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Letters to the Editor

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February 12, 2010

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To the editor:

A quote from Sunday’s paper stated: “It seems pretty clear our community is coming to a consensus that as a way to deal with this short-term crisis, (closing schools) is not a sacrifice that people are willing to make.” Twelve hundred people marching in an effort to keep their neighborhood schools open does not represent the consensus of Lawrence.

In watching school board meetings and through various errands, I have seen signs and fliers east of Iowa asking people to support neighborhood schools. It’s frustrating to see one perspective when yours is very different. While it’s tempting to rally a group who share my opinions, I’ve chosen not to for two reasons: One, the board should recognize that parents of the schools targeted will rally but that they don’t necessarily represent the entire district. Two, Lawrence is already divided, and having a group that isn’t centered around the schools targeted for closure would only add to the division.

If I were to create a shirt it’d say “Save Our Students — All of Them” or maybe it’d read “Just Say No To Classes Over 30” or “More Than the Core for JH/HS.” What would yours say? Save the shirt cost and tell the board your perspective. They welcome the input and need to hear from more people in the community than those involved with the SOS campaign.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 10 months ago

Jodi-- you could have really shortened this letter if you had just said, "We on the west side have our nice new mega-schools, and are way too important to sacrifice anything for those who live on the east side. Screw em', shut their schools down."

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

Jodi there were parents from all schools in that march.

Parents from all schools are speaking out against closing any schools at the BOE meetings

This is a a problem for the entire city.

And take a look at the budget suggestions a group of parents from all sides of town have presented to the BOE: http://discuss.larryville.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=58619

Some people scream out for private schools. These schools claim smaller classrooms so let's accomplish this in our already paid for schools. According radio news on Thursday some of these corporate school principals are taking $350,000 a year in salaries aka reckless spending.

Closing any paid for schools then spending millions upon millions upon millions for bigger schools is reckless thinking and spending.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

East Lawrence is growing by way of new families moving into east Lawrence and/or current families having children. Retaining and maintaining existing assets such as schools has been considered fiscally responsible for at least two hundred years…. down right frugal if you will.

*East Lawrence is not a dying farm community. Instead it is a growing neighborhood community. Home to restored and new housing.

*East Lawrence is an attractive neighborhood. The residents CHOOSE the east side for a variety of reasons:

  • East,and Old west Lawrence are the choice neighborhoods for restoring old beautiful homes.

*Eastern Lawrence is about old growth trees,character of housing, easy walking or biking to most destinations like downtwn KU and our public schools.

  • East Lawrence has Weavers, Browns Shoe Fit,Dillons, downtown hardware store,D&D tire shop,Liberty Hall,City Library,Senior Service Center, used goods such as the antique mall/Fun and Games,Bay Leaf,Kring's, Waxman Candle,Foot Print,Mass Street Music, a Cottins Hardware,Chiropractor on 23rd, very nice parks and the new hike and bike trail These are but a few of the wonderful attractions to East Lawrence.

  • East Lawrence is not dying and is home to many many many college graduates and “common” laborers aka diversity.

  • Eastern Lawrence received many thumbs up by urban consultant Placemakers for our:

  • Home designs
  • layout of neighborhood streets
  • proximity to neighborhood schools
  • sidewalks - a walkable neighborhood community
  • proximity to dowtown

Closing schools is wasteful thinking. Let’s work this out sensibly.

seriouscat 4 years, 10 months ago

I don't have any children in any Lawrence Schools and I support the Save our Schools effort one hundred percent. I am appalled at the national trend toward mega-schools. I wasn't at the rally but you can bet I will let my legislature know that shuttering neighborhood schools is a bad, short sighted decision.

Phil Minkin 4 years, 10 months ago

So Jodi, your answer is to solve a community-districtwide problem is to close east side neighborhood schools so you and your kids don't have to deal with it. With a problem of this magnitude there should be shared sacrifice. Frankly, there are plenty of SOS supporters from every part of town who realize the importantance of ALL schools remaining viable. You are right about the city being divided-those who care about all kids and those who selfishly want only what's best for themselves.

Amy Bartle 4 years, 10 months ago

We live on the west side of town and used to live in the Hillcrest neighborhood. Our children go to a west side school and have endured large class sizes every year except for this year - there are 25 kids in the first grade class. Is that considered small? I don't think so. I think that's too many but don't mind if there are one or two more kids if it means we can keep all the neighborhood schools from closing. So many families are struggling financially to feed, clothe, and house their children. We do not need to add to these families the enormous stress and burden of closing neighborhood schools. Closing the smaller schools would mean that the kids would then need to be bussed (at an expense) to other schools. In my home town (not in the state of Kansas - another part of the US), many neighborhood schools closed. The one I attended as a child that I could see and walk to from my childhood home was closed. As a result, the neighborhood had an increase in blight, an increase in unsold homes, and an increase in crime. My parents had to move out and take a huge loss on their well-cared for home because it was no longer safe to live there. I love the elementary school my children go to even though it is large and is on (gasp) the west side. The teachers and staff work tirelessly everyday to create a positive learning environment. They deal with no paper, no toner, no technology resources, and often no "thank you" from all of us who benefit from their efforts in the classrooms. We have many many parents who volunteer regularly in the classrooms. The PTOs raise a lot of money that goes to meeting the schools' needs such as PE equipment, supplies for teachers, music equipment, etc.. The money the district spends is on infrastructure and salaries. I saw a report (maybe it was a LJWorld Blog) that provided a document that showed the high number of people who are on staff at the administrative building. I believe the salaries of the administrative building amounts to more than the salaries at one of the schools. We could remove the learning coaches who mentor teachers. There are numerous qualified and outstanding teachers at my kids' schools who can mentor other teachers. Eliminating the learning coaches, along with reducing the number of administrative staff and assistant principals would help with the budget crisis. Then, adding one to three kids to the class rooms would also help. I was not at the SOS march last weekend because I had to work - Just because there were only 1200 people or so there (which is a high number for a protest imho) that does not mean that others don't agree with them. The month of February we had FOUR days that of no school for various reasons. What if we reduced the number of inservice and days off like that, including the short Wednesday. Then we could shorten the school year by several days to save money that way.

tomatogrower 4 years, 10 months ago

Jodi, If they close these schools down they will bus the children to your child's school. They will probably not take all the teachers with them, so guess what? You child's class is going to get very crowded, plus he/she will have to share all the counseling, nursing, and other services with more children. They aren't going to hire extra staff if they bring all these children to your school. Why don't we bus your children to the east side. Then they would experience the smaller class sizes and how great these schools really are. Your kids probably spend a lot of time in cars driving to all their organized sports events anyway, what's a little bus trip.

not_that_crazy 4 years, 10 months ago

I see the Save MY Schools people have their talking points ready to shoot down everyone as 1) against eastern Lawrence and 2) pro-mega schools.

I will add more fuel to the fire by stating that many of the silent majority parents don't enter the fray because they know that their schools aren't in danger of closing. They are new, full, and/or some of the best performing schools in the district. HOWEVER, they should be paying attention because the resulting budget cuts will effect the quality of their kids education-- especially if it is subsidizing smaller classrooms and smaller schools in another part of town.

Amy Bartle 4 years, 10 months ago

Our family has already experienced large class sizes in a big school. When one of our children was a third grader, she had a brand new teacher and over 30 kids in the class. It was an awful year for her - so we supplemented her education with tutoring on the side (inexpensively using community resources) and stayed involved with her learning. Just because the data on assessment scores show that some of the larger newer schools are "best performing" it does not mean that it is a good environment in reality. Over the past four years, we've seen smaller class sizes and more experienced teachers move to our school, thank goodness. Since we had to go through the large class sizes and disorganization that we felt a few years ago due to budget crunches (when Centennial, Riverside, East Heights closed), we are ready to deal with it again if we have to. I'm paying attention. Many people we know have taken action by moving their kids to private schools because they can afford it and think it's a better education. Since our family is "pro public" we will stick it out through the good and bad, as long as the schools are SAFE. I sincerely hope this time they don't close any schools to make ends meet.

Boston_Charley 4 years, 10 months ago

Can somebody clarify the various arguments for me? This is very confusing--from coverage I've seen of various opinions on the school issue, some folks seem to be saying that keeping all schools open somehow will perpetuate classrooms with too many kids in them. Are these issues linked in some folks' minds, and if so, how? Seems to me that if you close school buildings, there will be fewer classrooms available, therefore more danger of too-large classes. And there sure isn't money to enlarge infrastructure (except stadiums).

Citizen_X 4 years, 10 months ago

This is a Lawrence issue and not a east-west issue. Closing any school means larger class sizes in other schools. it will also mean some families will decide to send their children to private schools - further depleting the public school budget. If Dr Doll and his like minded associates have their way, they will successfully play the east against the west and close several schools. Once this is accomplished the mega-schools many have written about will become a fact of life in Lawrence.

JohnDa 4 years, 10 months ago

not_that_crazy: regarding you subsidizing smaller classrooms.

First, several schools on the chopping block have full classrooms as well and are performing extremely well in terms of budget and education.

Second, in the not-so-distant past the whole community subsidized the building of your newer schools. So, I have subsidized the education of west side students much more than you have subsidized the education of my child. I want your child to have the same educational opportunities as mine, why don't you feel the same?

Hop2It 4 years, 10 months ago

Where are the "1,500 empty seats" I have heard quoted? Are there other schools ALREADY at capacity? (I have heard that Deerfield, Quail Run, Sunflower among others are already full.)
Even without budget cuts / closings, it looks like we need to look at our boundaries.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

There are parents from all schools as members of Save OUR Schools.

Their comments to the BOE have been about closing no schools anywhere and working this out.

There is no eastside against westside. It's a community effort. Some need to pay closer attention.

There are homeschoolers who want no schools closed.

JohnDa 4 years, 10 months ago

@Did I say that: Great point. Everyone should look at how much more money USD497 needed to spend after 2003 when schools were closed. See page 4:

http://usd497.org/AboutUs/MeetTheSchoolBoard/Agenda/2009.10Archives/documents/20100208BudgetReductions/BudgetSummaryFeb82010.pdf

Richard Heckler 4 years, 10 months ago

New larger buildings will cost millions upon millions upon millions of tax dollars. No savings here.

Our paid for school buildings are worth millions upon millions upon millions of tax dollar savings.

It is more apparent than ever that school districts are needing additional sources of funding. Teachers deserve salary increases and decent health insurance. Our legislature is not a reliable source although by law it is a state responsibility.

Neighborhood schools are good for Lawrence. No Lawrence neighborhood wants to be without an elementary school within the neighborhood. Lawrence has spoken out on this issue numerous times.

There are families that which cannot afford two cars or bus transportation. Therefore walking and/or bicycling become the modes of choice.

How do we solve this problem for the long term?

Two revenue sources are available

  • online state wide sales tax dedicated to public schools only is a reasonable source.

  • a local source to help fund USD 497 medical insurance, salaries, and perhaps school fees. This could become available as a dedicated City of Lawrence USD 497 user fee: http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2003/mar/teacher_salaries/

Of course these mechanisms will only be supplemental.

All USD 497 schools benefit.

Perhaps experienced USD 497 teachers will stop fleeing to Blue Valley as well.

JohnDa 4 years, 10 months ago

Jodi,

I am curious what your opinion is. You say that it differs, but you don't really offer any reasons why closing schools is good for you or the community in general.

Also, if you can get 1200 people to march for closing schools, I'll agree that consensus hasn't been reached.

yourworstnightmare 4 years, 10 months ago

Beautiful. The republican tax cut plan to slash education and government is working. This is Grover Norquist's dream, of a school system so small you can drown it in the bath tub.

Middle class suburbanites quarreling with middle class city dwellers for the scraps remaining for public education. Beautiful. The tax cutting republicans could not be happier or more satisfied that their plan has worked.

kugrad 4 years, 10 months ago

There isn't a "silent majority" of parents against keeping neighborhood schools open. The concensus of the community so far IS for keeping neighborhood schools. This is why I believe so: Many people representing every single elementary school attendance area in town support keeping neighborhood schools open and have been able to organize a broad-based coalition of support. On the other hand, very few parents have expressed a contrary view, and all have been from the West side of town, primarily from one school. So, on the one hand broad visible support city-wide, on the other hand only anecdotal support not city-wide. The only conclusion that can be drawn at present is that a concensus against closure is growing. It is easy to claim the silent majority agrees with you, but it is also dangerous. It provides political cover for people like Mary Moreland to claim that they hear in equal numbers from people on both sides of the issue when in fact they have not. Lawrence isn't that divided over this issue from what I've seen. There are basically two camps - people who think that the budget crisis burden should be shared by everyone and people who think that the burden should be shared by other people's children.

It isn't fair for elected officials, such as the school board, to somehow 'infer' support for a point of view unless that support is part of the public record. If the only voices they hear are against closing neighborhood schools, then they should not close them. The just power of government arises from the consent of the governed.

chiefhawk 4 years, 10 months ago

Jodie, I dont really know you or work with you, but know where you work and find it disturbing that your income is derived from helping children in a public school. Your income is derived from tax dollars. Your school could very well be closed leaving a lot of disadvantaged children the lesser for it. I am sure your job would be safe elsewhere and you could continue to make money off of taxpayers while you rail against the very system that supports you. At best this is hypocrisy...hope you can sleep at night.

New2KU 4 years, 10 months ago

Wow, I love reading everyone's rants and raves. This is turning into a real finger pointing contest. What I think a lot of people don't realize is that no matter what the school board does in the end, it will have some affect on our kids. What we must understand, the school board needs to make the best decision for OUR kids (everyone's , East, West, North, South). If that means closing schools and shifting boundries then that will be the case. If that means finding budget cuts that can keep the schools open then that that's great. No one wants the schools to close, but there may not be any choice in the end.

The needs of many outweigh the needs of the few (Caiaphas).

Whatever happens, the school board needs to make the right decision for Lawrence.

Hop2It 4 years, 10 months ago

"If that means closing schools and shifting boundaries then that will be the case. If that means finding budget cuts that can keep the schools open then that that's great. No one wants the schools to close, but there may not be any choice in the end.

The needs of many outweigh the needs of the few (Caiaphas)."

Better than I can say it. I am going to be the anti-Merrill. I going to cut and paste what smart people say.

multiagelearner 4 years, 10 months ago

Thank you Jodi! Unfortunately not all people read the entire article, listen to entire news report, or see what the budget numbers show. ALL children do not benefit from keeping schools open...they all will pay a longterm price that no one from the SONS has considered. (longterm being defined as more than 2 years) Think past your own child at their current age. Cut the music programs, sports, and fine arts programs. Some students succeed in school and become a contributing member of society because of those programs. Where was the fight for all day kindergarten when those east side schools got their all day kindergarten/daycare? Did you hear the west side parents crying? No-they understood the need! Are you teaching your children to fight for what is best for all, or what is best for you. Being selfserving is not a trait many people value.
The board's job is to lead this district in what is best for all students. Not just oiling the squeaky wheel.

commuter 4 years, 10 months ago

If small schools are so great and cost effective, why did Lawrence stop building them??

The problem with the state's budget is everyone's fault. I have cut my spending to help conserve cash and build a bigger reserve. Why?? Because I am concerned that the economy will turn around for atleast a year.

As a parent of a Riverside child, I spent time talking to the board about not closing my school but it be apparent that they intended to close my school, I turned my time to working with them to send my kids to a better school.

kugrad 4 years, 10 months ago

"Being selfserving is not a trait many people value" but that is exactly what you are suggesting - better your school than mine.

Besides, the negative effects you are talking about, cuts in programs etc. ARE GOING TO HAPPEN WHETHER THEY CLOSE NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS OR NOT.

commuter 4 years, 10 months ago

I love how Jodi is being called self-serviving, while the people in SOS are not??? Being self servings is a point of view.

windex 4 years, 10 months ago

chiefhawk says... "I find it disturbing that your income is derived from helping children in a public school. Your income is derived from tax dollars."

Please explain what is so disturbing about this, chiefhawk. Are you disturbed when you see highway workers? Police officers? Firemen? Were you disturbed as a child growing up by receiving an education (possibly, judging from your post)? Do you find it disturbing that the city employs snow plow drivers? What is up with you? (And by the way, all of these folks - teachers, police, firefighters, snow plow drivers, etc. - pay taxes, too.)

kugrad 4 years, 10 months ago

Commuter, I think you should reconsider whether or not SONS is self-serving. They are talking about ALL neighborhood schools. Furthermore, no one can clearly establish that keeping neighborhood schools open will cause problems at other schools. It is all pure speculation, and I know I've been guilty of it myself. Now that I've considered it for a longer period of time, I can't find any evidence that keeping schools open will hurt anyone else. To think so presumes that there are no other financial options, but SONS has provided feasible options (see their website) that don't have a negative impact on a whole bunch of others. As for cuts to other programs, let me remind readers that all cuts so far proposed to the BOE are going to happen, count on it, no matter whether neighborhood schools are closed or kept open. The closing of schools won't save people from the impact of some ratio changes, fewer programs at the secondary level and so on. It won't keep elementaries from sharing principals. In fact, if history is any lesson, it probably wouldn't even result in a cost savings since the last time they closed schools they didn't save a dime when it all came to pass. So, I reacted emotionally and perhaps the author of the letter isn't reacting in a self-serving way, although I don't sense any city-wide support in her letter, it seems to be focused on her own concerns, but I think that SONS is truly attempting to keep her school open as well. They are not adovcating for closing a west side school instead of an east side school, or closing Wakarusa instead, or Hillcrest which is certainly vulnerable. NO, they are fighting for all our schools whether their parents understand the issues or not.

commuter 4 years, 10 months ago

Why did the previous school closings not save money?? Here are a few reasons:

  1. They did not get rid of East Height or Centennial. All they did was move things from different buildings. This movement was not disclosed during any of the discussions.

  2. After they closed schools, teachers & staff got raises.

  3. Then they decided to lower the student to teacher ratio.

  4. Then the teachers and staff got raises.

honestone 4 years, 10 months ago

If you close any of the schools east of Louisiana or north of 23rd...where would you send the kids? I know Cordley is full and if I remember right Kennedy is full too. Where would they go without increasing class size everywhere they are sent...remember the battle cry when they built the new high school...it's too big for the kids to get a good education. The "plan" is to build a mega-school and they will ask the taxpayers for another bond issue to build the new school. Once they build their new school then they will claim they still don't have enough money to operate on. Then they will build a new tennis court with your "left-over" bond money. Keep it coming Morgland you will bankrupt the district yet>

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