Lawrence school board to hear report on student wellness; set to vote on budget

One of the goals of the Lawrence school board is to enhance “student wellness” with counseling and mental health services across the district.

On Monday, the board will hear a report from district staff on how that effort is going.

The board also is scheduled to consider a budget that would provide an average 2 percent pay raise for teachers and other district employees and decrease the school property tax rate by 1.591 mills.

The budget proposal was laid out for board consideration last month. At 7 p.m. Monday, school board members will conduct a public hearing at the district’s headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive, and then vote on whether to approve the spending plan.

On the issue of student wellness, School Board President Shannon Kimball said there was concern that budget constraints from previous years had limited the availability of school counselors and mental health services for students.

“I have gotten feedback from parents that they felt we needed more robust support in that area,” Kimball said.

A survey of counselors and building administrators found that they think they are able to focus on the appropriate social and emotional needs and skills of students that are needed for effective learning.

The counselors did say it would be ideal if classroom teachers could be more involved in students’ personal and social development, but acknowledged that the teachers’ primary responsibilities are the academic needs of the student.

“We feel that students’ social and emotional needs are being met,” said Kevin Harrell, director of student services and special education for the district.

On the budget proposal, the plan would drop the levy from 57.788 mills to 56.197 mills, which would mean the owner of a $200,000 home would pay $1,292 in school property tax — $37 less than this year’s rate.

The cut comes after both the city of Lawrence and Douglas County increased their mill levies — 1.47 mills and 3.914 mills respectively.

Much of a school district’s budget and tax rates are driven by formulas set out in state law that deal with student enrollment, poverty rates and the wealth of the district.

On the pay raise, the average salary increase for teachers will be $935 per year, according to the school district. The Lawrence Education Association, the local bargaining unit for teachers, had agreed to the salary increase in June.

The increase includes a $350 pay raise for all teachers and step increases based on teachers attaining more college credit and for each year of experience in the district.

In other business, the board will:

— Consider an extension to the contract of Supt. Rick Doll through June 30, 2016. Doll’s salary for the 2014-15 school year is $169,545.

— Accept the resignation of Board member Adina Morse, who has been selected as the new executive director of the Lawrence Schools Foundation, which provides funding to benefit students and teachers.

Applications to replace her on the board will be accepted through Aug. 29. The board will fill the vacancy at its Sept. 8 meeting.

A Kansas Supreme Court ruling from 2000 says that a school district employee cannot serve on the school board of that district. The Lawrence school district employs the Lawrence Schools Foundation executive director, although the foundation reimburses the district for the employee’s salary and benefits.