June 12, 2021
Lawrence, US 86 F
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Preview: Lawrence school board meeting, May 24

The Lawrence school board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, May 24, in a new and larger boardroom at 110 McDonald Drive. Public attendance is welcome but will be limited due to COVID-19 safety measures. Temperature checks, masks and social distancing will be required.

Back-to-back executive sessions (during which the meeting will be closed to the public) are scheduled near the end of the meeting’s agenda. The first, scheduled for 20 minutes with possible vote to follow, is to discuss negotiations for a fair and equitable contract. The second, scheduled for 10 minutes with no expected action to follow, is to discuss potential litigation.

Below are some noteworthy items from the rest of the meeting agenda.

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Key points the board will:

Hear a report on survey data from students, staff and families regarding school resource officers, known as SROs.

↪ Context: Earlier this month, the district used the ThoughtExchange information gathering app to collect information regarding SROs. The report shows that 771 stakeholders participated and contributed 786 thoughts and more than 20,000 ratings. Review the slide presentation from the agenda packet here.

Key thoughts listed in the survey report include the need for SROs to build relationships with students, the importance of teacher safety with resources and support from administration, and the need for strong crisis intervention training. The report also gives figures on feelings, interactions and experiences with SROs by race/ethnicity, gender and stakeholder role. Four SROs currently split their time among the district’s two high schools and four middle schools.

The presentation also details previous district surveys and highlights recent recommendations from the Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice regarding law enforcement-community relations. Superintendent Anthony Lewis serves on the commission and Douglas County Commissioner Shannon Portillo co-chairs the panel, which studies issues of racial equity and justice in Kansas.

Review the district’s board policy manual with a vote to adopt expected to follow. If approved, the manual would take effect immediately.

↪ Context: After deferring a vote on its approval at the May 10 meeting, the board will again discuss the manual draft, found here. The manual provides guidance about the roles and responsibilities of the board and superintendent team, as well as board procedures in ethics, communications, professional development, performance evaluations, and board assignments, structure and meetings. The board proposes a revision to the procedures to select the board vice president beginning in July 2022 with the board electing the position by nomination and majority vote of the board.

It also proposes that, beginning in July 2023, the board choose both the president and vice president by nomination and board majority vote. This would replace the previous practice of the board member with the most votes in the general election filling the president position. It also states that board officers elected at the annual July organizational meetings serve for one-year terms and may serve no more than two consecutive terms in the position.  At the last meeting, board members Carole Cadue-Blackwood and Melissa Johnson expressed concerns with the proposed policy and the board agreed to defer the issue; however, board president Kelly Jones stressed the urgency to finalize the manual so that school board candidates running in the fall election would know what to expect if elected.

Receive written reports for review.

Context: The agenda packet also includes three written reports to the board. At the April 26 meeting, Lewis said the administration would like to present information in a written report in lieu of a full presentation when appropriate. Here is information about the reports and links to them:

  • Air Validation and HVA Systems Efficiency Report: At its Dec. 14, 2020, meeting, the board approved an agreement with Johnson Controls to prepare an Air Validation and HVAC Systems Efficiency Report in preparation for a return to in-person learning. The study was conducted from January through March with Doyle Field Services. The report was presented to staff on April 14. The information from the study is categorized by repairs completed, repairs requiring evaluation of the HVAC system by a mechanical engineer, and repairs requiring a contractor. The reports say mechanical engineer evaluations are being aligned with potential grants from the Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, known as ESSER.
  • Communications Report: The report gives an overview of the department’s 2020-2021 communications efforts.
  • Technology Report: The report shares the roles and responsibilities of the department and a breakdown of department systems.

Find the board meeting agenda and related documents here.

Watch the live board meeting via livestream here or tune in to Midco Channel 26 at 6 p.m. Monday.

To submit written public comments or to participate via WebEx, email patroncommentary@usd497.org before 5 p.m. Monday. Patrons will receive a link to join the videoconference by phone or computer.

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