Archive for Thursday, July 8, 2010

School board won’t vote on closing schools Monday night

Baldwin School Board Member Scott Lauridsen reviews the printed version of the slide show that was presented at June's meeting about the state of the district's buildings.

Baldwin School Board Member Scott Lauridsen reviews the printed version of the slide show that was presented at June's meeting about the state of the district's buildings.

July 8, 2010

While Monday’s Baldwin School Board meeting will be packed full of agenda items, including many policy items, it appears there won’t be a vote to close any schools.

The topic of closing one or two of the rural elementary schools has been a hot one for months within the district. Last month, Board Member Scott Lauridsen said he would be bringing a motion to the July meeting to close at least one of the rural elementary schools. He recently said that wouldn’t be happening, but he gave several reasons for his decision.

“First, I want to give the administration a chance to weigh in with their perspective on the potential closing(s),” Lauridsen said. “I anticipate asking the board to ask the administration to come forward with a plan and recommendation to close one or both for the August meeting. Second, to help the BOE weigh the pros and cons, a discussion of where the savings would be targeted in the 2011-12 budget is appropriate.

“Third, several patrons expressed concern about the BOE making this significant of a decision during July when many interested patrons would be on vacation and unable to attend,” he said. “I want to keep this issue as open and transparent as possible. Last, it would be ideal to have all board members present for such an important decision.”

There will be a discussion on budgeting for district facilities at the meeting, but Supt. Paul Dorathy wanted patrons to know there won’t be a vote to close schools Monday night and those schools will be open in August.

“I believe the only thing the board is going to discuss is a future timeline for the buildings in this district,” Dorathy said. “They will need time to do studies on what we can financially support in the future.

“I think it needs to be clear that for the next school year, 2010-2011, all of the present buildings will be open,” he said. “We will be opening the new primary center, but other than that, there will be no other changes. Marion Springs and Vinland will be open next school year.”

Monday’s agenda is also packed full of other items. Those include recognition of the Baldwin High School track and field teams, election of officers, classified early retirement and all-day kindergarten.

“We’ve had enough requests to add another section of all-day kindergarten,” Dorathy said. “Right now, we believe that with the fee increase that our costs will be covered to add another section. Even if we do add a second section, we will still have a waiting list for all-day kindergarten, so we feel that the need is there. As long as it’s paying for itself, we are going to recommend that the board add another section.”

Much of the new business section of the meeting will be the annual approval of designations. The school board will also approve user fees and textbook fees.

“The user fees and textbook fees will be discussed at the meeting,” Dorathy said. “I believe the recommendation is going to be to leave those as they are and not increase those fees.”

Monday’s meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the District Office.

“It will probably be a fairly lengthy meeting,” Dorathy said. “July usually is a lengthy meeting, because there are so many organizational things at this meeting. We also do a lot of policy recommendations.”

Comments

Spiderpig 4 years, 5 months ago

Anyone surprised that the board decided to do nothing about the outer schools? Just keep ignoring the problem and it will go away. I can't wait until December when they are financially screwed again. It will be fun to see what they will cut.

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straightforward 4 years, 5 months ago

Nothing to see here... just kicking the can a little further down the road.

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree, they need o do something about the budget, personally I can see cutting all extra circular activities budgets as well as some type of cut in all administration pay and perhaps educators pay as well.

Also mentioned in the article is textbook fees, that seems ridiculous with all the money we pay that we still as parents have to pay an additional fee for something as basic as text books. I think the time has come as a community to really start looking at private and or charter schools also making are state legislators look at things like Backpack Funding.

Through Backpack Funding, education dollars follow the student to the public school he or she attends. Schools are given autonomy to decide how to spend those dollars. And parents are empowered to choose the best public school for their child. This results in more efficient use of tax dollars, more transparency, more dollars spent in the classroom, more funding for students who need it, and ultimately, better student performance.

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jmyrick 4 years, 5 months ago

Good comment, BaldwinDad. I hadn't heard of Backpack Funding. Interesting. I'll throw it out there. Might those Backpack Funding dollars go to the rural schools because that's where many parents want their children to go?

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

The money would be spent where ever the parent chooses for their child, which should be their right. If that is the rural schools then so be it, but it seems a heck of a lot better then allowing less then handful of vocal minorities on either side of the issue, making changes with will effect every child in the 348 district.

Also keep in mind that if we close those rural schools quite of few parents said they would pull their kids from the district which means a loss of about $4k per child so even if only 10% do it your looking at roughly a $100k in loss Federal Funding.

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Slade 4 years, 5 months ago

Where can I get a copy of the current fiscal year budget? The USD 348 site "Budget 101" only details line items for 09-10. That's already happened. It only provides detailed information regarding student instruction. That isn't the issue here, except for the fact that less than half the district's funds appear to be heading in that direction for next fiscal year. (And every year for the next twenty, regardless of school closings) Where are the figures?

The latest debt service figures for FY 09-10, off the USD site shows a $1.162 million allocation. If the new debt service hits the books next year, my figures show $2.3 million in new allocations, assuming a massive restructuring of debt load hasn't already occurred. Restructuring that debt would be an unexplored level of insanity, considering the current debts are already negatively amortized.

Given that there seems to be a bit of panic going on around here, why isn't there a little more transparency to the public to access these numbers? I know it would be a lot of information, but I've got several gigs on my hard drive, and I think it would be relevant for the community to see what some of the line items in General Administration, School Administration, Ops & Maintenance, Capital Improvements, and Other Costs might be.

The information readily available on the district's site just isn't current at all...Shouldn't it be? USD 348 is one of a relatively small number of districts statewide that has seen positive growth over the past decade. From numbers I gathered from the Kansas Department of Education site, the enrollment has jumped from 1241.4 to 1359.4 for the ten years ending this spring. That makes USD 348 the 32nd fastest growing district in the state over that period of time. Some of the districts experiencing greater growth over that decade were those which had merged or consolidated. Generally speaking, districts that are growing do not close schools, and it must be a sign of gross community mismanagement when something like this occurs.

If the district is going to be broke anyway, and the newly built schools were not built to accommodate the capacity generated by these closings, why on earth would we close any schools? Are we going to feel that much better being marginally less bankrupt? The DLR Group, which orchestrated a very tidy presentation advocating the current bond issue that is bankrupting the district, further advocated another $40 million in debt load to be assumed over the next four years. Are we to continue making decisions based on advice from such an unwise counsel?

The end game here is that we made our own mess, and now we're going to have to clean it up. Let's start with the numbers. Can you get those up here, Jeff???

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Julie Craig 4 years, 5 months ago

Slade - The 2010-11 budget is still probably in the approval process. I'm sure you can get a complete copy of last year's at the district office, but I've never seen the complete budget online.

You make some great points about capacity. The last thing Baldwin needs is to go further into debt and spend money on portable classrooms or another building addition. We are growing, so you and I know that this will be needed if we close the rural schools.

The latest bond issue included a large chunk of money earmarked for technology. Let's use technology to update teaching tools available online which could potentially save tons of money on buying textbooks that are obsolete in 2 or 3 years.

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Torch 4 years, 5 months ago

"Are we going to feel that much better being marginally less bankrupt?"

Wow. So what you're saying is let's just keep being irresponsible with the district since we're going to sink anyway?

Those schools should have been closed 5 years ago. I think about 3 or 4 years ago there was a study done and it showed that the district could save $200,000 a year by closing them. Dorathy glibly stated that it was 'worth it to the community' to keep them open and we did nothing.

Assuming those figures are correct that's about $600 - $700,000 that the vast, vast majority of Baldwin squandered supporting a handful of families. Over a 5-year period that's ONE MILLION DOLLARS that could have been spent on the facilities that support 90 percent of the community instead of an extremely indignant and vocal minority.

A couple of weeks ago a parent wrote a letter to the editor of the Signal. In it she outlined the how the food is cold, parents are volunteering to work, and several other points that indicate those rural facilities are inadequate. In other words - to give the children the best possible learning environment we would likely need to spend $2 or $3 million on MS just to bring it up to standard.

The children have to be in Baldwin in 6th grade anyway. Just start them in K instead. 'It's for the kids.'

Stop being so selfish and focused on your own personal agendas. KC closed 27 schools and probably could close another 20. We can close 2. In fact...common sense dictates that we do. It's cold. It's harsh. It's reality. Stop insisting that everyone else support your convenience. The money spent to support you isn't magical. It comes from all of us. Right out of our pocket. Just stop.

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greyghost 4 years, 5 months ago

You're right, torch! Slade has three kids that go to MSES, and he has two that attend VES. He is so selfish, and this is why he see things the way he does.

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greyghost 4 years, 5 months ago

BTW, the rural school's comprise 29% of the K-5 grade demographics.

K-12 in Baldwin City equals 1,178 students (minus PEP and 4 yr. olds) for a total of 86% of the total students in the district. The rural students house 173 students for 14% of the entire district (minus the 4 yr. olds). But let's remember that closing both rural schools will only save the district 2% off the budget.

I think, as should many who understand simple math, that running 14% of the district on 2% of the annual budget is a good thing, and should, in fact, perhaps be made an example of for the rest of the district.

http://usd348.com/schools/enrollment/

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

"Those schools should have been closed 5 years ago. I think about 3 or 4 years ago there was a study done and it showed that the district could save $200,000 a year by closing them. Dorathy glibly stated that it was 'worth it to the community' to keep them open and we did nothing."

Ok, Torch and where would have put those additional kids?? I love how you come on here spewing your ignorance about closing those schools, but that is all you do. You never mention where we are going to put all those kids. Perhaps you have room in your house, because the 5 years ago the IC was just being built and neither it nor the PC had anywhere enough room for those students. That is still the problem today, once the new PC with the IC will be at capacity in two years if you were to close those outlying schools. So then we would either have to open them back up or spend million's more on expanding our two brand new schools to accommodate the current growth that we have. All for that hypothetical savings which as documented in those reports comes only at the terminating of teachers and staff, who will then be needed to re-hired in 2-3 years when the current class out grow their schools and class rooms.

"Over a 5-year period that's one million dollars that could have been spent on the facilities that support 90 percent of the community instead of an extremely indignant and vocal minority."

You know if you want to talk about supporting a handful of families I could point out the millions we spend every year on programs like Choir, Drama, Football, Baseball, Track & Field, which only support roughly a third of all students and your going to tell me those EXTRA circular activities are more important then teaching the basic fundamentals of education to kids K-5 in the best environment possible?? Give me a break, I haven't even mentioned all the cuts to administrative budgets, but I would rather wipe all those programs out if it means that ALL the kids K-12 get the best education possible. Also once again those Hypothetical millions you speak come at the cost of larger class sizes and fired teachers. Plus none of those # have ever really been confirmed since the BOE and administration will not mention what type of cutbacks they will make, cause all that savings is not coming from just closing the buildings.

"A couple of weeks ago a parent wrote a letter to the editor of the Signal. In it she outlined the how the food is cold, parents are volunteering to work, and several other points that indicate those rural facilities are inadequate."

Yes, and that's parent's letter was quickly rebuffed by several other parents stating that was not the case including several people that work in the cafeteria there. I have never heard of any money being needed at MS or VS to bring them up to any new standards. Heck, the only school I hear of in desperate needs of funds to repair is the JH and HS.

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greyghost 4 years, 5 months ago

I forgot to pass this along (taken straight from the district web site): http://usd348.com/2010/07/02/rural-schools/ Rural Schools There have been numerous rumors circulating about possible building closures in this district. On May 10, 2010, the USD 348 Baldwin City Board of Education decided on a course of action for the 2010-2011 school year. That course of action was to reduce the budget by making several cuts in positions and programs. These cuts did not include closing any buildings in this district. Marion Springs and Vinland Elementary Schools are open for the 2010-2011 school year. The board is not reconsidering that decision. The school board is making plans for budget and facility decisions for the 2011-2012 school year. The nation’s, state’s and our district’s financial situations continue to be a challenge and our Board must plan for our financial future. The board has an obligation to keep the district financially solvent and therefore must examine all possibilities.

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