As a new member of the Lawrence school board, Rick Ingram wants to be sure a set of volunteer advisers is working with proper information when it comes to grappling with the future of elementary schools in the district.
He worries that the information being used as a foundation for future deliberations is shaky and could lead to future conclusions and actions — decisions to pursue a bond issue or close more schools — destined to crumble.
“That describes it perfectly,” Ingram said Friday, as he worked on a presentation to be delivered Monday to fellow board members, at the end of the board’s regular business meeting.
His analysis will cover a report the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force made to the board back in February. That report, endorsed by three current members of the board and four who departed in July, concluded that the district should close Wakarusa Valley School and proceed with planning for the closure of two to three more schools through consolidation.
Spurred by the report, the previous board closed Wakarusa Valley and appointed the 26-member Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group. The group is assigned to meet through February and recommend just how the consolidation should be accomplished.
Ingram, a professor of psychology at Kansas University, says he went through the research used by the earlier task force to reach its conclusions and says that some of the research was misinterpreted.
His goal: “To make sure that the assumptions we’re basing our decisions on is based on accurate information — an accurate interpretation of the evidence,” Ingram said. “I’m having trouble making the numbers add up.”
His biggest concern: The report’s assertion that schools of between 300 to 500 students are best for the district.
“Academic achievement should be central to the decisions we’re making,” he said. “Those numbers were divorced from academic achievement consideration.”
Ingram “questions” whether evidence supports larger schools being better for education and wants to be sure the board — and the public — knows what it’s pursuing during the coming months and years.
“If the district is serious about a bond issue, I don’t think it helps the case if the evidence it’s based on is not accurate,” Ingram said. “I think the public understands that it’s important to make accurate decisions.”
Monday’s meeting will be at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.