Letters to the Editor

Manage schools

January 28, 2010


To the editor:

The school board has been elected to operate USD 497 schools, not to close elementary schools. Students and parents do not desire fewer locations. They want, and have paid for, the convenience and value of having neighborhood schools.

The voters decide when and where schools are opened, upgraded, or closed via bond issues. Previous school boards made recommendations to previous generations of voters. New schools were built with voters’ approval; those voted down were not built. The value of the local school is expressed by the voters’ willingness to fund its capital cost; when it no longer has value voters will veto improvements. The school board should not thwart generations of voters who approved the current schools.

Businesses and households are doing with less. USD 497 must do the same.

Members of the board have asked for suggestions. Do what businesses and parents have done: Decrease expenses across the board. USD 497 is chock-full of highly educated administrators; hold them accountable to administrate. Department heads, principals and administrators need to provide a bottom-up budget that reflects a 10 percent reduction. Experienced leaders are capable of managing a reduced budget; please let them.

Combine classes or grades, combine jobs (dual role principal and teacher), share principals, and even reduce salaries or personnel. Reduce extracurricular activities or provide them on a fee-for-service basis. The district administration center must account for its bloated budget and cut it. We trust you to manage our schools. Please, don’t lose our trust by closing, rather than managing, schools.

Robert Kidder,



kansasmutt 7 years, 10 months ago

Nice to the point letter Robert. I agree with you. Those who dont know how to adapt and save should step down now and make room for someone willing to do it.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago

It's time to to put the extravagant admin building on the market then use those funds to help pay off the debt the expanded sports facilities brought to USD 497 taxpayers.

This expansion was brought about WITHOUT USD 497 taxpayer/voter approval.

Does the USD 497 BOE have the authority to spend that much money WITHOUT voter approval?

The we taxpayers house our USD 497 admin in the virtual school building and make them part of the community instead of out of sight out of mind.

BTW property owners,USD 497 BOE and the City of Lawrence cannot afford a 10% reduction in property values that this move would demand.

Property owners in the area will lose 10% of property value by this decision according to Kirk McClure. Property owners cannot afford this and the city cannot afford to lose the property tax dollars.

Who is Kirk McClure?

Education Ph. D., City Planning, University of California, Berkeley, Department of City and Regional Planning, 1985. Concentrations in Housing Economics and Public Finance.

Master in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, 1978. Specialization in Housing Policy Analysis.

Bachelor of Arts, University of Kansas, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, 1974. Special Major in Urban Studies.

Bachelor of Architecture, Graduated With Distinction University of Kansas, School of Architecture and Urban Design, 1973.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 10 months ago


What determines the price of real estate? Location. Location. Location. This cliché is a good starting point for a discussion of property values and public choices, for it leads to the question why property values vary in different locations.

Most property owners know from experience that similar properties in different neighborhoods can command vastly dif- ferent prices. But many may not realize that public choices can have large effects on property values. Public choices about capi- tal investments, public services, and taxation affect property val- ues because their impacts vary in different places.

A new highway interchange, for example, generally increases the value of nearby property because it increases its accessibility.

Conversely, a decision to close a school or a neighborhood police station may decrease the value of property in the neighbor- hood.

In public policy debates, moreover, decisionmakers often lack information about how their choices will affect property values.

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 10 months ago

Robert - The minority is speaking for keep small schools open. It is too bad that the district can not ask everyone in Lawrence to actually tell us if they want small schools.

If you want small schools, please feel free to send more money to the district to fund those schools.

Also, if a student transfers from his/her home school, the district should charge a transfer fee - no execptions. this is a good way to help raise revenue.

I elected the school board to manage the whole district, I personally would want them to close smaller schools to help make the overall budget more pallatable.

I did not elect the school board to favor the minority over the expense of the majority.

And BTW, my kids school did close during the last round and they went to Deerfield (one of the largest schools). For them it was the better than the small school.

bmwjhawk 7 years, 10 months ago

The angst would be better directed at legislators. Schools have said for years that they need to be better funded. For years, they have worked within their budgets. Today, the community begins to feel the pain. This is a wake-up call. Write your legislators.

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 10 months ago

bmyjhawk - If you keep on telling people for years that the sky is falling, when do people stop listening??

Writing your legislators is a good start but how about also requiring more detailed reporting such as:

listing of the top 10 salaries by position reported in the budget and year end audit

listing of income and expenses for each extracurricular activity in the budget and year end audit

A lsiting of by fees what was collected and what is yet to be collected. Include those fees that were reduced for reduced lunch etc.

Another place to start is the LEA, every year they DEMAND that they get a raise because they do not make as much as Blue Valley. Maybe they should also help more to find ways to save money.

Stephen Roberts 7 years, 10 months ago

Merrill - if you and your buddy Kirk McClure are so smart, why don't you run for school board and be part of the solution.

I would run and state that we need to re-draw the boundaries and close schools because we have too many elementary schools.

If the people of Lawrence want small schools, why didn't they put a sales tax proposal to be voted on?? Oh year, they voted for Arts, roads and the T. I forgot.

Maddy Griffin 7 years, 10 months ago

I agree that there are a lot of schools in this town. Check out the east side,as in, anything east of Mass. Only 3 for the entire east side. Close New York and that leaves 2. I think everyone would probably like to have their kids in smaller classes where the teacher to student ratio is better than 1;25. And I understand that the budget is tight. However, closing schools should not be the answer. Kennedy and Prairie Park are on the very eastern edge of town and a little far to walk to for the New York children.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 10 months ago

Another alternative is to close the underutilized schools for a short period of time. A 3-5 year long closing would help eliminate high administrative and maintenance costs.

Once the district is back on much firmer financial footing, the school board could re-open our underutilized schools.

KSManimal 7 years, 10 months ago

"Another place to start is the LEA, every year they DEMAND that they get a raise because they do not make as much as Blue Valley. Maybe they should also help more to find ways to save money."

LEA has no authority or control over the district's budget. Last year, the highest-paid, veteran teachers got a $200 raise (that's ANNUAL raise - meaning $16.67 per month). At the same time, teachers agreed to cuts in benefits amounting to a TENFOLD increase in deductible/out-of-pocket expenses for health insurance (possibly amounting to as much as $12,000 per year more out-of-pocket for a family plan). Agreeing to that cut saved the district ONE MILLION DOLLARS.

So, at best, veteran teachers who never use health insurance got a $16.67 per month raise. Those who use insurance took a cut in compensation of up to $987 per month.

Still wanna blame LEA?

KSManimal 7 years, 10 months ago

"The angst would be better directed at legislators. Schools have said for years that they need to be better funded. For years, they have worked within their budgets. Today, the community begins to feel the pain. This is a wake-up call. Write your legislators."

THAT up THERE ^^^^^^ bears repeating.

mom_of_three 7 years, 10 months ago

Extra curricular activities and sports are already charged a fee, although it does not cover the entire cost of the activity. If fees on these things went up, some students may not be able to participate due to income. Fees are now more than triple of what they were when my kids entered school.

budwhysir 7 years, 10 months ago

small school closed big schools a mess.

SettingTheRecordStraight 7 years, 10 months ago

Moving kids into private schools and into home schooling is a great alternative to the government's schools, but we're all financially tied to the public school budget train wreck.

That's why our city and state need to consider all options, including consolidation. Those opposed to tough decisions are not in a position to drive this issue.

lindseydoyle 7 years, 10 months ago

First, cut back administrative positions to 1980 levels. Second, begin cutting teacher salaries. Full-time pay for part-time work does not equate to a higher quality education for our children.

Hop2It 7 years, 10 months ago

The district has already reduced it's extracurricular budget and charges fees for services. I want to brag about what opportunities we offer our children...but sometimes I can't compared to neighboring districts.

volunteer 7 years, 10 months ago

Still waiting for Superintendent Rick Doll to announce Administrative cuts, as Topeka's superintendent did.

Combine some central office positions, eliminate others, and let us know about it so we can offer our armchair advice on other topics.

been_there 7 years, 10 months ago

Make everyone responsible for cleaning their own office, have parent volunteers clean classrooms and libraries. Every little bit helps.

kugrad 7 years, 10 months ago

To continue along the lines of KSManimal's post: IF a teacher who has reached to top of the salary schedule only worked for 40 hours a week and 188 days a year; then this raise comes out to 13 cents an hour or so. In reality, a teacher typically works closer to a 50 hour week and works more than the 188 paid days, so we are really talking about maybe 10 cents an hour for our most experienced teachers. When you consider that these teachers have college degrees, this is more of an insult than a raise. Now, consider how the benefits package changed. Prescriptions that were once $40-$50 for a 90 day supply are now $40 for a 30 day supply. A 90 day supply is now $120!!! Copays are higher too. Most teachers who are experienced enough to be at the top of the salary scale (about 45% of Lawrence teachers) are also old enough to have some medical needs. In the end, teachers essentially took a pay cut, not a raise, last year. So, don't blame the LEA for this problem. That would be just wrong. It would reflect ignorance as to what is actually happening. The reason contacting legislators hasn't worked so far is because almost no one is doing it, not because it isn't a good approach.

windex 7 years, 10 months ago

People, this is a STATEWIDE problem. Schools all over the state are dealing with the same issues. Surely our school boards and superintendents have made mistakes and have been less than perfect. But this disaster has its roots in Topeka, not in Lawrence. At this point you can get ready for school closings AND program cuts AND increased fees AND bigger class sizes AND laid-off teachers AND laid-off support staff, in Lawrence and just about everywhere else in the state.

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