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Archive for Wednesday, September 5, 2012

First Bell: Kids should probably go outside; and a bond issue update (kind of)

September 5, 2012

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News, etc., from in and around schools in Douglas County:

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• Because of the magic of online content management, I'm actually writing this blog at the end of my workday. And, let me say: Like so many second-graders 'round about lunchtime, I'm getting antsy to see the outside. Here's a slick, 40-plus-page report on why those kids — and probably their parents and local schools reporters, too — ought to get out and enjoy some fresh air to supplement their educational experiences.

I know I've recently linked to an Atlantic story, but today's "The False Promise of Back-to-School Commercials" is too good of a post not to mention, too. That's where I saw the National Wildlife Federation's report and it's effectively a sponsored post from the organization, but it's not as if there's no other evidence supporting the benefits of exercise and unstructured break time.

This article from a 2010 New York Times blog points out research that suggests recess is even better when it's before lunch.

• The USD 497 districtwide email for today has some information on the district's bond issue planning. It's all pretty much old news if you've been following the school board, but it does highlight some important points, including that they hope to have the whole thing figured out by the first of the year in order to have a bond election in April. Here are some other details:

— The district hired Gould Evans Associates to help with pre-bond-issue planning "and to develop a strategy that balances the many space, land use, academic and infrastructure needs of the Lawrence Public Schools with an emphasis on responsible, sustainable and compatible growth for 21st century learning," according to the email, which is put together by district spokeswoman Julie Boyle. No details about the financial arrangements have been released.

— The district is doing a technology audit, performed by Alexander Open Systems, which also provides the IT department with some software needs. The audit is supposed to wrap up this month. Technology is a big goal — one of the biggest goals — for improvement in the bond issue. IT and AOS are doing analysis, assistant superintendent Kyle Haden has told me, to look deeply at what kinds of systems will work best for schools going forward.

The bond issue will be a huge one in my upcoming coverage, so keep an eye out for more stories as it goes forward. As always, if you have questions, feel free to get in touch.

• Eudora schools are looking for community input on the district's strategic planning initiatives. If you'd like to help, call 542-4910 or send a message via the communications team's Facebook page. Just make sure you sign up before Sept. 15 if you want to be involved.

• In case you missed it on our sister site, Wellcommons.com, last week, a seventh-grader from the Shawnee Mission district, Rori Coyne, was one of the participants in the White House's first "kids state dinner" last month. Rori won a contest to create a recipe and explain how it fits into the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act's recommended food groups. You can find her "yummy cabbage sloppy joes" in this PDF of the winning kids from each state.

• Know anything that I need to learn? Send news tips, comments or questions to acgarrison@ljworld.com or call 832-6314.

Comments

gbulldog 2 years, 3 months ago

Ready in the paper about a study on the affect of too little sleep. How sleepy are these student in class? Very concerned when I see students working in "fast food" places" in the evening. Is it necessary to hurt their future so they can buy "toys".

aRobot 2 years, 3 months ago

A technology audit from a company that the school district has already paid millions of dollars to as a hardware and software vendor? No conflict of interest there. AOS wants to make money, not help a public school district be better at educating kids. Buy a Ford, and then when you're ready to buy another new car go ask the Ford salesmen to "audit" you and recommend a car that's best for you. What are the odds the salesman recommends another Ford?

I'm sorry, but this is nonsense. It's not an audit, it's a sales pitch. When was the last time the district technology department had a real audit? You know, one that looks at staffing and use of money and resources and tells us whether or not things are being done right, and how we compare to other school districts.

Once again, oversight will not come from within USD497 so it must come from the outside. Someone needs to do an actual audit on the last 10 years of technology spending, including the $8,000,000 technology bond. Where's Dave Trabert when you need him... (I can't stand the guy, but this is right up his alley)

aRobot 2 years, 3 months ago

One last thing - I REFUSE to support another technology bond until I feel confident that the last one was used effectively. What did we get for the $8,000,000 the tech department received several years ago? Can we at least see the receipts? (preferably in a usable format that allows you to run a query like an Excel spreadsheet, not a PDF)

kernal 2 years, 3 months ago

aRobot has raised an issue that was raised last year about our school district's lack of transparency and accountability on those millions they spent. I don't recall there was ever any follow up on that story. There were a lot of unanswered questions. What's the deal?

Alex, I don't think you were on board at LJW yet when that was going on.

aRobot 2 years, 3 months ago

Here's a good question - Did the school district use some of the money from the previous technology bond to cover part of the athletic field funding when that project went way over budget? This question has been floating around for quite some time so perhaps someone should look into it. Once again, a legitimate audit of technology funds seems necessary before the public considers approving any more technology funding.

One more question - Can someone offer a list of high-level tech department employees (including the director) along with their education, previous technology experience, and current IT certifications? It would be crazy to trust millions of dollars to a bunch of unqualified, uncertified amateurs. Who's running the show, and can we be confident they know what they're doing?

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