Archive for Saturday, April 7, 2012

Lawrence school board asked to take vote on consolidation

Lawrence schools superintendent Rick Doll, foreground, addresses school board members at a meeting in March 2011. After two and a half years of discussion, the Lawrence school board will formally vote whether to consolidate its smaller elementary schools on Monday.

Lawrence schools superintendent Rick Doll, foreground, addresses school board members at a meeting in March 2011. After two and a half years of discussion, the Lawrence school board will formally vote whether to consolidate its smaller elementary schools on Monday.

April 7, 2012


Time’s up.

After two and half years of discussion, the Lawrence school board is being asked to take a formal vote on whether to consolidate its smaller elementary schools.

“Board officers feel like it is time to make a decision,” Superintendent Rick Doll said. “Everyone has the information needed to make the decision. We can’t think of any more information we can give them. It is time.”

The current vote is fueled by recommendations handed over in late February by the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group. For more than six months, the group studied ways to reduce six elementary schools — New York, Cordley, Kennedy, Pinckney, Hillcrest and Sunset Hill — into three or four schools within the next two years.

The working group couldn’t reach consensus. A little more than half of the members in the working group believed the problems caused by consolidation didn’t justify the money it would save. The other side believed closing schools was a valid option but didn’t want to name which buildings would close.

Ultimately, the entire group agreed the school district needed to ask taxpayers to approve a bond that would help repair and expand existing schools.

Since receiving those recommendations, the board has asked the district about everything from the English as a Second Language program to how much money it would take to place smaller elementary schools on par with newer ones.

Board member Keith Diaz Moore believes the board is ready for a decision.

“Without making a decision, it holds up so many things,” he said. “We need to come to some sense of where we are heading in the future.”

Board member Bob Byers said a vote is necessary, but he isn’t 100 percent sure how he’ll vote Monday night. He doesn’t believe that the state will provide the funding needed to pull the district out of a financial crisis. If that’s the case, the district won’t be able to maintain the status quo. And when budgets have to be cut, Byers said, class sizes, especially those in the larger schools, go up.

“No one wants to close a school — no one does. But you also have to look at it from a practical side: You don’t want to spend a bunch of money upgrading a bunch of facilities when you might not have staff to put in them,” Byers said.

Even if the school board would decide to move forward with consolidation, it probably wouldn’t be in time to close a school before the start of next school year.

“Consolidation was never about what we are going to do next year. It has always been about what is the long-range goal,” Byers said.

Upgrades to some of the facilities that were on the list for consolidation have already been approved. In late February, the school board gave the go-ahead to replace a leaky roof at Kennedy and flooring at Pinckney and make an HVAC upgrade at Sunset Hill.

After Monday’s vote, the board’s next step is deciding what projects would be included in a bond issue. Regardless of the outcome on Monday night, Doll said a bond issue wouldn’t be ready by November.


Richard Heckler 6 years, 2 months ago

Why couldn't a bond issue be ready by November? What is holding it up?

This discussion has been on the table since 2003.

Budgets_Smudgets 6 years, 2 months ago

Since a couple of the school board members have been spreading the word behind the scenes to people on the working groups that they have secured an anti-consolidation majority block of votes, this formal anti-consolidation vote will not be a surprise to anyone.

KU_cynic 6 years, 2 months ago

Scene 1, Act 1: School board and administrators: We know what's right, so we are going to close and consolidate schools.

Scene 1, Act 2: Community: Don't close our schools! Please seek community involvement before making irreversible decisions.

Scene 2, Act 1: Community: We're divided, and there's no consensus on what to do. Perhaps we don't need to close schools.

Scene 2, Act 2: School board and administrators: You didn't tell us what we had already made up our minds to do anyway, so we're proceeding in spite of a lack of community consensus.

Scene 3: ????

Steve Jacob 6 years, 2 months ago

Say no to any bond vote. Don't bail out the board, let them make the cuts, closing schools or not. Do you really trust another school bond after what happened the last time?

Bigdog66046 6 years, 2 months ago

If the school board wouldn’t have spent $20 million + on half way done sports facilities we wouldn’t be in a financial crises, as they say. We all are in a financial crises of our own. Sorry but I don’t have any money to bail you out of your poor decisions. Maybe we should have planned for the long term 5 years ago!! I will vote NO on ANY school bond vote for next 10 years. Make do with what you have!! When they closed Wakarusa that wasn’t to save money. They replaced the windows and kitchen in centennial the year before so it would be ready for the kids, and diploma program. They just lied and used excuse of money to do what they want, and lie to everyone about it. They need to learn to be honest and up front with people if they want us to help. You lie once, we don’t believe anything you say from then on!!

Patricia Davis 6 years, 2 months ago

I agree with you. The sportsgate fiasco shows what the school board really values. Until we have ethical leadership on the board, just say no to bond election.

Cogito_Ergo_Es 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, closing Waky had nothing to do with saving money. They just chose not to spend it on those kids any longer and to put it somewhere else. Another elementary? Maybe a Jr. or Sr. High? Maybe up at the admin office? Those Wakarusa kids have definitely not seen any benefit from the closure of their school. It is in fact much, much worse. These children don't even like going to school any more. I predict this board will throw the original Elementary School Task Force decision out the window. The prior board's worthless decision to close Wakarusa Valley and 2 or 3 other schools was orchestrated to meet the not-so-hidden agenda of others, and as such deserves to be thrown out. BUT, will this board have the guts to reverse the whole decision or just the part that saves THEIR children's schools? Too bad no one living on the south side of town has a representative on the board. Just say no to bond issues, building new schools, and to Broken Arrow and Sunflower's continued overcrowding and yes, to equity and Learning For All. Please reopen Wakarusa and do what's right for everyone's children. Please right the wrong, now!

irvan moore 6 years, 2 months ago

i think we have a distrust of the school board and administration, it's going to take a while to earn back our trust

jmadison 6 years, 2 months ago

Have Lawrence voters ever rejected a school bond issue?

LadyJ 6 years, 2 months ago

Yes, the first time the bond issue for the new high school came up, voters said no. They waited and brought it up again and it passed. Of course now they are wanting to change some of the conditions that were promised if the bond was passed.

bb837988 6 years, 2 months ago

How is the current board responsible for any of the sports field decisions a few years back? None of the current board members were serving when the decison was made to improve the facilities. They have just had to deal with the aftermath.

I'm sure that the board would love to be able to make long term plans. It's a little hard when they don't know from one year to the next how much money will be available.

It's easy for us to say what we would do. It's a lot harder to have to make that decision. How many members of the consolidation committee found it a lot harder than they thought?

Susan Lee 6 years, 2 months ago

I speak from a town that has, unfortunately, consolidated and closed half of the elementary schools. Huge additions were built onto the remaining schools, at a high price. Now students must be bussed, another big expense. The school board eventually used several of the "terribly obsolete" schools for their offices. Next the school board has spent nearly one and a half million dollars to purchase a piece of land. Why? It is just so inconvenient to have all of the school offices scattered around town.

Why, pray tell, do they need that many offices?

Best solution: make the budget cuts from the TOP. We all received adequate educations without all of the upper eschelon which simply did not exist in the past. Far too much money spent in the offices instead of the schoolroom.

I have grandchildren in Lawrence, and it makes me sick to think that the neighborhood schools there may become a distant memory.

There are literally hundreds of studies which show evidence that the neighborhood school is essential to a healthy community. Please don't repeat the same mistakes that so many cities have made. I have not met a teacher yet who thought consolidation was a positive move.

Here is an excellent source for proponents of community-centered schools

Cogito_Ergo_Es 6 years, 2 months ago

"Even if the school board would decide to move forward with consolidation, it probably wouldn’t be in time to close a school before the start of next school year."

What?? And yet, they had no problem closing Wakarusa Valley on March 28th last year!!! Oh yes, a whole week earlier, sheesh. I'm not in favor of closing, I'm just saying they had no problem throwing our children under the bus last year at this time. I LOVE how every other school in this district gets more consideration than Wakarusa students ever did and still don't.

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 2 months ago

I have lost all respect for the consolidation process, and those who actively participate in the grand charade. Can you hear the rumble of the crowd? They are chanting no new bond.

I'm sure, come tomorrow night, another variation of the garbage that was visited upon the Wakarusa children will be passed. Maybe close a little school, move JOCO or Virtual school there, reopen Wakarusa, build a big box school out east, and pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

What really strikes me as incredible is how ridiculous this situation has become. Dole, the School Board, Consultants, "consensus groups" , Architects...have all had a say in this "Process". The only ones not represented in this three ring circus are the children. They just have to live with whatever situation they are put in. How pathetic and sad.

nativeson 6 years, 2 months ago

The financial issues that the district now face are not of their own doing. The State of Kansas is putting districts across the area in the same situation as this board is faced with at the present time.

It would go a long way to establish credibility if the board went through the bond issue for the athletic fields and demonstrate the savings in operating costs that were promised at the time it was done. The idea at that time was to use bond money for the facilities and generate enough savings to cover the debt service. Has this been the case?

As far as the "process" is concerned, the responsibility falls exclusively upon the board and not the superintendent. Mr. Dole has tried to force the issue of a decision either way for a number of months to no avail. At this point any decision is better than no decision in order to provide the staff with some ability to plan.

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 2 months ago

It would really go a long way to establish credibility if the board and Dole could demonstrate savings on operating costs due to any "cost saving", financial emergency based agenda passed to date. The ESDC (or Miss Piggy, per cynics) spends more every year, spends more than comparable districts, and seems to accomplish little in terms of improving educational opportunities for our children. And, Dole has been pushing his albiet shifting agenda to the board from the git-go.

William Ed 6 years, 2 months ago

The plan to spend all the money that would be generated from the bond Tax increase that is to be proposed, has not been specified, because there is no stated plan for the future. There must be a secret agenda somewhere. If all east side schools can be eventually closed, then a school that could handle 3000 kids can be built on the 90 acres to the east of town currently owned by the District. With the demonstrated EFFICIENCY (forget academic achievement) a new 3000 kid school can then be built on the east side of town. That must be the SECRET plan that the developers and the district don't want parents to know about..

Clevercowgirl 6 years, 2 months ago

Yeah, it's kind of like loaning your brother-in-law money for grocerys, and then having him drive up in a new truck.

sickofdummies 6 years, 2 months ago

Sadly, our board has become untrustworthy. They do not listen to any concerns from the community about any of the decisions they make. If anyone expresses opposing viewpoints or solutions, they are shut out. Teachers have learned not to speak up, lest they put their jobs in jeopardy. Look at where we are, just in the last couple of years: Fighting over closing schools, closing one, using a math program that is detrimental to the students learning and does not line up with the districts goals on state testing. Our elementary schools have over large classes, and the resources are not being spent wisely. We only have 1/2 day Kindergarten in half of our schools, and it had already been established that we could not afford to have it in those. We have entered a grading structure in the middle schools that drives the students to mediocrity, instead of encouraging excellence. ...then the board comes right out and responds to teachers and parents with, "This is how we are doing it. If you dont like it, then move." That shows exactly where the board stands. And people wonder why we have lost faith in the administration?

Vote NO on any bond. The administration is driving Lawrence Public schools into the toilet. Dont add money to fuel their bad choices.

GMom05 6 years, 2 months ago

The picture above aside, I do realize that we have 4 new members on the board and perhaps they shouldn't be held accountable for the sins of their fathers, so to speak, but I have yet to see them prove otherwise to us. They may not have caused this mess but they are doing nothing to fix it either. My questions are all about the money. How much do we have? Where is it going? Where has it gone? and How much have we saved or cut? Show me how this has improved my children's situation. Prove to me that Wakarusa needed to be closed. Prove to me that the money 'saved' really went elsewhere worthwhile. Where? If the board doesn't know that, then they are not asking enough questions. If they cannot in anyway justify what they have done to the children of Wakarusa Valley, and now by extension Sunflower & Broken Arrow, then they owe us an explanation and they need to fix what the prior board did wrong. Eliminate these overcrowded classrooms and reopen Wakarusa. It was a mistake that needs to be fixed now. It looks like the kids on the central and east sides are going to get a free pass. Why are the children on the south side schools left to pay the price? Whose children does this board value more? If you've got enough money to keep the current schools open and you're likely going to get another 2 million dollars in the next 2 years, than you have enough to reopen a perfect building that needs no repairs.

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