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Archive for Tuesday, March 9, 2010

School board makes start on cuts

$3.2M in savings identified; work will continue tonight

The Lawrence Board of Education discussed their study of budgets ideas for the school district Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010. Superintendent Dr. Rick Doll, left,  spoke during the study session meeting.

The Lawrence Board of Education discussed their study of budgets ideas for the school district Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2010. Superintendent Dr. Rick Doll, left, spoke during the study session meeting.

March 9, 2010

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School board budget talks run late

The school board meeting was running longer than expected Monday night as members of the board and community worked to settle the current budget issues. Many community members attended the meeting to voice their opinions on the available options. Enlarge video

Lawrence school board members on Monday night cut $3.2 million from the district’s budget — more than half of what they need to make up a $5 million budget shortfall.

But they will return to the table at 7 p.m. tonight to discuss the controversial measures of raising the student-teacher ratio and even closing elementary schools to make up the rest.

“We made it a long ways, but we obviously have a some very important issues left to talk about,” school board President Scott Morgan said. “We’ve still got to come up with about $2 million.”

They worked for nearly four hours Monday night, talking line-by-line through lists of proposed school program and other cuts, plus a list of suggestions largely from community members who don’t want the district to close any elementary schools.

Because of the state’s budget crisis and higher health insurance costs, district leaders need to cut $5 million for next school year.

From their list Monday night, board members cut $457,000 in district administration costs, with another $100,000 in administrative salary reductions.

Other cuts included $294,992 to stop sixth-grade instrumental music, meaning band and orchestra would begin in seventh grade. Board members also cut teacher support through all of the district’s learning coach positions — except for the ones that receive federal funding — to save $420,000. Administrators had suggested cutting only three full-time positions, but board members went deeper.

School nursing positions and most guidance counselor positions survived.

Points of contention

Several divisions on the board developed during the discussion, including whether members were targeting some programs too much and others not enough.

“It seems like we should be looking deeper into athletics, because we are looking pretty deep, in my opinion, in terms of cutting some of the fine arts,” board member Marlene Merrill said.

The discussion also went into detail on the basic workings of the district, such as whether the board should look at having elementary principals cover two schools or take on added support duties in a school, like counseling. The board rejected that idea, but at least four members supported $102,597 in reductions to secondary school administration.

Morgan objected to the sixth-grade band cut.

“I know times are lean, but I’m just trying to protect the programs that help the most kids,” Morgan said.

To be continued...

Because Monday’s budget discussion didn’t end until nearly 11 p.m., board members agreed to recess the meeting until 7 p.m. tonight at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. They will discuss raising the student-teacher ratio and closing schools before they hear public comment on the budget.

The district would save about $1 million and cut about 20 teaching jobs each time it increased the student-teacher ratio by one student. This would also create larger class sizes.

The district would save about $400,000 to $600,000 for each elementary school that was closed.

Creative cuts

Board member Vanessa Sanburn, though, wanted the district to look more at some program cuts and creative savings proposed by the group Save Our Neighborhood Schools. A majority of board members rejected the group’s main proposal to spend money on student materials directly from a fee-funded account instead of the district’s general fund.

“I think we’re talking about class-size increases and closing schools. I think going down that path is something that is really hard for me,” Sanburn said.

Alee Phillips, of Save Our Neighborhood Schools, said she wanted board members to get to a higher number than they did before they started talking about closing schools or increasing the student-teacher ratio.

She also believes board members misunderstood the group’s student materials spending proposal, so group members will try to talk to some board members again before today’s meeting.

“I think we really haven’t had the discussion about how bad the schools closures are for the educational and academic environment for our kids,” Phillips said.

Comments

mistyangela 4 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

Thank you board members for your support of the arts as much as you did . We are a family that realize how the arts is a real educational tool that can help develop critical thinking as well as creativity. Music,art etc etc can contribute much to helping an individual remain grounded.

There is $7 million in the contingency fund. For the immediate situation I suggest the other 1.8 million could legitmately come from this source without endangering the contingency fund. That will leave a balance of $5.2 million. There was mention of using $1 million at a New York School meeting that I attended when asked how much was in the contingency fund.

The Boys and Girls Club wants East Heights. However that will not bring any real money into the equation. USD 497 needs at least $4-$5 million per school building or the district cannot afford to sell our school buildings. Our existing resources aka our bought and paid for school buildings are worth millions upon millions upon millions in tax dollar savings.

On another note:

We taxpayers need the current admin building on the market and on the personal property tax list under light industrial or office which generates a higher tax dollar revenue. It is my contention USD 497 can use every nickel as well.

Centennial has 30 plus rooms in addition to a large meeting room space aka the gymnasium. The virtual school does not require a tremendous amount of space. All from personal observation.

The sooner we get the relocation underway the sooner the building can be placed on the market. While it may not sell quickly we taxpayers need to the building ready to roll ASAP. USD 497 needs the money to pay down the sports facilities project debt and/or school building maintenance.

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

The point about the high school vocal music program and participation at KMEA was totally missed/misrepresented. It was presented as though kids were going to this festival and spending district money by staying the night at a hotel with 2 educators when this could be accomplished without an overnight stay and parents acting as chaparones. Wrong !

Case in point, this year at FSHS was a 2 day event where the first group (comprised of Chamber Choir members) went with the accompanist and the choir director to compete in solo competitions. They spent the night there and the second day the remainder of the Chamber Choir met them to perform for the KMEA members, an honor for the school, as they were invited by the KMEA to do so.

Both the accompanist and the choir director need to be there. Has anyone ever seen a band, orchestra or choir perform without a conductor ? Parents did go with these groups to assist and the choir raised funds to offset the expense. Had this budget cut been laid out beforehand it could have been addressed properly by informed individuals but it seems it was snuck in at the last minute.

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

But kudos to Scott Morgan for stepping up as the only person (that I saw) who did not want the introduction of music to begin at the 7th grade level and wanted it to remain at the 6th grade level, which is still way behind other districts. Evidently he is the only board member that understands education in the arts is an important factor in appropriate childhood development.

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hilary 4 years, 6 months ago

The KMEA performance by FS was not funded by the district at all, except for the printing of the programs. The State-wide festival participants' entry fee is paid for by the band, choir and orchestras that send the kids, and their hotel rooms will no longer be covered by the district. That's already been cut. Just thought I'd clarify.

I'm very sad to see us lose our 6th grade instrumental programs. When most districts start at 5th grade, this is a huge loss for the kids in our district as well as our music programs. Also, if they're looking at moving 6 graders up to the middle schools, I assume they'd take general music away which all 6th graders currently participate in. I hate to watch this town's great music teachers and programs take a fall.

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jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

I'm surprised there aren't more positive comments here - the board is doing what most people seem to prefer - looking for cuts and savings rather than closing schools!

It's a bit surprising to me - I didn't expect them to do this at all.

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

It looked to me like part of the fine arts complaint was that the district had to pay for teachers or counselors or other employees to attend these music/drama events as representatives of the district "just in case" anything happened. Gee...is there any scenario where a school event would be held without that representation ?

Losing the 6th grade music/band programs is a travesty. My 2 children have attended 8 different schools in Lawrence and 2 different schools outside of Lawrence and, sad to say, none of the Lawrence schools compare to the quality of education they received elsewhere. My daughter began band in the 5th grade out of town; my son began band in the 6th grade in Lawrence. My daughter continued on with band throughout her high school years in Lawrence; my son quit band in the 10th grade. My daughter graduated from Free State; my son is struggling to make it through his senior year.

I believe the saving grace for my son is that he is involved in the vocal music program. It gives him something to look forward to during his school day. He loves doing it and I hate to see the school board take something so decent and rewarding away from the kids who need it as a sense of fulfillment.

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

Jafs...What is there positive to say ? That the board does not appreciate the fine arts departments and understand the positive impact it has in the kids' lives ? They are not done. They will resume at 7 PM tonite to decide which school(s) to close. If you think any school has been spared you are mistaken. I lived through this 7 years ago and cannot believe that these people who have been given our tax money to spend wisely have gotten themselves into this situation again. I appreciate that other districts are in the same situation. What happened to all of the supporters of change ? It did not happen within the USD...but it needs to happen at the next election. That is the only way to get into the district to right the wrongs.

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jafs 4 years, 6 months ago

PitBull,

I have been following this issue for some time now, and almost all of the comments have been that people don't want the board to simply close schools. They want them to look seriously at other ways of saving money.

That's exactly what they did.

And, I didn't expect them to - I expected them to simply ignore the suggestions by SONS and others, and close some schools.

From my perspective, the fact that they are trying to implement ideas to save money other than closing schools is extremely positive - they're listening and responding to our community.

I guess some folks are just never satisfied.

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del888 4 years, 6 months ago

I have to admit that I haven't paid a lot of attention to the cuts they are making, but has anyone considered getting rid of that rediculous 1/2 day and going to a 4 day week - all full days?

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

The board/district is going to make an effort to reduce spending because they have to. They are audited and if funds spent on certain items are questionable that will red flag the district. Right now they are doing a little C.Y.A. and presenting themselves as attempting to trim all they can without "having to close schools". Do not hold your breath. The only surprise that will arise from the meeting this evening will be if we are able to actually save a school. And that is a shame.

Also there was a mention of the 4 day week but I don't recall that went over well. There are requirements mandated by the state for students' time in school, etc.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 6 months ago

"I'm surprised there aren't more positive comments here - the board is doing what most people seem to prefer - looking for cuts and savings rather than closing schools!

It's a bit surprising to me - I didn't expect them to do this at all."

With nearly $2 million in cuts left to make, you might be a bit prematurely surprised.

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headdoctor 4 years, 6 months ago

jafs (anonymous) says… I'm surprised there aren't more positive comments here - the board is doing what most people seem to prefer - looking for cuts and savings rather than closing schools! It's a bit surprising to me - I didn't expect them to do this at all.


Here is one for you. I am glad that the school board is looking elsewhere and while I know there needs to be an administration I am glad they took a chunk out of them as part of it. I am very happy that the board so far has avoided the quick fix approach that would really come back to bite us all.

I am sure that no matter what they do to come up with the money, it isn't going to please everyone.

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grammaddy 4 years, 6 months ago

Bozo you are probably right. For now, I'm giving them an "E" for effort. At least they are listening to us for a change.

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headdoctor 4 years, 6 months ago

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus (anonymous) says… "I'm surprised there aren't more positive comments here - the board is doing what most people seem to prefer - looking for cuts and savings rather than closing schools! It's a bit surprising to me - I didn't expect them to do this at all." With nearly $2 million in cuts left to make, you might be a bit prematurely surprised.


We may be premature but coming up with 2 million is better than still looking for 5 million. At least with the 2 million there are still options that could help make up the difference without damaging the ability to fight off another short fall the year after.

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WilburM 4 years, 6 months ago

This is a solid first step -- and it does get the board within shouting distance of keeping all schools open for 2010-11, while a representative group (board, SOS, KU, others) could sit down and do further research and deliberate over a long-term course of action to preserve the best possible education. Given that we're almost certain to move 9th graders to the high schools next year, we'd have almost a full year to work out a plan (discussed with real transparency) that might serve us the best over the long term.

On a one-year basis, using contingency funds makes sense, just as it makes sense to lobby the legislature to allow short-term (3 years) mixing of capital and operating funds.

In the end, closing one or more schools may be the best solution, but if we can avoid rushing into this choice, we should take the opportunity.

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

You guys are getting suckered. They are going to close something tonight. This is an act so that when they do close a school they can say that they tried everything possible and just couldn't make the budget work and had no other choice but to close a school...or two...or three...

This happened 7 years ago and history does repeat itself, sadly. Their incompetence and that of their predecessors, 2 being Mary Loveland and Scott Morgan again, have caused this that will haunt the children and parents of the school(s) they will close for many, many years to come. This is spoken as the parent of a child of a school closed 7 years ago.

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motomom 4 years, 6 months ago

once again, fine arts takes the punch. that is totally and completely absurd.

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cowsense 4 years, 6 months ago

I'm glad to see the administrative cuts. It's a start, but only a start. The top 3 in the district pull down close to $450,000. Top dog $175,00, having them as looking to cut "fat" in the district is like Roseanne Barr dragging Calista Flockhart to Weight Watchers.

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motomom 4 years, 6 months ago

and pitbull grandma--i agree with you. i ,too, was a part of the centennial closing and the school board will close something tonite. i have been impressed with the organization of folks for the save our schools....the yard signs, the big newspaper ads.....i admire your passion and voice. i wish you well, but don't hold your breath. :O(

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fan4kufootball 4 years, 6 months ago

The Ottawa Herald published all of the salaries of every employee of all Franklin County Schools - which was a real eye-opener. All I have heard is that teachers are under paid. I can tell you that the teachers in Franklin County on average are paid more than most wage earners in the private sector. Not only are they making on average more than the private sector they are receiveing at least 2 months off during the summer break, 2 weeks at Christmas,1 week for Spring break and all of the other Holidays during the school year. I am not saying they don't deserve the pay what I am saying is stop telling me their underpaid.

I would suggest that the LJ World do the same for the Douglas County Schools. I think people would be surprised.

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areyousure 4 years, 6 months ago

How are the high schools going to contribute to the budget situation? The proposals from the district included cuts in 6th grade band, cuts in 9th grade athletics that would probably have happened with reconfiguration and some funding for music festival. They also cut learning coaches who probably do something at the high schools. There was also cuts to junior high drama productions and music concerts. What about the high schools? Why do they seem to be exempt?

What is the percentage of students who participate in 6th grade band? At least, they still have the program in the junior highs. If losing sixth grade band will help keep one teacher in a classroom, it seems a fair trade.

Band, fine arts and athletics are worthy of being included in a child's educational experience. But the most important thing that the students are there to do is learn what they need to excel in life. I would hate to see those classes that teach the basics shortchanged to keep what is essentially an elective. What percentage of the student popuation participates in music programs? In drama productions? In athletics? They are all there to learn the basics.

As far as closing schools, at what point is it in the best interests of the students in the whole district to keep a half full building open. Whether a school is closed or cuts are made to prevent this from happening, teachers will lose their jobs and class size will be increased. How many teachers will lose their job in order to keep New York School open? How many teachers will lose their job if New York School is closed? How many classes will increase in size if New York School is open? How many classes will increase in size if the students from New York School attend other schools.

I know that one solution has been given to move the pre-school program to New York and leave the lower grades while moving the higher grades to another school. I would hate to be the working parents of two or three kids in that neighborhood. It's hard enough to get kids off to school but the possibility of getting them to two schools. I know that it happens when kids reach junior highs but at least by that time the kids are older and better able to get themselves to school.

Has anyone defined a "neighborhood school". What is a neighborhood? Is it walking distance? There are children who live at Stouffer Place who walk to Hillcrest even though Schwagler is four blocks away. Is it street or geographic boundaries? Are there currently children who cross Iowa, 6th and 23rd Street to attend school?

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avoice 4 years, 6 months ago

When the 6th graders are moved to the middle schools, you can bet that there will be 6th grade band/orchestra. Also, comparing to other districts right now is not necessarily a true argument. Have you looked around to see what's being cut by other districts? I'd bet anything that the Baldwin school district will be cutting 5th grade band. That's what they did in the last budget crunch, and they also cut elementary art. That's just one example. Last night the Blue Valley district put music education budget cuts in their mix, too. The schools don't provide foreign language in the elementary levels, but people who want their kids to have that education find it elsewhere. There are plenty of venues for younger children to have exposure to music education, both instrumental and vocal, outside of the public school.

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headdoctor 4 years, 6 months ago

PitBullGrandma (anonymous) says… You guys are getting suckered. They are going to close something tonight. This is an act so that when they do close a school they can say that they tried everything possible and just couldn't make the budget work and had no other choice but to close a school...or two...or three... This happened 7 years ago and history does repeat itself, sadly. Their incompetence and that of their predecessors, 2 being Mary Loveland and Scott Morgan again, have caused this that will haunt the children and parents of the school(s) they will close for many, many years to come. This is spoken as the parent of a child of a school closed 7 years ago.


I don't think anyone who has had any experience with a taxing authority will be surprised if the board turns around and snake bites the district. I am sure that there is at least a couple of the board members that would have no problem shutting schools down.

There are several things that is still positive for keeping the schools open, at least for a while. The school board has already delayed plans to move students. They don't have new boundaries drawn up. They have already put in a lot of time to avoid closings and to try to find money for the budget. They are now only 2 million short. They have delayed things enough that I don't think even the board believes they could successfully pull off school closings without some major problems.

While the closings of the past did happen. I am thinking that the board memories of such things is still on there mind too. I don't know if they are ready for the amount of public outrage that might occur if they proceed with closings at this time. There seems to be even more people involved now than there was for the last closings.

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anonyname 4 years, 6 months ago

fan4kufootball, I wonder if you have children. If so, ask their teachers about their work hours. Most of the private sector workers you mention come to work, perform their job for 8 hours, then go home with no further obligations for the day. Having taught for many years, I can tell you it is impossible for a teacher to "only" work during the days and times school is in session and have any hope of being effective. At night when private sector workers are off, Lawrence teachers who have worked their contractual 8 hour day are writing lesson plans and grading papers. The same work happens on the weekends and during breaks: go by a local school during spring break, and you'll see teachers' cars in the parking lot. During the summer break, teachers are usually doing one of two things: working a second job to earn some money, or spending their own time and money to take professional development classes in order to become more effective teachers.

Tell any effective teacher that they must enjoy all their time off, and they'll get a good laugh.

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fan4kufootball 4 years, 6 months ago

anonyname - Yes - I do work in the private sector - and believe me my working hours are NOT limited to 8 hours a day. Ask most people who are in the private sector (unless they are working on an assembly line somewhere) how many hours they really work during the week - and we get 6-7 paid holidays and 2 weeks of vacation.

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sweetiepie 4 years, 6 months ago

Wilbur_M This is a solid first step -- and it does get the board within shouting distance of keeping all schools open for 2010-11, while a representative group (board, SOS, KU, others) could sit down and do further research and deliberate over a long-term course of action to preserve the best possible education. Given that we're almost certain to move 9th graders to the high schools next year, we'd have almost a full year to work out a plan (discussed with real transparency) that might serve us the best over the long term.

On a one-year basis, using contingency funds makes sense, just as it makes sense to lobby the legislature to allow short-term (3 years) mixing of capital and operating funds.

In the end, closing one or more schools may be the best solution, but if we can avoid rushing into this choice, we should take the opportunity.


A reasoned approach: I couldn't agree more.

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Terry Jacobsen 4 years, 6 months ago

Does anyone realize what cutting 6th grade band and orchestra does to the band and orchestra programs in the high schools? The teachers at the high school are the ones who go down to the grade schools and teach these classes. This means that the teachers who will lose their jobs are the head band director at Free State (Randy Fillmore), the band director at West (Lauren Gaugert), either the head band director at LHS or the Orchestra director at LHS (Mike Jones or Rachel Dirks). This will effectively destroy the secondary intrumental music programs at both high schools and one of our Junior Highs. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY A CRIME AGAINST OUR STUDENTS AND OUR SCHOOLS! IT MUST NOT BE ALLOWED TO HAPPEN!

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KawHawk 4 years, 6 months ago

fan4kufootball - Do you realize that those "2 months off during the summer break" are UNPAID ? Same with KU. People think the profs all get three months of vacation in the summer, but in reality, they're paid only for 9 months and the other 2-3 are on "unpaid leave."

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guess_again 4 years, 6 months ago

PitBullGrandma (anonymous) says…You guys are getting suckered. They are going to close something tonight. This is an act so that when they do close a school they can say that they tried everything possible............ This happened 7 years ago and history does repeat itself, sadly. Their incompetence and that of their predecessors, 2 being Mary Loveland and Scott Morgan again, have caused this


I for one was impressed with the board discussion last night... not that I agreed with the decisions made. But I do believe the board should fully confront the $ 5.5 million and make budgetary reductions on an ongoing basis reflecting the same, closing schools or not closing schools.

I disagree with Pitbullgrandma in naming two board members to be blamed. In fact that type of rhetoric offends me.

The vast majority or people who file and run for school board do not do so with the idea that they would make significant budget reductions. They are instead largely education advocates. They choose to spend considerable volunteer time in examining and making the policies for a community as it regards this important activity. While I never have agreed with any particular board member all the time, I am grateful for the work that they do. If we didn't have lay volunteers running school boards, we would be dependent upon paid employees, or state politicians or bureaucrats running out schools. I would not like this. I am grateful for the system we have. Don't like their decisions? Get your butt out and campaign.

No one or two board members can do anything. In the process was last night, the board looked first for consensus. Then the board examined each item to determine whether a majority on the board would support each particular idea. I don't think this is something to "sucker" us, but is the process I think that should be used.

Regardless of what their recommendations are relative to any of these items, I disagree with those who want to expend any significant sum from reserves to minimize the need to make reductions in this years process. This is not making a decision, and will only guarantee the school board will be doing the same thing a year from now.

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J 4 years, 6 months ago

Save sixth-grade band and orchestra!

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alm77 4 years, 6 months ago

TJ, or we can go ahead and get our kid in band instrument programs outside of school. There are a lot of music tutors in this town and with all that competition, it isn't nearly as expensive as it was when I was growing up. I'm hoping that the music teachers can refer students to resources where they can get this education elsewhere in the community.

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make_a_difference 4 years, 6 months ago

I'm not surprised by the cut to 6th grade instrumental music...saddened...but not surprised. My kids were involved beginning in 6th grade and continued through high school...also beginning choral music in junior high, into high school and continuing into college. What people don't realize is that these programs provide not only the educational aspect, but they provide a positive support system in the form of a tight knit group of people...students & adults...that care tremendously about each other. This support goes far beyond the classroom. Over the years I've been told numerous times by other parents how lucky I was to have my kids involved with the music programs because of the positive peer group it brought with it. I completely agree. If we're lucky, our kids find ways to be involved, invested in & connected with their school. I know that some people feel that academics should be the only focus of school. And I agree that academics are the main reason why students are in school. But what some don't realize is that activities like choir, orchestra, band, theater, art, athletics, cheer, clubs, etc. keep kids involved & engaged in their school...which keeps them involved in their academic education. And if they're involved in their academic education, then they're likely to achieve. It's no surprise to me that the majority of kids involved in the mentioned activities are frequently the higher achieving students. And the ones who aren't, are sometimes still in school because of the support system these groups provide. I've seen it personally many times.

But the reason I started this post was to say...I know that KU used to have a volunteer program run by students (my daughter volunteered & co chaired her entire four years) that is called "Music Mentors". It's a program that coordinates college students who go into the junior highs & provide music instruction after school for interested kids....free private lessons. These college students have the desire & passion to continue to share their music & skills...they are dedicated to what they do & the students they work with. I don't know if the program still exists...it's been four years since my daughter graduated. But I wonder if it's possible for the program to include interested 6th graders. I know that it's not the same as what exists now, but it may be a way for kids to get that earlier start with music.

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Clickker 4 years, 6 months ago

"Do you realize that those "2 months off during the summer break" are unpaid ?"

Well, of course...but I think most people look at the total annual salary, and just include the summer. So if someone makes $57k/yr as a teacher, and someone makes $57k/yr as an office manager, then technically the office manager makes 83% of what the teacher makes. Not insignificant. Especially since , in this economy, alot of people have been taking pay cuts to stay employed. I think teachers get automatic annual raises ( not entirely sure about that). Also, if you are anything but an employee who punches a time clock, and you are an exempt employee, your hours are 24/7.

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PennyBrite 4 years, 6 months ago

I am saddened about the cut to 6th grade band/orchestra but I'm not too concerned. Lawrence is such a strong music and arts town that SOME WAY....those 6th graders will get a music education. It's $300,000 to fund the program. Someone private or a business will most likely come forth with a plan to make music instruction for those kids happen. And about make_a_difference's first paragraph, I agree with every singe word. Well put!

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JHawker 4 years, 6 months ago

avoice - you say that young children have instrumental/musical opportunities outside of the public schools? It is true that a child could take piano, start Suzuki, or take private lessons for another instrument, but the true opportunity of working together in an ensemble and gaining the multitude of advantageous benefits that music provides to a child, is gained the most in an ensemble setting. In contrast, essentially every sport a child could wish to play in Kansas is offered from a young age: little league baseball, soccer from age 5, basketball, volleyball, cheerleading squads, swimming. Although it would be tragic to see these athletics cut at the junior high or high school level, there is a wide abundance of privately sponsored teams that exist in Lawrence where children and teenagers have opportunities to learn and gain the benefits of working in a team; as well as the many health benefits from being involved in a sport. It is a great tragedy that the Lawrence School Board fails to acknowledge the crucial advantages provided by sixth grade band and orchestra, starting the children at this younger age, before the pressures of junior high. I hope the board considers their failures and work to right their mistakes before it is too late.

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somedude20 4 years, 6 months ago

it is sad to see that music is taking a huge hit. I wonder if sports will be hit as much? What good is it to have all the schools open if none of them can offer a complete education? When I was in school (in PA), band started in 4th grade and had flutophones around 2nd grade. I guess half an education is better than none and if all the schools stay, open property values should not decrease (so you can sell your house) and move to a district that is not bulimic.

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Clickker 4 years, 6 months ago

So looks like 9th grade Football and basketball are history.

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alm77 4 years, 6 months ago

somedude, they've already started recorders (is that the same thing as a flutophone?) and yes, it's sad, nobody is saying it isn't. I honestly think that we can find a way, either as parents of individual kids or in some sort of community partnership until we can get through this. Maybe we'll come out stronger as a community since we're all going to have to pitch in to help out somewhere.

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KSManimal 4 years, 6 months ago

fan4kufootball (anonymous) says… " I can tell you that the teachers in Franklin County on average are paid more than most wage earners in the private sector."

And the average teacher, in Franklin County and elsewhere, has significantly more formal education than most wage earners in the private sector. And, all teachers must continue their formal education (on their own time and money) in order to remain licensed.

If teachers are so overpaid and/or underworked, why do half leave the profession within the first five years? Why do nearly half of new teacher program graduates opt to never enter the profession in the first place?

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honestone 4 years, 6 months ago

When it comes down to the BOTTOM LINE...IF...they don't have enough money then let's cut into the athletics programs and preserve educational programs...when the money comes back then we can reactivate those programs

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sinkorswim 4 years, 6 months ago

To make $57,000/year in Lawrence, you have to be on the max step at MS +60, basically knocking on the PHD door. I would guess there are few teachers in the district at that step. In addition, teachers are only paid for days worked. Fall break, winter break, MLK, Jr. day, spring break, summer break, etc. are all unpaid days. You can consider those days as "free days" for the district/students, since they reap the benefits of teachers spending their time "off" (and money) on lesson plans, working in the classroom, taking classes, etc., in spite of not being paid. Just fyi! :-)

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

guess_again (anonymous) says…

"I for one was impressed with the board discussion last night... not that I agreed with the decisions made. But I do believe the board should fully confront the $ 5.5 million and make budgetary reductions on an ongoing basis reflecting the same, closing schools or not closing schools."

So it is alright with you that there are going to be schools closed even after these horrendous cuts?

"I disagree with Pitbullgrandma in naming two board members to be blamed. In fact that type of rhetoric offends me."

Sorry, but I was merely pointing out a fact that those 2 individuals were on the board the last time schools were closed. Sorrier that you cannot seem to handle the truth.

"Don't like their decisions? Get your butt out and campaign."

I would, but I am quite busy taking care of my 92 year old homebound mother and my developmentally disabled son who has for over 8 years suffered due to the district's inability to provide services for him appropriately. This still continues and please do not take my word for it...ask any parent that has walked this road. And, oh joy, there will be cuts to the special ed programs as well.

"I don't think this is something to "sucker" us, but is the process I think that should be used."

So you believe that it is fine to strip away good and needed services from the students and then turn around and close schools anyway ? Sounds like you should be the one running for a school board position...you would fit right in.

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Jessica Beeson 4 years, 6 months ago

make_a_difference (anonymous) says…

"I know that KU used to have a volunteer program run by students (my daughter volunteered & co chaired her entire four years) that is called "Music Mentors". It's a program that coordinates college students who go into the junior highs & provide music instruction after school for interested kids....free private lessons. These college students have the desire & passion to continue to share their music & skills...they are dedicated to what they do & the students they work with."


YES--KU still offers this program. Here is the contact info link: http://www.ku.edu/students/orgs/Music_9635.html

For what it's worth--KU has many volunteer programs people may not know about.
http://www2.ku.edu/~cco/cgi-bin/index.php

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KSManimal 4 years, 6 months ago

PitBullGrandma (anonymous) says… "So it is alright with you that there are going to be schools closed even after these horrendous cuts?

So you believe that it is fine to strip away good and needed services from the students and then turn around and close schools anyway ?"

I can't speak for "Guess again", but I can speak to this...... No, it's not alright; and no, it's not fine.

But the fact is that what you correctly refer to as "horrendous cuts" and stripping away of "good and needed services from students" have only added up to $3.2 million. There must be about $2 million more worth of cuts. No, it's not alright. But, it's reality. Instead of blaming our local board - they're doing the best they can with everyone's interests in mind - turn your wrath (or better yet, productive energies) toward Topeka.

This isn't our board's fault - it's our legislature's fault. Decades of tax breaks for businesses and other groups have eroded the tax base to the tune of ten billion dollars. That's billion with a "B". Had our legislature behaved more responsibly, there would be no state budget crisis regardless of the current economy.

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puckstah 4 years, 6 months ago

pay for materials out of the materials fund - they are charging students/families, then not using that money for current budgetary needs.

USE THE MONEY THAT"S THERE!

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average 4 years, 6 months ago

@fan4kufootball

KSManimal has a point. According to the Census, under 17% of the population over the age of 25 in Franklin County has a Bachelor's degree or higher. There may be an exception or two, but I'm going to guess that 100% of the listed teachers do. This might explain why they make slightly more than the median income.

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volunteer 4 years, 6 months ago

Good article. When time allows for the LJW staff, I'd like to read some specifics on the Administrative savings, especially in the central office. Which positions were eliminated or combined, which positions had salaries cut, etc.

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wowiekt08 4 years, 6 months ago

Music Mentors still exists!

This semester, more than 30 children enrolled in the Lawrence School District are currently receiving music lessons from KU student volunteers. These children are as young as five, up to 15 on a wide range of instruments including guitar, violin, piano, flute, saxophone, etc.

There was even an article about Music Mentors in the LJ World in October.

The program is not accepting applications for students any more for this semester, but they will be in the fall!

You can email Music Mentors at mmentors@ku.edu (the website is not current, and the program doesn't use it anymore).

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amcgraw 4 years, 6 months ago

I would be willing to pay a fee for my child to play an instrument in 6th grade - I pay fees for them to play sports - 7th grade sports. parks and rec, wrestling, football etc... - why not add a fee and find sponsors to donate scholarships to those who can't afford the fee. Or do a fundraiser like the youth football cards.....

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alm77 4 years, 6 months ago

amcgraw, excellent point. Also, Johnny Paradise presented a check for $5,000 for soccer last night, why can't someone do that for 6th grade? Or a collective of someones? I agree. There are other means to fund this, maybe it's not "cut" until all the avenues have been explored.

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BadLlama 4 years, 6 months ago

Cutting 6th grade band and orchestra is wrong. If you want to talk about a program that TRULY helps kids in all facets of their lives, then that's the one. This is a huge mistake--no one starts instrumental music in 7th grade--this is going to put Lawrence behind every other district in the state. Cut at the administrative level and you can save a program that benefits every student who goes through it. This is not right. They have tried to do this before, and I hope the parents and students and community members who understand the value and the NEED for this program come out in droves tonight to save it.

As for the Ottawa Herald posting all teacher salaries, that was completely inappropriate and tacky. My students do not need to know how much I am being paid to teach them (unless they do their research on their own). Salaries are public record--if you're so interested then get off your butt, go down to the board office, and look them up. The Herald is a sorry excuse for a newspaper that would rather attack education in Franklin County than report on all the good that happens in those same school systems. They have zero journalistic integrity--it was not an endeavor in investigative journalism, it was to sell a few papers.

Lastly, I want to apologize for being a teacher who isn't receiving welfare checks. I'm sorry I have a mortgage and bills to pay. I'm sorry I don't teach for free. Teachers don't deserve to be paid based on their experience or on their level of education--hell, according to some of you, anyone could teach and we don't even need a degree! We fart around from 7:15am to 3:30pm and we sit on our butts for three months in the summer. We LIKE our jobs (and some even have the gall to LOVE their jobs!), and therefore it shouldn't bother us to take massive pay cuts, because we'd do anything for our students. It's a privilege to teach your kids--we should be paying YOU! Seriously though, that's what it feels like sometimes. There are wonderful parents and community members out there who understand and appreciate what educators do for their children and city, and I want to thank those people for really wanting what is best for kids.

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PennyBrite 4 years, 6 months ago

As far as the band/orchestra teachers go, seniority is not always the best judge of a good teacher.

If I'm not mistaken, Randy Fillmore used to be in Salina with Salina South High School. He took that band to the STATE level many, many times. Those parents were so very sad when he left (of course, Lawrence parents were so very excited when he arrived here!)

I am hoping there is a way to save the music teachers positions and the 6th grade band/orchestra program. It would be a huge loss to our community to do away with any of our music programs.

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

"There has been little action to date on appropriations and revenue; many of those decisions are delayed until after the legislature receives the April revenue estimates. I was pleased in 2005 when the legislature budgeted a year ahead for school funding to reduce the problems created by setting school budgets before appropriations are finalized; unfortunately the declining revenues are preventing that from happening. I am hearing from constituents that they want to retain the funding levels proposed in the Governor’s budget for education, social services, and many state agency programs. I hope to increase revenues through additional income tax and reductions in sales tax exemptions and credits. If property taxes are to be considered I would much prefer to restore one or two mills of the reduction in the statewide mill levy for schools rather than increase the caps for the local option budgets."

From my legislator

I do support: sales tax exemptions reduced or removed restore one or two mills of the reduction in the statewide mill levy for schools rather than increase the caps for the local option budgets governors proposal for a sales tax temporarily perhaps come back to 1997 taxation levels * It may take all the above to get us back to square one.

Yes I have contacted the governors office as well.

15 million out of work, the wars and the medical insurance industry are bankrupting the nation.

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avoice 4 years, 6 months ago

BadLlama, you sound like the kind of public school teacher who helps families decide to send their kids to private schools. What an attitude! You're very scary. Really.

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nomorecuts 4 years, 6 months ago

The parents in the community MUST make 6th grade band/orchesta happen if this is indeed cut from the final budget - I'm not giving up hope that it won't be restored before the final budget happens. If it is, we can surely form a group to make band happen outside of the school day - and maybe even include 5th graders in it like it should.

For those of you still unhappy with the school closings several years ago - where would we be today if that had not happened? Let's ask the junior high kids that were affected by it how they think it affected their education. Do they even remember it happening as such a catastrophe as the parents are making it out to be? I changed schools when I was going from 2nd to 3rd grade - didn't seem to affect me much looking back on it. Didn't seem to affect me much at the time either. Also if those schools weren't closed, would we find ourselves in the same place as the KCMO district where they're expecting to close half of their schools? Let's not let that happen here - talk about a true mess. If buildings aren't being utilized close to their full extent, then they shouldn't be operating at all. Stop cutting programs, paying teachers to teach half of a class compared to what teachers teach at other schools, paying principals to manage schools with 1/4th of the students as other schools, and the list goes on. Do what is best for ALL of the district's children, not just catering to those with the loudest voices.

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mom_of_three 4 years, 6 months ago

I don't understand how cutting 6th grade instrumental music is going to cut 5 ft positions from secondary music.

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mom_of_three 4 years, 6 months ago

Don't the teachers travel to different schools to teach music? So is it actually cutting positions or cutting salaries from the teachers?

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polkadottedzebra93 4 years, 6 months ago

To deprive children of the fine arts is depriving them of life lessons, confidence, and friendships. I am a band student who went through the sixth grade program. Had I not, I would be a different person. Band was my favorite part of the day when I was in sixth grade, at the time I merely thought it was nice to get a break from my day to go and do something fun, but the things that have been taught to me throughout the years in both music and life, will stick with me forever.

Apart from affecting the children, cutting out sixth grade band would greatly affect the entire band program in Lawrence. It should not be left to the Jr. High teachers to teach 120 students brand new to their instruments, who wouldn't even know how to put it together it, take care of it, put it away, store it, let alone learn how to play it and learn how to read music. Talk about a big class size.

Fine arts instill so much in a person. This is Lawrence people, I though better of this city than to cut out such an important tool in a persons life.

Just a little quote from my chemistry teacher to leave you all with, "You know they've angered the band parents when the school board meeting has hundreds of people who are willing to pour out their life experiences."

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JHawker 4 years, 6 months ago

To answer mom_of_three's question: the school board is considering eliminating 5.5 FTE positions IN ADDITION to cutting 6th grade band/orchestra. This would eliminate positions such as head band and orchestra directors at LHS and FSHS as well as other positions, besides cutting 6th grade band and orchestra, cutting these 5.5 is even more so detrimental and would destroy the music education students in lawrence would receive. These people would not simply be replaced with new hires, they would 'shuffle' the remaining people. This is ridiculous and absurd and simply cannot be tolerated.

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BadLlama 4 years, 6 months ago

Avoice:

I'm sorry you feel that way. However, these are comments that I hear everywhere! I love my job and I love my students--that's why all this business has me very worked up. Wouldn't you get emotional if your livelihood was torn up, ridiculed, and disrespected like mine is? I go to school everyday, wondering what new cuts are going to happen today: is this going to be the day they decide to cut music from my school district? Will my colleagues and friends have jobs tomorrow? And through all of this mess, I still strive to provide the same learning and the same opportunities for my kids that I always have. I still teach each class with 100% effort all the time--they always get my best, even if I am worried about what I'm going to do with my house if my position is cut. I am human too, so forgive me if I'm not sunshine and rainbows all the time. Doesn't it make you angry what they are doing to our kids? They are taking away so many opportunities! Programs like music can benefit any child--gifted, average, below average, even those with severe disabilities. This is not like athletics where only the select can ever gain anything. I want to do what's best for KIDS, and that's keeping teachers in the classroom. So excuse me while I defend my colleagues and my profession.

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mom_of_three 4 years, 6 months ago

You mean, it could mean the head band and orchestra directors at LHS and Free State. But it also could mean cutting the junior high band directors and making the remaining ones share schools. Guess I don't understand how it automatically means the high school directors are on the block. Does every junior high have a full time band director?

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mom_of_three 4 years, 6 months ago

"Athletics - where only the select can gain anything?" Lots of kids benefit from athletics who will not even go to play in college. As with arts, it benefits many kids; those not great in school and those with learning disabilities.
Its too bad that a choice even has to be made.

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BadLlama 4 years, 6 months ago

Yes, if they cut these positions, then they will be losing some of the best music educators in the state. Music teachers everywhere would love to work in Lawrence because of the quality programs, top-notch staff, and the community support for the arts. It is certainly a rarity! Hopefully there will be a massive amount of parents and supporters at the meeting tonight to sway the board to not cut this valuable program. This cut will put Lawrence students at a disadvantage compared to most comparable districts in the state. The board needs to understand that music is necessary for the education of the whole child.

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kusp8 4 years, 6 months ago

If you want kids to do better in math and science, enroll them in band, vocal performance, or orchestra. Seeing as the US is awful at both, in comparison to other countries, shouldn't we be encouraging the growth of these programs instead of cutting them?

Also. I'd like to see the board members follow around both Mr. Filmore, Mr. Jones, and Mr. McCarty. They will be amazed at the positive behavioral influence they have on their students. Example: Highland Park High School in Topeka. They have always had a problem with crime, truancy, disrespect, etc. However, when they got a director in there that cared about the students, respected them, and demanded respect from them, there was an immediate change in the band members demeanor. Also, the band grew to one of the largest, and best, in the city. Once the director moved to a different school in Topeka the band dropped to around 40 students. Those students were effected by that director, and improved their behavior.

Obviously, not the same situation, but having a band director that cares is incredibly meaningful in a students life. Don't cut the band, vocal, or orchestra programs!

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BadLlama 4 years, 6 months ago

You're right, it could mean any of the music teachers in the district. And I agree, it shouldn't have to come to a choice between the arts and athletics--however, somehow it always does. The arts always lose that battle. We are doing a great disservice to our children if we continually sacrifice arts programs--first 6th grade instrumental music, then what?

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alm77 4 years, 6 months ago

BadLlama, take a deep breath. I think you need a wee reality check. First off, you're right! This does suck. But you are also right in saying we live in a city of art and music. I have tremendous faith that the community can fund the music program. So, let the board cut it. It's not as if a cut in this budget can't be made up in another way. Don't throw in the towel just yet. Do you seriously think benefit concerts can't be organized? Or that parents who feel passionately about it won't open their wallets for their kids and for their neighbors' kids should it come to that? I just have more faith in our community than that.

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Silly_me 4 years, 6 months ago

I just received an e-mail from my daughter's choir teacher that if the 6th grade cuts go into affect, because of seniority rules, both Free State and Lawrence High will lose their primary marching band instructors plus secondary support instructors. That is completely unacceptable.

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

Jane -

My daughter attended kindergarten and Broken Arrow. My husband, daughter and I moved to Germany where he was stationed in the Army. She attended grades 2, 3, and part of 4 there. We returned to the U.S. and she attended grades 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 in Manhattan. We moved back to Lawrence where she went to Southwest for 9th grade and Free State for grades 10,11, and 12.

My son went to Sunflower for kindergarten and 1st grade. We bought a house and then he went to Riverside for grades 2, 3, 4,and 5 until the school board CLOSED THE SCHOOL, forcing him to go to Deerfield for 6th grade. He went to Central Jr. High and will graduate from Free State this year.

That was relatively easy, wasn't it ? Of course, from reading your post I doubt you will be able to follow it. Simply, we lived here, moved to Germany, moved to Manhattan and then back to Lawrence. That's normal military life. We rented a house for 2 years then bought our own that we still live in and have done so for the past 10 1/2 years. Thanks for your concern for my children. How are yours doing ?

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Paula Kissinger 4 years, 6 months ago

My daughter went all 3 years and graduated from FSHS. When Riverside was closed my son went 1 year to Deerfield then to Central then to FSHS with his best friend. What desires are you talking about ? My children have always come first. My son is developmentally delayed and I fought the district for 4 years to get him an IEP, finally winning because I will not give up on my kids. I also do not understand why you think I should have requested a transfer,when and why. Thanks for the chat.

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polkadottedzebra93 4 years, 6 months ago

Have either of you noticed the "thanks for contributing" that comes up after you post a comment? Take your arguments elsewhere if you really feel it's that important. You read and first commented on this story because you care about the kids of Lawrence, leave it at that.

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