Lawrence school board honors Indigenous people, meets in private to discuss PAL-CWA tentative agreement, and more

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The Lawrence school board met Monday at district offices. Here are items from our preview and what happened with them, plus some additional notes.

Key points the board:

• Acknowledged Indigenous Peoples’ Day, observed Monday, and recognized key Indigenous people contributing to the district, including: school board members Carole Cadue-Blackwood and Paula Smith; coordinator of Native American Student Services Kelly Walker; 530 students representing more than 100 tribal affiliations; educators and staff across the district; and Haskell Indian Nations University for the land donation at the campus of Broken Arrow Elementary and Billy Mills Middle School, which is named after Olympic champion, humanitarian and philanthropist Billy Mills.


Superintendent Anthony Lewis mentioned the Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice, of which he is a member, has recommended removal of American Indian mascots and related imagery. Elyse Towey and Shannon Portillo, both of Lawrence, also serve on the commission. In July, the commission released a report with the recommendations. “The work has already begun,” Lewis said, citing schools in the Wichita and Shawnee Mission school districts.

• Met privately in executive session to discuss the status of negotiations with the classified staff union Personnel Association of Lawrence – Communications Workers of America.

Context: The hourly workers’ PAL-CWA union has tentatively approved its first contract with the school district and will conduct a ratification vote of its membership on Oct. 20. The board is expected to vote on the final contract at its Oct. 25 meeting, according to a Facebook post by the district.

• Approved a personnel report, including 19 retirements in May 2022 among certified staff. 

Context: A Facebook post by the school district explained the timing was due, in part, to an early notification incentive deadline for staff that also assists HR personnel in recruitment and hiring.

↪️ Passed on consent agenda 6-0. Board member Melissa Johnson did not attend the meeting.

• Approved continuation of the collaboration agreement between Equal Opportunity Schools and USD 497 for a maximum annual cost of $55,800.

Context: EOS helps identify students of color and those from low-income backgrounds who qualify for but are missing from Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. Having access to AP and IB classes helps prepare students for college and careers while decreasing barriers to college and career readiness. The board received an update on the program at its meeting on July 26.

↪️ Passed on consent agenda.

• Approved revisions to executive session procedures in the board’s policy manual.

Context: The Kansas Attorney General Office asked school boards to review and align executive sessions policies with a recommended policy from the Kansas Association of School Boards. The Board Policy Committee reviewed and recommended an update and reformat of the policy based on the KASB recommendations.

↪️ Passed on consent agenda.


• Approved a donation of two red maple trees from Cordley parents and community members. With installation, the donation is valued at $1,250.

Context:  Seeing that the Cordley Elementary playground could use some shade, parents Carl Folsom and Karen Ebmeier rallied the PTA and other community members. They pooled together donations and visited Lawrence Landscape, where they gladly accepted a discount and purchased two trees. “We picked red maples because they grow well in Kansas, are beautiful in the fall, and they should provide good shade for the Cordley playground for many years to come,” Folsom told the Times in an email.

Folsom said this donation was just the beginning. “The Cordley PTA now has a tree committee, which we hope will lead to more trees for the playground in the future.”

↪️ Passed 6-0 on consent agenda.

Other notes:

Lewis had a good excuse for missing LHS’ ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday, Oct. 9. He was inducted into Alabama State University’s 50 Under 50 2021 class. The award recognizes the university’s alumni for professional achievements and a commitment to advancing ASU’s legacy.

Screenshot Anthony Lewis, superintendent of Lawrence Public Schools, was recognized by his alma mater, Alabama State University, as an inductee of the 50 Under 50 Class of 2021 in October 2021.

As the district approaches the end of its first quarter, students pre-K through 12 will have several days off in October: Friday, Oct. 15; Thursday, Oct. 21; Friday, Oct. 22 and Monday, Oct. 25.

The LowRence Cruisers held its inaugural benefit car show Saturday to raise funds for the Lawrence Schools Foundation. See photos from the event here.

District food service hourly workers will receive a pay raise thanks to federal funds from the school lunch and breakfast program. Seamless Summer Operations funds will give food service staff a $3 staff pay differential, according to Lewis.


Several disruptions in the audience were heard during the livestream. At one point, Lewis told someone in the audience, “You have one more time. This is your warning.”

Anti-mask protester Justin Spiehs spoke during public comment and refused to wear a facial mask. District policy calls for masks to be worn indoors on all district property. Spiehs questioned the rationale of district administrators and board members who were photographed without masks during remembrances of the ribbon-cutting ceremony at LHS on Saturday. Board member GR Gordon-Ross mentioned later the brief photo opp was the only time masks weren’t worn at the event.

Spiehs was one of two public commenters who spoke against mask mandates.

The board’s next regular meeting is at 6 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25. Find the board meeting agenda and related documents here. Watch the live board meeting via livestream here or tune in to Midco Channel 26.

Email before 6 p.m. Oct. 25 to sign up to share public comments in person or remotely via WebEx.

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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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