Archive for Saturday, August 6, 2011

School board member questions report

August 6, 2011

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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.

Comments

cato_the_elder 4 years ago

The Lawrence School Board, driven by the views of a few of its more obsessed members, has for years put forth the warped view that elementary schools should be very large and located as far apart from each other as possible.

Perhaps Professor Ingram will see the light and set change in motion that will reverse this position.

William Ed 4 years ago

How refreshing that someone actually wants to review the flawed study, and illuminate the fallaciousness of the gerrymandered MDM report..

Richard Heckler 4 years ago

"The Lawrence School Board, driven by the views of a few of its more obsessed members, has for years put forth the warped view" perhaps by way of the Chamber of Commerce.

Some Lawrence,Kansas/USD 497 taxpayers do not understand the logic behind closing schools in order to build more schools. In fact what is missing thus far is hard evidence to justify such loose spending of tax dollars.

If city hall continues to approve more and more and more residential perhaps the real estate industry needs accept the responsibility of financing all new public schools,parks and emergency services. I have no desire to fund aimless and reckless growth decisions that do nothing but increase the wealth of a small circle of folks in the business of selling and developing real estate. This is wreckanomics at the expense of the many.

honestone 4 years ago

They built Free State HS because LHS had too many students. Now we close small neighborhood schools because they aren't large enough. Funny...

cato_the_elder 4 years ago

Honestone, your point is very well-taken from the standpoint of the Board's hypocrisy. The real reasons that LHS was split, however, had a lot more to do with real estate development than education.

BigAl 4 years ago

No it didn't. LHS was the largest 6A high school in the state by far. It was severely overcrowded and growing. Lawrence growth, not real estate development, was the reason for another high school.

cato_the_elder 4 years ago

For your information, when LHS was split it had only been the "largest high school in the state" for a few years. For over 30 years LHS was far smaller than at least ten Kansas high schools that had always had between 2,500 and 3,000 students for that entire period of time and were far larger than LHS ever became in the '90s. Demographic shifts in Johnson, Wyandotte, Shawnee and Sedgwick Counties caused those much larger schools to lose students almost overnight to new districts in their counties, as the result of which LHS suddenly found itself the so-called "largest school in the state" in the mid-'90s, with only 1600 students.

When the school board pushed this in the early '90s, they told us that by now (2011) we would have well over 3,500 high school students in Lawrence. Where are they?

From 1978-81, right before the Baby Boomer Era ended, LHS housed only about a hundred and fifty students fewer than the total number of 10-12 high school students now in Lawrence (excluding the virtual school), with only 3/5 of the space that LHS currently has.

All one has to do is view the recent athletic additions on and nearby the LHS campus to see immediately that the same thing could easily have been done to create just a modest expansion in LHS' academic facilities.

When the people of Lawrence decided to keep one hospital and fight having another one, we kept one hospital, and it has flourished. When Lawrence real estate developers decided that they needed another high school in far western Lawrence to enhance their plans, Lawrence was ultimately talked into building another high school - which has split Lawrence in two and mired it in relative mediocrity ever since.

hammerhawk 4 years ago

"His biggest concern: The report’s assertion that schools of between 300 to 500 students are best for the district."

There is reason to be concerned. There is NO magical "correct" number of students for a school building. Fewer kids means it is more costly operate a building. In my experience of more than 40 years in the school business, I would say no school in Lawrence should have such a low enrollment.

EJ Mulligan 4 years ago

Could not be more pleased to see a school board member who is willing to question the "authority" of our school district. I commend Ingram for using a fine-toothed comb on reports generated during the previous school board's tenure. Keep up the good work!

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