Archive for Sunday, May 9, 2010

Elementary task force to start ‘community conversation’

May 9, 2010


Lawrence school board members on Monday plan to define a group that will study the district’s elementary schools in the next year.

The idea of the community task force was born earlier this year, when board members agreed not to close any elementary schools as they made $4.6 million in budget cuts.

“The conversation is really important. It needs to be a community conversation,” Superintendent Rick Doll said. “Lawrence has needed to have this conversation for a number of years.”

Nearly 30 people have expressed interest in serving on the task force. Board members and administrators said they plan to target a group of 20 to 25 people.

During their meeting 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive, board members plan to discuss what the task force will look at once it’s formed and starts meeting in the summer.

Doll said administrators recommend the task force examine historically what the district has done with its elementary schools. The district is roughly split between students who attend 10 older, smaller elementary schools and ones who go to five larger, newer schools.

School officials have said the group likely will consider several complex issues, such as weighing preserving neighborhood schools vs. budget constraints — plus some new concepts, such as developing magnet schools, an idea that has gained traction with district leaders.

One possible piece of contention could come from how task force members will be selected.

Members of Save Our Neighborhood Schools, vocal during the budget discussions, have said a mix of 29 stakeholder groups should be able to appoint one person, including each elementary school plus representatives of other groups, such as the city, county and Kansas University.

President Scott Morgan said the school board still needs to discuss particulars but currently the plan would be to have Doll appoint the community members on the task force with board approval.

During meetings with parents in recent months, Doll has said the district is looking for open-minded people to serve on the task force. However, on Friday he said it will likely be a politically diverse group.

“If we don’t put people on the committee who are passionate about education and to represent different aspects of our community, then the recommendation that they make will have no credibility,” Doll said. “We need a credible task force that will be able to make a series of credible recommendations.”

Board member Rich Minder, who is expected to be board president starting in July, said the task force’s work will be part of an important year. The district is also seeking input about reconfiguring its schools because the district will go from three- to four-grade high schools in 2011-2012. Sixth-grade students will move into middle schools with seventh- and eighth-grades.

Minder would also like to see the district’s boundary committee activated because of all the changes.

“It’s a really exciting time,” he said. “We can get a lot of people in the community engaged in a lot of different ways and really over a period of time build a pretty strong community consensus around where we’re going as a district and as a community.”


Stephen Roberts 8 years ago

Why should 29 "stakeholders" groups be allowed to appoint 1 person to this task force, easy so the small schools will be protected at all costs. Do the members of the SONS group realize that a commitee of 29 is too large to come to an agreement?? Probally not.

The district needs to appoint the members. Who cares about what KU thinks on this issue. Does KU let USD497 sit on any of their committees that affect the school district??

Kookamooka 8 years ago

Wow. Doll gets to hand pick the task force. Convenient. I'm guessing that he'll be hand feeding them the information he wants them to have. I hope someone is considering oversight issues and fact checks the administration. An education reporter?

weeslicket 8 years ago

agreed. 29 people on a committe is too many. the groups of stakeholders should be chosing their own representatives, and not dr. doll. ku deserves no place at that table.

Paul R Getto 8 years ago

This will be an interesting and, at times frustrating, process. In an effort to reform delivery systems, much discussion is needed. As buildings age the pressures will be on to build larger schools. There is some efficiency in this, but care must be taken not to damage the 'family' atmosphere in schools of 2-3 hundred students. There are ways to build larger schools which preserve this feeling and which are more efficient, but they are not always popular. The neighborhood concept is obsolete, but it will be a monumental struggle to get beyond this fiction in neighborhoods where people often tout their solidarity but cannot name all the people who live on their block and the next one over. Schools are America's strength and its treasure; bringing them into the 21st century, as will all our major institutions, will not be an easy task. I support the concept of the task force and am always in favor of discussion.

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