School board to receive equity report and consider changing middle school’s name

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

Lawrence school district administrators on Monday will provide data to members of the school board regarding the progress the district has made in recent years in providing an equitable education to students of all races.

Last month, the board received a report from the 2016-2017 school year that showed racial disparities in assessment test scores and who was given in-school and out-of-school suspensions. For example, the report revealed black students make up 6.4 percent of the student population but were given 15.8 percent of out-of-school suspensions. It also showed that in reading assessments given this spring, about 84 percent of white students scored average or better and 62 percent of black students scored average or better.

This new report will be shared by Kevin Harrell, district executive director of student services and special education; Leah Wisdom, assistant director of student services and equity; and Terry McEwen, director of assessment, research and accountability.

The report, which is not yet available for public review, will include data from the Measurement of Academic Progress assessment test scores of kindergartners through eighth-graders from 2014 through 2017; statistics on in-school and out-of-school suspensions; and Kansas assessment data from 2016 and 2017.

The board also will consider changing the name of South Middle School to honor the community’s Native American heritage.

The South site council is forwarding to the board possible names it developed from surveys of the South community and student body. Suggested names include two noted Native American athletes: Jim Thorpe, a one-time student at what was then Haskell Institute who won Olympic gold in the 1912 pentathlon and decathlon, and who is also a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame; and Billy Mills, a Haskell and University of Kansas graduate who won Olympic gold in the 1964 10,000 meters. Other proposed Native American-influenced names are Kansa and Arrowhead. The site council also listed the option of leaving South’s name unchanged.

Carole Cadue-Blackwood, a member of the Kickapoo tribe and mother of a South student, started the district’s consideration of the name change when she wrote a letter over the summer to interim Superintendent Anna Stubblefield, advocating the school’s name be changed to honor Native Americans. Cadue-Blackwood later told the Journal-World that renaming the school in such a way would boost the self-esteem of district Native American students and improve race relations in the community.

Supporters of the name change say it is appropriate because Haskell donated the land on which South Middle and Broken Arrow Elementary schools, as well as the adjacent Broken Arrow Park, were built.

Additionally, the board will consider entering into final agreements with architectural firms for designs and construction administrative services for projects included in the $87 million bond issue district voters approved in May. The agreements for those services include TreanorHL for the Lawrence College and Career Center, Clark-Huesemann for updates at the four district middle schools and Gould Evans for Lawrence and Free State high schools.

The school board will meet at 7 p.m. at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.