Predictable end

The issue of local elementary school consolidation is back where it belongs: with the school board and its top administrators.

February 15, 2012


The decision of a local school task force not to complete its charge of recommending how to consolidate central-city elementary schools is disappointing but not surprising.

For a number of reasons — most of them related to a lack of school district direction and leadership — members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group had struggled for five months to reach a consensus on how to reduce six elementary schools to three or four within the next two years. On Monday they announced they would not provide a specific consolidation recommendation. Instead, they decided to split into two groups: one that will make the case against any consolidation and the other that will argue that it might work. The only thing the entire group could agree on is the need for more money for local schools.

The very makeup of the group — almost all the members represented targeted schools ­— almost ensured its work would end in impasse. That outcome became more likely when the Lawrence school board, with a majority of new members, refused to expressly stand by the working group’s initial charge. The previous board had told the group to assume schools would be consolidated and to work toward the most positive way to accomplish that consolidation.

As Superintendent Rick Doll confirmed Monday, the political landscape has changed since June, when four new members joined the school board. Without solid direction from the board that consolidation would occur, working group members were understandably concerned about sticking their necks out by making specific consolidation recommendations. One working group member succinctly noted Monday that although the group wasn’t advocating keeping all schools open, “We just refuse to name schools and then play the villain to their (the school board’s) hero.”

In addition to the shifting political climate surrounding these discussions, there also has been an ongoing shift in enrollment numbers that would guide the working group’s decision. Despite the lack of solid factual information and a lack of direction from the school board and top administrators, Doll still urged the working group to proceed with “whatever you can give the board in terms of helping them with this decision.”

The only problem is that, at this point, it’s hard to even know what issue the board is planning to decide.

Perhaps the most detrimental part of this process is the split in the working group, which only formalizes the division in a group that the district hoped would offer a unified consensus for action.

Given the unsettled status of state funding for public schools, it makes sense at this point for the school board to accept whatever report the working group can provide, thank group members for their service and then put the matter on hold, at least until the end of the legislative session. Then the board and the superintendent should do the job they were elected and hired to do and resist the temptation to seek political cover for potentially difficult decisions by turning them over to an appointed community group.


Paul R Getto 4 years, 2 months ago

"Given the unsettled status of state funding for public schools, it makes sense at this point for the school board to accept whatever report the working group can provide, thank group members for their service and then put the matter on hold, at least until the end of the legislative session." === Key word, unsettled. The enemy here is not the board; it's the legislature and the governor, who are following the ALEC/KOCH plan to underfund government, declare it a failure and contract what is left to their friends. Until this is settled and we know where the state is going, local discussions are not going to yield much on which the public can depend. Study the issues; register and vote, particularly this August. The future of Lawrence's schools and all others depends on what happens in the next year or two.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

That's nothing but politically-motivated BS from a person associated with the KASB. The root of this problem is local. It lies in the fact that certain former USD 497 board members, and one in particular, had a long time, deeply-rooted, irrationally-based fetish for very large elementary schools. This is strictly a local issue, which can only be solved by current board members recognizing and respecting the right of taxpaying patrons of USD 497 to keep their neighborhood schools open, which should take priority over paying for trendy pet projects that don't directly educate kids - a malaise with which USD 497 has been afflicted for over two decades now.

They should start by reopening Wakarusa Valley School for the 2012-13 school year.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

Good. In the meantime, it appears that you agree that these issues are local, so take your soapbox elsewhere.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

Sounds like you'd like to interfere with MIC's 1st amendment rights to me.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago


But, given cato's posts, I would have to disagree that he's a "good guy" - he's a bully who often denigrates large groups of people without cause.

And, he doesn't have the right to tell you to go elsewhere - he's not the Journal-World.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago


Said in my best Charlie Brown voice.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

Not a chance, jafs. You seem to have had difficulty grasping my point, which MIC understood right away.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

What's wrong with that? Man, your skin is thin. MIC's isn't.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

Bullies often like to criticize people who oppose them by calling them names like "thin skinned".

What makes you think you have the right to tell him where he can speak and where he can't speak?

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

I have just as much right to suggest to him that he peddle his goods elsewhere as he has to suggest the same thing to me. It's called the First Amendment, jafs. You might want to read it sometime.

jafs 4 years, 2 months ago

And he has as much right to post here as you do.

I suggest you "peddle your goods elsewhere".

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

Your suggestion is rejected.

I look forward to continuing my very enjoyable communications with you on this site.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

The fact of the matter is I would seriously doubt that the majority of Lawrence stakeholders would back the USD 497 BOE on the initial plan driven by Scott Morgan and whatever group he is representing and STILL seems to be representing.

Scott Morgan has been the spokesperson for the unknown minority dating back to 2003. It should be obvious school district stakeholders/taxpayers do not agree with this nonsense politics. It has no foundation and in reality the need for consolidation is NOT based on fact. Can we say obsolete thinking.

Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

How should the school district pay for a $16.5 million maintenance backlog in elementary schools? 61% = over a period of time / 31% do a bond issue http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2007/oct/how_should_school_district_pay_20_million_maintena/

At $7.5 million USD 497 tax dollars a year in capital outlay funds this maintenance could be accomplished in 2-4 years without raising taxes or borrowing money. That money is actually available as we speak. In fact USD 497 2011 Facilities and Maintenance Capital Outlay Priorities suggests $6,440,000 could be spent which includes :

Cordley Deerfield East Heights Hillcrest Kennedy Langston Hughes(replacing floor throughout this new school building) Centennial New York Pinckney Prairie Park Quail Run Schwegler Sunflower Wakarusa Woodlawn

Would you favor a sales tax increase to provide more money for Lawrence teacher salaries? 5,198 said yes http://www2.ljworld.com/polls/2003/mar/teacher_salaries/

Flap Doodle 4 years, 2 months ago

That poll is 9 years old now. Do you think anything has changed since then?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 2 months ago

USD 497 pays $1.73 million for new land. $23,000 per acre for 75 acres of unimproved land = duped again.

The seller should give $1.73 million back to the school district.

My best guess is that USD 497 cannot sell this property today for $23,000 per acre.

If the real estate community wants public parks,schools and such near their housing/retail developments they should provide the land and 50% of the construction expenses. Parks and schools add monetary worth to their projects. It's time taxpayers get some substantial payback instead of handing out tax dollars like there is no tomorrow.

cato_the_elder 4 years, 2 months ago

What most of the public still doesn't seem to get is that the push to close elementary schools coincided with the need to generate money in order to operate and continually equip two high schools instead of one. If you want to keep your neighborhood elementary school open, then you must oppose vigorously the construction of a third high school, which certain recently retired board members did their best to ensure would be just around the corner.

ashmole 4 years, 2 months ago

Just fix up the schools and keep them open. Enough political theater and enough with all the unfounded assertions of savings to be had from consolidation. Time to invest again in community and the inner city of Lawrence.

aryastark1984 4 years, 2 months ago

Predictable indeed. This has become "Lord of the Flies" and everyone is trying to make sure that they aren't "Piggy."

Mike Myers 4 years, 2 months ago

Yikes! So much for having the carnitas from Burrito King for a few days.

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