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

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.