Archive for Saturday, January 2, 2010

School budget is No. 1 concern

Students in a 9th grade biology class at Southwest Junior High School participate in a virtual classroom. Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said statewide budget cuts could lead to layoffs or reductions in services.

Students in a 9th grade biology class at Southwest Junior High School participate in a virtual classroom. Lawrence school Supt. Randy Weseman said statewide budget cuts could lead to layoffs or reductions in services.

January 2, 2010


Editor’s note: This is one in a series of stories, looking ahead to 2010.

At the beginning of 2009, the Lawrence school district was about to start a search for a new superintendent. The deputy superintendent and chief operations officer had also announced their retirements. Getting the outdoor high school athletic facilities started and finished was a top priority.

A lot has changed as the district heads into 2010.

New Superintendent Rick Doll, who came to Lawrence from Louisburg, is leading the district and the board through a major financial crisis, one in which the district’s general fund budget has been cut 10 percent in just over a year.

While the board laid out about 10 goals at the beginning of the school year, the focus has been forced elsewhere.

“A lot of our emphasis has shifted to just trying to make the budget,” Doll said.

On that list of board goals, among other issues, are:

• Narrowing the achievement gap, which is the difference in test scores between majority and minority students.

• Reconfiguration, which centers on making the junior highs into middle schools.

• Increasing student achievement.

“We are trying not to let things like reconfiguration and achievement gap issues fall by the wayside, and I will assure our patrons that they’re not,” Doll said. “It’s just the budget is taking a lot of time.”

The budget presents the largest challenge and is also the No. 1 goal for the district and the board during the coming year.

“We’ve had this shift to how do we take what we thought was this year’s budget, subtract $3 million, and still do all the things that we need to do to meet some of those other goals,” chief operations officer Frank Harwood said.

Board president Scott Morgan says because of all the budget talk, lower morale of teachers and staff also is a top concern among district leaders.

“We keep talking about letting people go. We keep talking about reducing the number of teachers, closing schools,” Morgan said. “Those are challenges, but we’ve got to keep the spirits high or let them know how important they (teachers) are.”

Doll says the biggest challenge not related to the budget is the achievement gap.

“We need to analyze whether we have institutional barriers that are in place that are keeping our kids of color from achieving where they should,” Doll said. “That’s a huge challenge that we have to solve if we’re going to continue to raise our achievement scores.”

Morgan says despite the economic environment, the board will continue to work on the goals it laid out at the onset of the school year.

“All those things will still be happening,” Morgan said. “It’s just that it’ll be under the cloud of this budget nightmare we’re in.

“But this too shall pass.”


Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Dollars spent on this USD 497 admin building could have been applied to existing building maintenance.

*School Maintenance

USD 497 has a problem with tax dollar management.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Dollars spent on this USD 497 admin building could have been applied to existing building maintenance.

*School Maintenance

USD 497 has a problem with tax dollar management.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

The USD 497 headquarters aka “milk barn” should placed on the market. USD 497 taxpayers do NOT need a luxury headquarters for our school district.

This building was beyond our means when the purchase was made. It is still beyond our means. This is not Hollywood.

This building was purchased when budget crunch problems began to surface. I say sell it. Neighborhood schools and maintaining existing buildings is far more important.

*School Maintenance

3up3down 8 years, 4 months ago

Just how in the hell are you going to "narrow the achievement gap" when you intend on inceasing class size. Student to teacher ratio. They are talking about not replacing those 21 retiring teachers. My child's class sizes at a local junior high are averaging 22-24 per class. Now are we looking at 26-30 per class next year. Money management has always been a problem with this district. They needed a superintendent like Ron Wimmer of Olathe to guide us. Not sure if a superintendent from a small district is going to be able to lead us. Should have hired the one from Virginia. Another classic Lawrence school board screw up.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

The largest number of USD 497 virtual students by a whopping margin are from outside USD 497.

cowboy 8 years, 4 months ago

during my education years , 50 - 60 's we had 35 kids per class , parochial so some were boy / girl separated in HS , one teacher , and we received an excellent education , were tightly managed , no excused absences , no spring breaks , blue collar kids who made grades , dropouts were unheard of , and we were beaten regularly , just kidding , just smacked when we needed it .

What we did not have was all of the loads that are now placed on the schools , a few autistic kids in each class , kids still in diapers coming to school , IEP's for all these kids , SPED programs in the general student population. While expecting our teachers to be task masters , the current environment puts a load on the schools that is destined to fail . The discipline or lack of it in the high schools that allows kids to be absent with few consequences , sets up many of these kids to fail.

I'm not down the special needs kids but the workloads on these schools is quite different from years past and the current results or lack of is evident. The older formulas for class size don't work any more , and the current approach of inclusion stretches the institutions to their absolute limits. There needs to be a massive increase in school staffs to change the results.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

How many eastside students are shipped to the westside to achieve some balance of sorts?

Let's bring some of the westside overload to New York school which is quite a nice building that should not be wasted much less become a part of the inefficient throw away society.

I would like the USD 497 admin bldg become more a part of the community instead of sitting in the middle of nowhere. Lets make more accessible for parents to attend meetings.... Sell the cow barn.

Richard Heckler 8 years, 4 months ago

Ditto the common sense of Cowboy.

Too many students are getting left behind.....

melott 8 years, 4 months ago

And they continue to leave bright, athletic-field type lights on over an empty parking lot all night at LHS.

Kryptenx 8 years, 4 months ago

Check out the picture - not one, but TWO individuals on district payroll just hanging out in the back of the classroom while the projector screen teaches. I'm sure the virtual classroom part costs too, so it's no wonder the schools have no money.

brewmaster 8 years, 4 months ago

I'm not a formal educator, but rather a parent. As I see it, the burden that is placed upon teachers (because of "kept" legislators, mismanaging administrators and entitle-minded, officious parents- rich and poor inclusive) is causing an aversion to and exodus from public education. Yes, USD497, too.

Unfortunately, today's public school teacher is expected to be a psychiatrist, psychologist, family counselor, parole officer, police officer, warden, coach, mentor, role model, parent-to-the-parentless and finally a teacher. Then the legislators, administrators and parents tie both hands behind their back, blindfold them and then push them into an underfunded school/classroom. And, then lets not forget that they are expected to make sure that "no student is left behind."

Hat's-off, kudos and thank you to those teachers that can still...teach.

Stephen Roberts 8 years, 4 months ago

Oh the poor teachers have low morale because of potential layoffs- welcome to the real world. How people got a raise this year? Maybe the union needs to work for all of the teachers not just the crappy ones they protect.

I know I have to work more because I am having to do parts of someone else's job that was not filled.

youngjayhawk 8 years, 4 months ago

I would like to see the Lawrence School District get creative. Consider lengthening the school day and shortening the year = huge savings across the board with little impact to students & staff. No more Learning Coaches = unnecessary expense. Use administrative staff as substitutes = already on the payroll. The possibilities are endless!

volunteer 8 years, 4 months ago

That darn early release Wednesday program looks more stupid all the time. It results in more school days and all the expense that entails. Somebody should end that farce.

Which school board members were responsible for this community support-sapping idea?

My high school math teacher pal tells me that only during the first and last month of the year do the math teachers in his building meet during this early release time to "collaborate." It is used as grading/prep time for him and his colleagues.

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