Archive for Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Bell: Math medalists add to school board festivities; $5,142 for a hotel?; Reader’s Digest hails Homecoming King

April 13, 2011


A few education-oriented items from around the area and elsewhere:

Related document

Math honorees ( .DOCX )

Monday night’s Lawrence school board meeting included plenty of decisions and discussions regarding important topics, including budgets, taxes, full-day kindergarten, school names and potential future school consolidations.

Good thing the meeting started off on a more celebratory note.

Board members recognized a long line of students who had won honors in recent weeks and months. Among them were Yuan “Jenny” Xu, a presidential scholar candidate from Lawrence High School; and Stefan Petrovic, a student at South Junior High School who won the state-level competition of the National Geographic Bee.

Also recognized were winners in the Kansas City Area Teachers of Mathematics Contest, which attracted 1,000 students to take math tests during a Saturday morning at Olathe East High School.

Dozens of winners filled seats in the board meeting room, many of them proudly wearing their medals earned during the competition. One by one they filed up to the front, shaking hands with each board member and Superintendent Rick Doll, the students’ parents often taking photos or shooting video of the occasion.

Rich Minder, president of the school board, summed up the mood: “The entire district and the board is proud of every single student who has won. All of you students should be proud of yourselves. We’re all very proud of you.”

As the students left the room to collect certificates, Minder glanced over at his fellow board members: “My school days were never as successful. I’m humbled.”

To see a list of the winners, download the document at the side of this story.


An astute reader pointed out an interesting expenditure from a board “bank statement reconciliation” report tucked inside a Lawrence school board agenda packet awhile back.

The item: A $5,142.22 check written by Free State High School to The Palmer House, a hotel in Chicago.

The reader’s concern: The Palmer House is a high-end property, he said, one that clearly would be outside the price range of anyone making a business trip, much less someone from a school district struggling with budget cuts.

Kathy Johnson, the district’s division director of finance, sent an explanation to members of the Lawrence school board, who had caught wind of the expenditure.

“This is a check paying for Model UN Students to attend the Model UN conference in Chicago,” Johnson said, noting that the check covered expenses for 17 students and one adult sponsor. “All revenues that paid for conference expenses are from the students, who pay their way in full.

“The district/school collected the money from the students, and then made the travel arrangements as a block on behalf of the students and then subsequently paid the bills for the trip.

“No General Fund or other district funds supported this trip. It was all student paid. On occasion students may do some fund raising but there was no fund raising done this year to support Model UN club students’ travel to the conference.”


Owen Phariss may have been on top when he was named Homecoming King, but now he’s really hit the big time.

The Free State High School senior is the subject of a story, “Best Royal Family,” in the May issue of Reader’s Digest. The content isn’t online yet, but it’s very much in print.

“It’s so cool,” said Owen’s mom, Nancy Holmes, who already has bought up more than a half dozen copies of the national periodical. “He knows it’s big-time stuff. I got one copy and took it to school, and showed it to everybody, waiting for them all there in the commons.

“Everybody’s pumped about it. They think it’s way cool.”

The story is about Owen, a student with Down Syndrome, and his friends who helped change a school practice that previously had prevented students with disabilities from being eligible for the Homecoming Court.

We ran a story about Owen’s situation in September. A quick update: Holmes reports that her son plans to attend either junior college or a four-year university in the fall.

“We’re still trying to decide where to send him,” she said.

Sounds like he might have something to put on the essay portion of the application.


tolawdjk 6 years, 10 months ago

I've stayed at the Palmer House.

It might have been high end at one time. Not so much now. Head up to River North and you will hit "high end".

Either way, that comes out to 250 and change per person. For Chicago, this isn't out of the ordinary. Sure, you could find somewhere cheeper, then you are dealing with transportation for 18 to the site (I assume it was at the Palmer). For 18 that is impossible to do with one sponsor in cabs, probably impossible with a charter van, and a two train hop (nothing cheep on the Red Line where the Palmer is located).

Logistically and fiscally, to me anyway, it looks like the right choice.

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 10 months ago

Agree, a little extra reporting beyond "golly, that's a lot of money" would have been nice.

The gaudy number seems to be all the media is interested in anymore. Reasonable explanations have gone the way of the dodo. Even in providing the response from the district, the only concern is the gaudy number.

Kash_Encarri 6 years, 10 months ago

Fagan is getting lazy. He did point out that this was paid for by the students attending, but really didn't place enough emphasis on that fact.

Also, a little research would show that staying at the Palmer, or at the very least something within close proximity, is a necessity for achieving the full experience of Model UN.

This is a non-issue that could have been explained directly to the "astute reader" with an e-mail instead of trying to make something out of it by putting it in the blog.

Kash_Encarri 6 years, 10 months ago

Why place it in a story at all? If only one person questioned it, why not simply answer that person directly?

The way it is written makes it look like they were trying to hide something "An astute reader pointed out an interesting expenditure from a board “bank statement reconciliation” report tucked inside a Lawrence school board agenda packet"

It's a non-story that didn't need to be put into print, but then if Mark doesn't try to sensationalize something he might have a hard time justifying his job.

Kash_Encarri 6 years, 10 months ago

And lest I forget, congrats to Owen on being featured in Reader's Digest, and to Audrey Hughes and Aly Frydman for being instrumental in getting the administration to correct a rule that was just flat out wrong.

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