Archive for Thursday, December 9, 2010

Future of rural schools decision looms Monday night

The Baldwin School Board is expected to make a decision on the rural school closing proposal at Monday's meeting.

The Baldwin School Board is expected to make a decision on the rural school closing proposal at Monday's meeting.

December 9, 2010

As the Baldwin USD 348 Board of Education prepares Monday to make a decision on the future of two rural elementary schools, district patrons on both side of the issue say it is time for resolution.

It’s a topic that has split the school district and damaged friendships. Parents and students have spoke to the school board and Superintendent Paul Dorathy on the issue for nearly a year. After all of those comments, letters and e-mails, it appears as if the time for a decision has arrived.

“The school board will have two resolutions in front of them Monday,” Dorathy said. “One will be to close the schools, and the other will be to keep them open.”

Patrons on both sides of the issue are ready for a decision from the school board. They are tired of making their case, whether that be to keep Marion Springs and Vinland elementary schools open or close them to save money for the district.

“I want resolution, but I also want the district to make a wise decision,” Kent Johnson said. “If we consolidate, that’s our first step toward a fiscally sound district. If we don’t, then there has to be a plan. We need a plan, because we can’t keep cutting.”

Kim Beilfuss, who’s husband attended Marion Springs, has helped lead the group of rural patrons during the debate. She is the MSES Community Service Organization president and has attended every school board meeting for the past several months. She’s talked to people who attended the school decades ago. She learned the district discussed closing the school in the past, so the issue wasn’t a new topic.

“Of course I want the rural schools kept open,” Beilfuss said. “But at the same time, having to fight for your school every year takes a toll. It takes a toll on the kids, as well as the parents. I think there are other options that are available that aren’t being looked at by the school board. We’re making this decision, and we don’t know what the budget is for next year.”

The school board had a public hearing on the proposal on Nov. 11. More than two-dozen patrons spoke at the meeting. Most of the comments echoed those expressed at monthly school board meetings since last spring when the closings gained traction because of looming budget cuts from the state.

Should the board opt to close the two schools, which have enrollments around 70 students, all elementary students in the district would attend Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center or Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center.

Patrons on both sides of the issue will be at the meeting Monday, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the District Office. The regular portion of the meeting normally begins at 7 p.m. after the school board has a 30-minute executive session.

“I will be going from the most fun event of our school year to one of probably the hardest events that our school will endure,” Beilfuss said. “I will see it through. In the end, the school board has the final say. We are powerless at this point.”

Comments

greyghost 3 years, 4 months ago

Overcrowd the new schools. Use the janitor closet for an office. Put the 4-year old kids in the same building as the 3,4, and 5th graders. These are really the only rational solutions to providing the best education that your massive amounts of tax dollars can buy! Understand that! You are being taxed to death (more than anyone else in the county) in exchange for higher student/teacher ratios. (What a F'n JOKE!)

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Bakerboy25 3 years, 4 months ago

Let me get this correct, our taxes are high now because of the cuts we could make next year. Wow.

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ksrush 3 years, 4 months ago

You guys keep making the same lame arguements about how consolidation is the end of the world. Put on your big boy pants, read the first letter to the editor article and realize there is alot of good that comes out of our school district as well. When will you guys realize it is a financial decision - stop crying

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Buckeye 3 years, 4 months ago

I have read that article, and that student should be proud. The rural community has never stated that BES was a poor school. We are just as trying to let everyone know that the rural schools are one of this districts greatest assets. When you see the ratio of out of district parents that have chosen them that should be a concept that our board capatalizes on, not takes for granted. I've recently heard that the state might cut the extra money per student for the new building, then what? With our current legislators they may also choose to cut transportation funds, then what? This plan will blow up in all our faces. Then we can hear those words once again from our BOE " We did not foresee these cuts." WAKE UP We someday will be having these discussions again. And next time it could be the discussion of merging districts with Wellsville. Then I'm sure the in town group will start to fight and fight just as hard as we are. There is nothing wrong for standing up for what you believe. The rural community has represented well and should be proud. Our board should think of all the factors and don't count on the state to fund everything. We are here to EDUCATE all the kids. The taxes need to go towards that goal first!!!! If that means further cuts in extra curricular and administation, I hope your willing to go there.

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ksrush 3 years, 4 months ago

Your response just brings up more questions like...

How many decades have those schools been around ? Dont you think if there truley were great assets to capitalize on it would have been done long before now ? If the assets were so great to so many out of district people show me the money. If those schools could break even the consolidation issue would not be where it is at today would it.

I hear alot of things too. So who specifically are you hearing say the state " might " cut extra $ per student or transportation funds. The rumor mill runs 24/7 and thats about all it is rumor which is molded to fit any side of any arguement

" We are here to educate our kids " are you talking just K - 5 , MES and VES that make up less than 10% of the district population or the entire district K - 12 ?

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 4 months ago

The cuts that Mr. Dorathy is asking for when he says "close the rural schools" actually affects over 50% of the current student population, not less then 10% as you keep incorrectly pointing out.

Also if you have attended any of the meetings, you will realize that the funding issues brought up Buckeye are in fact more then rumors since they are mentioned by Mr. Dorathy himself as well as other BOE members. Allot of money will be lost next year since we will also not be receiving stimulus funds from the Federal Govt either.

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Bloggerboo 3 years, 4 months ago

First of all, I think KSRUSH's point is that if we do decide to let the outlying schools remain open, it will mostly only benefit those few children attending, at the expense of hundreds of other children. Sure, if we close them, all classes K-5 will be affected by increased classroom sizes. That is not as big a problem as not being able to balance the budget.

And, it is precisely because of the potential for budget cuts that we have to make this decision now. If we don't, and the state does cut, we won't have much left to cut elsewhere, so it is in some part a preventative measure to hedge against that likelihood.

Finally, this board does not have it "out" for these two small schools. If they did, this decision might have been made three, four, maybe even 6-8 years ago. They have clearly wanted to give those residents their schools, but the time has come financially to make the tough choices.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 4 months ago

LoL...Bloggerboo once again with the ignorant argument that has no merit. The benefit is to all 600+ students K-5, not just a handful of kids as you ineptly keep pointing out. Their is no savings in closing those schools. The schools are paid for.

What Dorathy is doings is making CUTS to K-5 education while choosing not to make cuts elsewhere. As I have said in the past I can't believe that BOE is even entertaining this idea as their is plenty of other places that need to be cut first before you even start cutting the budget of K-5 education.

I also like how even you point out that this has been an issue for the last several years. If this has always been such a money pit as you and Ksrush like to point out then how come Dorathy didn't make the new PC big enough to hold all the kids???

I'm not necessarily for keeping the Rural Schools open, but I am for making sure all our kids get the best education possible for the premium we are paying. The problem is that from what I'm see we are not getting that from Dorathy and the current BOE.

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BigCat 3 years, 4 months ago

Is it a good financial decision for the entire district for the school district to be buying I-Pads for a literature class? Spend $500/student times 15 students? That's $7500 (or more) that benefits only 15 kids, because from my understanding they get to keep them when the class is over. Who approves this stuff Mr. Dorothy? You? Is it even questioned? And you claim there is nothing else left to cut?

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mellowyellow 3 years, 4 months ago

The iPads were part of a grant.

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jgillispie 3 years, 4 months ago

I need to make a correction in this story. I read a previous story wrong and need to correct it. Kim Beilfuss' husband attended Baldwin Elementary School. They moved out to the Marion Springs area because they liked the 4-year-old program. Also in her final quote, the "most fun" thing is the MSES Santa's Workshop. Sorry for not getting a couple facts straight.

Jimmy Gillispie

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Redflyer 3 years, 4 months ago

If they decide to close the two schools. Immediately after they vote to close them, we need a detailed "strategic plan" (as Mr. Dorathy) likes to call it detailing how they plan to intergrate our kids into the PC & IC. Or are they just going to drop the bomb and "figure it out as we go" as one board member has stated in the past. I am still remaining hopeful that the Board member's will realize that this isn't the answer to their budget problems and it won't "save" as much money as they are proposing.

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Bloggerboo 3 years, 4 months ago

Try visiting the USD 348 website once in a while. He has a relatively detailed plan laid out there, with maps and all.

http://usd348.com/home/budget/

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rochester 3 years, 4 months ago

Yes, there is a plan for how the district will fit the little bodies into the buildings, but is there a plan for anything beyond that? How do they plan to integrate the parents from the outlying schools into the school structure and the PTO? Or will the families from the outlying schools just be treated like outcasts for the next few years? Is there a plan for how the district will integrate the teachers and classified staff from the outlying schools into the two schools in town? And I am, once again, talking about something beyond just the physical location for these people. Has any of this been considered or discussed at all? Or perhaps if we just ignore it all, things will just fall into place? Somehow, I doubt that approach will be very effective.

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Bloggerboo 3 years, 4 months ago

Of course this has all been discussed. Don't be intentionally obtuse.

Many of the teachers and staff that you mention, unfortunately, will have to be let go. That is the majority of the savings, so yes, that has been discussed. Integrating parents into the PTO, etc., while necessary is hardly a decision that has to be made prior to determining whether or not we need to close the building for FINANCIAL reasons. Those parents interested in being a part of their children's education will be welcomed with open arms.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 4 months ago

I would not call the question obtuse, specially considering Dorathy waited till just weeks before the vote to close the schools to inform all the patrons that he had FINALLY come up with a plan to house all the kids in the new PC and IC with out cramming them into rooms that were not meant to be class rooms.

Believe me as someone that has been following this issue very closely Dorathy has given any tax payer with half a Brain plenty of reasons to doubt his strategic planning abilities.

Well, I guess except you Bloggerboo, but I did say with a half a Brain.

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lisagaylesmith 3 years, 4 months ago

Mr. Dorathy has met with the principals from the school in town to come up with his plan to transition the kids into town. He did NOT include the principal from the rural schools in those discussions. Gus is the principal who knows our children, their specials needs and our teachers and their reservations and concerns. Mr. Dorathy is NOT asking the ones who will be most effected by the decision to close the schools. Will we be "welcomed with open arms" really? I think we will always be treated as the reason the new school is crowded. I also think our special needs kids (and there are a lot of them) will be bullied instead of treasured, as they are in the rural schools.

I asked the board president to talk with Mr. Dorathy about an open house for the rural parents and children to show us the schools in town and the commons area where they will have art, as well as the walk-in closet where they will have band. Some are actually school "shopping" and will be visiting other districts as well. I, personally, hope that many of the rural students end up in Eudora, Lawrence and being homeschooled so that my kids' class sizes are not as large as those being projected by Mr. Dorathy.

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NanCrisp 3 years, 4 months ago

While you're at it, Jimmy, please correct "have spoke" to read "have spoken." That may have been a typographical error on your part but, unfortunately, many readers will think it's the correct present perfect conjugation of the verb "to speak."

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Torch 3 years, 4 months ago

I"t takes a toll on the kids, as well as the parents."

Stop dragging the kids into this. Most of them don't have any idea what is going on...and if they do it's because their parents and teachers are introducing the stress.

Children are resilient. And besides...they'll be moving into the $23 million Taj Mahal that is USD 348. They may as well use it since their grand children will still be paying it off.

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BigCat 3 years, 4 months ago

This meeting is a farce. The Board President has been going around for weeks telling people that the vote is 5-2 to close, and that we will all thank the Board in the future. Now she wants to run for re-election? I don't think so. I will do everything I can to make sure that does not happen.

So much for being objective. It appears that the board has had a one track mind to close the schools WITHOUT considering OTHER options. That may not be true, but that is surely how it looks to the public.

I get that this is a "finacial decision", to prepare for cuts coming down the line. So why is the district SPENDING that money immediately? Doesn't seem like very sound financial planning to me!

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 4 months ago

All we can do at this point is show up to the meeting....listen to the vote and then vote accordingly next BOE election.

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markdunn 3 years, 4 months ago

When this is over, we should all go out for ice cream.

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khayes 3 years, 4 months ago

Just for fun I added up what the Board of Educations mill increase alone...not counting the city or other increases cost me personally on my properties for the coming year... A little over $2200.00 per year. But were still broke and we have to cram more kids into the classrooms. I have two kids in the system so I will bear this burden but it has me very upset. This slate of folks on the board has to go. And we need some people that can budget and project with some eye to the future. This crew has my hackles way up...and now the city is considering a library increase in size to make up the gap left by school understaffing.

Were headed down the wrong path here people and we need some new ideas and minds to lead us out of this mess...pronto...

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Bloggerboo 3 years, 4 months ago

khayes, that last statement of yours is ridiculous. They are not wanting to increase the size of the library solely because the school district doesn't have enough librarians. Come on. Stop trying to twist everything to make it look like the BoE's fault. This one clearly is unrelated.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 4 months ago

Once again Bloggerboo and her ignorance is ever present. Why not try reading the article that talks about the new Library Expansion request and I quote the article below.

Baldwin High School students have been using the library recently because district budget cuts have made the school unable to hire full-time librarians.

Wow...sure seems like one of the reason they want to expand the library is partly due to the budget cuts at the High School...Now if this is incorrect you need to email the editor of the Paper.

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Bloggerboo 3 years, 4 months ago

Yes, I saw that single sentence paragraph in the article, Dad. It doesn't mention a number, or even words like "significant numbers of BHS students", it just says students have used the library lately. Are you kidding me? That is the single most important reason to increase the size of the library, at a cost of close to a million dollars, because "BHS student have been using the library lately"?

You have got to be kidding. If not, grow up and get over your imagined rivalry with me.

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 4 months ago

Which is exactly what he pointed out in his comment which you said was not true. They simply stated that do to Budget cuts at the HS it has put additional strains on the resources available at the Public Library and this is ONE of the reason they want to expand the Library

I don't have an imagined rivalry with you since a rivalry with you would be pointless, I can't have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

My only issue with you is your constant ignorant statements, but at least your consistent.

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khayes 3 years, 4 months ago

Hardly ridiculous since I didnt state that as the only reason but it is a large contributing factor. The population of Baldwin has remained largely stagnant over the past 4 years so its not caused by population growth. And no "twisting" is needed to point out the poor performance of this BOE...

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Slade 3 years, 4 months ago

From the Kansas State Statutes: Chapter 72, Article 19: Charter Schools 72-1906: "(b) A petition for the establishment of a charter school may be prepared and submitted to the board of education of a school district by or on behalf of a school building or school district employees group, an educational services contractor, or any other person or entity. Any such petition shall be submitted by not later than December 1 of the school year preceding the school year in which the charter school is proposed to be established."

Since our community paper no longer has an editor, I thought it should be noted that the timing of tomorrow's BOE vote is interesting. I sought, but could not find in the State Statues any regulation specific to a Unified School District acting as its own Political Action Committee in advance of a public bond issue. I'm not an attorney. I've spot checked a couple of other districts in the state with pending bond issues and these districts curiously chose to make no mention of their public vote on their website, much less issue an endorsement of any pending public fund campaigns. I don't know if sending kids home with a district publication endorsing extravagance is illegal. Something about it surely doesn't feel quite right...

Voters, however, bear the ultimate responsibility of due diligence.

The fact that the board is closing these schools tomorrow has become irrelevant. That action is a symptom of what appears to me to be a deeper problem. What should concern this entire community is the role, willingly or unwillingly, that USD#348 and its administration have played in our current socioeconomic crisis. If this article is accurate, there are only two proposals on the table for vote--An option to close both or keep both open. The fact that there is now no effective recourse for the community to operate a charter program is at least a little troubling to me. What's a little more troubling is I haven't heard anyone suggest this as a viable and/or financially responsible option. (An option no longer available for the 2011-12 year.) It appears to me to be fairly obvious that the rural schools, which carry no debt load, are financially (and academically) the highest performing assets in the district.

I hope I'm wrong, but it looks like the district will forge ahead with its "Buy high, sell low" philosophy and proceed to liquidate at under market-value their only remaining assets that carry no debt load. This will lead directly to another unaffordable bond issue if this community has any sort of population growth at all.

The discontentment many in the community are expressing is a reflection of the manner by which this entire process has occurred. And it's about time we should ALL agree that the operational culture of this district needs much closer community examination. I sincerely hope we realize another bond is not feasible. Well, for that matter, neither was the last one...

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greyghost 3 years, 4 months ago

Slade, please consider running for the at-large position on the school board! Please!

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BigCat 3 years, 4 months ago

Slade, I know that Vinland (and MSE I would assume) have looked into becoming charter schools. It requires that the School Board votes on whether or not to allow it I believe. I also know that Charter Schools take huge amounts of funding, and as such, there are very few that survive in Kansas. I personally believe that it would be great for VES and MSE to break away from the Baldwin District and form Charter Schools, but I am not sure it the BOE would allow it.

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khayes 3 years, 4 months ago

Slade...how you been doing. Well said in your comments and I could not agree more. I am also deeply amused at the attempts by the school district to sell the old elementary building on chapel st. Love the hand painted sign with "For Sate" on it....just projects class and planning doesnt it?

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BaldwinDad 3 years, 4 months ago

I agree 100%....I think those signs are extremely tacky.

The actions by Dorathy show that he is not capable of making the long term decisions we need to guide this district to financial stability. Perhaps we should start by firing Dorathy since all of this was done under his watch and Dorathy just spent half of what he is estimating we are to save on the rural schools only to propose closing them a year later.

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bc 3 years, 4 months ago

You guys are complaining about "tacky" for sale signs? Get real.

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lisagaylesmith 3 years, 4 months ago

I hope that the four NEW board members that are elected in April make it their priority July 1st to undo some of the damage that will be done tonight with the vote AND to begin looking for a new superintendant. We can not respect or follow a leader who does not keep his word. He assured us our rural schools will not be closed under his watch and then recommend to the board that they close those schools. The only thing we can do now is to rally support for new board members and show up at the polls with our neighbors and friends in April. Mr Dorathy's name will not be forgotten in Vinland for many years to come.

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Torch 3 years, 4 months ago

He may have promised not to close the schools, but that was before the recession and the funding from the State being slashed.

I agree he should move on, but not for the same reasons.

He should go because the rural schools should have been closed as soon as he took over. We've wasted at least $1 million in the time he's been here on keeping them open. The other reason he should go is that he supported the $23 million albatross that is hung around every resident's neck.

No need to worry about population explosion in Baldwin any more. If our kids have half a brain they'll flee and only a fool would move into this town right now with the tax burden we've saddled ourselves with.

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greyghost 3 years, 4 months ago

The recession started in 2007. At least the housing bubble burst in 2007. He was making promises to the rural patrons through much of 2008.

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mellowyellow 3 years, 4 months ago

You might want to look at what schools got the standard of excellence from the KS State Dept. of Ed. One of the elementary schools in question missed the mark this year.

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