Archive for Tuesday, October 11, 2011

First Bell: Facebook status updates unavailable at district headquarters; Financial Advisory Committee in works; goals list offers giant ‘leap’

October 11, 2011


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Members of the Lawrence school board want to boost the district’s communication efforts, and that could very well mean starting Lawrence school district accounts on Twitter or Facebook and other social networking sites for distributing official information and, perhaps, conducting community conversations online.

Monday night, however, they learned there might be a few barriers to overcome — starting on the technical side.

Rick Ingram, a board member who has advocated for establishing a district Facebook page, noted that one could be launched within three days — “if that.” He mentioned the Shawnee Mission school district’s page could serve as a model, one that administrators and other board members should look at to see what might be possible.

In fact, he suggested that the page should be projected on a big screen during the meeting, since the screen already was displaying the district’s not-yet-live listing of communications goals pending at the district’s own website.

“We could pull it up right now,” Ingram said.

Not exactly.

“You can’t,” said Vanessa Sanburn, board vice president, “because it’s blocked.”

That’s right: Facebook is inaccessible on the district’s computer system.

“How ironic,” someone said.

Someone hit the “Like” button for that last comment.


Board members have agreed to form a Financial Advisory Committee.

Now all they need to do is decide how big it will be, who will serve as its members and what its charge will be in the months and years ahead.

The committee is included in a list of goals approved Monday night by the board, but members left its future intentionally vague. It turns out they need to have more discussions before establishing the committee itself.

Board member Rick Ingram said he wanted the group to provide comprehensive information about financial challenges facing the district. The committee, made up of interested volunteers appointed by the board, could help identify new ways to approach financial issues.

Board member Randy Masten envisions the committee having five members, “people who do this as a profession, or perhaps teach it at the university.” They could provide administrators and the board with “advice on subjects that we suggest.”

Mark Bradford, board president, said that he could see having a committee to “review issues as assigned by the board,” but not one given board authority over the district’s financial future.

“Just globally, I’m not in favor of having another group come in and just globally sit down and go through the books with our own staff,” Bradford said. “I don’t think that’s appropriate.

“With five people, we’re going to have a difficult enough time trying to come up with four votes on selecting five independent people. But then, to give them the freedom to just go in and do whatever it is they want to do, based on their self interests, I’m not for that.”

Ingram’s take, from his seat at the opposite end of the board’s desk: “I’m not arguing that. … This is advisory. We can say, ‘Thanks for your advice. We’re going to do something different.’ For me, it’s just a matter of (getting) more complete information.”

Another board member, Keith Diaz Moore, suggested that the board move forward with agreeing to create the committee, but leaving the details to a future meeting.

His fellow board members took his advice, and moved on.


The board’s draft list of goals for 2011-12 received praise from board members who had proposed goals, suggested formats and requested changes during the past weeks and months.

They’re pleased with the finished product.

“It’s rather ambitious,” Diaz Moore said. “It’s an amazing list.”

Added Shannon Kimball, who, like Diaz Moore, joined the board in July after being elected in April: “It’s a leap ahead of what we had last year. I’m pleased that we have made that leap.”


Kookamooka 3 years, 12 months ago

USD 497 is committee heavy. Isn't there someone already getting paid by the district to crunch it's financial numbers and deliver reports. Can't they rely on that person?

aryastark1984 3 years, 11 months ago

Is someone employed to do that job? Yes. Can you trust them? No.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 3 years, 12 months ago

Maybe, maybe not. This is a way of providing a little oversight. Since many parents in Lawrence have lost confidence in the information coming out of the district office, this is a way for the board to be sure they're really examing each issue completely and not relying on skewed data spat forth to further someone's agenda on McDonald Dr. Even if our board members don't put it quite like that, it still serves the purpose of collaborating and communicating with the public at large and that is one of this year's main goals. I'd rather see more committees than the shoddy performance, put on by our administrators, masquerading as communication, when they are actually about as transparent as mud. Maybe these committee people will give us real answers to our questions instead of the song and dance we usually get.

aryastark1984 3 years, 11 months ago

I would like to point out to Mr. Bradford that the districts books and budget are part of the public record. Thus, anyone can request this information. The only thing that Ingram is requesting is that there be a committee that has a more formalized relationship with the board.

During the battle over elementary closures 2 years ago, the Save Our Neighborhood Schools group found hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of line items that were being charged to the general fund that should have been paid for out of other "pots" of money.

So, yes. The district DOES employ someone to do this job. Whether that person is incompetent, lazy, or is following some secret agenda is another question entirely.

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