First Bell: West teacher elected president of Lawrence Education Association; comings and goings at South Junior High; high schoolers qualify for nationals in forensics, debate

Here are some news items and notes regarding schools in the area:

Deena Burnett, language arts teacher at West Junior High School and incoming president for the Lawrence Education Association.

The Lawrence Education Association is about to welcome a new leader.

Deena Burnett, a language arts teacher at West Junior High School, has been elected to be president of the union, which has about 600 members and represents the interests of 926 licensed educators in the Lawrence school district.

Burnett learned this week that the vote had been finalized, and that she’d be moving into the job June 1.

“I think I’ve lost my mind,” she said with a smile Wednesday evening, after a negotiations session with administrators at district headquarters, 110 McDonald Drive.

Burnett is in her third year as a union representative during negotiations, which lead to a Master Agreement with the district that governs pay, working conditions and other matters for licensed educators.

Burnett had expected to go on a National Education Association internship in Washington, D.C., where she would have learned to be a regional union director. But she gave that up when it became clear that she would lead the Lawrence organization.

She’s been an educator for 30 years, the past 27 in the Lawrence district.

Burnett will take over for Valerie Johnson-Powell, a speech pathologist at Lawrence High School.

The union is pushing to have the position of union president elevated to a full-time job, with wages and benefits paid by the district.


The Squires family’s connections to South Junior High School span from beginning to end.

Gary Squires, who works in courtroom security for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, was a member of the first class to go through its seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade years at South Junior High, 2734 La., a building that opened in 1969.

This year his daughter, Emmalee, is a ninth-grader at South, making her a member of the last class that will graduate as ninth-graders.

Next year, of course, the school will be graduating eighth-graders as it becomes known as South Middle School, for students in sixth-, seventh- and eighth grades.

My, how times change.

“I tried to get her to wear my letter sweater, but she wouldn’t do it,” Squires said the other day, with a laugh.


Students from Free State and Lawrence high schools are headed to the National Forensic League National Tournament, set for June 13-18 in Dallas.

“The city of Lawrence really had a good year in debate and forensics,” said Jeff Plinsky, debate and forensics teacher and coach at Lawrence High. “We’re taking six great kids to the national tournament. They’re going to go compete against some of the best in the country, and we’ll see how we do.”

Students headed to the tournament, their school, and their qualifying events:

• J’Qui Audena, Lawrence High, Original Oration.

• Alex Glanzman, Lawrence High, International Extemporaneous Speaking.

• Ashley Kennedy, Lawrence High, Dramatic Interpretation.

• Ben Love, Free State, Congressional Debate — Senate.

• Paul Meissbach, Lawrence High, Policy Debate.

• Mariah Schwager, Lawrence High, Policy Debate.

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