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Opinion

Opinion

Public notice

The flow of information from the Lawrence school district to its patrons needs some work.

March 31, 2011

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When the Lawrence school board is facing difficult decisions such as budget cuts and school closings, it’s more important than ever to keep the public fully informed.

As much as possible, members of the public should have all the same information the board has and they should have that information in time to try to have an impact on the decisions being made.

A good first step would be to take a look at the way school board agendas are structured and released. School board agendas are posted on the district’s website, but usually aren’t available until the Friday before a Monday night meeting. In some cases, the public has had plenty of notice that certain issues will be taken up at a specific meeting. In other cases, however, agendas posted on Friday listing issues that will be taken up on Monday give the public precious little time to formulate a response.

The situation is aggravated by the fact that the online school board agenda often doesn’t provide easy access to information related to agenda items. Last Monday’s agenda included a useful link to the district administration’s report on full-day kindergarten. However, the only link from the item about closing Wakarusa Valley School, was to the elementary school task force recommendations.

The agenda didn’t include any mention of the preliminary plan presented by district administrators at Monday’s meeting to fill an expected $3 million hole in next year’s budget. In fact, Monday’s meeting apparently was the first time the board members themselves had seen the plan.

Administrators didn’t expect the board to take any action on the budget plan, but the figures in that plan were directly related to another item on Monday’s agenda: the closure of Wakarusa Valley School.

Why not put those figures out ahead of the meeting so that both board members and district patrons have some time to ponder them before they are discussed?

For guidance, school officials might look at the agendas compiled for Lawrence City Commission meetings. The city usually releases its agenda late Thursday in advance of a Tuesday night meeting. The city agendas also routinely include staff reports and other detailed documents about items the commission will be discussing. This makes it easy for the public to understand the issues ahead of the meetings. The time between the release of the agenda and the commission meetings also gives members of the public time to contact their elected officials or prepare to attend the meeting where an issue of interest will be discussed.

The worst thing the school district can do in an emotionally charged situation such as school closings is to make district patrons feel like they aren’t getting the whole story or that district administrators or board members are acting hastily without adequate public input. With that in mind, this would be a great time to examine how and when information about upcoming school board decisions is shared with the school board, students, parents, district employees and taxpayers.

Comments

oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

I thought merrill wanted the school board to spend, I thought merril wanted bond issues. Guess merril wasn't thinking either right along with the others who voted in the last two bond issues and the third is on the way.

Now the school could get some extra money from a downtown lot, if it as paying more than 74cents in taxes. The district gets 37cents and maybe a bit more. What do they do with that money?

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William Ed 3 years ago

Knee Jerk, Knee Jerk, Knee Jerk- This school board through ignorance or lemmingness, has placed the new board members in an egregious position. By closing the rural school in the southwest area of Douglas county, the effect will be to reduce that area's already fragile property values by an estimated 10%. The way the county budget is funded means that the mill levy for EVERY property owner in the County (including city dwellers), will see their taxes raised to make up for that loss of revenue needed fund the county's budget. If the new board should find it necessary to raise funds for a 21st Century Elementary School, does anyone really believe that a bond issue would pass, when their has just been a tax increase, jobs are not easy to find, and the credibility of the school board is already highly suspect. If the new board , after they come on board, should choose to try and salvage the situation by keeping Wakarusa open, then it will Knee jerk the Administration-- again.

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Richard Heckler 3 years ago

It is the responsibility of USD 497 BOE to set policy and give direction not the other way around.

It is the responsibility of the Supt and other staff to execute the desires of USD 497 BOE.....

Sometimes it is difficult to decipher who is setting policy and providing direction.

The spending hmmmmmmmmmmm.

I have yet to hear from the USD 497 BOE exactly where that $1,000,000 came from to pay for new bleachers etc etc etc and other items related to the sports projects.

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.

When does the spending cease? How much does this project ADD to the operations budget?

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GMom05 3 years ago

Lilly, you are absolutely unbelievable! I surely hope you are not someone anyone in my family has to associate with on a regular basis. Your assumptions are unfounded. Your accusations are rude. And you are insensitive. This is not your fight or any of your business. Why don't you go pull the wings off flies or whatever you do and leave us to grieve?

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pusscanthropus 3 years ago

Funny how EdDs insist on being called "doctor." What a joke!

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4yourinfo 3 years ago

It's not about anger, that's what will be missed at Waky! It's about the nurturing, I don't expect New York Lilly to understand! If you want to add fuel to something go fuel up your moped!

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NewYorkLilly 3 years ago

Parents should be able to trust that ALL of the staff members would be able to control their emotions and NOT project their anger onto the children , thus "upsetting them" I hope some of these comments are not being made by staff at the school. If so , maybe other factors may have influenced the choice of school being closed.

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NewYorkLilly 3 years ago

Parents should be able to trust that ALL of the staff members would be able to control their emotions and NOT project their anger onto the children , thus "upsetting them" I hope some of these comments are not being made by staff at the school. If so , maybe other factors may have influenced the choice of school being closed.

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4yourinfo 3 years ago

Coming to you live it's Dr. Doll as New York Lilly!

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Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years ago

Ha! If he was really showing support he would have said something. He would have called for an assembly or offered to come afterschool or the next evening so parents could ask questions. Instead he slunk away as soon as the bell rang. He could even have brought in some district counselors in case staff or students wanted to talk about their fears and their loss. Yes, the kids, don't know him from a hole in the ground, but they are sensitive to the adults around them and when the adults saw him that morning, THEY WERE ANGRY. And this is how our children got to start their day. His appearance was only a show, to make him look like he's not such a bad guy. So, yes, I considered it was his show of support and it was a SHOW. Who are you to pass judgement on the staff or parents that may or may not have been upset by his presence? Were you there? Do you work for the district or in that building? Do you have children that attend WV? If not, then I doubt there is no one sorrier than you.

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NewYorkLilly 3 years ago

No one is sorrier than me to see Wakarusa Valley or any other school in the district close but to villify Dr Doll because he took the time to go to Wakarusa the day after the announcement of the board decision is both childish and unprofessional. I am sure the students were not upset by his presence and neither was school staff with any common sense. Have you considered that it may have been a show of support on his part??

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

Dr. Doll and not a real doctor, Drs. to wilbur are people who fix things. Anyway, the Dr. in Spite of Himself, that being Doll, is doing exactly what the board wants done. Simple as that.

Even though with all of their study sessions and rehashing each and every decision, the results end up much as with the local city commission, they study and rehash and still can't make a decision so leave it to Mr. Corliss.

What really is the purpose of the school board, with all the intellect it has :) and the same with the city commission with each of them having so much experience. Both bodies have study sessions but never really comprehend what is being studied.

Time for the school board to do some study hall time.

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GMom05 3 years ago

Without a doubt, Doll's actions in the past and future need to be closely scrutinized. Since his arrival, the self-proclaimed "hatchet-man", has done nothing but lie to the public, scheme, and bully our staff from our building principals on down. There is no trust between him and the public. There is no trust between him and the rest of the employees of USD 497 who fear for their jobs. School board, if you have any concern for how your constituents feel about this district, you should start with this problem of lack of honesty, transparency, and trust between the district administrators and everyone else. Candidates and remaining Board members, take heed, this is now YOUR problem to solve. And we'll demand it of you! Dr. Doll, you cannot ride this train forever. Eventually, we'll have a new board who does not agree with your way of 'getting the job done.' You may have snookered this board into renewing your contract this year, but do not think this can continue. It's a good thing you sleep so well at night, you'll need your strength. Start looking for a job now, and don't think the people you've already put out of work are going to give you their place in the unemployment line.

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SynjynSmythe 3 years ago

"Administrators didn’t expect the board to take any action on the budget plan"???? You apparently didn't hear Doll driving the board to vote to close Wakarusa and adopt the other measures proposed to close the $2.7M gap that, by the way, would have been covered by closing Cordley and Pinckney. Doll had a plan. Doll executed that plan. How much the school board knew in advance, and who participated in Doll's plan, remain to be seen.

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

Better yet , folks in Lawrence vote in the next bond issue and go for 3 BIG bad ones.

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oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

Well then, Journal World, get the information.

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really_ 3 years ago

Clevercowgirl - I agree on ALL your points as well as the JW Editorial. A further comment - when you arrive at a school board meeting, you receive a PACKET of information - the last one being 48 pages front and back of information. My opinion - it is the administration's way of covering their butts. They can say they informed us, knowing full well no one can get through all the information at that time and thus, won't question it.

Well, after looking back through the PACKET, I have questions/comments. Why does the bank information reflect hotel stays at HILTON and MARIOTT hotels? Why are there so many checks for restaurants - like Salty Iguana, Biggs BBQ, Jimmy John's, Pizza Hut, etc.? Why are there so many "entertainment" types of transactions - like Smiley's Golf Center, New Theatre Restaurant, Alvamar Country Club, etc.?

Now, there may be some reasonable explanations for the above transactions, but we don't get that information. Thus, it makes me question the spending habits of the district at a time when we are closing schools to gain VERY LITTLE savings in the grand scheme of things.

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Clevercowgirl 3 years ago

Oh, and I left out: thrown under the bus by SONS.

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Clevercowgirl 3 years ago

Thank you. And while we are at it, let's find some vehicle by which the public has more say on how we spend our school dollars. The information/misinformation comes from the top, and hidden agendas have no place in this process.

Dr. Doll, firing off a letter to parents that was received the very next morning added fuel to the fire. Not to mention, his presence at the school the very next morning, did nothing to calm things down. To put it bluntly, Dr. Doll is a person non-grata at Wakarusa. What bothers me the most about this, is, that his presence hurt our children further. Parents and teachers were further upset on a morning when everyone was already raw and emotional. Children feed into this, and in turn become more upset themselves. And the icing on the cake was that our teachers and children were going through state assessments this week. Tuesday could not have been a more horrible time for our community.

All of this has been compounded by everything that you mention above. We have been belittled, not taken seriously, underestimated, disrespected, and treated in an underhanded and deceitful manner. The End.

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