot. "The impact of this vote could be life-changing."