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Archive for Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Bell: Free State to auction old-time jerseys; Consolidation Working Group receives direction

January 10, 2012

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Authentic, game-worn baseball and softball jerseys worn by the earliest Free State Firebirds soon will hit the auction block, with proceeds to go toward buying new equipment for both sports at the school.

Members of the Lawrence school board agreed Monday night to let parents of players in both programs auction off old uniforms. The jerseys are considered unfit — in terms of condition, anyway — to be used for high school competition.

The uniforms were in use from 1997 to 2005, said Mike Hill, Free State’s baseball coach and athletic director. All will be auctioned during the annual baseball/softball auction, set for 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Jan. 28 at Alvamar Country Club, 1809 Crossgate Drive.

All this reminds me of the time back in the day when a few teammates and I liberated some old uniforms from my high school’s equipment room. We’d raided the shelves for some old-time, button-down wool jerseys — pinstripes and everything — that both looked and felt like they’d last been used in the early days of West Springfield, back in 1968.

Thankfully, we didn’t need permission from anybody other than our coach to score those old duds. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have had enough money back then to win an auction, anyway.

•••

Members of the Central and East Lawrence Elementary School Consolidation Working Group continue working on their arduous task: figuring out which two or three of their six schools should close in the next two years.

But members may have seen a little light Monday night, as they sought — and received — permission from the Lawrence school board to work past their original deadline on coming up with a plan to recommend.

Two board members sought to assure group representatives that all would not be lost if they could not settle on a specific plan by the time their report is due, now Feb. 15.

“As we move forward as a board, I really want community input,” board member Keith Diaz Moore said, addressing several representatives during Monday night’s meeting at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive. “In my mind, it’s not necessarily the Golden Rule that a singular recommendation come forward. Whatever information you can provide us is absolutely critical. That’s the important part.”

Once the board receives a recommendation, then board members can start working on what to do next. Last year, members of the previous school board — including current board members Mark Bradford, Bob Byers and Vanessa Sanburn — accepted recommendations from another advisory group and approved its recommendations:

• Close Wakarusa Valley School.

• Form a working group and task it with recommending how to reduce a list of six schools — Cordley, Hillcrest, Kennedy, New York, Pinckney and Sunset Hill — to either three or four within two to three years.

The current board includes one member, Shannon Kimball, from that earlier advisory group, the Lawrence Elementary School Facility Vision Task Force.

Diaz Moore is one of three other members who, like Kimball, got into the mix upon taking office in July, after having been elected in April. By then the working group already had been formed, its direction set.

On Monday night, Diaz Moore and Randy Masten each took the opportunity to note that a single recommendation wasn’t necessarily mandatory.

Just send along something — anything — that the board and the public can use to help reach a decision.

“I don’t want to move forward without community input on this decision, so I’m hoping something comes forward from the working group,” Diaz Moore said.

But Dawn Shew, a representative from Kennedy, quickly noted that such a stance likely would lead to the working group not coming up with an answer, an virtual inevitability she described as “no proposal.”

She’d prefer that the group stick with its assignment by reviewing scenarios already on the table and proposing something that would best serve students and the community, even under such emotional and trying circumstances.

“I mean, we have a charge. And that charge is to put forward a proposal,” she told board members. “I don’t want to put forward a bad proposal, not by any means, or a rushed proposal, but I do think that it’s important to remember that there is a goal to this committee. The goal is to make some recommendations — understanding that you (board members) can kick them to the curb or keep them.”

Masten’s response: “But I think key there is that they’re recommendations, OK? You give us options, courses of action. We have to make that decision. That shouldn’t be on you to come up with, A) Hey, here’s the solution. We may not like that solution. Give us options, and narrow them down, to the best options that you possibly can.”

“And if ... you reach an impasse, we need to know that. But we need to know what the impasse is and where you’re at. And then at that point we’ve got options. You’ve given us your best shot at it.”

Earlier, Byers had told group representatives that the board would be making a decision about consolidation, “with your recommendation or without it.”

Such a decision would be expected to come as the district grapples with financing uncertainties, mounting capital-improvement needs and enrollment shifts, A bond issue, boundary shifts and other changes likely would be necessary to accommodate any consolidation of schools.

Masten acknowledged the situation.

“We’ve given you, and you’ve accepted, a very complex task,” he told group representatives. “We can’t kick this down the road forever.”

Afterward, several group members gathered outside to compare notes, look ahead and think about the future.

"Direction is good," said Josh Davis, a representative from New York School.

Comments

Kookamooka 3 years ago

So...the board will make a decision with or without input. Give them your input Consolidation Group! Hurry up and give them your input. It looks to me like the group doesn't want to "make a mistake" but this scenario is loaded with potential mistakes. Any decision they come up with will be considered a mistake by someone in the community. There are no hero's here. Be strong, bite the bullet and present the plan.

TNPlates 3 years ago

Sounds like Masten is giving cover to folks who don't want to make hard decisions. From the quotes here and in the original article, Masten and Diaz-Moore are giving the task force permission to not agree on anything or even suggesting that the task force try to work through difficult issues. Presumably, each school group can now submit their own recommendation (to save their own school?) without being forced to really consider what is the best course of action for the district. Is this really what the task force was charged with? From what the LJW has published, it sure doesn't appear that every recommendation is equally logical or sustainable as far as the school budget goes.

Mark, you include quotes here and in your main article by both Masten and Diaz-Moore where they addressed "several representatives", but you don't note whether they shared these insights during the meeting (and on the official record). Did they? Did they address the same small group? If so, would this qualify as a de facto meeting or is it a legit side conversation?

It would be nice to know whether these Board members are giving the same direction on the official record as they are "off the record".

mfagan 3 years ago

Hello, TNPlates. I used "several representatives" to indicate that they weren't talking to the entire working group. Not all of them showed up for Monday night's meeting, although their chosen representatives -- one from each school community represented on the working group -- were there, as were a few others. The only part that was, essentially, an informal discussion was the part when Randy Masten was talking to about 10 working group folks out front, after the meeting. But the stuff he was saying really just expanded upon what he'd said during the actual meeting. It was all very consistent. I thought I was being clear, above, when I used the phrase: "... board member Keith Diaz Moore said, addressing several representatives DURING Monday night’s meeting at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive." (that's not me screaming; I'm just trying to point you to the word I used to denote the time of the quote). I tried to make all that clear, but I understand how that doesn't always get through. I'll keep that in mind for future stories... Thanks for following along... - Mark Fagan, Schools reporter

aryastark1984 3 years ago

I again want to point out the unintended consequences of consolidation. Closing a small school like Wakarusa produced larger class sizes in both Broken Arrow and Sunflower. Sunflower is currently over capacity, meaning that there are not class rooms available even if you have 30+ kids x class. The report from the consulting group shows that this trend will only get worse. Both Broken AND Sunflower are projected to exceed capacity within 5 years. Closing schools INCREASES CLASS SIZES! Closing schools strains capacity in neighboring schools.

Let's review the situation

http://www.usd497.org/Consolidation/documents/LawrenceProjections201112_ES.pdf:

Broken Arrow: currently over 95% capacity. Projected to grow. Will exceed capacity within 3 years Cordley: currently at 95% capacity. Projected to grow. Will hover near or over 100% capacity for the next 5 years.

Hillcrest: currently at 114% capacity. Projected to grow. Will hover around 130% capacity within the next 5 years.

Kennedy. currently at 75% capacity. Projected to decrease slightly. But, this school also houses the early childhood development program. So, not sure how that fits in.

Langston Hughes: Currently at 90%. Projected to decrease. Will hover around 85-86% capacity for the next 5 years.

New York. Currently at 90% capacity. Projected to grow steadily. They are projected to exceed capacity by next year and be at 120% capacity within 5 years.

Pinckney. Currently at 72% capacity. Projected to grow. Will Hover around 80% capacity over the next 5 years.

Prairie Park: Currently at 68% capacity. Projected to hover around 70-71% over the next 5 years.

Quail Run: Currently at 79% capacity. Projected to fluctuate a little but be at 74% in 5 years.

Schwegler. Currently at 90% capacity. Projected to grow and be at 85% within 5 years.

Sunflower: Currently at 102% capacity. Projected to grow significantly and be at 114% in 5 years.

Sunset Hill: Currently at 91% capacity. Projected to decrease slightly, but hover around the 85% mark over the next 5 years.

Woodlawn. Currently at 88% capacity. Projected to grow and be at 90% capacity in 5 years.

The district has said that 85% capacity is ideal. Currently, the district as a whole is at 83% capacity. Within 5 years, we are projected to be at 86% capacity. Now, tell me again why it is that we need to consolidate? Please explain the logic to me of eliminating capacity when we are going to need it in the foreseeable future. Please explain also, why it is that capacity should be eliminated precisely where we are expected to grow. This is completely insane.

Dawn Shew 3 years ago

The reason why consolidation is recommended is not capacity, but the fact that some of these schools are SMALL. So, if they are small, they cannot be a three-section school, the size that the district (and school board) feels is most efficient. It is true that many of the schools listed for consolidation are near capacity (or even over it) but the general feeling is that the student body/capacity is too small to be efficient.

Not offering an opinion either way, but I think it bears pointing out. This is not about full buildings, it is about perceived inefficiencies in scale.

aryastark1984 3 years ago

You are only partially right. Capacity WAS one of the arguments for consolidation. However, they have since backed off on the argument (although not completely).

However, the school size argument does not hold much water either. When you look at operational costs for a 1 vs. 2 section school, there is a fair amount of money to be saved. However, there is a relatively small cost savings for a 2 vs. 3 and very little to be gained if you go to a 4 section school. If you really want to achieve cost savings.

But, these are only vague generalities and don't take into account the costs of fixing the problems that arise when you consolidate/close a school. We now need to address overcrowding in Broken Arrow and Sunflower because those schools absorbed kids from Wakarusa. One efficient way to deal with these over crowding issues would be to redraw boundaries and send some of those kids to both Schwegler and to Sunset HIll. BUT, you can't do that if you that if you plan to use either of those schools in a consolidation plan with Hillcrest.

Kookamooka 3 years ago

Prairie Park is the smallest school. Why were they not considered in the discussion? Move some of the Broken Arrow kids out that way. Or Kennedy? Boundaries will need to be adjusted no matter what happens.

aryastark1984 3 years ago

Why Prairie Park (or Quail Run for that matter) are not included as part of the consolidation discussion, I don't know. But, even if they were the math doesn't work. Prairie Park is NOT the smallest school, it is at or will be at the lowest capacity. There is a difference.

Prairie Park has a 504 kid capacity. 5 years from now, projections say that there will be 360 kids there. Kennedy is projected to have 220 kids. If my math is correct, that would make the population of Prairie Park 580 kids. That would mean (334 + 224= 558 now). That would not only put the school over capacity now and far over capacity in the near future. And, that does not include the early childhood development program that is there now. So, that is your first problem. Your second problem would be that doing this would produce the largest elementary school in the district and one with lots and lots of low SES kids (Kennedy alone has >70 % economically disadvantaged kids).

If you were invested in this idea you would then need to give some thought as to how you would mitigate the harm of a large school with a lot of poor SES kids. For instance, you would want small class sizes (with an average of 20 kids per class and if the math worked out perfectly, you would need 28-29 regular classrooms in addition to classrooms for music, art, special ed etc). So, clearly you would need to add on to the school. Then, with that large of a school of at risk kids, you would probably need an assistant principle and at least one -probably 2 full time social workers). So, there go most or all of your cost savings for closing a school.

This is why the working group is not likely to reach consensus. You can propose scenarios that sound good at first pass, or if you don't think about them too hard. But, then when you start to examine the true costs, either literally or in terms of educational risk, then it all falls apart.

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