Archive for Friday, February 19, 2010

City may send letter urging school board to say no to school closings

Officials to consider letter to board

Three of the five city commissioners favor the idea to not close any local schools. The city officials will consider sending a letter to the school board.

February 19, 2010


Neighborhood activists who are pleading with the school board to not close schools may soon have a louder voice on their side: the Lawrence City Commission.

City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider sending a letter to the Lawrence School Board that urges the board to “not close any of Lawrence’s schools.”

The letter appears to have significant support from a majority of commissioners. Commissioners Mike Amyx and Aron Cromwell both asked last week for such a letter to be placed on a future agenda. On Friday, Commissioner Mike Dever said he agreed with the letter’s request.

“I’m in favor of sending a message that indicates our desire to maintain healthy and strong neighborhoods, and those often revolve around schools,” Dever said.

Commissioners won’t likely be unanimous in their support of the letter. Mayor Rob Chestnut said he intends to vote against sending the letter. Although, he said, he recognizes the value of schools to the health of neighborhoods, he’s uncertain whether the City Commission has answers to the financial problems the district is facing.

“I haven’t had the time to really look at a lot of the other options and alternatives that are out there,” Chestnut said. “I’m uncomfortable sending a letter that asks a governing body to do something when I don’t know if there is another viable option.”

The school district is facing an estimated $5 million budget shortfall for the next school year, and has had discussions about closing some Lawrence schools to account for the gap.

Dever — who said he respects the tough position that board members are in — said he’s comfortable making the recommendation because he’s very concerned that closing schools would be a long-term solution to what may be a short-term budget crisis.

“Once you close a school, it is very hard to reverse that,” Dever said.

He said he thinks the district ought to look harder at ways to cut labor costs, because personnel expenses amount to about 85 percent of the district’s budget.

Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.


conservative 8 years, 2 months ago

All schools that can't accomodate at least two classes per grade level should be closed. If the neighborhoods really believe they are important let them set up special benefit districts to fund the extra 2000 per student those small schools are costing.

sweetiepie 8 years, 2 months ago

conservative: All schools that can't accomodate at least two classes per grade level should be closed

What is the reasoning behind this statement?

kugrad 8 years, 2 months ago

Wilbur is, once again, demonstrably wrong. If his argument was right, business owners would locate in the places with the lowest property taxes and least support for education by local taxpayers. Instead, we find the exact opposite is true. The 10 highest growth counties in the state are all also the counties with the highest tax rates (this info provided by a State Representative at the local eggs and issues breakfast earlier this month). In fact, the number one county for new business developement is also #1 for taxes - Johnson County. So, another arm-chair economist theory disproven.

Wilbur, you don't vote here, you don't live here, why do you keep posting here? Post about Eudora. where you live and have a say.

conservative 8 years, 2 months ago

Changing boundaries does not change the maximum number of students a school can handle. Every school has administration personnel that contribute to the cost of the school. You pay a principal whether their are 6 classes, 12, 18 etc. In addition support personnel at each school, and resource teachers that spend more time in cars than classrooms. There are significant additional costs to operating tiny schools. That is why all the new buildings that have been built handle multiple classes per grade.

Steve Jacob 8 years, 2 months ago

We elected the school board, the city commission should have no more input then we do. We elected the board to run the schools, they should have the final say after all is heard.

conservative 8 years, 2 months ago

That is what the district is determining with their studies. I know that New York school doesn't have the space for more than one class per grade and it is costing around 6000 per student to educate as opposed to 4200 at schools like deerfield and sunflower. Numbers were in a previous article on this subject.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 2 months ago

The commissioners may need to find ways to support USD 497.

Neither City/County government nor USD 497 can afford further reductions in property values... no way jose'. That would be a not smart business decision.

Further reductions in property values mean increase in taxes/user fees to make up the loss.

Further reductions in property values can add more homeowners to the long list of those who owe more than property will bring ........ quite typical of "boom town economics". There are plenty of these homes scattered throughout Lawrence. This situation could place more in bankruptcy.

spiderd 8 years, 2 months ago

Conservative- The district is succeeding in getting you to look at this as a one issue topic.
Bravo to them and shame on you.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 2 months ago

And in return I heard the School Board was considering writing a letter to the city commission about the poor state of city roads, the snow shoveling ordinance, and the Santa Fe railroad depot.

not_that_crazy 8 years, 2 months ago

"Boston_Corbett (anonymous) says... And in return I heard the School Board was considering writing a letter to the city commission about the poor state of city roads, the snow shoveling ordinance, and the Santa Fe railroad depot."

Okay, pretty funny.
And a letter for approving yet another new, massive apartment complex and housing subdivision father and farther away from these 'beloved' neighborhoods and "neighborhood schools."

kugrad 8 years, 2 months ago

No One-eye, the reason that businesses locate in Johnson County is that businesses want to be in communities that have excellent, well-funded public schools, that invest in their infrastructure and so on. You see, the places with the lowest taxes just don't attract the most industry. It just is a myth, a poor economic policy that has been disproven many times over. Businesses are not lining up to leave Lawrence. In fact, the North 2nd corridor has more businesses than it used to, not less. I lived 1/2 block off the N. 2nd for years, so I know.

Bottom line, when confronted with facts about where businesses are locating, you have no response, just a bunch of conjecture. Businesses want well-educated workforces, at least good-paying businesses do. Sure, you might lose that minimum-wage paying warehouse, but you'll gain a workplace employing people with a living wage. You'll probably keep both.

kugrad 8 years, 2 months ago

Conservative, you are wrong. New York DOES have the space for 2 classes per grade. There is no building in the district that does not have space for 2 classes per grade. I guarantee this information is correct, call and ask the principal if you don't believe me.

kugrad 8 years, 2 months ago

To make my point clearer, it is true that boundary decisions are the reason New York is a one-section school (except for one grade level, which has 2 sections). The building is nowhere near capacity. When East Heights was closed, the district anticipated NY getting more students than it did (when you close schools, people go where they want to, not where you tell them). Some went to Prairie Moon, some to Kennedy, some to Eudora, some transferred to other schools in the district not mentioned, and some home-schooled. NY can hold 2 classes per grade.

Hwy50 8 years, 2 months ago

Crying "Save our neighborhood schools!" and "Change the boundaries" at the same time doesn't make sense. Pulling kids out of their "neighborhood school" into another to "save it" defeats the purpose.

conservative 8 years, 2 months ago

If my information is wrong about what the school can accomodate I appologize. It was given to me by a friend. Bottom line is that we are paying for administration personnell and custodial at too many schools. We don't have the number of students to keep all those schools open. It is ridiculous to have 15 schools funnelling into 4 jr highs. And yes it isn't just by closing schools the district should cut the budget. Get rid of early dismissal Wednesdays. Cut the fat at the district offices. The problem is people are looking at it like the 5 million is the only number that matters. Cut everywhere you can and then see what the budget really is. With the savings you can provide better education materials to the students.

beaujackson 8 years, 2 months ago

The city commission is responsible for the demise of Centennial school because they approved zoning that allows multiple unrelated student-rental housing IN SINGLE FAMILY ZONED NEIGHBORHOODS!

This faulty zoning ordinance has caused an exit of families in much of central Lawrence.

No families, no kids, no need for schools.

Blame the city commission, not the school board, which (only) reacts to circumstances beyond their control.

deskboy04 8 years, 2 months ago

Remember when the city wrote a letter complaining about the new coal plants in Western Kansas? Isn't it nice that the city commission is so involved in everyone's business?

Frank Hays 8 years, 2 months ago

Seems like our bureaucratic heavy administration laden system is imploding yet they continue to trot out bond issues and the masses keep voting them in without any accountability. Didn't this band of bureaucrats just find enough money to build two brand new football stadiums and redo the astroturf at Free State baseball stadium????? Seems like there is plenty of money to go around but when the state starts tightening down, then the talk turns to laying off teachers, closing down schools and eliminating bus service, yet we have the millions for new sports facilities. Maybe, just a thought, we could eliminate all of the administrators at McDonald Drive that make more than the governor of Kansas in annual salary. We could then easily find the money since no one is holding them accountable anyway!!! While we are at it, let's get a whole new school board that has more sense and has the courage to stand up to these mealy mouthed administrators who double talk their way into justifying their own jobs without any care for the children of our district.

gl0ck0wn3r 8 years, 2 months ago

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Kelly Johnson 8 years, 2 months ago

I know I've seen the idea of a 4 day school week discussed. How significant would that be financially?

Jaylee 8 years, 2 months ago

Maybe instead of a plea to the school board, the City, as well as the school board, should collectively send a letter to the federal government (perhaps petitioned by all the neighborhood activists?) politely demanding a piece of the pie?

This community is great for many reasons, but it's commitment to quality education is certainly a main staple.

I'm with Chestnut on this one. A letter from the City to the School Board will solve virtually nothing other than formally announce in written form the City's figurative backing for the Board keeping the schools open.

We need good lawyers or whomever would take said responsibility for writing a government bailout request.

George Lippencott 8 years, 2 months ago

Did_I_say_that (anonymous) says... @ Hydra -

Does anybody know what money pays for whom? Cutting administrators paid out of the federal pot saves nothing??

kugrad 8 years, 2 months ago

Hwy50, I understand the logic of your remarks and you raise an excellent question. The reason it actually does make sense to call for both neighborhood schools and some "smart," targeted boundary changes can be made clear if you take a map of Lawrence, mark a mile or so circle around each elementary, then overlay the current boundary map. New York, for instance, overlaps with other neighborhoods to the west where some students attend other schools actually farther or equidistant from New York. Some of New York's boundary is woods and industrial park. Now most of the schools are in a similar position, so that no one would have to be pulled from close proximity to their school to another farther away to redistribute students. Now look at Langston Hughes' boundary - it extends for miles to the north, so students who attend there pass by Deerfield and Quail Run, both closer, to go to LH (not all, just the ones clustered around Wakarusa north of 9th and 6th and that general area). So, with some targeted changes, as well as perhaps a call for some voluntary options, the district could reboundary without pulling kids out of their neighborhoods. Good question.

jonearle 8 years, 2 months ago

Thanks, City Commissioners (excepting, of course, Mayor Chestnut) for hearing the pleas of the majority of Lawrencians. There are far, far better ways to close a budget gap than closing neighborhood schools. We will remember your courage next election day.

Dog 8 years, 2 months ago

Once again I am very disappointed in the commission. They just don't seem to understand that difficult desions require leadership. Our school board is working hard to make some very tough decisions. The problem is that there are not enough children to fill the empty desks in the district. Instead of pushing to keep schools open the commission would be better focused on making Lawrence a more affordable community for families. If we attract more families we fill up our schools.

George Lippencott 8 years, 2 months ago

Did_I_say_that (anonymous) says... Moderate (George Lippencott) says... Federal funds account for $257,415, plus an additional $46,046 from food services. This $300K is part of the $8,147,411 spent on administrative services.

Thank you. How much of the administrative costs are driven by federal and state mandates?

jumpin_catfish 8 years, 2 months ago

I don't really have much to say on this topic except ♣Free The Blob♣

George Lippencott 8 years, 2 months ago

Did_I_say_that (anonymous) says...

Thank you, that is pretty much what I thought. I appreciate your and the SOS group in your focus on administrators. I would need that analyst to help me know what is being done by whom before I would lay off people. I am reluctant to fire people and then have that workload fall on somebody else such as the teachers. I think the idea of firing administrators needs to be developed further. Right now, to me, it sound like an attempt to find a bogyman to avoid what appears to me to be hard decisions. That is why there is a school board.

You know the state is facing similar decisions in maintaining as many governmental and school entities across the state. To the smaller towns the loss of a school is considered the loss of the town. Higher stakes. Downturns are painful – but they do happen with regularity.

I appreciate your zeal and dedication to your cause.

George Lippencott 8 years, 1 month ago

Did_I_say_that (anonymous) says...

See response on other thread.

OK, make a collection from all the caring people here abouts worried about their kids and make me whole for the five elementary and three high schools I attended in response to government edict on your behalf.

Change is great - as long as it affects the other person. This whole argument by SOS and you sounds awful hypocritical to me!! Sometimes we just cannot afford the status quo!

Reuben Turner 8 years, 1 month ago

"because personnel expenses amount to about 85 percent of the district’s budget." this is the major problem, then fix it. it a shame that closing schools is even on the agenda. this is just a shame, low-down-dirty-shame.

Reuben Turner 8 years, 1 month ago

"because personnel expenses amount to about 85 percent of the district’s budget." this is the major problem, then fix it. it's a shame that closing schools is even on the agenda. this is just a shame, low-down-dirty-shame.

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