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Lawrence school board to hear report on staff diversity and retention, consider graduation requirement change and more

The Lawrence school board will meet at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 27, at 110 McDonald Drive. Masks are required due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Key points the board will:

• Hear a human resources report on staff retention and recruitment, including data on race and ethnicity as well as efforts to increase diversity among certified teaching staff.

Context: According to a report in the agenda packet, 34% of the student body in Lawrence Public Schools identify as Black, Indigenous or People of Color, or more than one race. Multiracial students represent the largest category of non-white students at 11.3% with Hispanic students right behind. Among total staff, 85% are white.

Screenshot Racial and ethnicity makeup of Lawrence Public Schools students and staff

In employment categories, classified staff’s racial demographics more closely match student diversity with BIPOC filling 23% of hourly positions, but a large gap exists between students and their teachers. A whopping 91% of the district’s certified teaching staff are white. The presentation slides cite the benefits of employing BIPOC and same-race mentors for students of color.

Staff will discuss efforts to recruit more people of color from in- and out-of-state universities in a job market where fewer college graduates major in education and teacher and staff shortages are prevalent. Among retention data provided for the previous three academic years, administrators were the only employment category spanning the school years affected by the COVID-19 pandemic where retention improved.

Screenshot Retention rates for the previous three school years among employments categories in the Lawrence school district

Presenters will also address employment challenges in special education. The district has filled 47 special education paraprofessional positions this school year and still has 45 vacancies remaining.


Consider altering high school diploma requirements for 2022 seniors by reducing the number of elective credits by two.

Context: The temporary change would reduce the number of required credits from 23 to 21 and sunset at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 academic year. A memo in the agenda packet cites the COVID-19 pandemic causing “dramatic change in terms of school schedules, delivery of educational content, quarantining, and method of operating.” The change was also granted to graduates in 2020 and 2021. 

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As part of the consent agenda, this proposal will be considered along with several other items unless a board member or the superintendent requests an item be removed and voted on separately.


Add unified bowling to the Kansas State High School Activities Association competitive sports menu available to students. Item is on the consent agenda.

Context: Students in special education programs and peer-mentor students outside of the program comprise the unified bowling team. Lawrence High School is a Unified Champion School and already participated in unified bowling before KSHSAA recognized it as a sport. The team would compete within the Sunflower League and across the state this fall.


• Meet privately during two executive sessions. At the top of the agenda, the board will discuss safety measures and the security of district buildings while adhering to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. An executive session at the end of the agenda will discuss personnel matters of non-elected personnel.

Context: At the Sept. 13 board meeting, a brief recess was taken after a disruption. Before and after public commentary, yelling could be heard on the meeting’s livestream broadcast. Lawrence police officers were present during part of the meeting.


Find the full 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 sign up to share public comments in person or via WebEx, email publiccomment@usd497.org before 6 p.m. Monday. Patrons will receive a link to join the videoconference by phone or video conferencing.

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Tricia Masenthin (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at tmasenthin (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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