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Archive for Saturday, June 25, 2011

Departing school board members offer thoughts on their tenures

June 25, 2011

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The Lawrence school board is about to lose a majority of its members, their terms ending after four, eight, even 20 years of service.

Heading into their final meeting — set for 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive — here are some parting thoughts from Mary Loveland, Marlene Merrill, Rich Minder and Scott Morgan.

Mary Loveland

Service: 1987-2003; 2007-11

Biggest accomplishment: “Finally convincing Lawrence we needed a second high school,” she said of voters approving a bond to finance construction of Free State High School, which opened in 1997. “I’m not saying that I did it. It was the biggest accomplishment of the Board of Education. I was definitely on the pro-second-high-school side.

“A very close second, or maybe a tie, would be the move to four-year high schools and (switching junior highs to) middle schools. I really think that’s really important for the education of our kids.”

Biggest regret: “The fact that we still don’t have people understanding why more consistency in the size of our elementary schools is important for the educational program — so we can afford the educational program that Lawrence kids, families and parents all expect,” she said. Art, music and other “specials” teachers at smaller schools often must split their days between schools, something that can be alleviated by having schools large enough to have enough “specials” each day, in one place. “You’re paying professional educators to educate, not drive a car.”

Looking forward: “One of the biggest things looming on the horizon is the resolution of how many elementary schools we’ll have, and where they’ll be located in central and eastern Lawrence.”

Marlene Merrill

Service: 2007-11

Biggest accomplishment: “Building the full-day kindergarten program,” she said, which has expanded to all but four elementary schools since being eliminated entirely during budget cuts before she had taken office.

Biggest regret: “Not being able to see through what happens with the (Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision) Task Force information — and building what elementary ed will look like, particularly,” she said.

Looking forward: “I think the board has a lot of challenges, one of which is the negotiated agreement with the teachers,” she said. “And another, as they look towards a bond issue, is making sure that our resources are used fairly and well, and not just expending money — like, say, in contingency (funds) — for things that really need to have a longer look.” Such savings accounts should be used for one-time expenses, not ongoing costs, she said.

Rich Minder

Service: 2003-11

Biggest accomplishment: “That we have begun a process of reducing the achievement gap while raising achievement for all students,” Minder said. “We’re moving toward excellence for all students, while at the same time reducing the achievement gap, particularly between students of color and white students.”

Biggest regret: “As far as I’m concerned, the biggest regret is the Legislature didn’t follow through with its responsibility to invest in public education properly,” he said, noting that a court decision requiring increased school spending had given educators hope. “Then, when the economy goes south, we’ve been backtracking ever since. That’s a big regret.”

Looking forward: “What I look forward to is the time when you look at all of the data, you’re not going to be able to tell there is a difference in achievement of students based on their race or any other identifier,” he said. “You won’t be able to look and see: ‘Oh, that person is African-American; that would explain why the score on their assessment is lower than white students, or students with disabilities’ or whatever. I look forward to when we get there.”

Scott Morgan

Service: 1999-2003; 2007-11

Biggest accomplishment: “I survived,” he said. “Does that count?”

Morgan lists three: “My small part” in hiring Rick Doll as superintendent; “taking money out of excess buildings” — five schools closed while he was on the board — “and putting that money back into the classroom”; and approving the placement of athletic fields at Lawrence High School.

“The athletics fields were something that was long overdue,” Morgan said. “There was a lot of pushback on that, but it will serve this community and kids very well for many years to come, helping to keep us in the Sunflower League.

“There was serious talk among the Sunflower League of booting us. The football and soccer fields were so bad, they felt like they were putting the kids at risk. They kept asking us when we were going to do something about it, so we did something about it.”

Biggest regret: “The only real regret I have is that I wasn’t able to finish the ‘How many schools we’re keeping’ question,” he said. “We still need to get out of that question and get on to academic achievement.”

Looking forward: “They’re going to have to deal with a fundamental change in how we operate because the economic reality is so different,” he said. “Public institutions are behind the curve in making the adjustments they need to make — city government, the university, certainly public schools. We don’t change, typically, because we don’t have to. New boards will have to because of the economic reality. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s just hard because they’ll really have to prioritize what they want to do.”

Comments

ShePrecedes 3 years, 1 month ago

I have extremely little interest in the Sunflower League. I have extremely little interest in high school sports. That sports field was the school board's hugest, and I mean really huge, mistake. A major blight on the present school board.

Still wondering who made the money on it and who that rich person's friends are.

Morgen, you are single-minded. Good bye!!

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windex 3 years, 1 month ago

Well, it's all about you, and what you're interested in, isn't it. No big picture for you.

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jackson5 3 years, 1 month ago

The JOCO schools want Lawrence and Leavenworth out of the Sunflower League. They used facilities as a reason to boot them, never imaging that Lawrence and Leavenworth school boards would invest tens of millions of dollars in new athletic facilities. Now both us and LV have new facilities but we will soon hear that we are still not wanted in the Sunflower League.

The League started long before most Olathe and BV schools even existed; SM schools needed us and LV to round out their schedules and also, there was that little thing about us having the state champion teams in numerous sports that made playing Lawrence fun.

The JOCO schools no longer want to travel down the highway on dark winter nights when they could play more in-town rivals. Further, FSHS is one of the smallest schools in 6A - if it gets much smaller, it will be a 5A (largest 32 schools in state are 6A).

The next reasons the Sunflower League will give will be: expenses of fuel and busses; concerns about student and fan safety when traveling on the highway; the distance which keeps students out later on school night/game days and limits attendance. There will be no multi-million dollar fix for these.

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jesse499 3 years, 1 month ago

Sounds to me that your problem started when FSHS was built to seperate the west side from the rest.

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Dog 3 years, 1 month ago

Thank you Scott, Mary and Rich for your service to the children of the Lawrence Public Schools. Your hard work and dedication will not be forgotten. Our school district has made great progress in so many areas because of your willingness to service. It is not an easy task being a school board member.

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mae 3 years, 1 month ago

I'm glad to see them gone. This article gives proof to the length of "service" and what they accomplished. Less schools and more athletics are KU's deal, not elementary schools. Kids come to the two high schools hoping to get into KU for athletics while the little kids that grew up here are ignored. One caring teacher would be a good replacement for all of them.

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aryastark1984 3 years, 1 month ago

I am sure that the outgoing board members have done what they thought was best for the district. However, I would hope that the new board will be guided by facts, arithmetic, and the goal of increasing academic achievement. Here are some facts (from the district’s own data) that bear consideration and questions that need to be asked.

1) The schools with the most excess capacity are Prairie Park and Quail Run. Yet, these schools are not part of any of the proposed consolidation scenarios. Why is that?

2) Kennedy has serious air quality problems. The task force report said that the building smelled strongly of mold. The latest district report shows unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide. This is the poorest school in the district and also houses the early childhood education program. How long has this been ignored? What EXACTLY is the problem? Can the students at this school wait several years for this problem to be fixed?

3) What will the effects of consolidation be on academic achievement? The district wants to close the achievement gap. Educational data show that smaller schools and smaller classes produce better educational outcomes, particularly for low income kids. Will operational cost savings on the front end lead to increased cost for remedial education, a larger achievement gap, and penalties associated with being designated as a failing school/district?

Lawrence citizens, the schools, and the kids deserve answers to these questions before we vote on a bond.

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Clara Westphal 3 years, 1 month ago

I hope we never see the names of Scott and Loveland on the school ballot again. Their main purpose is th close schools. During their previous term in office, they closed Grant and Riverside.

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pace 3 years, 1 month ago

loveland should of been charged with fraud.

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 1 month ago

Jesse449 is right on. Loveland never grasped the fact that she was merely a pawn in a game played by those who wanted a separate, "new" Lawrence for the sole purpose of real estate development. If you doubt the accuracy of that, just drive around and look. Those who stood to make money on another high school located in far west Lawrence succeeded beyond anything that anyone ever anticipated, except those of us who saw through what was happening and recognized how naively Loveland allowed herself to be used by real estate developers and others who stood to benefit economically from building a new high school in that location.

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commuter 3 years, 1 month ago

I could at least have a good conversation with Morgan about an issue but when I tried to talk to e-mail Minder, I was always given the impression that he wanted to "protect" the East side schools at all costs or try to get the district to pay for some conference that his employer did want to to fund.

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smot 3 years, 1 month ago

What is wrong with you people who criticize everything our school board members do? Does it make you feel better that you can anonymously make personal vindictives against these people who essentially volunteer their time to try and improve our community. Identify yourselves and run for the school board so we can see how brilliantly you would do it.

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deskboy04 3 years, 1 month ago

Mary Loveland was a good board member. She will be missed.

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cato_the_elder 3 years, 1 month ago

Deskboy04, you have apparently chosen your name well.

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