Archive for Monday, January 17, 2011

Task force talks additions, subtractions as it studies future of local elementary schools

Members of the "neighborhood schools" subcommittee of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force discuss potential scenarios for saving money on schools while achieving some of the goals established by the task force. Seated are Brad Finkeldei, left, and Rich Minder, school board president and task force co-chair; standing behind them are consultant John Wilkins, left, and Rick Doll, district superintendent. The officials discussed options Monday, Jan. 17, 2011, at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Members of the "neighborhood schools" subcommittee of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force discuss potential scenarios for saving money on schools while achieving some of the goals established by the task force. Seated are Brad Finkeldei, left, and Rich Minder, school board president and task force co-chair; standing behind them are consultant John Wilkins, left, and Rick Doll, district superintendent. The officials discussed options Monday, Jan. 17, 2011, at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

January 17, 2011


Renovate Cordley and Pinckney schools.

Turn New York School into an early-childhood center.

Replace both Sunset Hill and East Heights buildings with new, larger schools designed to meet the growing needs of district programs and student populations.

Such projects surfaced Monday night on lists of potential projects for members of a task force studying the future of elementary schools in the Lawrence school district. But such relatively long-term options — ones forwarded for studied, not yet adoption — certainly wouldn’t come without a price.

That’s because members of the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force also are looking for ways to save money. And that would mean balancing projects that might be financed through a potential bond issue against savings that could be achieved by closing a school or two or three.

Among schools mentioned for potential closure by groups at various tables Monday night were Wakarusa Valley, Hillcrest, Kennedy and New York, although some plans would consider sparing some of those schools while looking for savings elsewhere.

“There will be another group that has a scenario for closing Cordley,” said Brad Finkeldei, member of a group that reached consensus on recommending closure of both Wakarusa Valley and Hillcrest. “You will see that.”

Such considerations will come during the next two weeks. That’s when Finkeldei and leaders of three other task force subcommittees will work with consulting architects and district administrators to determine just how effective such scenarios might be.

Battling budget woes

The task force has until the end of February — a month later than originally intended — to come up with recommendations for a plan to handle the district’s elementary schools during the next five years and beyond. The goal is to reflect “varied community and educational values” given “the restraints of current and anticipated district resources.”

By the end of June, the district expects to be forced into cutting at least $1 million from its budget, because of state cuts. The total could swell to $4 million for 2011-12, administrators say.

“The task force is not going to solve the entire problem for us, but it’s a significant piece they have to help us with solving, a significant piece of our problem,” said Rick Doll, district superintendent.

Task force members already have spent months studying several aspects of elementary planning: physical conditions and limitations of the schools themselves; potential operational efficiencies; research and “best practices” for meeting educational needs; and defining “neighborhood schools” and their relationship to city planning.

Now they’re taking their research and using it to guide recommendations for potential school consolidations, program relocations and other moves that would be intended to both save money and build a strong foundation for success in the years ahead.

“We need to be looking five, 10 years down the road,” said Rich Minder, board president and co-chair of the task force.

Time to meet again

Such vision will be focused Jan. 31, when task force members will be scheduled to reconvene for a 7 p.m. meeting at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. That’s when members will learn whether the “scenarios” they’d entertained Monday night might actually serve as efficient and effective solutions for the district overall.

Scenarios emerging Monday night included potential school closures, boundary changes, program shifts, school renovations, classroom additions, new construction and other suggestions.

Administrators and consultants will study the options in search of consensus from among the two dozen task force members, whose final document will be used by board members in their deliberations in the weeks, months and years ahead.

“I’ve been so impressed that this task force is having these unpleasant conversations that have strained this community for so many years,” said Scott Morgan, a board member and task force co-chair. “Whatever the conclusion is, it will be invaluable — not only to the board, but, most importantly, to the students.”


Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't object to every decision the board makes and I don't object to what every board member is in favor of. That would grossly oversimplify things. Most of their four year tenure they roll along running this district as they see fit and mostly that's just fine too. But when it comes to major choices that affect the entire community I do take issue with the process. What I object to most of all is the game that it played whereby we are supposedly involved in this process. It is a farce. I go to board meetings. I write letters and I went to every forum, but it is a waste of my time. The admin and board hear what they want to hear and ignore the rest. They are going to do what ever they decide to do regardless of any efforts on my part or anyone else's. But, I am only one person. I feel sorry for the entire task force, most of whom are volunteering their time to make a solid good faith recommendation and who I predict will also be dismissed like the rest of us. The only way the task force's efforts will be recognized is if the summary that is ultimately presented to the board is made by board and admin members! (Did you see the picture at the top of this article?) Well, of course, then it will look like the will of the task force. But it will be skewed in the direction of whatever those members want us to hear. Learn what is in those documents everyone, and see if what is finally proposed has any bearing on their findings in the end. Thank you Task Force members, for all your efforts and good will toward the children in this community. Thank you for listening. Your efforts have been tremendous.


smot 3 years, 3 months ago

Any discussion about the school district's decision making process turns into an adoption of the victimhood mantra. If you don't like the task force, sign up to run for the school board and enjoy the benefits of being derided in this forum for any decision you make.


Upstate 3 years, 3 months ago

See article below in which Finkeldei appeared in court, representing the school district on the expansion of the athletic facilities at LHS. You can also look through school board minutes. Finkeldei often is listed as attending the executive sessions and is identified as the district's attorney.

I agree that it is not everyone's business where he sends his kids, and that is why I didn't list the school. However, his actions move into public domain when he opts to be part of the public school district only to: 1) receive a paycheck as legal counsel and 2) try to close schools serving at-risk children.


ilovelucy 3 years, 3 months ago

It amazes me how quickly you posters rush to judgement. I am not sure if Brad Finkeldei is the district's attorney and would not presume to post that until I see documentation. Furthermore, it's noone's business where parents choose to send their children for education. Plus, you just quickly lump together whoever is trying to do good in this community and turn their words into a conspiracy theory. Personally, I feel sorry for whoever believes they can best serve this community by doing a thankless job for which they get nothing but doubt, smearing and derision.


Boston_Corbett 3 years, 3 months ago

swan_diver: stand up and run for office.

Oh, you want a salary?????

nope. no reason for it. Its called volunteer service. Real people across the state volunteer to improve their schools and provide leadership. Your solution is the worst kind of answer.


Boston_Corbett 3 years, 3 months ago

I am waiting for people like "Did_I_say_that" to actually stand up and run for public office, instead of bitching about all the people who actually have the balls to actually do so.

It is one thing to castigate school board members and others for their opinions anonymously, it is much different to stand up and put your name and reputation into the public domain.

It is no surprise there are not a long list of people wanting to run for the school board. Additional cuts, beyond last year are inevitable, and well-intended normal people do not want to be subjected to the character assassination which will occur.

And this may be just the start of several years of cuts under current political leadership. Who the hell wants to do that?

So, the community will be faced with a minimum of choices at this school board election, due to this incivility, and the students will be the ones who lose.

Go ahead and file for office, DIST. Or people like your arch-enemy, Morgan, might just file again just to fill the hole in the ballot.

I for one, am thankful for all these people who put their names up, and serve.


Ami 3 years, 3 months ago

What about full day kindergarden for the second half of the city? How come half (and even more) of the population of Lawrence need to keep paying for private kindergarden or expensive after-school (if you can call 3 hours school) for their kids while the other get full day kindergarden???


irvan moore 3 years, 3 months ago

i think the school board members must be related to the city commissioners. with all these highly educated people around here i don't understand how we end up with ideas like they come up with.


swan_diver 3 years, 3 months ago

School Board members should be paid a fair salary -- so real people can afford to run for the posts, and operate the Board of Education on behalf of the vast majority of working people. The current system is endemically corrupt, which is exactly the way banking and business interests which control Lawrence want it.

Ever wonder why eighteen million in borrowed funds was expended on sporting stadiums and facilities that benefit only 5% of the high school student populations, while the rest of public education goes down the toilet? It's Brownshirt's Kansas on the march. Better prepare to fight back -- or surrender your family's dignity and prosperity.


Christine Pennewell Davis 3 years, 3 months ago

Can we all say not again, been there done that do these people really think parents are going to take this well after already fighting this type of attitude before?


Number_1_Grandma 3 years, 3 months ago

Mr. Dolls leadership is a sad statement of just how dire the administration and district has become. The upcoming elections of school board members should be elected on making Mr. Doll accountable for their actions. Expenditures should be more transparent considering our taxes are made up of mostly for schools.


George_Braziller 3 years, 3 months ago

I was wondering about East Heights as well. They closed it as an elementary school and moved the early childhood program into the building. Then they closed that and moved the program to Kennedy. Right now it's being rented to Boys and Girls Club.

Now they are throwing around the idea of replacing the building with a bigger one? The stupidity just boggles my mind.


logical_parent 3 years, 3 months ago

Why would Doll and MInder entertain opening another early childhood development school? Didn't the district just close East Heights and move it into Kennedy to save money? Does the district have a secret money tree somewhere that we are not aware of? Where are the numbers to support this school? Where is the growth? Why are you(school board members) spending our money foolishly? Could you please act responsibly and think of ALL the children of Lawrence! Quit thinking of your own personal gain and satisfaction.


puckstah 3 years, 3 months ago

what happened to "a measured approach"? This seems willy-nilly....has anyone asked for data supporting which schools are growing? Has anyone asked how many kids from out of district transfer into any of the elementary schools? This brings $ to the district in two ways: 1) it brings the per pupil $ to 497 from the district the child lives in; 2) those dollars can be matched for the LOB. What are the programs at the schools that are being recommended for closure? What are the state or federal regulations regarding closure of them?


FormerTiger 3 years, 3 months ago

Finkeldei is also an attorney for the district, although that hasn't been shared in LJW or elsewhere. Why is that?


honestone 3 years, 3 months ago

The task forces job was to substantiate the previous ideas of the school board and make it look like it was a community idea. That is why the committees are filled with people like Finkeldei


jafs 3 years, 3 months ago

So state cuts of somewhere between $1 and $4 million are how Brownback keeps his promise to "protect" education funding.


Upstate 3 years, 3 months ago

Let me get this straight - Finkeldei, who sends his kids to a private Catholic School, joins this task force and recommends closing elementary schools serving at risk children. No credibility!


Benjamin Roberts 3 years, 3 months ago

Imagine that .... the subcommittee with Rich Minder on it recommends closing any school except New York..............


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