The Lawrence school board on Monday signaled support for a draft policy that would end door-to-door fundraising for district activities.
The policy will be brought back for the board’s approval at its May 29 meeting.
The policy would forbid district schools, classes, teams or clubs from soliciting money door to door. That was a stricter recommendation than a previous draft of the policy shared with the board in December, which would have banned door-to-door fundraising for elementary and middle school students, but would have allowed high school students to continue doing so with adult supervision.
School board president Shannon Kimball and board member Kelly Jones, who serve on the board’s policy committee, said safety concerns led to the door-to-door solicitation ban.
Jones said she has made hundreds of at-home visits in Lawrence during her career in social services. She is mostly greeted graciously, but has had a knife held on her from an individual in a mental health crisis, she said. Unlike schoolchildren, she was trained in how to handle such situations, she said.
“I know a little something about knocking on doors,” she said. “It’s my professional recommendation we not put our students in that situation.”
The policy would have an effect on some long-standing fundraising events, particularly the annual Liberty Memorial Central Middle School Fun Run, which helps pay for field trips and Arts Center scholarships, Jones said. The district needed to help the school find creative ways to make up the money lost from door-to-door donations during the annual event, she said.
The other changes in the policy established best practices to ensure staff and parents handled money appropriately, collected it for real needs and complied with tax laws, Kimball said. Although parent teacher organizations and booster clubs would not be subject to the door-to-door ban or other rules in the policy, she said it was hoped they, too, would conform to the best practices and work closely with the district or building principals.
Board member Jill Fincher said a list of questions and answers that district executive director of finance Kathy Johnson developed greatly reduced the anxiety level associated with the policy. The Q&A list can be viewed on the district’s website, usd497.org.
In other business, the board approved funding to create five new positions for the 2018-2019 school year. The positions will include three new full-time special education teachers and two middle school behavioral health interventionists. It is estimated the five full-time positions will add $212,000 in salary, although the exact number won’t be known until the district and its teachers agree to a 2018-2019 contract.
Board members said it was time to move forward with the hiring process for the newly created positions because other school districts also were looking to fill positions from a limited talent pool of professionals.
“If few are looking at social-emotional health, you don’t have academic performance if you don’t have that,” board member Rick Ingram said. “My view is to move forward with those positions.”
Funding to pay the salaries will come from the $4.25 million in new money the school district will receive in state funding for the 2018-2019 school year as a result of the new K-12 school finance formula the Kansas Legislature approved this spring, Johnson said. That total is a slight revision downward from the $4.4 million shown on the Kansas Department of Education website, which overestimated the amount of revenue the district would receive for students taking classes in new facilities, she said.
The board had already committed to spending $3.7 million of that new money before Monday’s board meeting from new spending approved this year that will carry over into the next school year, salary adjustments and commitments to hire teachers to manage classroom sizes. Accounting for another $1.4 million of that already committed spending in 2018-2019 is the board’s direction to cut by half the $2.8 million spent this year from the district cash reserves for ongoing expenses, Johnson said.