Archive for Monday, March 11, 2013

School board hires principals, discusses bond plans

March 11, 2013


The Lawrence school board voted Monday to hire new principals at Pinckney and Sunset Hill schools, as well as an assistant principal for Liberty Memorial Central Middle School.

Kristin Wondra will become the new principal at Pinckney School starting in the fall. She will succeed Lesa Frantz, who is retiring this spring after 17 years at the school.

Wondra is currently an educational consultant at the South Central Education Service Center in Clearwater, one of seven regional education cooperatives in Kansas. There she provides professional development training for teachers and administrators in 26 school districts. Before that, she spent seven years as an elementary teacher in the Derby school district. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees at Wichita State University.

The board named Darcy Kraus to be the next principal at Sunset Hill School. She will replace Chris Bay, who is resigning in June after 13 years at the school and 21 years with the district.

Kraus has worked the last 20 years in the Topeka school district, including the last four as an elementary language arts consulting teacher. She has also been a Title I reading liaison and instructional coach, a seventh-grade reading teacher and a first-grade teacher. She earned a bachelor's degree at Kansas State University and a master's at Emporia State University.

In addition to the two new principals, the board named Anne Wallace to be the permanent assistant principal at Liberty Memorial Central Middle School. She has worked in that job on an interim basis this year while Lisa Clipsham, the assistant principal since 2006, was on extended leave due to illness. Clipsham officially resigned, effective Feb. 28.

Wallace previously spent five years as a curriculum specialist overseeing career and technical education programs in science, health and wellness, physical education, and science- and health-related fields. She also coordinated the district's guidance counseling program.

Bond discussion

The bulk of Monday's board meeting was devoted to discussing the $92.5 million bond issue that voters will decide on in the April 2 election.

Throughout the monthslong discussion leading up to the bond proposal, board members and district officials have insisted that it would not result in an increase in district property taxes. During Monday's meeting, district officials explained just how they plan to accomplish that.

Kathy Johnson, the district's finance director, said the plan is to issue the bonds in three phases, starting with $36 million in fiscal year 2014; another $36 million in 2015; and $20.5 million in 2016.

During that time, the district will be retiring other bonds, which will enable the district to keep its property tax levy for bond and interest payments flat, Johnson said.

The district's current tax rate for debt payments is 10.642 mills. That translates to $183.57 in tax on a $150,000 home. For commercial property valued at $1 million, it translates to $2,660.50 a year in property tax.

That, however, is only the bond and interest portion of the district's total property tax levy, and board member Mark Bradford said it will be important for the next board to communicate that to the public.

"There are different pieces that make up the total bill," said Bradford, who is not running for re-election after his term expires this year. "I think it's imperative that the board continue to explain that on an annual basis. Other parts (of the mill levy) may go up or down."

Johnson also said that her projections of future bond and interest mill levies were based on a number of assumptions, any of which could change over time.

Among the factors beyond the board's control that could influence future property taxes, she said, are changes in assessed property values in the district; the county's property tax delinquency rate; and future actions by the Kansas Legislature.

Johnson said she tried to take future valuation growth and delinquency rates into account in making her projections. But even if those factors should force an increase in the bond and interest levy, she said, the district could offset that by reducing other levies such as the one for capital outlay expenses to hold the total mill levy about even.


Richard Heckler 5 years ago

Unfortunately what did not get covered in the LJW is the new teaching concept that is being introduced into USD 497.

Last night this new concept was was covered extensively. It provides avenues for students to help each other, allows more advanced students to keep moving forward and provides the time for the instructor more time for those who additional assistance. It truly empowers the student.

According to videos a large number of students are displaying positive reactions to the concept. We found this approach interesting and enlightening.

In general it allows the student to learn at their own pace. This is not a new concept by any means. However bringing it into the public school class rooms is long over due,efficient and exciting.

GardenMomma 5 years ago

There was a whole article in yesterday's paper about that.

Kookamooka 5 years ago

Do you remember what this new method is called? Blended? flipped? Differentiated? There are so many fancy new approaches to teaching now its hard to keep them straight.

Kookamooka 5 years ago

Actually studies show, in urban populations, students respect female administrators more than male. Many urban youth come from single family households where mothers or, in many cases, grandmothers govern the family. The argument for a male administrator in an urban district would be for that person to provide a positive role model for the students, showing them that men can be committed and caring.

Deb Engstrom 5 years ago

The principal at LMCMS is Jeff Harkin who is a male.

Sue McDaniel 5 years ago

So no one in our district or anyone who had experience as principal applied for this? Just curious.....

Peter Hancock 5 years ago

Statewide, about 75% of all licensed educators in Kansas are female. I talked with Rick Doll about this last night in another context. He says the breakdown in Lawrence is about the same. See state licensed personnel report:

Richard Heckler 5 years ago


This is an impressive step forward. A lot like what takes place in a homeschool situation.

GMom05 5 years ago

So, it looks like the burden of keeping an eye on the school board's spending will still be on us on an ongoing basis. No resting on our laurels!

gr 5 years ago

"During that time, the district will be retiring other bonds, which will enable the district to keep its property tax levy for bond and interest payments flat, Johnson said."

That's misleading. Correctly stated would be:

During that time, the district will be retiring other bonds, which will enable the district to raise its property tax levy for bond and interest payments back up to approximately the same present level, Johnson said.

"But even if those factors should force an increase in the bond and interest levy, she said, the district could offset that by reducing other levies such as the one for capital outlay expenses to hold the total mill levy about even."

Key word: "could". But will they?

It was voted yes for a new library. Vote no to the bond!

William Ed 5 years ago

It's called blended learning. We currently have a virtual school which uses computer programs as a teaching methodology. This "new" concept just puts the virtual school into the brick and mortar classroom for part of the day, and lets the students palaver together for a third of the time while the teacher teaches another group. Since the kids like to play on computers this is definite win for them.

buffalo63 5 years ago

This "blended learning" isn't new. I was doing this 40 years ago without computers. Most of the elementary classrooms were like that, not the teacher standing/sitting in front of the class lecturing or doing whole class activities. There were textbooks and programs designed, along with teacher generated materials and ideas, to encourage this type of "learning".

aryastark1984 5 years ago

A recent study showed that Lawrence Schools are not unique in the sorry state of our facilities.

"America’s schools are in such disrepair that it would cost more than 270 billion dollars just to get elementary and secondary buildings back to their original conditions and twice that to get them up to date, a report released Tuesday estimated. In a foreword to the report, former President Bill Clinton said “we are still struggling to provide equal opportunity” to children and urged the first federal study of school buildings in almost two decades."

"Schools’ appearances alone, of course, do not guarantee students’ success but it is certainly more difficult to teach and learn when water is coming in through the ceiling, pipes are growling or rooms are frigid."

"The report does not assign blame for schools’ disrepair but the problems often start at the local and state levels. In most cases, schools are funded by local property taxes and they are reliant on their neighbors’ wealth and willingness to fund their schools. A National Center for Education Statistics found large disparities between schools in areas of high poverty and those in more affluent areas."

We need to ask our selves what are the core values of our community? Do we care about education? This is a matter of respect and priorities. What does it say to the very youngest children in our community when they see that their schools have leaky roofs, that their classroom is in a trailer and that sound bleeds through from the adjacent classroom, that the air quality is bad because of an out of date HVAC system, that we have just not made it a priority to make all of our schools ADA compliant.

We can do better than this.

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