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Archive for Saturday, November 26, 2011

Elementary essentials fill priorities list

Lawrence schools superintendent Rick Doll, foreground, addresses school board members at a meeting in March. He has recently compiled a list of priorities for budget-challenged programs, services and personnel that should be part of basic elementary education in the Lawrence school district.

Lawrence schools superintendent Rick Doll, foreground, addresses school board members at a meeting in March. He has recently compiled a list of priorities for budget-challenged programs, services and personnel that should be part of basic elementary education in the Lawrence school district.

November 26, 2011

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After listening to principals, teachers and site council members, Superintendent Rick Doll has compiled a list of priorities for budget-challenged programs, services and personnel that should be part of basic elementary education in the Lawrence school district.

Topping the list:

  • Full-day kindergarten in all schools.
  • Full-time principals.
  • Small class sizes.
  • Full-time nursing, counseling and mental health services.
  • Reading and math specialists.
  • Before- and after-school programs.

“Obviously, these take dollars,” Doll said.

Where to find such dollars continues to be a focus for the district, as the Lawrence school board awaits direction from two sources: budget restrictions from the upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature and recommendations from a volunteer advisory group assigned to develop a plan for closing either two or three elementaries through consolidation within the next two years.

Members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group have five more meetings scheduled before their end-of-January deadline.

The district continues to face declining revenues. The state has cut per-pupil payments to districts in each of the past four years — with the current level of $3,780 being the lowest since 2000 — and more reductions are feared to be on the way.

“It hasn’t been good the last several years,” said Lois Orth-Lopes, a teacher at Cordley School, past president of the Lawrence Education Association and current member of the working group. “We’re making things work, but our class sizes are growing. Our services and other support people are going down. It gets tighter and tighter every year.”

School board members who formed the working group — as recommended by another advisory group, the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force — did so with the idea that saving money by reducing the number of smaller schools in the district could free up additional revenues for essential services for all students.

Enter the priority list.

Doll has gathered recommendations for “essential services” from principals at all 14 schools. The principals had consulted with teachers and members of site councils at their school, to see what programs would be considered most effective in “closing achievement gaps” between different sets of students and improving “achievement for all,” Doll said.

While such services should be universal in the district’s elementary schools, Doll said, budgetary and operational challenges have held some back.

Broken Arrow and Wakarusa Valley schools shared a principal last year, for example. Some schools don’t have full-time nursing services, nor full-time professionals dealing in counseling and mental health. Reading and math specialist positions have been cut.

Four schools — Deerfield, Langston Hughes, Sunset Hill and Quail Run — still lack full-day kindergarten, a program financed elsewhere using revenues set aside for providing programs and services targeted for students considered “at risk,” a standing based on economic status.

For this academic year, the district added full-day kindergarten at two schools — Broken Arrow and Sunflower — using some of the money saved by closing Wakarusa Valley School at the end of the 2010-11 school year.

The priorities list indicates fundamental needs for all schools, Doll said. That’s regardless of a building’s size, enrollment or students’ economic standing.

Schools reporter Mark Fagan can be reached at 832-7188. Follow him at Twitter.com/MarkFaganLJW.

Comments

pace 2 years, 4 months ago

I don't agree for a need for full time principal for every school.
My suggestions, I believe will not be considered. I would love more teachers and longer teaching hours, more hours per day. 8 to 5 school hours, which would include recess and study hours. More teachers, smaller classrooms, longer hours, no broken days requiring after school third parties. Math and reading, science and arts. Spending the money for sports rather than physical education made me sick. Arenas over science.

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LeBo 2 years, 4 months ago

Notice that Curriculum and Instruction, nor student discipline/safety are not on the list.

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OonlyBonly 2 years, 4 months ago

"Full-day kindergarten in all schools." Why? For a loooooonnnnng time your first day of school was in the First grade for a full day. Seemed to work pretty well. "Full-time principals." Okay. I'll give 'em this. "Small class sizes." Why again? Been quite a few adults educated in classrooms of 80 or more students - ofttimes with more than one class per room and teacher. "Full-time nursing, counseling and mental health services." Why? Are we providing education or replacing parents? "Reading and math specialists." Why again? I just don't understand why modern teachers seem to be unable to teach! It used to be if you didn't "get it" you sought help (other students, saw the teacher or even [God forbid] asked your parents) or you flunked. The American educational system is failing its students. It's time we admitted it and returned to the basic function of education - teaching people! 'Til/till, there/their, your/you're and on and on and ..............

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William Ed 2 years, 4 months ago

If we need after school programs as a priority, then how do you get the "kiddos" home? Does that mean Mom or Dad or Provider has to make a special trip to pick them up, or do we pay for More busses? Don't forget over 400 kids don't attend the school for their boundary area. If the students need more time to learn, why not just extend the school day, or cut out some of the stuff in which they now have classes.

Has anyone done the math on school sizes? With four section schools and small classes (15 for k-3, and 20 for k-4 and 5) the school size is 400. That would require 13.25 schools. With Woodlawn at 280, 14 schools are needed. Isn't that what we now have??

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Cogito_Ergo_Es 2 years, 4 months ago

Boys and Girls Club is more affordable than quality care because they don't hire very many people to actually watch the kids. While I agree before and after school care is a great ideal, I don't see why our district seems to have given the monopoly (almost exclusively) to Boys and Girls club AND they got a cheap building to boot. Who at Boys and Girls club is related to someone on McDonald Drive?

In other news, unless I've missed it (and I might have) since they closed Wakarusa, there are no more schools with parttime principals are there? Why is that on the list?

I actually laughed out loud when I read full day kindergarten and small class sizes. Since when has that been a priority for this district? Where exactly does he expect to put all those kindergarteners at those four schools and also have small class sizes (which we don't even have now!) and still close TWO or THREE schools??!!! Just talking out of both sides of his mouth as usual.

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2 years, 4 months ago

Punkrockmom, There are not Boys and Girls Clubs at all schools for both before and after school. It varies by location. I think the priority here is to have both, before and after school Boys and Girls Clubs, at each site. It is a very important component in the lives of the children who need to be taken care of while their parent or guardian is not available for work purposes or other related activities. And it is a completely different option than home or facility daycare...there is a HUGE price difference. The Boys and Girls Club is actually affortable and there are scholarships. It is a fantastic program and it should be available for children who need it, whether that be before school or after school or both, and not dependent on what school or it's SES status.

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Nikki May 2 years, 4 months ago

We noted our priorities at a PTA meeting awhile back. Most of us thought the before and after school programs were a non-issue with so many daycares and boys and girls club already offering these programs.

Other than that, we had a similar list. I think some of us noted that technology would be something we'd like to see more of at ALL the schools.

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