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Archive for Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Consensus building on closure, consolidations for Lawrence schools

District parents, concerned about their neighborhood schools, listen to the Lawrence school board’s discussion on how to move forward on a task force’s recommendations to close or consolidate schools.

District parents, concerned about their neighborhood schools, listen to the Lawrence school board’s discussion on how to move forward on a task force’s recommendations to close or consolidate schools.

March 15, 2011

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Lawrence schools superintendent Rick Doll, foreground, addresses school board members Monday night during discussions on how to move forward on a task force’s recommendations. Possibilities facing the school board included closing schools and/or consolidating several others. From left are Doll, school board President Rich Minder, Vice President Mark Bradford, Marlene Merrill, Bob Byers, Mary Loveland, Vanessa Sanburn and Scott Morgan.

Lawrence schools superintendent Rick Doll, foreground, addresses school board members Monday night during discussions on how to move forward on a task force’s recommendations. Possibilities facing the school board included closing schools and/or consolidating several others. From left are Doll, school board President Rich Minder, Vice President Mark Bradford, Marlene Merrill, Bob Byers, Mary Loveland, Vanessa Sanburn and Scott Morgan.

Consensus is spreading.

The Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force’s consensus plan — close one school next year, then consolidate six schools into three or four within the next three to five years — picked up support Monday night from some key constituencies:

• Several members of the Lawrence school board, the group that formed the task force last year and will be responsible for implementing or adjusting its recommendations in the coming weeks and months.

• An increasing number of influential members of the former Save Our Neighborhood Schools advocacy group, whose opposition to closure initiatives last year led to formation of the task force.

• And even at least one parent of children at Wakarusa Valley School, which would close next year if the board follows through with the task force’s recommendations.

“I’m not here to change your mind,” said Dean Dunlap, a father of eight who lives just southeast of Clinton Lake, about a mile from the school. “I would have come to the same conclusion. I’m willing to take, or bite, the bullet. I understand the situation now.”

While the acceptance is far from unanimous — 19 people spoke up during Monday night’s board meeting, including at least eight criticizing the possibility of Pinckney School being closed — the recommendations forged after eight months of task force work are showing signs of gaining traction at district headquarters. A formal public hearing is set for March 28 to consider whether to close Wakarusa Valley.

Consolidations

Mark Bradford, the board’s vice president, said that work needed to start soon on plans to consolidate schools, and not just because the district faces an estimated $3 million decline in revenue for the next school year.

Six schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — have been identified by the task force as candidates for consolidation, to become either three or four schools within three to five years.

A bond issue should be sought to finance construction of new or expanded schools to accommodate consolidation, and to upgrade other elementary schools throughout the district, the task force said. All affected school communities should be given a voice in helping shape the plan that goes to the board for approval, for submission to voters.

Bradford, who is in line to become board president in July, figures that the task force’s vision makes sense as a way to pursue a long-term vision.

“I want to use that as a road map to move forward,” said Bradford, after the meeting. “I personally don’t think that we need to close schools to address the budget side of things.”

Marlene Merrill, a board member seeking re-election April 5, embraced the consolidation recommendation as a “basis” for starting a dialogue, especially with stakeholders who could be affected.

“Then you’re going to end up with a better decision,” she said.

Board member Scott Morgan, who served as co-chair of the task force and is not seeking re-election, said that he would be willing to hold off pushing for added school closures next year if and only if he could be assured that the district was moving toward a sustainable plan. And that would mean consolidating schools.

The district could get by for the next year or two by dipping into contingency funds to prevent closing multiple schools, he said, so that a viable bond issue could be planned, pursued and passed.

“You have a path,” he told fellow board members. “It is a workable one. You can put the bond issue together and move forward.”

Community stake

Chuck Epp, who participated in Save Our Neighborhood Schools efforts a year ago, strongly urged board members to “honor” the task force’s “very specific” recommendations: close no more than one school for next year, and “develop a community process to plan consolidation of elementary schools” in east and central Lawrence.

If the board doesn’t “play fair,” he said, a bond issue would be doomed to defeat as the district would lose much of the trust and community support built up by the task force and its diverse, community-minded members.

“Many of us want to be for something, not just against closing schools,” Epp said. “If you continue to build a community process in favor of new elementary school resources — and, yes, consolidation — you will be joined by a large cross-section of Lawrence. I just don’t think that will be possible if you start this process off on the wrong foot by closing several schools now.”

Comments

pinecreek 3 years, 9 months ago

'If the board doesn’t “play fair,” he said, a bond issue would be doomed to defeat as the district would lose much of the trust and community support built up by the task force and its diverse, community-minded members.'

Um, that boat sailed when this Board blew $15 milliion on stadiums instead of focusing on the core facilities for kids. I'll be among those that remind the Board, and this community, of this Board's fiscal irresponsibility when that bond issue comes up.

jaybird79 3 years, 9 months ago

Bradford hides behind his guaranteed 5% yearly raise and advocates closing our schools due to budget shortfalls. Maybe our 'essential services' should only be the ones mandated by our states' constitution, you know, like EDUCATION. Go back to sleeping for 12 hours a shift and getting paid for it you hypocrite. Will you burn the books from the schools you close you Nazis?

Gary Anderson 3 years, 9 months ago

What do conservatives have against hungry children and teachers...no...never mind...the answer is in the question.

Shardwurm 3 years, 9 months ago

What do liberals have against paying someone what they deserve?

You want to pay a teacher $125,000 a year? Empty your savings to do it.

Until tenure is elminated and the union is dissolved education will not improve. If you make teaching competitive instead of a lifelong nipple to suck on then good teachers will survive and the bad ones will go away.

As long as you have to pay the good the same as the bad and have no way to eliminate deadwood education will never improve...no matter how much you pay a teacher.

Go on...pick a high school in Kansas and give every teacher there $125,000 a year. I'll bet the scores don't improve. You don't improve education by throwing money at it....you spend what you have wisely and reward performance. Simple concept so many find hard to comprehend.

Teachers want more money but they don't want any risk to their job security. Really? That's surprising.

dragonfly0221 3 years, 9 months ago

If they consolidate will they take up bussing the kids who are too far to walk? Will they offer half or all day kindergarten?

John Hamm 3 years, 9 months ago

Okay, so lemme get this straight. 1) We want to close and/or consolidate schools to save money. 2) We're losing an estimated (should be bold or italicized) $3 million next year. Estimated, estimated, estimated..... 3) We're gonna have to build new schools to handle the students from the closed and/or consolidated schools. Why do logic not seem to work in this? AAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

The Task Force did a great deal of research, study and fact‐finding in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the complex issues presented by our district’s elementary facilities.

Following this gathering of information, the Task Force refined many recommendations, goals and thoughts down to 12 basic criteria or goals that we used in reaching consensus and which we believe should be used going forward .

The district should : • Fully utilize elementary school locations before constructing new schools at new locations, • Plan for a capacity of approximately 300 to 500 students at all elementary schools, • Plan for equity in terms of learning environments across the district, • Plan for all‐day kindergarten at all schools in the future, • Eliminate all portables at elementary schools, • Plan for flexibility to accommodate changes to programs in the future, • Plan for investment to address aging facilities, • Deploy services in a differentiated manner such that all schools receive the services and programs they need, • Strive to create and maintain schools that embody such a community that every school is a community school, • Ensure that as many children as possible are able to walk or bike to school if they choose to do so, • Incorporate best practices that research suggests have a greater impact on student achievement than school and class size, • Plan to provide minimum 720 square foot classrooms for grades 1‐5 and 900 square foot classrooms for Kindergarten in existing schools.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

To rush a bond vote at this time would be unacceptable to the point of being reckless.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 9 months ago

Has the district ever considered reaching out to Perry-Lecompton, Baldwin, and Eudora about consolidating districts?

How much could be saved in administration costs, rather than always targeting education costs?

akuna 3 years, 9 months ago

This is a great idea... Why do we need three highly paid superintendents and support staff when this could all be reduced to one central administration.

ksarmychick 3 years, 9 months ago

The citizens of Eudora do not want to merge with the Lawrence school district. We pay 12 points higher on our mill levy to fund our schools. Baldwin residents pay 15 points higher on theirs. We don't need the city of lawrence's crappy school board messing up our perfectly good schools. The Lawrence school board has proven time and time again that they value athletics over education and we don't need them coming to Eudora trying to take over our schools and changing them or closing them. Eudora had a 100% graduation rate last year, what was Lawrence's? Merging school districts is the WORST idea ever.

Clevercowgirl 3 years, 9 months ago

If the board doesn't’t “play fair,” he said, a bond issue would be doomed to defeat as the district would lose much of the trust and community support built up by the task force and its diverse, community-minded members.

Great comment, Mr. Epp. Read "if you close any SONS protected school, we will rally and try to doom your bond issue." Fascinating....Chicago style politics in the Lawrence School District. First the SONS heavy Task Force recommends closing the school that:

  1. Provides the least savings.
  2. Has one of the strongest communities.
  3. Is in the best condition.
  4. Has room for 80 more students today.
  5. Is in the urban growth corridor.
  6. Covers a larger geographic area than all of Lawrence.

Too bad SONS is a train to nowhere. FACT: A large number of the taxpayers in the city of Lawrence, not to mention the county, are disgusted with the spending habits of the School District (ie: athletic stadiums), and more people than not that I speak with are against a bond issue.

I would caution Mr. Epp not to tout power that isn't there.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 9 months ago

Save $3 million on bussing? Something to think about:

USD 497 budgets $4-4.5 million to bus students. The district is charged at a daily rate depending on how many students use the transportation.

Parents would you be willing to find other means to get your students to school IF it meant keeping all the schools open,teachers employed and retaining important subject matter/programs?

Think car pooling,family members ,walking and biking.

USD 497 says it needs $3 million. Can WE come up with $3 million?

IF 75% of students were no longer bussed: 75% of $4,000,000 = $3,000,000 (million)

75% of $4,500,000 = $3,375,000

AND close the admin center. Then relocate to Centennial School and make that work. The gym has plenty of space for BOE meetings. Empty classrooms can fill the other demand. Downsize the admin space = fiscally responsible.

USD 497 does not need extravagance we can use practical thinking.

Place the compound on the market. Sooner or later several million dollars is available to the district.

Doesnt_smell_right 3 years, 9 months ago

Not to mention outrageous land purchase! Bond? Yeah right!

gr 3 years, 9 months ago

Consolidation to save money by increasing debt.

Here's how to make sense out of it:

Someone wants a new school. By consolidation, new schools will need to be built to house the increased students. Pretty soon, those new schools will, well..... be old. New members will be on the board and someone will want a new school. They will have a brilliant idea! How about putting the schools in the community where the students are, smaller classes will enable better learning, more one-on-one interaction with the teachers, and besides, smaller schools will save money! Of course, we'll need to go into debt to make that happen.

....years down the road, someone else will have kids entering school and those new, new schools will, well........

martyks 3 years, 9 months ago

Why not close all schools and let only those who can afford it to get an education? We need more poor people to take those lower wage jobs that we cannot fill with illegal immigrants now. Plus the perpetual war machine will need more poor, less educated people to snap up those military grunt jobs. We'll all save lots of money which we can use to build more prisons that will, no doubt, begin to fill when the crime rate blows through the ceiling. Liberal ideas of attempting to educate the public have all failed. Let's get back to the good old days of Dicken's England and forget all this liberal nonsense about an educated public. Unions, teachers, and all those eggheads will finally be a thing of the past.

Bob_Keeshan 3 years, 9 months ago

It seems to me the right wing is constantly harping on administrative costs. Where are they in this debate?

3 elected county commissioners somehow manage to represent the entire county, but we need EIGHT school districts?

Eight schools districts in one county? Remarkable.

irvan moore 3 years, 9 months ago

uh, I neither trust or support those people.

Progressive_Kansan 3 years, 9 months ago

These are all great questions. Maybe Fox News can answer these for you.

gr3sam 3 years, 9 months ago

Nice, Mr. Epp! So, you and Ms. Beeson are essentially saying that if the the school board rejects the flawed taskforce recommendation, SONS will hold them hostage over the bond issue? Brilliant!

Clevercowgirl 3 years, 9 months ago

I wonder how much of the bond vote SONS really controls? It can't be that much. Much of West Lawrence would not see a direct benefit. The County is very fiscally conservative, and the buzz is that we will be saying NO to the bond issue. Once again, objectivity is lost to politics.

Kyle Chandler 3 years, 9 months ago

Liberals and Conservatives......you're all the same. Polarizing hot air skin bags.

Reading all your backhanded comments makes me laugh because you are all on the same team. And that team is WEAK.!!!

You people cant even decide unanimously that Education is the only thing that keeps us from being a third world country. And yeah, those so called 'over paid' teachers deserve your respect and a raise. They mind your children who are ignored while you go off on Obama and or Conservative selfishness.

With a public like this, we deserve nothing more than failure....good job folks, keep it up

Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years, 9 months ago

Yes, by all means, stick with the task force recommendation that was never even originally asked for. A vote on which schools to close was not their charge, yet two months ago, suddenly that was what it was all about. Those in the SONS faction understand if they can keep this to only a Wakarusa closure, it buys them more time. More time for people to get irate about the bond issue, fail it, and allow YOUR schools to stay open. You're more than happy to throw Wakarusa under the bus (with the extra long ride) right now. You think you have more voting power so you try to bargain with (threaten) the school board with voting down the bond issue. Well, rural Douglas County is bigger than all of Lawrence and guess what? We vote out there too. So, either way, this bond issue is going no where. You wrongly assume because our student population is lower that we have fewer people out there as well. Those that do not have kids will not care one whit about a bond issue, when their taxes could go down with the retirement of the old bonds. Not to mention their property values will drop with the closure of Wakarusa Valley. So, they'll not feel very kindly about putting more money into new schools when you close a perfectly good one right there. Which gets us where? No new schools, the in-town schools all get to stay open and the last remaining rural school will be sacrificed. We still haven't come anywhere near closing the gap on that 3 million dollar shortfall. What's the point? At least you get the promise of consolidation, no one even gives us enough respect to offer that. You get to have a say in how it goes down. You get a brand new school when it's done. What do we get? A dinky playground overlooking Lousiana and an open concept floorplan which hasn't been used in 40 years and which will definitely contribute to the drop in our students achievement next year. Yeah, that's fair. Learning for All!

PennyBrite 3 years, 9 months ago

Save some money by closing the "welcome center." It's a joke. Everyone knows it is just a way to protect certain peoples jobs......

sweetiepie 3 years, 9 months ago

I thought consensus meant "an agreement by most of the people concerned," not "an agreement by the people who want to make the decisions."

pace 3 years, 9 months ago

Take consensus reached as we have ended the public comment of our program. At least we spent the money on the team's stadium. Several hundred served, while thousands shafted. McSchoolboard.

Carol Bowen 3 years, 9 months ago

"A bond issue should be sought to finance construction of new or expanded schools to accommodate consolidation, and to upgrade other elementary schools throughout the district, the task force said. All affected school communities should be given a voice in helping shape the plan that goes to the board for approval, for submission to voters."

And why are we building new schools? I do not usually vote against school bond issues, but I will vote against this one. USD 497 cannot be trusted to use the money wisely, consider the communities around the schools, or acknowledge any responsibility for planning with the city. It arrogantly increased taxes while other government entities maintained current levels or less. Didn't I read that we could have a bond issue for programs rather than facilities?

4yourinfo 3 years, 9 months ago

So, Mr. Dunlap what are you basing your plethora of knowledge you have "now" all of a sudden gained? It must be easy for some who has not been in communication with our community to make a statement of little research! What's your connection? You can't be that ignorant!

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