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Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Incumbent school board member Marlene Merrill wants to complete the work she’s begun

Marlene Merrill is seeking a seat on the Lawrence school board. In this video, the retired educator and incumbent board member answers three questions about her campaign.

March 16, 2011

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2011 Lawrence school board election

Stay informed on the race for Lawrence school board in our special elections section. Read stories, participate in live chats, watch candidate videos, vote in our straw poll and use the candidate selector to help you find out which candidates get your vote on April 5.

Marlene Merrill

Marlene Merrill

Marlene Merrill is nearly four years into studying, proposing and determining ways to steer the Lawrence school district through curriculum implementations, school reconfigurations, bond issue expenditures, budget-cutting moves and school-closing deliberations.

And she wants to go back for more.

“I am volunteering my expertise,” said Merrill, a member of the Lawrence school board since 2007. “I know a lot about education; I think I provide that aspect to board decisions. I want Lawrence schools to be the very best schools we can have and, in many ways, Lawrence schools are excellent.

“But part of the reason I’m running is to complete the work we’ve started.”

Merrill is a retired teacher, school psychologist, special education director and director of assessments and grants. She is among nine people campaigning for four available seats on the board. The election is April 5.

Issues

While three of her board colleagues will step aside voluntarily when their terms expire in June, Merrill is asking voters for an extension. And she knows there are plenty of issues to grab their attention.

Among the plans Merrill has for a second term:

  • Implement a plan for elementary education. “Whether that means consolidating buildings, building new buildings or designating some buildings for special programs, we need to have movement in that direction,” she said. “We’ve gotten some excellent groundwork from the (Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision) Task Force. My goal is to complete that picture.” Task force members met for eight months before recommending that the board close Wakarusa Valley School next year and then pursue consolidating six schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — into three or four schools within three to five years, using financing sought from a yet-to-be-determined bond issue.
  • Implement full-day kindergarten in all elementary schools. Such programming now is available in eight of the district’s 15 elementary schools. “I want to see it in every building, for all of our kids,” she said. “The research is very clear: It substantially aids a student’s growth, increases their vocabulary, increases their interest in learning and makes them successful learners. It helps them. It’s money well spent.”
  • Find money for such initiatives. Merrill understands that the district faces starting the next academic year with $3 million less than it had to start 2010-11. That said, she is willing to look into closing or consolidating schools, or increasing class sizes, to free up money for high-priority needs. “We’ve cut counseling,” she said. “We’ve cut our prevention workers, the WRAP program, all these things are gone. We cut nurses a little bit last year. We cut all the learning coaches. … We cut para(professional)s last year, too. There are really not many places that are left in the budget that we can pull money from, and still be able to successfully educate kids. “So that only leaves a couple of places: closing schools, or increasing the number of students in every classroom — or both. But if we tackle that wisely, and close the schools that are part of a comprehensive plan, I think we will provide some opportunities.”
  • Continue programs and initiatives to “close the achievement gap” in schools. Minority students and other “at-risk” students who tend to lag behind others in terms of academic achievement are being helped by a variety of efforts, she said, including the Courageous Conversations program that helps address race issues in schools. That program needs to continue, and the board needs to work on ways to boost professional development for teachers to help focus on closing the gap.
  • Propose a bond issue. All elementary schools need physical upgrades and other renovations, she said, and such a program needs to be developed along with a plan to consolidate schools so that efficiency is improved while enhancing programming. The plan should be built using the task force’s foundation, she said, and formed with guidance from principals, teachers, parents and others focused on the welfare of students. “We need to do it from the ground up, and do it by generating the common interest to consolidate,” Merrill said. “I would hope we can be persuasive: It’s easier to give up the old if you feel positive about what the future would be. “I’m not saying it would be easy, but it would be a mistake to just make an autocratic decision.”

Background

Merrill earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1962 from Purdue University, after graduating third in her class of 340 at Bishop Noll High School in Hammond, Ind.

She earned two master’s degrees — in American history, from Purdue, and in school psychology, from Illinois State University — before receiving a doctorate in school psychology, with an emphasis in school administration, from Kansas University in 1981.

She spent 13 years as a school psychologist and about 20 years as an administrator, including a stint as director for assessments and grants in the Lawrence district. She retired in 2008, after performing educational research for the Kansas City, Kan., school district.

Comments

GMom05 3 years, 1 month ago

“We need to do it from the ground up, and do it by generating the common interest to consolidate,” Merrill said. “I would hope we can be persuasive: It’s easier to give up the old if you feel positive about what the future would be.

Why are we spending so much time talking about consolidation and glossing over the fact that you plan to close a school, right now? Forget that little nugget? Oh yeah, I feel really positive. Close my school now. Don't consolidate. Don't give us a new building. Don't let me be involved. Make my child go to the school with the 'giant circles of sadness', 40 year old open concept floor plan. Yes, it's easy for YOU. I don't feel positive about what my child faces in the future at all. But, then who cares about the rural kids anyway? Clearly you people only care about making your in-town constituents happy. Don't forget we actually have a right to vote out here! Good luck to you and your bond issues!

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Clevercowgirl 3 years, 1 month ago

Why did I get removed above? Is it against the rules to voice my dislike for the creepy split screen picture in the upper left? Is there free speech here, or what. I did not swear, slander, or say anything except that I thought the picture was creepy. What is wrong with that. Could the JW email me and explain my being removed?

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kravist1 3 years, 1 month ago

Why does she keep looking at the ceiling? Is Doll hanging from the ceiling with a script??

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 1 month ago

merrill, your three short paragraphs of nattering do not logically lead to your conclusion.

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

Public schools are not doing as bad as portrayed!

Public Schools are not failing.

No Child Left Behind was designed to make it appear that public schools are failing. No Child Left Behind is a political tool NOT a learning tool. A political tool to direct tax dollars into the bank accounts of corporate public schools.

Reckless spending neoconservatives believe tax dollars should go to corporate private schools although no one is evaluating corporate private schools using the same measuring technique. In fact no one is measuring corporate private schools.

It is my position that parents who enroll their children in corporate private schools are substantially involved in the children's education as they if their children were attending public schools.

Therefore the deduction claiming public schools are failing is useless. There is no hard evidence based on a fair and equal environment.

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jayhawklawrence 3 years, 1 month ago

Sounds like she wants to raise the property tax.

Just add that to the long list of things we can no longer afford.

...or promise us that you will not do that.

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Clevercowgirl 3 years, 1 month ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

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Flap Doodle 3 years, 1 month ago

Why do you keep citing an 8 year old poll, merrill? Do you think nothing has changed since 2003?

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

Bypassing the voters on the $20,000,000 USD 497 sports project = not good.

Supporting the purchase of 75 acres of unimproved land at $23,000 an acre = not good

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Richard Heckler 3 years, 1 month ago

New faces is the best bet....

An excellent public school system is economic growth material! New buildings are irrelevant!

Would you favor a sales tax increase to provide more money for Lawrence teacher salaries?

Teacher Salary Support http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2003/mar/teacher_salaries/

Of 5,198 voting 80% said yes. Remarkable ( of course we know this won't fly UNLESS the state legislature says yes)

BUT instead of shooting for a tax increase I say this USD 497 district do three things to help out the school district.

  1. Lend 10% of the existing 1995 city sales tax money to the school district to keep existing schools open AND give teachers a raise. (((Lending the district money might fly))) It is worth a shot but will not come easy. “Let the voter decide” if necessary should be part of the persuasion.

This will leave 90% of the sales tax to the park department…. Not too shabby.

BTW this special sales tax can be delegated to any need. It is NOT dedicated.

  1. USE existing personal property tax dollars to fix the schools instead of floating a new bond issue to build new schools. The existing bond debt is set to be retired this year so let us let it be retired. http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/oct/how_should_school_district_pay_20_million_maintena/

http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2009/oct/22/school-priorities/#c1027186

  1. In addition to help discover more tax dollars for operations :

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. Seem like a lot of money for part time bus transportation.

Parents might be willing to find other means to get your students to school IF it meant keeping all the schools open,retaining important subject matter/programs and retaining a skilled teaching staff?

Think car pooling,family members ,walking and biking.

USD 497 says it needs $3 million. Can WE come up with $3 million? 75% of $4.5 million = $3,375,000. 75% of 4 million = $3 million

Again an excellent public school system is economic growth material! New buildings are irrelevant!

Lawrence,Kansas needs to start talking about this.

  1. Close the current USD 497 admin building and move the admin staff and BOE meeting room to Centennial. Put the large white elegant admin building on the market and move those funds into the USD 497 cookie jar. Why close schools?

  2. On Feb 14 and Feb 28 the USD 497 BOE voted to approve nearly $1 million MORE dollars towards the ongoing the sports project for new bleachers and new items at Free State.

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SynjynSmythe 3 years, 1 month ago

"Marlene Merrill is nearly four years into studying, proposing and determining ways to steer the Lawrence school district" into bankruptcy.

"There are really not many places that are left in the budget that we can pull money from, and still be able to successfully educate kids. So that only leaves a couple of places: closing schools, or increasing the number of students in every classroom — or both. But if we tackle that wisely, and close the schools that are part of a comprehensive plan, I think we will provide some opportunities.” By wisely, I mean we'll ignore the foolish proposal to save that $3M by closing a school that'd only save $351,000 and, instead, close Cordley (saving $1.9M) and close Pinckney (saving another $1.02M). You see, by saving $2.92M, and by having about $14M in contingency funding that we conveniently did not mention to the taskforce and haven't mentioned to the public (a special thanks to Mr. Doll) , we're set for the future!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Zachary Stoltenberg 3 years, 1 month ago

Because "Merril, Nuttier than a Squirrel on Acid" just doesn't make a good headline...

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Number_1_Grandma 3 years, 1 month ago

One could argue that voting out ALL incumbents would be better than re-electing same old ideas!

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irvan moore 3 years, 1 month ago

complete the work shes begun? consolidate, build, bond issue, and 20 years as an administrator, i'm convinced, vote her out.

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