Archive for Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lawrence school board moves forward with consolidation planning

April 26, 2011


Appointees to a citizen working group will be charged with figuring out how to trim the roster of six elementary schools in central and eastern Lawrence to either four or three within the next two to three years.

And the 27 volunteers will be on the job by July 1.

“Let’s get it on and get it done,” said Bob Byers, one of three Lawrence school board members with two years remaining on their terms. “We really need to get this on. It’s time to move, and let’s get it started.”

Byers and his six colleagues agreed unanimously Monday night to form the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Working Group, whose yet-to-be-appointed members will include four from each of six schools previously identified as candidates for consolidation.

The members of the working group will be split into two committees, in which they will be able to voice concerns, address issues and form recommendations regarding areas where consolidation is expected:

• Members from Hillcrest and Sunset Hill schools will focus on consolidation in the central part of town.

• Members from Cordley, Kennedy and New York will focus on consolidation in the eastern part of Lawrence.

• The four members from Pinckney School will be split, with two serving on the central committee and two on the eastern committee.

• One member will be appointed at large, to serve as chair.

• Two members will represent Woodlawn School, even though the school was not identified as a consolidation candidate by the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force, another appointed group whose own eight months of work paved the way to close Wakarusa Valley School at the end of this school year and to call for closing either two or three more through consolidation.

Board member Vanessa Sanburn suggested granting Woodlawn a spot at the table, given the school’s relatively small size and concern among some North Lawrence residents that the neighborhood school could get lost in the shuffle.

Board member Scott Morgan supported the addition of Woodlawn, describing the expansion as a way to protect the “fragile process” from collapsing under a lack of trust.

“If this helps strengthen that trust, it’s worth including,” said Morgan, who served as co-chairman of the previous task force and is among four board members leaving the board July 1.

Others aren’t so sure. Sarah Casad told board members that she disagreed with the prospects of consolidation, especially as it would pertain to her Hillcrest neighborhood. If Hillcrest’s students ended up being sent to an expanded Sunset Hill, she figures, residences could shift away from single-family ownership.

“I would beg you not to hurry into this,” she said.

Rick Ingram, who finished first in the board election April 5, maintains that the board would be better off setting its plan in motion after July 1. That would be after he and three new members — a majority of the seven-member board — had been sworn into office.

“There are many ways to build trust,” said Ingram, a professor of psychology at Kansas University, who wants the entire community to determine whether consolidation should be pursued. “You don’t build trust by going to the community and saying, ‘Here’s what you’re going to do; go figure it out.’”

But that’s exactly what current board members insist must happen. The task force had concluded that the district has too many elementary schools operating during times in which operational budgets continue to shrink.

The task force’s vision, reaffirmed Monday night, calls for proposing a bond issue to address physical needs in what would be the district’s remaining elementary schools — to be remodeled, expanded or even built anew.

For decades, Morgan said, board members inevitably have faced two choices when looking for savings: either cut facilities, or cut teachers and other employees. Now, as budgets continue to be cut, he sees it as imperative that remaining buildings be especially efficient and effective.

Without consolidation, Morgan said, he’d be pushing to close two more schools at the end of this year. Other board members have lamented plans to dip into district savings accounts, calling such spending unsustainable.

“We need to put this to rest,” Morgan said.

Superintendent Rick Doll said he would appoint members to the working group by July 1.


irvan moore 4 years, 5 months ago

morgan talks about strengthening trust?

GardenMomma 4 years, 5 months ago

This is going to get ugly. I would hope that logic and reason are the determining factors rather than politics and personal agendas. However, I fear it will pit school against school and drive communities apart rather than bringing them closer together.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

This task force is truly a questionable activity.


  1. Because this is not an advisory board situation with any authority.

  2. The group will not have options - their ONLY option is consolidation

  3. The group cannot come back with a NO consolidation verdict because it will not be honored.

This is an action that puts on the appearance of "community input" nothing more. This board has its' mind made up. Build more new buildings no matter the cost. Grab your wallets! We taxpayers are NOT saving any money.

Last night this board chose NOT to repair the roof at Kennedy school roof just in case it is not used. This is negligence.

When did USD 497 taxpayers ever say to the BOE "DO NOT maintain property properly that belongs to USD 497 taxpayers"?

How many years has been the unwritten policy of USD 497? USD 497 taxpayers need to change this authority.

notanota 4 years, 5 months ago

They just went through a whole bunch of expensive upgrades to move East Heights over there, and now they're going to let the place rot?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

The unwritten policy that dictates patchwork vs doing the job right got USD 497 to this point. Which to me demonstrates gross negligence:

How should the school district pay for a $16.5 million maintenance backlog in elementary schools?

How many decades or years has this been acceptable policy?

Which leaves teachers and other staff dealing with buckets catching drips in the classrooms until staff can patch it. The point was made last night that if mounds of snow have accumulated on the roof the leaks cannot be patched until the snow melts off.

Kookamooka 4 years, 5 months ago

The State Dept of Ed REQUIRES all school districts to go with the lowest bidder when deciding on contractors. This was supposed to be a way of protecting the taxpayers. It's sort of backfired. USD497 couldn't go with a qualified and experienced contractor unless they are the lowest bidder. get the guys who don't know what they are doing, doing the job. I've seen it over and over again.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

Why wasn't the discussion of Kennedy roof repair in the paper?

melott 4 years, 5 months ago

This is just a continuation of the policies that have been going on for at least 10 years. The cure is to elect different people to the school board. 15% voter turnout and lack of interest in local issues is to blame. Now, we have some new people elected, and they are being careful to rush this along and not let them have any input. This should cause an uproar. And letters should be written to the newspaper, rather than posted here. It is not difficult.

notanota 4 years, 5 months ago

I looked over the choices. Should we have gone with a write-in candidate? I really didn't see anyone who would have done it differently.

Kontum1972 4 years, 5 months ago

i really think a duel would be super....musket pistols or swords...or broad axes

Kontum1972 4 years, 5 months ago

then there was that ploy to sell the Kansas Lottery....(it will generate more revenue for our schools).......LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL....!

Soapbox 4 years, 5 months ago

Why not call it what the parents of kids who go there, the kids in the school and the High Schooler's that have been there call it....THE DRUG SCHOOL!!!

beaujackson 4 years, 5 months ago

The real question should be: " Why are so many families (either) sending their children to private schools or, are having them home-schooled?

This is a complicated and important question that needs to be explored.

Also, what impact does rental houses to KU students within single-family zoned areas have on elementary schools. It's obvious that student rentals do not provide elementary students. Could lack of students caused by student rentals be the reason for closure of elementary schools in central Lawrence? Are poor zoning regulations be the ultimate reason for turmoil in elementary school enrollment for the past 20 years?

Central Lawrence houses are worth more for rentals to unrelated (KU students) than to families.

What percentage of houses in Single family zoned areas in central Lawrence are occupied by students?

Are faulty zoning-ordinances and poor enforcement be the REAL problem for distribution of elementary age children?

Why is this not an issue?

LHS56 4 years, 5 months ago

And when is the Board going to "announce" we need an additional high school? They will need another bond issue for the grade school remodels. They are already committed for one million dollars a year for "leasing" the sports complexes that were built - without approval by the taxpayers. Ohhh....and they just happened to have eight million dollars in the capital improvement pool at the time and I guess needed a reason to spent it. When will government learn that one only should spent what they have and not borrow our children's future. Why are private schools and home schooling taking our kids from public schools? In my opinion, because of lack of leadership from the administration and Board over the past 15 years. Lawrence had the best schools in the State. Now one must look to the East - Olathe and Blue Valley.

Soapbox 4 years, 5 months ago

In my opinion, because of lack of leadership from liberals!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

Most all neighborhoods have rental units spread throughout.

Let's take a look at the Task Force recommendations:

The Task Force did a great deal of research, study and fact‐finding in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the complex issues presented by our district’s elementary facilities. Following this gathering of information, the Task Force refined many recommendations, goals and thoughts down to 12 basic criteria or goals that we used in reaching consensus and which we believe should be used going forward .

These are:

The district should • Fully utilize elementary school locations before constructing new schools at new locations, • Plan for a capacity of approximately 300 to 500 students at all elementary schools, • Plan for equity in terms of learning environments across the district, • Plan for all‐day kindergarten at all schools in the future, • Eliminate all portables at elementary schools, • Plan for flexibility to accommodate changes to programs in the future, • Plan for investment to address aging facilities, • Deploy services in a differentiated manner such that all schools receive the services and programs they need, • Strive to create and maintain schools that embody such a community that every school is a community school, • Ensure that as many children as possible are able to walk or bike to school if they choose to do so, • Incorporate best practices that research suggests have a greater impact on student achievement than school and class size, • Plan to provide minimum 720 square foot classrooms for grades 1‐5 and 900 square foot classrooms for Kindergarten in existing schools.

Unfortunately these can be left to interpretation however the first recommendation seems to be falling by the wayside. Last night Scott Morgan was ready to close two more schools which makes me wonder who are his advisors?

Ensure that as many children as possible are able to walk or bike to school if they choose to do so .... how can be this be done when some on this board are so eager to build new schools?

Where does the current board to build new schools? Surely someone or two has strong thinking on this matter. Why not reveal?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

Some BOE members seem to think that a bond issue is a done deal which is say what is plan B if a bond issue fails?

What is plan B?

Soapbox 4 years, 5 months ago

A new drug school for liberals children!

Brian Hall 4 years, 5 months ago

For some people, consolidation means that, yes, their school will be shut down but they get to go to a nice new school like the people on the west side and their kids will more than likely still be at the same school as the friends they've had since Kindergarten.

So, yeah. Same thing, different spin.

Clevercowgirl 4 years, 5 months ago

More circle logic coming our way!

"We have to have the community tell us how to close/consolidate schools." Then:

"We have to close/consolidate these schools because the community told us to."

(After all we can't disrespect all the time and effort they (we) put into it)

Synjyn Smythe 4 years, 5 months ago

"Kansas University will work with a consulting group to review its administrative practices and identify cost savings."

Why can't this school board see the wisdom, pull the ripcord on all the nonsense, and hire a consulting group to review district practices and identify cost savings???

das 4 years, 5 months ago

That would involve immediate costs that could actually find better long-term solutions.....and save potential future costs. That would be too logical for the immediate BOE to grasp. You have to have some actual management experience to grasp that concept. Lord forbid that an outside entity should have a fresh perspective or tell them that they are wrong in any way.

das 4 years, 5 months ago

This Task Force idea that empowers no one to make any new suggestions is the stupidest thing I have ever read (just about). So you are telling these representatives to come up with the best way to close the schools they are representing. For can personal biases not come into play? I will assume that the representatives are human. Also....Close and Consolidate mean THE EXACT SAME THING for the purposes of this issue. To consolidate means to make more and smaller units into fewer and larger units.

Clevercowgirl 4 years, 5 months ago

Divide and conquer. Machiavelli could not have put forth a better plan to break up the elementary school community.

Bob_Loblaw 4 years, 5 months ago

If only the BOE had as much dedication to go line by line as a fictitious President in a so-so movie - [clip is from "Dave"] For all the backlash against them aside, the SONS group did try to to do this where no one else came forward to even show any effort..... SEE:

Clevercowgirl 4 years, 5 months ago

Not that it matters now, but actually, the Wakarusa Valley Budget Committe initiated this at the outset. Again, too logical.

salad 4 years, 5 months ago

This "consolidation" is important stuff; they should hire a couple educrats at $80,000+ each to oversee the process, form comittees, and create even more "important" work that needs to be done.....thus requiring more educrats.*

*see also "administratium"

Richard Heckler 4 years, 5 months ago

Taxpayers will hopefully watch this exercise closely and attend some meetings....

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