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Lawrence school board to hear update on staff cuts, report from accreditation team

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Article updated at 2:59 p.m. Sunday, May 22:

The Lawrence school board on Monday will hear updates on the multi-age classrooms coming this fall and staffing reductions as the result of cutting about $6.41 million from the district’s budget.

There will also be an update on enrollment requests for the Montessori program coming to New York Elementary in the fall, according to the meeting agenda.

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The district is facing a budget shortfall that is estimated between $3.62 and $4.27 million. School board members were looking to make around $7 million in total cuts to provide staff raises and rebuild depleted reserve funds. They legally must balance the budget by July 1. 

Over meetings in March and April, school board members approved an outline of the $6.41 million in budget cuts that district staff will make. How the cuts will impact specific jobs and buildings has been less clear.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis told the board in April that staff would come back with more information “as we begin to operationalize this. There’s a lot of moving parts,” he said.

Here’s the basic outline of budget cuts and the areas they impact that the board has already approved:

20220411-Board-approved-budget-cuts-3-1

The agenda item did not include any reports or documentation for the updates as of Sunday afternoon, and it did not indicate that the board will be voting on anything.

In other business:

• Accreditation report:

The Kansas State Department of Education examines school districts in Kansas for accreditation in a five-year cycle. An Outside Visitation Team, or OVT, coaches and mentors districts throughout that cycle. The Lawrence school district is in year 4.

The school board on Monday will hear the results of this year’s report from the OVT. Jill Lachenmayr, assistant superintendent of academic affairs for Andover Public Schools, the OVT chair for the district, will be available to answer questions, according to the memo in the meeting agenda.

The report notes that the district does a good job collecting data, but recommends that staff “continue to focus on the data that you will need to show progress towards your goals.

“We are confident you all have all of the data you need and it will only be a matter of organizing it in a clear way,” the report states.

It says the district “has identified an additional focus in aggressively addressing the manner in which student behavior data is collected. Improving data collection across schools to uniform this process, will help support additional monitoring, review, problem-solving and reinforcement for positive behaviors in building and district teams. All students and staff will benefit from these actions.”

The report also encourages the district to continue to grow professional development around the understanding and implementation of restorative practices for students.

“The district began this work pre-pandemic and it will take time to implement well,” the report states. “Relationships are at the heart of restorative practice and the continued work will help build a positive and supportive environment for all.”

Learn more about the accreditation process at this link.

• Student-centered learning report:

The board will hear updates on programs including AVID, Equal Opportunity Schools, Jayhawk Blueprint, Individual Plans of Study, Career and Technical Education and the district’s Strategic Initiative Needs Assessment.

• Executive session:

The board will hold an executive session, meaning a discussion behind closed doors, to discuss contract negotiations. The teachers union and the classified staff union are currently in contract negotiations with the district. The agenda does not indicate that board members will take any action after the executive session, but if they do, their vote will be public.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. Monday at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Meetings are open to the public, livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel and broadcast on Midco channel 26. Full meeting agendas are available at this link.

To give public comment virtually during the board meeting, email PublicComment@usd497.org by 6 p.m. on the day of the meeting to sign up to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing. 

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

More USD 497 budget coverage:

August Rudisell/Lawrence Times

‘At-risk’ student count is up, virtual school enrollment is down; numbers will help guide Lawrence school district’s budget

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The Lawrence school board on Monday will hear an update on the district’s enrollment counts as part of planning for next year’s budget. The number of ”at-risk” students increased more than 50%, but other factors may offset some of that funding.

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