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Archive for Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Details begin to emerge on making school board’s budget cutting plan work

Officials gathering data to determine how many jobs will be trimmed

One day after Lawrence school board members approved a budget cut plan without closing any schools for next year, administrators got to work on the details.

March 10, 2010

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School Donations

The Lawrence Schools Foundation has collected about $2,000 in donations to help with the district’s budget crisis so far. Foundation executive director Susan Esau said board members can use that money anywhere in their general fund.

However, foundation leaders had already suggested that potential donors wait until after board members identified their specific school program cuts, which they did Tuesday night. Board members still need to officially authorize an option for a “fund-a-need” donation to try to restore specific cuts, but during their discussions they mentioned relying on donations to restore some cuts.

More information about donating is available at lawrenceschoolsfoundation.org.

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Community group happy to see schools saved

A large group of parents and community members were pleased by the Lawrence school board's decision not to close schools. Enlarge video

One day after Lawrence school board members approved a budget cut plan without closing any schools for next year, administrators got to work on the details.

The $2.9 million in school program and administrative cuts includes everything from $3,394 in savings by eliminating Choral Connections and securing a lower rental fee for the All-City Choir Concert to cutting learning coach positions that aren’t federally funded to save $495,717.

“There are faces on every decision we’ve made,” board member Mary Loveland said. “Almost all of them involve reductions in employment or eliminating their employment, and it’s very distressing. But that’s the problem when 85 percent of your budget is salaries.”

Superintendent Rick Doll said Wednesday district leaders are still gathering information to determine how many jobs will be cut.

On top of those program cuts, board members reached a compromise and approved reductions in other areas to take closing elementary schools off the table. Here are more details:

Early Childhood

The East Heights Early Childhood Family Center, 1430 Haskell Ave., will close to save the district $350,000.

The pre-kindergarten programs for the 130 children would move to Kennedy School, which has about 350 students.

The district is considering making Kennedy a pre-kindergarten to second- or third-grade school, and moving the older Kennedy students into New York School. Or, the school board could change boundaries to shift more Kennedy students into New York.

“We want to accomplish as little disruption as possible to the (East Heights) children and families,” board member Rich Minder said.

Student-teacher ratio

A $1.1 million savings comes from increasing the district’s student-teacher ratio by one student.

This means larger class sizes in elementary schools and the secondary school core classes. It will cut about 20 teaching jobs district-wide.

The number of teaching retirements in the district will account for most of those cuts, but Doll said some teachers with less than three years of experience in the district will still be affected by certain cuts, such as learning coaches returning to teaching. That process will need to be worked out, he said.

Elementary principal

To save $92,896, board members agreed to cut one principal position.

Doll said this can be done two ways. The district could require one principal to be responsible for two elementary schools. Or officials could require one elementary principal to take on more roles, such as also being the school’s librarian or counselor.

Other cuts

To get closer to the required $5 million in savings, board members also agreed to:

• Restructure school nurses and cut one full-time nursing position to save $43,520.

• Tap into a fee-funded instructional materials fund next year to save $200,000.

• Consider dipping into the district’s contingency reserve fund to cover the rest.

• Appoint a community task force to review the district’s older school buildings to examine possible changes for the future.

Comments

Benjamin Roberts 4 years, 1 month ago

@ PennyBrite - I may not be 100% on this. Choral Connections is a coming together of several elementary and Junior High schools for a combined performance. They practice separately for the most part, and then bring it all together for a community performance. I have also heard the term in reference to the junior highs combining with the high schools. In essence, it is a community choir.

Now that I answered this, someone who really knows should be along to correct me. <{ : - )

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Benjamin Roberts 4 years, 1 month ago

@ DougCounty - I am concerned that the Task Force, as currently proposed, will be a group that will tour schools, report findings, and make recommendations based upon the findings. This supports Scott Morgan's wording in Tuesday's proposal, "We would not close any school but would direct the administration to propose a community task force to review our older facilities and see what changes or improvements we could make in the future." There is no mention of a task force to monitor budget items; however, that is what is needed.

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PennyBrite 4 years, 1 month ago

"eliminating choral connections..."

can someone explain what choral connections is -- I have no idea and the people I asked didn't know. Anyone here know?

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shersher 4 years, 1 month ago

Kennedy folks are not late to the party! These specific changes are new and were never discussed before! School boundaries and closings were but not spliting the k-2 and 3-5 or 6 and famlies up! You can not take advatage of a school with economical disavatages and take from the students that need the school the most. The school has the same issues that all school has but what makes it unique is that it serves the most students in Lawrence with disadvantages. I went to that school as a child and it was a the main support of my childhood education. My children have gone there for the past several years. And this change is not what is best for the children. Spliting up siblings, kids walking almost 2 miles more, more strain on parent with children in different schools means less time for invovlement to support our school and childrens' education. Why can't the Kennedy families stay instead of being split up or the East Heights kids go to New York were there is room? It sounds like more money will be spent on transitioning the older grades out of Kennedy. Apparently this decision is not what is best for children or the state or the city will cause more expences, hardships, and disavantages and less quality of education.

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Paul R Getto 4 years, 1 month ago

"If cuts are made to administrative areas as well, then the public should know this and be satisfied that the district is doing everything it can do to deal with the funding shortfalls." === Interesting point, but I wonder what is being 'hidden' since the entire budget is public. Funds coming from various sources can be confusing to some, but there are people who will explain it. Cutting management is universally suggested in any organization when a budget crisis hits. While there is some room for tightening up any organizational structure, if serious underfunding continues management cuts will not solve the crisis. Thousands of teachers and other employees state-wide are packing up their offices and desks and the next round or two is likely to be much, much worse in the coming years. Any service organization spends 80-90% of the budget on staff salaries and wages, most of them front-line types who are serving children. Buckle up, folks; the easy part is over.

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Ken Lassman 4 years, 1 month ago

Did, And yet serving on the Community Task Force, in addition to providing a buffer to the Administration to delegate out difficult decisions, is much better than the alternative since it offers at least the possibility of greater transparency. I think it is imperative that the Task Force demand that it have access to administrative expenses that nobody has been able to access in the past. We have all been at the mercy of the administrators who decide what they will show us and what they choose not to make available.

If the Task Force cannot get more transparency from those administrators who seem to be limiting cuts to direct support staffing, then they need to call a spade a spade and disband. If cuts are made to administrative areas as well, then the public should know this and be satisfied that the district is doing everything it can do to deal with the funding shortfalls.

In other words, Task Forces CAN result in greater transparency, which is what should and can happen. It's up to the folks who have gotten involved in the public efforts to ensure that this happens.

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Benjamin Roberts 4 years, 1 month ago

Kookamooka (anonymous) says… "The Community Task Force is going to be a great way to harness the energy and intelligence of some of the best parental minds in Lawrence."

I agree. I do believe there is a caveat, though. I hate to cut and paste, however, here is my take on this as posted on an earlier editorial.

This is going to be a very difficult challenge. It is possible that the community members appointed to this task force, some of whom may have fought to save elementary schools, may find themselves in the position of recommending a school closing. Although the conclusion may be supported with research and reason, it will still be quite unpopular. However, the Board will be acting within its own policy at that point in time.

Politically speaking, this was a very smart move for the Board of Education. The burden of proof for any future school closure was removed from them, along with much of the political fall-out. Any blame will effectively fall upon the task force: deserved, or not.

Those appointed to this council had best be able to truly say that they are interested in the health of all Lawrence Schools. Many, during the budget crisis made such a claim - an appointee to the task force will have to have the mettle to back-up that claim. Good luck to any chosen for this ominous duty. You will soon learn what you meant when you said, “I want to thank the Board for volunteering to perform a thankless job.”

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Paul R Getto 4 years, 1 month ago

So far, so good. The implementation will be difficult and interesting to watch. Without substantial legislative action, next year's cuts will be at least twice as painful as those just implemented and the year after could be much worse. The community committees, properly informed and well-led, will give a wider audience insights into the complexity of the problem. Understanding is good for everyone involved. For the most part, this isn't rocket science, but the 'blast-off' will be painful for many.

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Kookamooka 4 years, 1 month ago

The Community Task Force is going to be a great way to harness the energy and intelligence of some of the best parental minds in Lawrence. The administration has always had carte banche with the school board. It's time they showed everyone their cards.

The school board with the support of the community task force and the SONS organization should be able to slowly come to terms with the real core of the numbers crisis at USD497 and with savvy P.R. and transparent reporting, the community at large will be able to move toward the major changes that will be needed in the future. Then it won't feel like the ADMIN is pulling the rug out from anyone unexpectedly. The task force, as long as they keep us all up to date, is a really good idea.

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gregsharp 4 years, 1 month ago

Everyone has to realize this is only going to get worse. Our GDP is based on 70 percent consumption. My family stopped our excessive consumption so no tax revenues for state and we are not going back to that way of life ever

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igby 4 years, 1 month ago

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

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ivalueamerica 4 years, 1 month ago

Did anyone note the photo on the LJW.com front page with this story? Children cleaning the tables.

I wonder...are they teaching the children to clean up after themselves, or are they using child labor to replace janitors?

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mdrndgtl 4 years, 1 month ago

Agreed, janey. I can't believe the board is so bold as to assume just any principal can step up and do a librarian's work. Not one of these adminstrators even holds a minor in card-catalog history, much less a full-on library degree. Disgraceful.

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Benjamin Roberts 4 years, 1 month ago

@ ravenjayhawk - The number of teacher retirements this year almost matches the number of reductions. There may be a few non-tenured that will not be renewed due to step-downs of learning coaches.

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Hop2It 4 years, 1 month ago

"ravenjayhawk (anonymous) says… 2-3 more students per class is not the end of the world concerning class sizes much larger were the norm in earlier years & many great students were turned out then"

That might be true if it is classrooms that only have 13-15 students.
However, some schools' classrooms in Lawrence are literally full. Some elementary classes have 25-28 students, and also serve ESL children, children with special needs other children that would NOT have been in the regular classrooms in your "earlier years."

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ravenjayhawk 4 years, 1 month ago

Every 1.1 million needed add one more student/classroom. Not a bad choice to get thru a year or two to get thru this tough time. 2-3 more students per class is not the end of the world concerning class sizes much larger were the norm in earlier years & many great students were turned out then. Salaries are 85% of the problem. No one with tenure I'm sure would be affected with this.

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cutny 4 years, 1 month ago

I just wonder why boys don't have to help girls clean off whatever happens to be on the bottom of a desk leg. Bad picture. Jeez.

Closing the East Heights Early Development Center is shameful. I got NO kids, and my property taxes help the city, state, and federal government pay to keep this center open. Where do the tax dollars go, if not to fund a low-income resource for the working people?

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Olympics 4 years, 1 month ago

The picture made me realize how much I appreciate the use of child labor to clean the classrooms. Custodial staff savings $$$$!

Also the tiny hands of children can get into hard to reach corners and those cleaning chemicals won't disrupt that much of their gender identities/reproductive organs. .

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GardenMomma 4 years, 1 month ago

I just want to know why TWO athletic fields were built? The high schools shared one field when they leased Haskell; why not build just one and have them share it too? That would have saved HALF the money spent on the fields which could have been spent on repairing a roof, replacing portables with real classrooms, making a school ADA compliant, etc.

Anyone know the real reason TWO athletic fields were built? I'm just curious.

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J Good Good 4 years, 1 month ago

It is my understanding that moving the upper grades to New York is a way to make room at Kennedy for the preschool kids. They don't plan to move New York k-3 to Kennedy. When East Heights closed as a grade school, most of those kids were sent to Kennedy. I think this is a way of making the boundaries what they should have been in the first place. And it is not "barely being used" AJsmomma. The boundaries of most schools are mostly residential and New York's include an industrial and other non-residential areas. The school board can use the school more efficiently than they have. That being said, it is a great school and the neighborhood has more families all the time. I am thrilled to see it stay open.

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Benjamin Roberts 4 years, 1 month ago

@ walkthehawk - How dare you! That was my conspiracy theory.

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walkthehawk 4 years, 1 month ago

I wonder... if Kennedy and New York become split grades schools, with New York taking 4th, 5th, and 6th grades... what happens to New York when the junior high to middle school transition occurs and it's left with only 4th and 5th grades? Are we going to be having this same "not enough kids to justify the school" conversation all over again? (And are we intentionally setting it up that way?)

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macon47 4 years, 1 month ago

what a pitiful photo of the little kids cleaning the class room if that doenst tug at the hearts nothing will perhaps the mommies could fix lunch and the daddies could mow the school grass on weekends. after all, it is all about the kids what a bunch of smoke and mirrors

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Benjamin Roberts 4 years, 1 month ago

ajsmomma (anonymous) says… "The SONS group should be pleased. Save a school worth $400,00 that is barely being used, and cut $400,000 worth in jobs. Wow!"

The loss of jobs was always a part of the remedy; 85% of the budget is personnel. The fact is, SONS offered cuts that would have saved most of those jobs. WVBC did the same. Closing a school would also result in job loss since there is no longer a school in which to teach. The community suggested aggressive cuts to personnel at the administration level; administration did not agree and offered the board direct support personnel cuts.

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Clevercowgirl 4 years, 1 month ago

And so starts the finger pointing. In light of these difficult economic times, the school district is going to begin cutting back, and setting priorities, just as most of us have had to do at home. The shame, I think, is making budget decisions in crises mode. I would like the district to have an anonymous employee suggestions line, which would help identify ways to save money. I would like to see the school board to enact a means for the public to donate to a specific educational need. I would like the district to form a separate task force just for investigating means of additional education funding for our kids. We have the smarts and desire and energy in our community to work out a solution for funding schools, and programs. Let's direct our energy to a higher level than finger pointing.

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Jeremy DeBoard 4 years, 1 month ago

Wow toe, I didn't know those who worked in the public school systems didn't pay taxes.

And public schools don't respect taxpayers? I suppose the 1/4 of a child's life spent in school from age 4 or 5 to age 17 or 18, all the while getting an education to carry themselves onto college and the rest of the lives isn't respectful towards their tax paying parents.

Disrespectful would be the public schools saying "We're too big to fail, so you must give us even more money than ever before so we can stay afloat and make more profit off of you." Last time I checked, public schools all over are making cuts to their budgets, with no new taxes or new money being dumped into them.

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ajsmomma 4 years, 1 month ago

The SONS group should be pleased. Save a school worth $400,00 that is barely being used, and cut $400,000 worth in jobs. Wow!

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toe 4 years, 1 month ago

There has always been fat in the budget. This new budget proves it. When public schools have respect for taxpayers, taxpayers will have respect for public schools.

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fcoughlin 4 years, 1 month ago

Where are the SOS people now? There's a school closing! Oh wait, your kid probably doesn't go to that one. I forgot what this is really about.

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paulette2 4 years, 1 month ago

lionbacker above missed the point!

it's not about athletic improvements - those were long needed.

but Astro-Turf x 8 fields? and duplicate stadiums while Blue Valley has 5 high schools use 2 stadiums?

and the interest cost which Merrill believes comes not from Capital Outlay but out of general revenue to the tune of $250,000 per year for the next 10 years.

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paulette2 4 years, 1 month ago

ShePrecedes is correct / Not only that! but the expenses are ongoing and the current work incomplete.

How much has really been spent on these projects to date?

some say more than $15 MILLION, and still incomplete?

LHS stadium does not yet have restrooms, a pressbox for the stadium or ADA access to the proposed pressbox yet. And, the perimeter drainage system between the neighbors and LHS and between the neighbors and CVS/tennis courts is still flooding backyards and sidewalks in the area with incomplete construction.

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Christine Pennewell Davis 4 years, 1 month ago

not sure about the plans for kennedy don't think splitting the grades up is a good idea.

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commuter 4 years, 1 month ago

Now the fun really begins. It is going to be interesting watching people defnd their school again to this Community Task Force. I am hoping this task force looks out for all of Lawrence not just saving the small schools at all costs. the boundary committee was pretty much worthless during Weseman's term. I knew a lady on the committee whose only focus was changing the boundary so her kids would not have to go to Central. It is pretty funny though, in order to get to Central, I have to drive through an area that goes to West.

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ShePrecedes 4 years, 1 month ago

I would love to see some regret expressed over building a stupidly, expandedly expensive sports complex. I mean, that was one senseless and costly act by the board.

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Clevercowgirl 4 years, 1 month ago

The costs of war hit our society. The costs of the federal deficit will hit us long and hard as well. No matter what happens, I feel that we need to be committed, as a community to educate our children to the best possible level. Every child has their school. It doesen't have to be fancy, or new, or big. What it does need to provide in order to foster success in our children are good teachers, parental support, some equipment and books, and yes, a group of friends and parents who will work tirelessly to create an environment for success. I am very proud of our shool Board to have come so far, and navagated through this problem. Yes, there are some casualties, but all in all, we as a community worked through to a decision , that made more sense than not. Not perfect, but what is, with a bad set of circumstance to begin with.

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demonfury 4 years, 1 month ago

Mary Loveland indicates that personnel is 85% of the budget, yet this board is way too stupid, and self preserving to realize that a very small pay adjustment from all personnel would fix the problem altogether. It's absolutely unbelievable how ignorant, literally ignorant, this board is about the easiest solution to this problem, yet never approached it. Only 1 board member mentioned it early on in a smaller capacity, and then dumped it come crunch time. I for one will voice my disgust with my vote in the next general election. Absolutely no one should lose their job except these incompetent board members. Adjust the payroll, and fix the problem. I would voluntarily sacrifice 3-5% of my pay to save my job, and the jobs of the educators that teach, nurture, and care for my children's education. A tiny price to pay to avoid what's about to come. Another solid link in the school board chain of stupid. This is what happens when you vote straight party ticket. Same thing is happening in our City Government, State Government, and Federal Government. See a pattern here?

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 1 month ago

Taxpayers in Lawrence, Kansas will pay $209.9 million for total Iraq and Afghanistan war spending since 2001. For the same amount of money, the following could have been provided: 67,135 People with Health Care for One Year OR

4,973 Public Safety Officers for One year OR

4,572 Music and Arts Teachers for One Year OR

34,118 Scholarships for University Students for One Year OR

37,825 Students receiving Pell Grants of $5550 OR

2,522 Affordable Housing Units OR

121,048 Children with Health Care for One Year OR

34,739 Head Start Places for Children for One Year OR

4,515 Elementary School Teachers for One Year OR

216,117 Homes with Renewable Electricity for One Year

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Richard Heckler 4 years, 1 month ago

Leading Education Scholar Diane Ravitch: No Child Left Behind Has Left US Schools with Legacy of “Institutionalized Fraud”

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/5/protests

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lionbacker 4 years, 1 month ago

hey paul, to some of us tax payers, the ahletic programs at the schools are a very important part of the high school experience. I know it is an easy arguement for you to complain about athletics, but it would be no different, if I said, lets cut the music programs, or the tech class, or the french club. It is all a matter of preference. If you dont like the way they are handling the money, then run for the school board. if not, let the people chosen to do what they think is right.

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paulette2 4 years, 1 month ago

OOPS i forgot all those administrators were busy with the new athletic field construction last year and never had the 'capital outlay' money to fix the LHS roof during the last year!

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paulette2 4 years, 1 month ago

how about repairing roof leaks at LHS and repairing the fracturing brickwork on the southeast corner of LHS facing Louisiana before further deterioration?

oh wait -- those athletic fields had priority from the capital outlay fund while the roof at LHS leaks and degrades the roof structure?

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conservative 4 years, 1 month ago

It was a gutless short term decision. Next year the budget will be just as bad if not worse and they will be faced with closing schools and not having money on hand for texts of contingencies.

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janey 4 years, 1 month ago

Have a principal take the role of librarian?? Do they have a library degree or does the superintendent just assume that all librarians do are read stories and check out books. They are teaching reading groups, research, technology, etc. Counselors also have a busy role- not just something anyone can do!

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