Archive for Thursday, February 17, 2011

First Bell: Southwest wants to keep its directional name; could Broken Arrow be back in closure mix?; schedule changes for developmental screenings

February 17, 2011


A few education-oriented items from around the area:

Southwest Junior High School would trade "Junior High" for "Middle" for the next academic year, if students, parents, staffers and community members get their way. They recommend keeping the root of the school&squot;s original name. The "Bulldogs" mascot would stay, too.

Southwest Junior High School would trade "Junior High" for "Middle" for the next academic year, if students, parents, staffers and community members get their way. They recommend keeping the root of the school's original name. The "Bulldogs" mascot would stay, too.

Southwest Junior High School is poised to get a new name for the next school year, but don’t expect a major change in direction.

A meeting that included members of the school’s site council and student council revealed that nobody sees any reason to trifle with 16 years of tradition.

The school at 2511 Inverness Drive, they determined, should be renamed to Southwest Middle School, to reflect an enrollment shift that will mean educating sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders next year instead of seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders.

The grade levels will change, the meeting attendees acknowledged, but the root of the school’s original name shouldn’t.

“That was unanimous,” said Trish Bransky, the school’s first and only principal. “It’s been just 16 years, but there is some tradition with the name. It is comfortable. And absent any other reason — or any reason that jumps out — it should stay Southwest.”

That’s what the school’s appointed representatives think, anyway. And that’s what Bransky’s report will reflect when Rick Doll, superintendent of the Lawrence school district, compiles his own report for members of the Lawrence school board, likely sometime around spring break.

Board members, you may remember, voted 4-3 last month to pursue new names for the junior high schools. Among their reasons at the time:

• The schools’ directional names “don’t make sense” anymore, given the city’s expansion.

• The existing name‚ Central, South, Southwest and West — aren’t creative, and therefore could be made more creative.

• Giving school communities a chance to participate in the process could engage the public in a positive manner, at a time when schools face plenty of financial and other pressures.

Board members will be the ones who ultimately decide the names for the junior highs, which are set to become middle schools July 1. They indicated they would follow recommendations from each school.

I’ll see about checking in with folks at the other three schools here soon.


Back on Jan. 31, members of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force agreed by consensus to pursue recommending closure of either one or two of three elementary schools for next year: Cordley, Pinckney or Wakarusa Valley.

Now one task force member is saying suggesting that a fourth might be a better option: Broken Arrow, 2704 La.

“For myself, and I believe a few others, if we’re going to close any school, BA makes more sense than the (3) that are on the table now relative to our criteria,” Harmon said, in an e-mail sent to Superintendent Rick Doll and copied to fellow task force members. “But it was removed last week from consideration due to political reasons (not specifically in reference to our criteria).”

Whether Harmon wants to reconsider Broken Arrow as a candidate for closure is unclear. Instead, he questions whether the task force will be able to come up with clear consensus on recommending even one specific schools for closure.

The task force’s next meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. The group’s final recommendations are due to the Lawrence school board a week later.


A scheduling update on free developmental screenings offered by the Lawrence school district for assessing preschoolers’ walking, talking, hearing, vision, thinking and social skills...

Screenings will be offered, by appointment, during three upcoming Wednesdays — March 16, April 20 and May 11 (changed from May 18, the date originally scheduled by the district) — at Kennedy School, 1605 Davis Road, which is across Harper Street from the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds. A screening is conducted during a single appointment.

The screenings are available for children who are 3 to 5 years old, and are offered by Lawrence Early Childhood Special Services. Organizers encourage any parents concerned about a preschooler’s development to consider taking advantage of the free screenings.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, call or e-mail:

• Edie Boehle, secretary, 330-1643,

• Morgan Carter, school psychologist, 330-4389,

— The First Bell e-mailbox is always open:


irvan moore 6 years, 10 months ago

could someone please clarify "political reasons" for me? i just wonder what they might be or are. thanks.

Synjyn Smythe 6 years, 10 months ago

beatnik: on Monday, as the taskforce considered the savings associated with closing one of 3 grade schools: Cordley, Pinckney or Wakarusa, Minder stated that he would make his decisions based upon getting a bond issue passed to finance a new school that combined New York and Kennedy, and another new school that combined Sunset Hills with Hillcrest. His comment was that if Wakarusa were closed, the folks living in Old West Lawrence would vote for the bond issue, but not if one of the other schools were closed. This is the "political reason," because it has nothing to do with the taskforce's "charge," and is not supported in any way by the reports of the 4 subcommittees of this taskforce.

spiderd 6 years, 10 months ago

This response is not really on subject - you're behind a couple of meetings. Yes, the district intends for the next bond issue to serve its elementary facilities. This will involve fixing long neglected issues and possibly building new facilites to be big enough to hold more kids - and thus improve operational efficiency. The "political" decision spoken of in the article was that Broken Arrow was taken off the closure list because that's where the last bond was spent so people figured the public would backlash at the district about that misspent money and choose not to support further improvements. There is validity to that argument but at the same time, the district and school board are not made up of the brightest people in the world - their past errors shouldn't impede a thoughtful exercise now. It's a sunk cost. Not that I'm saying closing BA is a good idea, just clarifying for beatnik.

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 10 months ago

They have not finished paying off the bond for the last renovation. The thing is, the open configuration of Broken Arrow is very noisy and choatic. The noise of each class creates a cacaphony that is not very conducive to learning. Kids who even have slight problems with concentration and focus have to fight the physical learning environment. Also, the kids don't have the opportunity to work on exciting, but noisy projects, because it would disrupt the others.

kjh 6 years, 10 months ago

My daughter attended Broken Arrow. I would agree with Clevercowgirl. The teachers are fantastic, but the physical space is awful. The children in the back rows of one classroom are very close to those in the back rows of another. Concentration can be extremely difficult even for children who normally don't have a problem with this. And although this is secondary to the classroom environment, it also troubles me that the outdoor space (playground area) is so small now as a result of the renovations, and is right next to a busy street. If they add even more students to Broken Arrow by closing other schools, how are they going to address the issues of open classrooms and small outdoor space? Measuring square footage is much different than presenting an assessment of the quality of that space.

hail2oldku 6 years, 10 months ago

SO, we now have two JHs that have voted to maintain their directional names. I realize West is currently not accurately named, but they are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year so there is definitely some tradition involved there. Quite honestly, IMHO, the only school where it would make any sense at all to change names is Central, and then only if they went with Liberty Middle School (or Liberty JH) since the building was originally Liberty High.

I hope the other two schools come back with the same conclusion and bite their tumb in the general direction of the 4 board members who proposed this ridiculous idea.

lawrencedad 6 years, 10 months ago

I'm still confused as to why the schools names to be changed at all, does being called a "junior high" affect the quality of education? Seems like a senseless waist of time and money to me.

shadowlady 6 years, 10 months ago

This is ridiculous, all that money spent on Broken Arrow, now there is talk of closing it down?? And to have open class rooms, who's idea was that?? Did they have or do they have any brains to think of something like that?? Of course there would be excess noise, it just doesn't make sense that someone would think and then carry the idea out to have open class rooms. AND it seems like all they want to do is think of ways to spend money.

valgrlku 6 years, 10 months ago

I was under the impression that the "remodel" done at Broken Arrow did address the bizarrely configured classroom spaces - apparently not. What exactly was done, then?

Nikki May 6 years, 10 months ago

Deerfield is way worse than Broken Arrow as far as the open classroom thing. Broken Arrow at least has full walls in between some of the rooms. The new construction was to get rid of portables and to basically fix the front/office area. My daughter was there for kindergarten, and when I went in there recently (post updates) it was still mostly the same when I got past the office.

allinyourhead 6 years, 10 months ago

@shadowlady, thats what you get with a 'loaded' task force. Look at the names involved. Mr. Wilkins? You mean the husband of one Ex-School-Board President Wilkins? Representative of Gould Evans Assoc.? The same that has done quite extensive work on renovating schools (example: Deerfield). How about Steve Glass, listed as retired. Retired from where you ask? How about the company that does the roadwork for Lawrence. The expansion of 6th street past Wakarusa. And we won't mention the 'representative' who has ties to the Law Firm that provides legal representation service to the school board itself. I think if you'll do you're research on the work done at Broken Arrow prior, it was all facade work or the like.
It's time that Lawrence voters face facts. There exists a level to the conflicts of interests in these proceedings, that even without the existence of impropriety, there exists a strong enough sense of it that confidence in our school board has eroded to irreparable sums. And yet, do your homework. You'll find that it's not the school board that decides who's on the school board. It's you and it's me. We continue to let this happen, we deserve it. I say, go to you're next meeting with the parents and staff of the schools on the chopping block. Learn what is really going on with your schools. Learn just how bond issues are affecting your taxes. See how many smart ppl out there have answers to the problems that just don't fit the Board's agenda.

allinyourhead 6 years, 10 months ago

I would almost suggest that this borders on reason enough to demand a look by higher powers.

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