Archive for Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Taking roll: Where school board members stand on the budget

Lawrence school board members from left, Scott Morgan, Vanessa Sanburn, Marlene Merrill, Mary Loveland, Bob Byers, Mark Bradford and Rich Minder.

Lawrence school board members from left, Scott Morgan, Vanessa Sanburn, Marlene Merrill, Mary Loveland, Bob Byers, Mark Bradford and Rich Minder.

February 24, 2010

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School board decisions yet to be made

The Lawrence school board has still not made any decisions on how it will proceed in cutting $5 million from the budget. Some are in favor of closing schools while others are opposed. Enlarge video

School closings on the line in Lawrence

With a $4 million budget deficit growing to $5 million, the likelihood of school closings seems to be increasing.

Lawrence school board members laid some of their cards on the table Monday as the district seeks to cut $5 million before next school year.

A majority of board members said they were willing to consider closing schools to make up the shortfall, which is mostly due to the state’s budget crisis.

That doesn’t make the option a sure thing, and board members still have plenty of work to do to reach a consensus. Other options at this point include furloughs for administrators, cutting funding for school programs and support positions, and even having fewer teaching jobs.

The public can comment on the budget situation at two forums: 7 p.m. Monday at Central Junior High, 1400 Mass., and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at West Junior High, 2700 Harvard Road. Board members will continue

discussions at their March 8 meeting.

Here’s a look at what board members said during Monday’s discussion:

Scott Morgan

• Outlined a specific plan to save $1.5 million by closing two elementary schools, Sunset Hill and Wakarusa Valley, plus moving the East Heights Early Childhood program into New York School, while keeping Hillcrest and Cordley schools open.

• Supports $3 million more in savings by eliminating the district’s learning coaches, increasing the student-teacher ratio by one student across the district and implementing other school program and administrative cuts.

• Said board members all came up short of $5 million in their own scenarios so they would need to work together to find a consensus on cuts.

Rich Minder

• Is comfortable finding alternatives to closing neighborhood elementary schools but will consider moving East Heights programs.

• Found $4.5 million in school program and administrative cuts, including raising the student-teacher ratio by two students per teacher, and cutting about 40 teaching positions (although about half come through teacher retirements).

Mary Loveland

• Says she wants to keep smaller class sizes and avoid elementary schools with only one class per grade.

• Wants to look at reorganizing certain elementary school buildings with East Heights included and closing Wakarusa Valley until the district grows to the south.

• Challenged the county and city to take over “the public health function for its youngest citizens” while looking at cutting school nurse positions.

Marlene Merrill

• Wants to consider moving the East Heights programs into elementary schools and look at reconfiguring two elementary schools, one for younger children and another for the higher grades.

• Mentioned increasing the student-teacher ratio by two students as well, but wants to protect professional development for teachers.

• Wants the district to look at sharing principals among some schools and wants fewer cuts for guidance counselors, nurses and librarians.

Mark Bradford

• Says cutting costs would come down to either closing buildings for savings or keeping them open but reducing services to support students.

Vanessa Sanburn

• Wants to protect neighborhood elementary schools.

• Showed a willingness to raise the student-teacher ratio by two students to save about $2 million.

• Wants the district to look deeper into cut suggestions from the community, like with textbook and student materials purchases.

Bob Byers

• Asks for all options — including budget cut ideas from the community and even pay cuts for administrative and classified staff members — to be on the table.

• Says closing schools would be one of his last resorts, but he considers some services for students more important.

Comments

Jean1183 8 years, 2 months ago

• Wants the district to look at sharing principals among some schools and wants fewer cuts for guidance counselors, nurses and librarians.

Ms. Merrill's idea is an excellent one instead of cutting positions of those who work directly with kids. It's usually the school secretary who "runs" the school anyway.

Thinking_Out_Loud 8 years, 2 months ago

Well, then, let's just promote the school secretary to principal. The secretary can do both jobs, and we save the principal's salary.

cowboy 8 years, 2 months ago

These are our "experts". Hello Houston , this is Discovery , we are in a world of sheet.

headdoctor 8 years, 2 months ago

It is very nice that people remain passionate about their neighborhood schools but there is a harsh reality some need to realize. For a variety of reasons population shifts occur. While the reasons that influence the shift may not be exactly the same, we need only to look to the Kansas City area for a great example. Their school system that 40 to 50 years ago was educating 75,000 students are today only educating 17,000 students. Are they suppose to keep those buildings open for another 25 years minimum until the population that include younger families move back into the area or the other option schools close that would put more students back into the public system?

There are factors going on here in Lawrence that may indicate that the typical population shift will not swing back on some of our neighborhoods in even the 25 year period. People are always complaining of the waste of tax dollars yet they are expecting the school board to keep funneling extra money to keep some of these schools open. While the school district does have other areas of waste. To be good stewards of the tax payers money they need to stop the waste in all areas and put what money they have to the best use for the students.

spiderd 8 years, 2 months ago

To compare Kansas City and Lawrence school districts is an extremely flawed analogy for so many reasons. Also, I'm extremely curious what these "factors" are that "may" indicate the population shift you speak of.

avoice 8 years, 2 months ago

Sociology 101: When a new neighborhood opens up, young families move into or build houses there. They like being around other people of similar age and income level and, most of all, they want their kids (who may be toddlers or not even born yet) to have lots of playmates. They either choose an area with a good established elementary school or, more often, a brand new one (this is the reason developers like to see shiny new schools built as often as possible on the taxpayers' dollars). A few of these families will move away, but many will stay and raise their families in this same neighborhood. As the children in the neighborhood become teenagers, the neighborhood becomes less attractive to younger families. The younger ones are going to the newer neighborhoods so they can establish their own little social groups. Houses available in the "older" neighborhood are now purchased by people who have older children or empty-nesters. The neighborhood elementary school sees its enrollment drop over time as the surrounding neighborhood has less and less young families moving in. Now the people who have decided to really set down roots become empty-nesters and retirees. Now the homes and the school are not the kind of new, shiny buildings that attract young people and there are not enough children in the neighborhood to provide playmates, and there are too many "cantankerous" old folks around who don't like the kids getting in their way. The enrollment at the neighborhood school drops exponentially, and it's not coming back. And the handful of young families who chose this neighborhood in spite of all these facts get riled up because it's just "not fair" to them. When all that has really happened is that, whether for financial or other reasons, they have tried to buck the social system. And they have failed to convince their peers to join them.

WilburM 8 years, 2 months ago

Wow. glad for the absolute certainty of the sociology lesson. The single most fact-based element of this entire "schools" debate has come from the research posted by Save Our Schools. Obviously, they have a point of view, but they're willing to address a whole bunch of issues and places to save $$, as well as using some pretty good research on education and neighborhoods (much better than the Sociology 101 story). The school board thinks it's being open, but still doesn't get it.

This ain't easy, but it would be nice if the elected officials and the administration professionals could engage in a discussion at the level that SOS has striven to create.

JohnDa 8 years, 2 months ago

@avoice: A Soc101 approach to this issues is completely oversimplified. For instance, the enrollments at most of the schools that are on the chopping block are actually growing. This is not an issue about a handful of families. We are talking about hundreds of children and hundreds of families. Also, healthy cities rely on families moving into older neighborhoods leading to renewal of neighborhoods. This happens all the time. If you take a model where young people only move into new housing, all cities would have died long ago. Perhaps you should take Soc201.

Kontum1972 8 years, 2 months ago

OBTW...what happened too all this lottery money that was suppose to go for education....so where is it?

Clickker 8 years, 2 months ago

HAVE THEY MADE THE DECISION TO MOVE ALL 9TH GRADE SPORTS UP TO THE HIGH SCHOOLS NEXT YEAR? THAT WOULD WAVE SIGNIFICANT OVERLAP $$

lmb 8 years, 2 months ago

When did we elect Danny Bonaduce to the school board?

Shannon Merritt 8 years, 2 months ago

@Clickker, they decided to wait another year before moving 9th grade to the high schools. It's definitely in their plan, but the board decided already that there was not enough time to prepare for that move before the 2010-2011 school year.

not_that_crazy 8 years, 2 months ago

"nogoodreason (anonymous) says... @Clickker, they decided to wait another year before moving 9th grade to the high schools. It's definitely in their plan, but the board decided already that there was not enough time to prepare for that move before the 2010-2011 school year."

I think the question was just 9th grade ATHLETICS. This would save some money, and allow the remaining sports to compete with their high school teams from the beginning of the season (like the rest of the state.)

kugrad 8 years, 2 months ago

Re: Lottery money - it now goes to.....surprise.......business development!

See this link: http://www.kslottery.com/WhereTheMoneyGoes/WhereTheMoneyGoes.htm

Yes, you remember correctly, the legislature sold this as a source for school funds, then switched it later..

Re: Sociology 101: While many of the observations are reasonable, in Lawrence this pattern has been broken for many reasons. What we are seeing is that younger families can't afford the new housing, or can afford it but choose more economical offerings, or simply prefer the older neighborhoods. Enrollment in the older neighborhoods is actually increasing while enrollment in newer areas of town has leveled off and actually decreased just a bit last year. So we have 15% growth in established neighborhoods (enrollment, especially young children in KG) and a decline or holding steady in the newer. So, the conclusions of the soc. 101 post are negated by the actual facts.

puckstah 8 years, 2 months ago

Yes - the SB was concerned that moving 9th grade to high school (above/beyond sports) required more planning than could be accomplished by August, 2010.

However, closing potentially 2 elementary schools and trying to find enough seats in nearby schools (which has NOT been adequately addressed by central administration) and programs that address the needs of those students doesn't need closer inspection and more planning than a few months and poor maps????? I think not.

Also, the board has clearly articulated that full-day kindergarten is not an option for cutting. However, if they close some of the schools that have full-day kindergarten, aren't they essentially doing this???

Clickker 8 years, 2 months ago

Yes, I was refering to the Athletics only for next yr.

Phil Minkin 8 years, 2 months ago

If you haven't visited the Save Our Neighborhood Schools website you should take the time to do so. Check out their budget proposal that saves the needed $5 million, closes no schools and only increases class size by one. It's put together by accountants, business school profs and other fiscal and education experts. http://www.saveourneighborhoodschools.com/category/events/

justsayin 8 years, 2 months ago

If I am remembering correctly, didn't Lawrence have a hard time finding people to be on the school board??? If you want to make the decisions then sit on the board and spend your time on all these issues for free just like they do. I'm sure it is great fun to have your picture in the paper and deal with people scrutinizing every decision you make.

kummerow 8 years, 2 months ago

@foodboy Thanks for the link to the Save Our Neighborhood Schools website. Here is the link that takes you directly to our budget proposal.

http://www.saveourneighborhoodschools.com/budget-outline/

headdoctor 8 years, 2 months ago

spiderd (anonymous) says... To compare Kansas City and Lawrence school districts is an extremely flawed analogy for so many reasons. Also, I'm extremely curious what these "factors" are that "may" indicate the population shift you speak of.


Population shifts occur all the time in cities around the county and have for years. Using KC school district is flawed? Not such a far reach. The biggest difference is that Kansas City has other school options that sucked up a lot of students from the public system. The best understanding of population shifts was posted above by avoice. Factors vary but the biggest one is generational. Kids grow up and move out with the parents staying in the home for many more years.

As far as Lawrence goes the price of East Lawrence houses aren't any bargain. A young family can get more home and newer in the South East or West side than in East Lawrence. There are some cheaper houses but not everyone wants to spend over a hundred grand on a 1000 sq ft Moore Brothers built home with 2x2 inside walls or a 150 to 200 grand on a almost century old house that needs half of its purchase price put back into it to fix it up. Lots of other kids also is a drawing point for newer sections. As far as families returning being delayed, for one it is a no brainer. If the school is gone there is no reason for them to move back. It would have to be something like a very good economical reason for them to do so.

headdoctor 8 years, 2 months ago

kummerow (anonymous) says... @foodboy Thanks for the link to the Save Our Neighborhood Schools website. Here is the link that takes you directly to our budget proposal. http://www.saveourneighborhoodschools...


Yes, but it isn't found money as Merrill and some others have been spouting off. It is part pipe dream but mostly taking money that is there and moving it around to suit the desire of the SOS.

headdoctor 8 years, 2 months ago

justsayin (anonymous) says... If I am remembering correctly, didn't Lawrence have a hard time finding people to be on the school board??? If you want to make the decisions then sit on the board and spend your time on all these issues for free just like they do. I'm sure it is great fun to have your picture in the paper and deal with people scrutinizing every decision you make.


Thank you for bringing up a very valid point. The average working family does not have time or begin to have the knowledge to run for these type of positions and do them justice. I also do not want someone who can't manage their own finances all of a sudden being in charge of a multimillion dollar budget. Reading these school threads does nothing but enforce that idea because it is obvious that many don't even understand the system much less how to manage it. How long has it taken several of the posters to get that the City and the School Board are two separate taxing authorities. Or the difference between Capital Improvement budgets and Operation Budgets.

Sorry if this seems a little cold but there are some that need face reality and the sooner the better.

Paul R Getto 8 years, 2 months ago

"OBTW...what happened too all this lottery money that was suppose to go for education....so where is it?" === Lottery money was never targeted for education. It goes into the general fund and some of it is spend on Eco-Devo, I believe. This is a common myth. Even if that money were earmarked for schools, the 'tax on those who don't understand probability' would not put a serious dent in the state's budget problems.

sweetiepie 8 years, 2 months ago

I think it's interesting that the school board would not accelerate the "reconfiguration" (moving 9th graders to the high schools, etc.) because they wanted to think things through, and do it right the first time, and not rush into anything; yet, they would close down elementary schools without any sort of hesitation. Shouldn't that be something that they take their time on as well?

And with regard to those "population shifts," one of the schools that is being considered for closure has the requisite two sections of each grade and also has a catchment area simply loaded with families with young children. I still can't figure out how they decide which schools are available to be closed--it always seems like it affects the kids from families that aren't buying new houses in Southeast or far west Lawrence.

Thinking_Out_Loud 8 years, 2 months ago

kugrad wrote "...you remember correctly, the legislature sold this as a source for school funds, then switched it later...".

Is it actually the case that the legislature did this, or is education a conclusion some people have jumped to? 20 years is a long time, and memories tend toward selectivity. It would be interesting to return to the debates of that era and identify where this belief came from.

Not that the legislators who were in office then could be held accountable in any way, given that most of them have likely retired.

Clickker 8 years, 2 months ago

They should have just moved the 9th graders up as part of the whole budget process. Needing more time? Thats like saying you need a month to clean your house.....99% of the time, you wait til the night before, then you hurry thru it.

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 2 months ago

Paul Getto's 2:09 post is 100% correct. The Lottery was sold, in part, as a source of funds to benefit economic development activities in Kansas.

headdoctor 8 years, 2 months ago

blue73harley (anonymous) says... headdoctor is clueless. The main reason the KC schools have had a decline in enrollment is that they were (and are) the JOKE of the entire United States and people with families fled the district. The situation in Lawrence IS entirely different. You are the one that needs a reality check. I watched Prairie Park being built and an entire neighborhood was built around it. I watched Sunflower being built and an entire neighborhood was built around it. Conversely when a neighborhood school closes, what do you think happens?


Oh really? I am very glad you watched a couple of schools being built because you obviously didn't attend one otherwise your reading comprehension would be much better. The point all along of my posts on this thread is population shift. What part of the following comment didn't you understand? (For a variety of reasons population shifts occur. While the reasons that influence the shift may not be exactly the same, we need only to look to the Kansas City area for a great example.) Now who is the one who is really clueless?

headdoctor 8 years, 2 months ago

blue73harley (anonymous) says... You are. I get the deal about population shift. I am trying to point out that closing schools can induce population shift, genius.


You think? What part of this comment didn't you get? (If the school is gone there is no reason for them to move back. It would have to be something like a very good economical reason for them to do so.)

Rex Russell 8 years, 2 months ago

It's obvious, a member or two have deciced in their minds, that they want to close some schools. Disappointing that that is their first thought. I think the grass-roots effert by SONS is admirable. Some on the board look on it as the public opinion as a problem instead of working on a solution. This hodge-podge solution by SONS my only work for a year or so. Closing the schools are permanent. Cuts all around and across the board make most sense. Having the kids well-being in mind should be first and foremost. Some members need to figure out the difference between leadership and being a elected public servant.

George_Braziller 8 years, 2 months ago

Mary Loveland was a clueless disaster the first time she was on the school board. As I remember, she wasn't re-elected when she ran for a second term.

I still can't believe she made it back on again.

sherlock 8 years, 2 months ago

George_Braziller you need to check out the facts. Mary Loveland was on the board last time for a total of 16 LONG< LONG years. Enuf time and more to damage the school system. She was on the board when the fiasco was made to purchase the old Elks building and pay more than it was worth and then find out they couldnt add on to it and it wasnt large enuf. So then the old milk barn was eventually bought for the headquarters of 497! Money wasted with the first purchase!

George_Braziller 8 years, 2 months ago

I know she had been on forever but didn't she drop off and wasn't re-elected when she ran again?

Then she popped back up and made it back onto the school board. Either way I just about chucked my cookies when she came back into the picture.

kugrad 8 years, 2 months ago

Thinking out loud,

You are right, it would be good to go back and refresh the memory on the early days of the lottery. However, I recently was at an event with some state legislators and someone asked about the lottery. The response given at that time by a local legislator was that the lottery funds were used for education at one time (not sure if it was higher ed or public schools), but that this changed quite a few years back. I do personally recall promotion of the idea of having a lottery that included the notion the funds would be used for education. So, I think the basis of my post is fairly accurate.

lmjmalb 8 years, 2 months ago

@G_B and Sherlock: Get your facts straight, indeed: Mary Loveland ran and was not elected in 1983, was elected for the first time in 1987, reelected in 1991, 1995, and 1999, was not reelected in 2003, and then ran and was elected again in 2007. She has served -- investing, like all board members, countless hours in exchange for little glory, a lot of hard work, some strife, a limited number of bitter ad hominem attacks like yours, and not one dollar of pay -- for almost 19 years total.

I will also say this: people should air their opinions and ideas, as those of SONS and other Lawrence folk in this matter have. That's the nature of a community and a democracy. The most productive place to do so is in public forums that board members attend or in well-considered letters and e-mails. One has to assume that board members take those ideas and suggestions into account. If they don't...well, at least you won't think any worse of them than you already do, as many posters assume that if their own ideas aren't put in place, it's because the board has not listened (not what is probably true: that the board has listened and absorbed a lot of information and still must make what seems to be the sagest decision).

Reasonable people should assume that the realm of school finance is far more complicated a the simple piggy bank; school planning and decision-making are similarly more complicated than the human loyalty that makes families who love their school community want to fight on its behalf. I'm a mother of young kids. I love the idea of their going to a small school. I am also a teacher, and let me tell you: kids who need attention and services are more likely to get that attention in a big building with small classes than a small building with higher ratios. A more complete curriculum and array of courses and instruction can be supported when you have more kids in one place. Schools do have economies of scale. Want an administrator, counselor, or learning specialist's time to be used well? Put that person in one building with enough students that this professional can stay put and work all day, as opposed to traveling between buildings or inviting the inevitable inefficiencies of working on one site on Monday, another on Tuesday, etc.

I'm not suggesting that the caring and thoughtful folks associated with SONS are wrong to care as they do or to offer suggestions. On the contrary, I'm so glad that they have offered an actual plan. Undoubtedly it isn't all feasible; undoubtedly some of it is feasible and perhaps will be adopted; I'm not making the decisions here either. What I am suggesting -- saying outright, rather -- is that personal attacks are logical fallacies; they don't make the attacker look very smart (or very kind). If nothing else, if you think Morgan or Loveland or whoever else is an idiot, develop an actual understanding of the issues, find a campaign treasurer, and run. Win a seat on the board. Enjoy!

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 2 months ago

lmjlb - great posts. i appreciate your service as a teacher and a parent. First I think all great teachers are underpaid, good teachers are underpaid, and bad teachers are just thankful they go to work everyday.

You did leave out one part of suggesting people run for school board, - be prepared to be challenged on decisions because you do not do what some people would want. Be prepared to spend countless hours away from your family.

headdoctor 8 years, 2 months ago

commuter (anonymous) says... lmjlb - great posts. i appreciate your service as a teacher and a parent. First I think all great teachers are underpaid, good teachers are underpaid, and bad teachers are just thankful they go to work everyday. You did leave out one part of suggesting people run for school board, - be prepared to be challenged on decisions because you do not do what some people would want. Be prepared to spend countless hours away from your family.


Yup, A good round of applause is in order for those who at least are thinking before they post. All to often these school threads contain posts from people who are thinking with their heart instead of their head. The sad part is there isn't enough money, there won't be enough money, and there is no guarantee when the economy will recover enough to cover for the Legislators sticking their head in the sand.

What I find somewhat amusing is those who do not want to see schools close and other services cut don't want to pay out of pocket a lot more to keep the building open but they want them open anyway so are perfectly willing to see something else done away with that doesn't effect them as long as they are getting what they want. They can not have it both ways.

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