Archive for Monday, April 11, 2011

First Bell: Boundary changes proposed to handle Wakarusa Valley closure; Follies to feature ‘School Board Meeting: The Musical’; voters want their voices heard

April 11, 2011


A few education-oriented items from around the area:

Tonight, members of the Lawrence school board will consider approving boundary changes for the next school year, to accommodate changes associated with the upcoming closure of Wakarusa Valley School.

Here’s the formal description of the boundary changes up for approval, listed by school and provided by the district:

• Broken Arrow: The proposed Broken Arrow boundary will expand to include the current Wakarusa Valley attendance area south of the South Lawrence Trafficway from the current Broken Arrow boundary west to the western boundary of the district. There are an estimated 89 students who will be in grades K-5 in 2011-2012 currently attending Wakarusa Valley that live in this area.

• Sunflower: The proposed Sunflower boundary will expand to include the current Wakarusa Valley attendance area north of the South Lawrence Trafficway from the current Sunflower boundary east to Iowa Street. There are an estimated 50 students who will be in grades K-5 in 2011-2012 currently attending Wakarusa Valley that live in this area.

• Schwegler: The proposed Schwegler boundary will expand to include the Parkmar neighborhood, which is along the east side of Kasold Drive south of Clinton Parkway. This area is currently in the Broken Arrow attendance area. There are an estimated 29 students who will be in grades K-5 in 2011-2012 currently attending Broken Arrow that live in this area.

The board meeting is set for 7 p.m. at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.


Time for another reminder that the 2011 Foundation Follies are coming up.

The big event — which raises money for the Lawrence Schools Foundation and its Teacher Innovation Grant Fund and the Funds For Excellence grant program — is set for 7 p.m. April 15 at Liberty Hall. Tickets are $35.

I’ve never been to one of these, and I’m actually looking forward to this year’s edition.

Among the acts: “School Board Meeting: The Musical,” a take, I’m told, on “High School Musical.” I haven’t seen that either.

Among the cast members for the local production: Rick Doll, superintendent; Kim Bodensteiner, chief academic officer; and Frank Harwood, chief operations officer.

No word yet on whether they’ll be playing themselves or taking on alter egos. But Harwood was willing to play along when I asked him the other day how he and his fellow cast members could be gathering for a rehearsal.

“This is not a public meeting,” he said, with a laugh. “This is an executive session — we’re discussing personnel.”

This I did confirm: There were no actual school board members in attendance, so their ability to rehearse “behind closed doors” was well within the law.

The performance will very much be out in the public soon enough: again, 7 p.m. April 15.

For more information, contact the foundation office at 330-2790 or visit


All four incoming members of the Lawrence school board campaigned in recent weeks about the importance of the public being included, educated and informed regarding district finances, issues and challenges.

Actually, most every candidate mentioned at some point the importance of “transparency” regarding budgets and other issues, and the necessity of including the community in decisions during the months and years ahead.

Such sentiments aren’t all that surprising, I suppose, but I did find myself struck — both on and leading up to Election Day — with just how strong such messages seemed to be gaining support among voters. As I visited with people about their hopes for the board, they often mentioned past decisions about athletics fields, or school closings, or land purchases, or budget cuts or something else that hadn’t sat well with them.

Kay Jenista, voting at First Southern Baptist Church, pretty much summed up a common refrain.

“I hope they will listen to people,” the former school nurse said.

With plenty of issues and changes ongoing — a process for school consolidation this month, plus talk about assessment scores, high school renovations and the role of choice in high school attendance areas during the weeks ahead — I’m sure board members will have plenty of opportunities to keep their ears open.


LadyJ 4 years ago

Wonder if the families getting kicked out of Broken Arrow were expecting this?

LadyJ 4 years ago

Oh, and Mark, could we get a map tomorrow showing current boundaries and proposed boundaries?

mfagan 4 years ago

Hello, Lady J. I don't have a map -- I'm in Wichita right now -- but the changes to Broken Arrow areas would be as follows, as I understand it: 1. Students who live in the Easy Living Mobile Home Park, by Target, would go from Wakarusa Valley to Broken Arrow. 2. Students who live in the neighborhood along the east side of Kasold, from Clinton Parkway to 31st Street -- think of where all that road construction is right now -- would go from Broken Arrow to Schwegler. 3. All the other Wakarusa Valley students, as I understand it, would go to Broken Arrow. Well, almost all -- I'm not sure where students who had "transferred in" to Wakarusa Valley would be expected to attend, although I'd imagine transfers would be considered... Hope this helps. Here's a link to the memo from tonight's meeting agenda: - Mark Fagan Schools reporter

KSManimal 4 years ago

"I’ve never been to one of these, and I’m actually looking forward to this year’s edition."

Better stand back..... I.S.S. will take your head clean off.


cato_the_elder 4 years ago

Mark: Stay home. It's been a generally painful experience ever since it began in the early '90s with Superintendent Dan Neuenschwander dressed as a hippie singing songs from "Hair."

fanaddict 4 years ago

Have you been lately? I've attended the last 4 years or so and found them hilarious! Last year Southwest Junior High did "Zombie Teachers”…they rocked!

jackson5 4 years ago

HIGH SCHOOL RENOVATIONS?!?! with what funds? The justification for the athletic fields was that there were left over bond funds that could only be used at the High schools. Now those funds are gone (plus some!) and we are just now hearing about necessary HS renovations?

And speaking of transparency, when was this discussed by the board? Love your column, Mark, but folks shouldn't have to find out this stuff out through a blog - it should be posted to the school website and included in board minutes. Other districts list future capital improvements and their costs, and other districts have facilities advisory boards staffed by the public though an application process. Why not USD497?

GardenMomma 4 years ago

I would think that with the sixth graders moving out, there should be ample space to accomodate the influx of new students without having any "families getting kicked out of Broken Arrow"

In fact, according to the capacity document, there are going to be 101 seats available next year at Broken Arrow, so accomodating 86 should be fine. No one should be kicked out of Broken Arrow. I hope.

workinghard 4 years ago

What is the portable classroom at Sunflower used for? With sixth graders gone, will a portable be needed or will they need more with more students?

kjh 4 years ago

See folks, this is what we've had to deal with. GardenMomma raises a valid point - "according to capacity documents there are going to be 101 seats available next year at Broken Arrow, so accommodating 86 should be fine." It's a moving target people. It's only 101 when you want your numbers to show that you can easily close a school and move kids. When you have to actually do it, the plan gets more complicated, but that information wouldn't have looked as convincing to everyone when trying to railroad the school closings. You have to wonder, if there had been full transparency, how many more people would have joined the fight against this poorly thought out plan. The problem is, it's hard to tell what the REAL plan is!

kjh 4 years ago

And while I'm at it, am I the only person who finds it incredibly disrespectful and in poor taste in the current climate for district personnel to poke fun at the school board meetings? I don't really care what the context is, now is not the time.

WinterMeadows 4 years ago

No, the families that currently attend Broken Arrow were not expecting this change....Why would they??

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