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Archive for Thursday, March 24, 2011

First Bell: West Junior High won’t become Google Middle School; childcare more expensive than college tuition; dress-code bill hits roadblock in Iowa

March 24, 2011

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Some education-oriented items from around the area, and beyond:

Lawrence Schools Foundation trustees and staff visit with Brian McClendon, engineering director for Google Inc., at a reception on Sept. 4 at the home of Bill and Cindy Self. From left are Becky Orth, Lee Beth Dever, Cindy Self, Brian McClendon, Rosy Elmore, Susan Esau, Paige Hofer and Andrea Moen.

Lawrence Schools Foundation trustees and staff visit with Brian McClendon, engineering director for Google Inc., at a reception on Sept. 4 at the home of Bill and Cindy Self. From left are Becky Orth, Lee Beth Dever, Cindy Self, Brian McClendon, Rosy Elmore, Susan Esau, Paige Hofer and Andrea Moen.

Brian McClendon — co-founder of Google Earth and current vice president for Google Earth, Google maps, engineering and product at Google Inc. — admits retaining heartfelt feelings for his various alma maters in the Lawrence school district: Hillcrest School, West Junior High School and Lawrence High School.

He’s not sold, however, on the whole idea of what he described as the “rejiggering” the district’s junior highs into middle schools beginning next year.

Specifically, he’s not a big fan of changing the schools’ names.

“ ‘Middle school’ generally is not impactful,” McClendon said Wednesday afternoon, after we’d discussed Google’s planned release of updated imagery for Google Earth and through Google Maps, and ongoing work on a virtual Allen Fieldhouse. “You don’t want to go to middle school; you want to go to junior high school. You want to be closer to high school.”

I advised McClendon that he could still have a say in the process. He’s a bit of a big thing in the district, you know, having delivered the keynote speech during the 2008 Lawrence Community Education Breakfast, which attracted 500 people and raised a then-record $49,000 for the Lawrence Schools Foundation.

The Lawrence school board still plans to take up the issue of naming the soon-to-be-middle schools sometime in the coming weeks.

“I don’t think Google’s ready to buy school naming rights,” McClendon said.

And just think: I didn’t even ask him about the district’s budget challenges. ...

•••

The Douglas County Child Development Association is organizing a collection of open houses to let parents get a preview of potential sites and operations for childcare.

With good reason.

“When you’re decide where to send your children, most people are looking, No. 1, at the finances, not necessarily the quality,” said Hannah Sheridan-Duque, the association’s scholarship program coordinator. “They don’t put as much forethought into it as where they’ll be sending them to college.”

And that’s not such a good idea, she said, especially considering that such services for infants can cost $800 to $1,000 a month.

“In the first five years, you’re spending more for child care than you would for tuition for four years of college,” Sheridan-Duque said. “That’s why it’s important for parents to get educated about where they’re sending their children.”

And that’s why the association is organizing the Douglas County Early Education Site Tour, set for 9 a.m. to noon April 9 beginning at the association office, 935 Iowa, Suite 7. The office is in the Hillcrest Shopping Center, east of the Royal Crest Lanes bowling alley.

At least a dozen childcare centers and homes will be conducting open houses as part of the self-guided tour. The association will provide parents with maps that include information and locations about each operator.

Parents seeking more information and operators interested in participating may contact the association at 842-9679, or by emailing Sheridan-Duque at hannah@dccda.org

•••

A bill that would allow Iowa school districts to require school uniforms appears to lack enough support in the state senate to move forward, despite having been approved 89-7 by the Iowa House.

That’s the word from Iowa state Sen. Herman Quirmbach, chairman of the Senate Education Committee. According to an Associated Press article, Quirmbach says there is little chance the bill would meet an April 1 legislative deadline.

According to the story, the “vast majority of feedback” he’s received on the bill has been negative. He says schools already could develop a voluntary standard of dress under current state law.

The committee has more important issues to work on, Quirmbach added Wednesday, such as school funding.

Comments

cato_the_elder 3 years, 9 months ago

“ ‘Middle school’ generally is not impactful,” McClendon said Wednesday afternoon, after we’d discussed Google’s planned release of updated imagery for Google Earth and through Google Maps, and ongoing work on a virtual Allen Fieldhouse. “You don’t want to go to middle school; you want to go to junior high school. You want to be closer to high school.”

Bingo.

Brian McClendon is a whole lot smarter than the nattering nabobs in charge of USD 497.

Take_a_letter_Maria 3 years, 9 months ago

Amen to that cato.

Hey Mark, have you taken the challenge yet? Have you asked the question of WHY they even need to change the name from JH to MS? I gave you the firepower to cut-off their two canned responses.

Kash_Encarri 3 years, 9 months ago

It'll never happen Maria. If Fagan asks the tough question and follows it up, the board members will avoid talking to him completely.

mfagan 3 years, 9 months ago

Quick note on the challenge: After considering a plan in which the district would have switched the names of the schools -- although not necessarily the signs in front of the buildings, or the paint on the gym floors, etc., at least not right away -- from "junior high" to "middle school" for each of the four schools, a majority of the board voted to pursue new names entirely. Among the reasons given at the time (and I'm paraphrasing): The directional names aren't accurate anymore... there's no better time than now to do it... the community can come up with more creative names than simple directions, etc... That's the "why," at least as it stands now, for a majority of the board. Those who voted to seek input for new names were Mary Loveland, Marlene Merrill, Rich Minder and Vanessa Sanburn. I'd imagine the board will be receiving the naming recommendations soon, and we'll see what they decide to do...

Kash_Encarri 3 years, 9 months ago

You've already reported that Central is the only school that wants to make a change to somehow incorporate Liberty into the name. I can see that given the history of that building. If the other three are recommending keeping the directional name then there ISN'T any reason to change anything else - i.e. from JH to MS. Maria's earlier challenge, and several other posters, have proven those justifications to be false.

Success 3 years, 9 months ago

Mark, From my perspective the decision of the board was to ask the each school community to decide to either keep the existing name (except for changing it from "junior high" to "middle") or to select new names altogether. The Board was presented with advocates in the community who wanted to change the names and advocates to keep the names the same. There were particularly strong voices coming from advocates who wanted to reinstate the old name of the Liberty Memorial to the Central Building.

My support for the decision to ask the community to decide was animated by value of public participation and by a desire to find a compromise between the two sides. The choices to keep the existing names of change them remains to be informed by those most impacted. I stand by the Board's majority in this.

Take_a_letter_Maria 3 years, 9 months ago

I'm not certain that I am following you here Rich. I don't recall there being any input from the public regarding the change from Junior High to Middle School in the naming. It was more of the board dictating it to us. The only thing the various schools had an input on - I wasn't on any of the committees but knew at least two people on three of the groups - was keep the current name South, West, Southwest, Central or come up with something more descriptive of the particular school community. The reasons given thus far, at least as reported by this newspaper, have been proven to be invalid.

Since Mark apparently won't ask the question I will. Why do we have to change the name from Junior High to Middle School?

Kash_Encarri 3 years, 9 months ago

You didn't really expect an answer did you Maria? These folks aren't responsive to the people. It's all a big ego boost to them.

Tony Kisner 3 years, 9 months ago

The heart of the issue is the children’s sense of self. By referring to the school building as a Junior High there is a natural indication of inferiority; something of lesser value than Senior. Middle school is a certainly a more accurate description of the schools situation, it is in the middle of Elementary and Senior. Of course this discounts the “Jan Brady” phenomenon of being overlooked or brushed aside as being neither at the beginning or end, but in the middle. I am not sure how this will affect the self-esteem of these students but I hope the Legislature fully funds research with the new budget.

Take_a_letter_Maria 3 years, 9 months ago

“You don’t want to go to middle school; you want to go to junior high school. You want to be closer to high school.” Brian McClendon, VP Google Earth, West JUNIOR High and Lawrence High graduate.

ranger73 3 years, 9 months ago

So if "we" are worried about the children's sense of self, then why not have them vote on whether or not to change the school names? I thought that was going to be incorporated into the decision, as well as any public input. Either way, tomato tomahto, junior high middle school, I really think there are more pressing issues the board needs to address.

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