Archive for Sunday, November 6, 2011

Data to help drive consolidation deliberations for Lawrence schools

November 6, 2011


As members of a consolidation working group continue working on a proposal for combining, expanding or even building new schools — an effort they acknowledge will only become both emotional and divisive in the weeks ahead — a team of experts is compiling numbers behind the scenes to build a data-filled foundation for deliberations.

RSP & Associates, an educational planning firm based in the Kansas City area, will deliver its initial reports Monday to members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group.

The data will indicate where students live, what economic issues they face, what programs they require, and then project how such information may change in the years ahead.

By separating the district into focused sectors — including some 256 geographical “catchments,” such as neighborhoods, subdivisions, apartment complexes or other sites — RSP officials plan to give elected officials and their appointed advisers enough information to see the big picture in terms of the Lawrence school district’s future.

“We’re using the latest data that’s available in the community to help guide decisions based on parameters that this community’s using to decide about consolidation,” said Robert Schwarz, CEO of RSP & Associates. “The answers will be evident in the data.”

But likely not yet.

The data going to members of the working group will be in a basic form: numbers, dots on maps, possibly some trends.

Group members then will be expected to take things from there and start envisioning scenarios for consideration. The Lawrence school board has asked members to recommend a plan for closing either two or three of six schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — through consolidation within the next two to three years.

Members of the working group need specific data, said Rick Doll, district superintendent. And RSP & Associates will be paid $27,500 to run the numbers, identify trends, make enrollment projections and, eventually, even draw boundary lines in accordance with the working group’s instructions.

“As controversial as this issue is, I believe that a neutral third party is best able to build credibility — not only with the working group, but the entire community,” Doll said.

RSP & Associates has worked with about 50 school districts, including Lawrence, to provide data and often help guide decision-makers through redistricting, school closings and other issues. In each case, the firm uses its statistical systems to help provide the basis for making decisions guided by community values and political realities.

“The data can help show an answer,” Schwarz said. “That’s the value of data.”

The working group’s meeting is set for 7 p.m. Monday at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. The group plans to have another six meetings — Nov. 21, Dec. 5, Dec. 19, and Jan. 2, 16 and 30 — until its recommendations are due to the school board by the end of January.


Bob_Loblaw 6 years, 6 months ago

The comments in this article are laughable. There is a difference between "data" and "information". Raw numbers can be data, but information is when data holds meaning for someone. The twisting and biases that act upon data then transform it into so called information. All you have to do is look at our political or environment news to see how data can be used and misused for any side of an issue.....let's see who has the most sway on this one.

akuna 6 years, 6 months ago

The Lawrence School Board needs to stop focusing on expanding the school system's foot print by building McSchools on the outskirts of town and start focusing on supporting schools that encourage local communities (or "catchments" as the article calls them.) I'm tired of smaller schools constantly being threatened. All they are doing is forcing parents to drive more, and forcing the community to fund new buildings.

sickofdummies 6 years, 6 months ago

Silly comment. The schools on the outskirts are the ones that have already closed. Are we currently building new schools on the outskirts? To my knowledge, the only building that has been discussed has been in association with the possible consolidations that would actually take place near the downtown areas.

akuna 6 years, 6 months ago

Dummy, read the first sentence... "As members of a consolidation working group continue working on a proposal for combining, expanding or even building new schools..." Asterisks for your convenience.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 6 months ago

"All they are doing is forcing parents to drive more, and forcing the community to fund new buildings."

That is because some on this BOE believe it is their duty to promote growth which is more or less documented by the tax rebate this board granted the Masonic building project. That logic can only come from the chamber of commerce. If my memory serves me well Mark Bradford said as much during his campaign which is why I decided not to vote for him.

USD 497 duty is to educate the district and maintain taxpayer owned property in a responsible fashion. IMO it is not their duty to promote growth,promote the sale of real estate or spend much energy attracting other students to the district. Handing out tax incentives is the last thing I would expect of a school board.

irvan moore 6 years, 6 months ago

they need to look at the effects on neighborhoods when they close a school

conservative 6 years, 6 months ago

No actually they don't have to look at the effect on a neighborhood when considering consolidation. The school districts job is to educate students period. They have to be able to do that within their budget. Small schools cost up to twice as much per pupil.

George_Braziller 6 years, 6 months ago

The two issues are inter-related. A school in a neighborhood makes it a desirable place to live for families with kids, which increases demand for housing and increases property values which results in more property taxes that are used to support the schools.

Remove the school and the opposite happens. Demand for housing drops along with property values as well as total property taxes paid.

Carol Bowen 6 years, 6 months ago

Children expand their community gradually. When they are infants, their bed is their community. As they grow, they expand their community to the yard, the neighborhood, the city, and so on. Busing children disrupts natural development. Providing neighborhood schools creates a sense of place, a strong personal foundation to build on. One of the guidelines for consolidation was supposed to be maintaining and improving education. Apparently, the hint of education was a ruse. Education has not even been mentioned in the latest articles. And, the recommendations from the last consultant were ignored because they did not fit Lawrence. When will we learn?

conservative 6 years, 6 months ago

@george you might have a point if the loss of property taxes in any way was as great as the additional costs associated with these schools. But when elementary schools with 3 or more classes per grade level are educating at a cost of 2200 per pupil and 1 class schools are at the 4000 mark then the math just doesn't work out. Unless of course you think the neighborhoods want to pay enough additional taxes to fund "their" school.

GMom05 6 years, 6 months ago

@conservative, sorry your numbers are way off. The most inexpensively any elementary school in this district was run in the 2010-2011 school year was $3399 per pupil for Deerfield, which had 530 students. Langston had 519 for $3517 per pupil. Versus, Wakarusa with 194 for $4877 or New York with 200 for $4580 per pupil. See the district website to find Elementary Per Pupil Costs 2010-11.pdf for more info. The district average was $3988. And, yes, I'd have paid the extra $900 a year for my child to continue attending Wakarusa Valley. And I am not in favor of spending my tax dollars on building a new school my child won't even get to attend, when there is a perfectly good school building I have to drive by every day! These closures are not about having less money or budget cuts, they are about deciding to spend it elsewhere. They are deciding that our elementary school buildings are not worthy of keeping open so they can put our tax money somewhere else, like "programming," full day kindergarten or other at-risk programs, or the secondary schools, which may or may not be a benefit to my child. Maybe it will be. Maybe it will be a benefit to somebody's child, I sure hope so, but who said the children of this district weren't doing just fine where they were? And who says they will do well whereever they are shuffled off to next?The district never identified a real NEED. It was just in case we find a better place to put it, we'll take it now. Thanks for nothing. I hope it was worth it. Somebody better benefit from all of this.

conservative 6 years, 6 months ago

My numbers are what was being reported 2 years ago when the SONS group was working so hard to make sure we increased class sizes and cut programs. Yes that's the results from not consolidating schools. But even using the numbers you've given it's clear the difference in costs based upon larger schools. Every school requires a principal, office support staff, janitorial staff, kitchen staff, plus resource teachers, gym teachers, music teachers etc who spend significant portitons of their day going from school to school instead of staying all day in a single school actually teaching our kids. But you've made it clear you're much more concerned with your particular building than the cuts to the quality of education that has taken place at the middle school and high school level by eliminating programs and electives.

aryastark1984 6 years, 6 months ago

Thanks GMom05. But, here is the other thing that no one wants to talk about. The kids at New York (for instance) will cost more no matter where they go. The vast majority of kids there are defined as "at risk" so they get extra funding regardless of where they are. If you "added" them to Deerfield, the cost per pupil at Deerfield would go up.

Similarly, many of the kids at Cordly and Hillcrest are ELL students. They would get ELL services where ever they went. But, it is undoubtedly more efficient, and better for the kids to keep them at cluster sites, rather than trying to duplicate services in all the schools in the districts.

conservative 6 years, 6 months ago

How many classes per grade level are there at New York? 200 students over 6 grades (k-5) Is it less than 20 per grade level which would make it way below the 30+ average in the district? or are there grade levels with only 1 class? Because either way it's an argument for consolidation.

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