Archive for Thursday, June 10, 2010

Patrons, board debate school consolidation again

There was yet another packed house for Monday’s Baldwin School Board meeting as the debate raged on concerning closing rural elementary schools. The board took no action on the matter, but at least one board member said he’d suggest closing at least one of the schools next year when the board meets again in July.

There was yet another packed house for Monday’s Baldwin School Board meeting as the debate raged on concerning closing rural elementary schools. The board took no action on the matter, but at least one board member said he’d suggest closing at least one of the schools next year when the board meets again in July.

June 10, 2010

Four weeks ago, Baldwin School District patrons voiced their opinions about consolidating the four elementary schools.

At the end of the night, the school board members never took a vote on the subject. The school board approved other budget-cutting items on May 10 to avoid possibly closing one of the rural elementary schools.

“These cuts don’t include closing a building or cutting seventh grade sports,” Supt. Paul Dorathy said May 10. “It also doesn’t change the school calendar for next year.”

However, the debate was far from over. Since that meeting, patrons have submitted letters to the Signal supporting and opposing closing Marion Springs and Vinland elementary schools. One group of Baldwin City parents passed around a petition that was signed and given to the school board and Dorathy.

On Monday night, many of those patrons were back to continue the debate, but at the end of the meeting School Board Member Scott Lauridsen said at the next meeting the board needs to seriously discuss consolidating the schools for the 2011-2012 school year.

“We missed the opportunity at the May meeting to reduce the K-5 teacher count by four, which would increase the K-5 class size average from 18 to 20,” Lauridsen said. “Without that savings and the very limited time left for the district and families to plan for and implement the consolidation, I feel it would be better to target closing for 2011-2012.

“I believe we've looked at it from every possible angle and heard every position both for and against closing a building,” he said. “If we're going to do this, we need to make the decision, develop and begin executing a transition plan. The sooner we get started the more time everyone has to deal with the change and the better start we'll have to the 2011-2012 school year. In my opinion, the district benefits we could realize with the savings outweigh increasing the K-5 class size from 18 to 20.”

Lauridsen wasn’t the only person at the meeting supporting the closing of one or two rural elementary schools. Nearly a dozen patrons spoke out about the conditions of the district buildings and how the school board needs to consolidate the elementary schools into two buildings.

Susan England, Baldwin City patron, handed the school board a pile of signed petitions that ask for the board to consolidate the elementary schools. She read the petition Monday night.

“It says, ‘We, the below signed patrons of USD 348, are calling for the USD 348 school board to be fiscally responsible. We are asking the board to combine the four elementary schools into two buildings, utilizing the primary and intermediate centers for classes, beginning in the fall of 2010. We ask for fair and equitable spending of school funds that will be in the best interest of all students in the district,’” England said.

England went on to say that she spoke at the May meeting and asked for closure of one or both of the rural elementary schools. She said her stance hasn’t been well received by the public.

“Through this process I have lost good friends, I have been shunned or ignored at public events and my kids have had comments made to them that they shouldn’t have to listen to,” England said. “This hasn’t caused my opinion to change.”

Chad Christie, who lives west of Baldwin City, presented the board with a list of cuts from the past few years. He left the board members with one last message.

“I was born and raised here,” Christie said. “My parents went to these schools. My kids are going to them now. I have many friends that live near the outlying schools. I don’t want to see these schools cut any more than anyone else, but we have a crisis on our hands and we need to do something about it.”

Of course, not everyone at the meeting supported the idea of closing MSES or VES. Several patrons expressed their opinions about keeping the schools open.

“I don’t want to see either of the rural schools closed,” said Crystal Harris, VES secretary. “The Intermodal will be coming soon and that should bring jobs and growth to the area. I just also want to say we continue to be one school district, not three like people have said. I want us to stay together.”

Some of the patrons were just tired of the arguing and words spoken back and forth between parents of the rural and Baldwin City schools. One of those was Jennifer Letner (not sure on name spelling).

“I want all of us parents to work together,” she said. “If you know it needs to be done, rip off the band-aid and let us work together. I’m concerned about the morale of the parents.”

At the end of the public comment Monday night, a group of Baldwin City parents presented a slide show to the school board. The presentation, titled “Conditions of our Buildings,” contained more than 30 photos of dirty, damaged or broken walls, ceilings, floors or other items at Baldwin High School and Baldwin Junior High School.

The parents also presented a list of cuts that have been made during the past few years to all of the buildings. They also presented a way that MSES and VES could be closed and all of the students could be put into the Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center and Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center.

The group of parents made it appear possible for all of the students to be in the BESIC and BESPC and maintain the same class sizes that they had this year. They also wanted to make sure the school board members heard their opinions.

“Changes have to be made,” said Carrie Barth, Baldwin City patron.

Comments

Torch 4 years, 5 months ago

“Through this process I have lost good friends, I have been shunned or ignored at public events and my kids have had comments made to them that they shouldn’t have to listen to,” England said. “This hasn’t caused my opinion to change.”

I applaud your courage. You won't be welcome in Baldwin for the rest of your time here. It's the way it works. Not only that you'd better watch your children as they are potential victims of harrassment and bullying. That's the way it works. I've seen it too many times.

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NanCrisp 4 years, 5 months ago

You are right on the money, Torch. Because of having had this very experience, I keep my kids out of B.C. as much of the time as is humanly possible. It means that we pretty much only sleep here, but we find that everywhere else we go the people are more pleasant and welcoming. When I moved to B.C. from Lawrence in 1992, my friends would ask me, "How's it going there? Have you run into a lot of snubbing?" I couldn't believe the town had such a reputation and that I hadn't known about it before I moved here. It took a few years, but pretty much as soon as I had kids I found out exactly what they were talking about!

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MarileeV 4 years, 5 months ago

I love the people of Baldwin City! I think Susan knows that she is welcome in Baldwin. I have spoken a few times myself at the board meetings and have not been kicked out of town yet!

When we first moved to Baldwin, I was so impressed with how friendly the people of the community were. Because of the welcome I felt, I made myself the "welcome wagon" so to speak for new families. I am at a busy point in my life where I no longer do that, but my point is, when you are nice to people, they are nice back.

As my family is currently going through a difficult time, the people of Baldwin City have shown their true colors and the outpouring of kindness has been amazing. Thank you Baldwin City. Again, if you are nice to people, they will be nice back.

Although Susan's family has perhaps experienced a few rough moments, Susan has always been so kind to everyone that the kindness will be repaid.

I love Baldwin City - it has been my home now for 18 years. We just need to have some pride in our community and schools, and instead of just complaining, work to do something to make it better. I challenge everyone to do just that.

Remember, if you are kind, people will be kind back.

My first post on Speak Out! I've read this and laughed for years, but decided it was time to speak out in a positive way for my adopted community!

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BigCat 4 years, 5 months ago

There is no way that the PC and IC can handle the students. The districts own research say so. This so called plan also states that no teachers would lose jobs, which is a total FARCE! The board members even stated that at least 4 would lose their jobs. In short, this so called plan that was put together by the Kite's is ill conceieved and just plain wrong.

People also forget that just because the district closes these schools, the some of the costs associated with them does not. I have not seen any plans to sell them, so the district would be paying upkeep and who knows what else on one or two buildings that it is not using. Doesn't seem responsible to me.

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Cityboy 4 years, 5 months ago

The preacher man says its the end of time and the Mississippi River she's a going dry. The interest is up and the stock markets down and you only get mugged if you go downtown. I live back in the woods you see, my woman, and the kids and the dogs and me. I got a shotgun and a rifle and a four wheel drive and a country boy can survive. Country folks can survive.

I can plow a field all day long, I can catch catfish from dusk till dawn. Make our own whiskey and our own smoke too ain't to many things these boys can't do. We grow good old tomatoes and homemade wine and country boy can survive, country folk can survive.

Because you can't stomp us out and you can't make us run, cause we're them ole boys raised on shotguns. We say grace and we say mam and if you ain't into that we don't give a damn. We came from the West Virginia coal mine's and the Rocky Mountains and the Western skies and we can skin a buck, we can run a trout line and a country boy can survive, country folks can survive.

I had a good friend in New York City he never called me by my name just hillbilly. My Grandpa taught me how to live off the land and his taught him to be a business man He used to send me pictures of the Broadway Nights and I would send him some homemade wine but he was killed by a man with a switchblade knife, for forty three dollars my friend lost his life. I'd love to spit some beechnut in that dudes eyes and shoot him with my ole forty-five cause a country boy can survive, country folks can survive.

'Cause you can't stomp us out and you can't make us run, and we're them ole boys raised on shotgun. We say grace, we say mam, if you ain't into that we don't give a damn. We're from North California and South Alabam' and little towns all around this land. We can skin a buck, and run a trout line and a country boy can survive, country folks can survive, country boy can survive, country folks can survive.

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NanCrisp 4 years, 5 months ago

“Through this process I have lost good friends, I have been shunned or ignored at public events and my kids have had comments made to them that they shouldn’t have to listen to,” England said. “This hasn’t caused my opinion to change.”

I hear you, Susan. The same thing happened to me when I pulled my kids out of BES and homeschooled them through the Lawrence Virtual School. And it has continued since I realized that our public school system is hopelessly flawed and irreparable from the inside. A lot of people don't like to hear harsh truths. The one thing I can be thankful for is that I found that there IS still quality education out there for deserving children, and that with a little personal sacrifice it's more than possible to attain it.

Through all of it, my opinion hasn't changed, either. While my struggle is different from yours, I completely respect your right to fight for your kids. I wish more people would be able to see that what we need here are more options, not less. We need more private schools, which would actually increase the quality of our public schools.

In the current situation in B.C., it would make total sense for the patrons of Marion Springs and Vinland who want the option to keep their children in the rural schools to open private schools for those families. Anyone who wants to continue participating in the public school system could send their kids on the bus to town. The private rural schools could draw from a wider region than what is currently allotted to them by the public school district. The best case scenario would be that USD 348 would be able to unload those buildings by selling them to the newly formed private schools. But that might not happen because many of the "adults" involved in the public school system fight tooth and nail to keep quality private schools out of the picture.

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straightforward 4 years, 5 months ago

I'm not sure how more private schools make our public schools better? Don't get me wrong, I'm a very strong believer in competition and capitalism in general, but in reality, public schools can't compete with private schools. When a private school needs more money, it raises tuition. When public schools need more money, they either have to get a statewide tax increase or cut some other area of their budget, neither of which is easy. To make matters worse, when students leave the public schools for home schooling or private schools, the public schools receive even less money from the state, putting them into an even bigger whole. I have no objection to private schools but to say they will improve our public schools is ridiculous.

The notion that the average private school is better than the average public school is driven by one thing: their parents of private school children are FINANCIALLY invested in their child's education and therefore put in the extra effort to make sure their children are learning. Baldwin's children don't have to go to private schools to get good educations. Look at the high school students who were on the Real World Design team that won the national championship this spring. Those children had very involved parents that helped them on their project by giving useful feedback and urging them to go above and beyond what they learn in the classroom.

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

"I'm not sure how more private schools make our public schools better? Don't get me wrong, I'm a very strong believer in competition and capitalism in general, but in reality, public schools can't compete with private schools. "

How can you say you believe in capitalism and competition then in the same breath say that since something can't compete it should be allowed to stay.

"When a private school needs more money, it raises tuition. When public schools need more money, they either have to get a statewide tax increase or cut some other area of their budget, neither of which is easy."

So your telling me that any business that chooses to raise prices does so easily?? You and I both know that just like a school raising taxes a Private/Charter School would have just as rough a time raising tuition and staying in business.

The bottom line is time after time studies have shown that Private/Charter schools do a better job of educating our children then Govt run schools for less money.

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Julie Craig 4 years, 5 months ago

I agree the maintenance of the buildings is not good. A significant chunk of the bond money is earmarked for the Junior High. Why don't they spend it or capital outlay money on fixing up the buildings? All of the bids have been under budget, right? This money has nothing to do with teachers salaries and textbooks.

Why is the District looking for new office space and gym space for the wrestling and cheer practices? I say don't spend any more money for this until the building they are using is sold.

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greyghost 4 years, 5 months ago

Jimmie: Why is it that the only board member you seem to interview is Scott Lauridsen? Aren't there other opinions on the board?
It's kind of like when there is severe weather, Jeff takes a picture of the post office. When there is news about the school district you talk to Scott. What's up with that? We know that Lauridsen wants to close at least one school next year. What are the several other board members thinking? This is only fair journalism.

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rochester 4 years, 5 months ago

I believe it has something to do with which board member happens to talk to most during the meeting, but I could be wrong.

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markdunn 4 years, 5 months ago

Maybe we should just have a big Bake Sale.

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Slade 4 years, 5 months ago

What am I missing here? We want to close the rural elementary schools to service the debt on the unaffordable new facilities--is that right? Where does one find facility-by-facility breakdowns of actual costs related to running these buildings? I've made attempts to find this information online, but everything is bunched together in General Fund accounts.

Now, I'm not necessarily of the opinion that the facilities didn't need some sort of an upgrade--but isn't this whole business the direct result of the $22.9 million General Obligation Bonds that were passed a couple years ago? And isn't there a presupposition that the Assessed Valuation is going up 190% over the next 20 years? That's a lot of debt service, but I guess you get what you pay for in the future...

It appears to me that the $614K in debt service coming due 9/1/10 is by far the smallest debt load the district will need to carry over the next 20 years...Aren't we going to run out of schools to close in a couple of years?

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

OMG, we are going to have this ridiculous discussion again...I'm really getting tired of hearing the parents from the JHS and HS complaining about the condition of their schools and trying to lay the blame of a lack of funds at the door step of MSE and VES. Why not lay the blame were it truly belongs at the feet of the School Board. Who in their right minds runs a business this shoddy and keeps their jobs.

Why not take all the money we just wasted on new Athletic Fields and spend that on the schools. We just passed a 22+ million bond and you have parents showing up to meetings complaining about the conditions of the schools?? Give me a break, I think NanCrisp has it right we need charter/private schools, lets start using the Backpack system where the tax dollars follow the students. Then we can get private non-profits in here to compete against these Govt school systems that do nothing but show us year after year how incapable they are of effectively managing our kid's education and our money.

Oh, and Bigcat is also correct there is no way you can fit all the students into the IC for more then one year if you close both MSE and VSE, the Boards own #'s show that. Also anyone believes that you will get any savings from closing the outlying schools with out firing teachers is dreaming there is no real savings with out firing staff which has been stated by the school board in the past.

As far as Susan being snubbed, perhaps it's because people are tired of dealing with ignorant ideas that don't really address the true problem which is our current system of Govt run schools is a failure.

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Bloggerboo 4 years, 5 months ago

"Why not take all the money we just wasted on new Athletic Fields and spend that on the schools. We just passed a 22+ million bond and you have parents showing up to meetings complaining about the conditions of the schools??"

This just shows your ignorance on the topic, Dad. You cannot use those funds for anything other than new building construction, repairs, etc, as laid out in the bond proposal. They cannot fund teacher, administrator, or staff salaries. They cannot be used to pay for athletics, bus gas, text books, etc. That bond has a very specific purpose and plan. It is completely separate from the issue of closing schools. Cutting teachers, staff and administrators is the only way to procure savings and add to those types of budgets. You really, really, need to understand this before spouting off on here.

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Bloggerboo 4 years, 5 months ago

But, we can agree that the school board members have let us down with regards to managing their budget. That is why they are attempting to fix it by making drastic cuts everywhere they can.

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

I understand how the Bond works Bloggerboo, and I can tell by your tone that you like to point out what would seem to be a mistake by my part since I have pointed out many times the idiocy of closing the outlying schools to help fund the repairs that are needed at the HS and JHS But the reason I asked those questions was to point the gross negligence by the school board and the administration in approving bonds to pay for a new athletic fields when according to some parents the very Schools themselves are falling apart.

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Slade 4 years, 5 months ago

Please understand that I'm not placing any blame at the feet of the school board, either. Last time I checked, citizens can only vote one time on a bond issue, and that thing narrowly passed the district-wide vote. The board can only work with the mills and state/federal funding that is available to them.

Negative amortization is the most poisonous type of debt load, and if the figures provided by the board are accurate, this is exactly the situation the district faces until 9/1/12, when 75K is finally knocked off the principal balance of the Series 2008 Bond. So, after state subsidy, the district pays over $2.3 million in interest before a penny is knocked off the original par amounts of the issues.

I personally believe that the bond issue payments are straight at the heart of this matter. 614K would bus some students, buy some books, and cover the salaries of a few teachers, I suspect. I fully understand that the bond issues cannot be re-allocated for any purposes other than those specified in the original vote. I also know that the debt load the district is to begin paying off in earnest this year is the fundamental reason (in concert with a state funding crisis) the district must now look to cut corners elsewhere. It's unfortunate, but this is why we vote on matters of such importance. Decisions were made, right or wrong, in a democratic manner.

I'm making no claim that the citizens of #348 should have seen the housing bubble burst, either. There was no way to know exactly when that unfortunate spree of events was set to occur. What was set in stone at the time of that vote was that the district would be obligated to pay these bond issues on a very specific schedule, regardless of the future district valuations.

I would just like to see the hard evidence (a stack of bills in a file cabinet, maybe) that could lead to a rational decision about the future of the district's schools. Closing a pair of schools that traditionally perform pretty well doesn't seem like a particularly good option, at first glance. I know virtually all of the individuals cited in the above article, and I don't have any interest in shunning them...I don't even know for sure where I stand on this issue, except that I hope the decisions made about these schools' futures are based on hard analysis rather than emotion.

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

The problem here is the WHOLE point of the school bond and building the new school was due to the fact that we were running out of space for new students. So now your telling me we need to decrease the overall handling capacity of district 348 to save $$ when anyone with a half a brain can tell you that we will simply be passing another million dollar bond proposal in 3-4 years to help either build new schools or add on to the two new ones we have since they will be COMPLETELY out of space.

"They also presented a way that MSES and VES could be closed and all of the students could be put into the Baldwin Elementary School Intermediate Center and Baldwin Elementary School Primary Center."

This I would like to see since the district own #'s indicate that it would be impossible for the BEIC to be able to handle the additional students for more then one year with out having to resort to the use of trailers or stacking kids in the gym.

From what I'm reading this seems to me as a gross failure of the administration and school board, whether we all voted and agreed on this School Bond we did so with the understanding that the basic needs of our kids would be met. But now with the way the parents are complaining about the conditions at the HS and the JHS seems to me that they are not. I personally would expect letters of resignation from the current administration if this is the case. The only other scenario that makes sense is that these parents who were at the meeting are simply over exaggerating the situation in an attempt to get the school board to close the outlying schools since they ignorantly think that the kids at the outlying schools are somehow getting some unfair advantage and by closing them this will solve the budget problems we have now.

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uapinochet 4 years, 5 months ago

You make way too much sense. You sound well-reasoned and sound in your arguments, therefore, you will not be liked in this town!

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

This made me bust up laughing thank you!!

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Bloggerboo 4 years, 5 months ago

The bond was issued for several reasons, none of which had to do with space. First, the current PC is old, unsafe, and expensive because of its age and state of disrepair. It had to be replaced no matter what. Second, a good portion of the bond money is being spent on repairing some of the major issues with the Jr. High and the High School. That is not space related. The addition of the much needed ball fields, track, and auditorium, are necessary if we wanted to continue to offer these sports and performance options in a safe, inexpensive, and feasible manner. We could not keep endangering our students by making them run to Baker everyday, be amongst college students, and face crossing 56 twice daily. Not to mention that whenever Baker decided we couldn't use the facility, there was no place to practice track. As for baseball/softball, if you ever attended a game, you know how pitiful our previous versions were. If you didn't, you have no right to complain here about the need for those things.

There are two sides to this Dad, and you making claims that anyone who thinks we may need to close a building or two is a complete fool, is just downright arrogant and selfish on your part.

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BaldwinDad 4 years, 5 months ago

The fact that we were running out of space at the PC had nothing to do with wanting to pass a 23 million dollar Bond to build new BIGGER schools...yeah Right. I know that the cost of repairing versus building a new school was cost prohibitive, but we were running out of room as well.

As far as the Baseball/Softball fields I have been out there to them and yes they are in poor repair, but that really seems to be the problem with most things this administration is managing. However, it seems to me that this is another clarification of how poorly the school board and administration is managing our children's future.

I don't see how kids crossing 56 to play sports should have any impact on this argument, since allot of kids already have to cross 56 everyday JUST to get to school. If your child chooses to VOLUNTARILY play in a sport that requires them to go to Baker then it is YOUR responsibility to get them their safely not mine nor the other tax payers that are paying for those new fields. Also any kids going to JHS or the HS will still have to cross a highway twice since the new fields are located across the highway any way.

I know there are two sides to the argument of closing the rural schools, just like every discussion in life their are always two sides. The right one and the wrong one. The problem is closing the rural schools is the wrong one. I'm not sure how many time we have to go over this with Bloggerboo till you get it, if you were to close both rural schools the IC would be at capacity this year and over capacity next year. Also the new BESP would be at capacity in 3-4 years. These numbers are not based off guess work, but off the #'s provided by USD#348 themselves.

As EVERYONE knows the bond that just passed was never created with the idea of closing the rural schools so the current level of growth in enrollment was always calculated with both MSE and VES remaining open. If you close them then with in 2-3 years we will passing another million dollar bond to either re-open those schools are increase the size of the IC and BESP.

I understand we are having a budget crisis, but to me the idea of closing schools is not an option when we should be looking at cutting back on extra circular activities instead. If this means drastic cuts to the Arts, Music and Sports programs then so be it, but come heck or high water will I ever agree to impacting the education of kids K through 5 so older kids can keep programs which are providing benefits to way less then half the student body.

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hipgrrrrl 4 years, 4 months ago

"We could not keep endangering our students by making them run to Baker everyday, be amongst college students, and face crossing 56 twice daily."

As a child of a distinguished professor, I must admit to quite frequently being "...amongst college students..." throughout my childhood and teen years. Then, of course, being an undergrad myself certainly did lead to further contact with other college students.

Little did my parents know how endangered they were allowing me to become! Won't they be surprised when I drop this little tidbit on 'em.

That one was quite funny. Usually Blog doesn't make me laugh :).

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