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Lawrence school board approves list of high school course changes for next year

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Post updated at 8:54 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 29:

The Lawrence school board on Monday approved a list of alterations to high school courses offered in the district during the 2023-24 year and heard an update on district curriculum goals.

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Patrick Kelly, chief academic officer; Denise Johnson, director of elementary curriculum; and Shaun Hanson, director of secondary curriculum presented an annual curriculum review process to the board on Monday. 

The presenters explained the district’s curriculum review cycle, which include preparation; reviewing, planning and aligning priorities; implementing strategies; and sustaining and collecting data. This process is meant to lead to set cohesive curriculum goals at each school, Kelly said. 

“It’s not so much about the goal,” Kelly said. “The goal is really important, but what’s really critical is the process. How are we going through this to ensure that the curriculum is meeting our students’ needs and that they’re actually learning those goals that we set.”

New high school courses being added to the course book include beginning orchestra, principles of biomedical science, some computer programming courses, new work experience courses and more. Advanced Placement Pre-Calculus will take the place of Pre-Calculus. 

Kelly noted that not all the approved courses will ultimately be offered — it depends on how many course requests come in as well as how much staffing is available.

Deletions include a law and public service pathway and a government and public administration pathway, which Kelly said are being removed due to staffing reductions and teachers who used to instruct those pathways no longer being with the district.

Here’s a full list of additions, deletions and changes proposed by district administrators that were unanimously approved, 7-0, by the board on Monday:

USD-497-Summary-of-Secondary-Course-Changes-for-2023-24

During each annual curriculum review process, any student, community stakeholder, faculty member or curriculum committee member may propose new courses or course changes and offer suggestions and input, Kelly said. Course proposals can also come out of curriculum leadership work. Use this link to recommend a change to a high school course.

The presentation was given earlier than usual this year, Kelly said — typically, it’s done in late December or early January. This allows more time for district administration to prepare the high school course description book for January, which is when enrollment for the next year begins, he said. 

Board member Carole Cadue-Blackwood during the meeting gave an update on her work with the Indigenous Curriculum Committee on bringing Indigenous studies to the district along with surrounding districts, which has been missing. 

She said they are partnering with the University of Kansas Institute for Policy and Social Research, and they are in the application process for a $400,000 grant to fund teachers having the ability to learn Indigenous curriculum to then incorporate into their classes. The potential grant would span over three years, but Cadue-Blackwood said they are working to make it “sustainable” because there has been no precedent.

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“As we know, we have three universities here in Douglas County — we have Baker, Haskell and KU, so this has potential to become a think tank for Indigenous curriculum,” Cadue-Blackwood said.

“But just for example, just to toss this out here – just humor me: I’m working with Kansas City Public Schools of Missouri, and we are working to implement the Cherokee language.”

In other business:

• Teacher termination: The school board at the beginning of Monday’s meeting held a closed-door executive session about personnel matters. Following the executive session, the board unanimously approved the termination of a Billy Mills Middle School special education teacher.

The termination resolution stated that the teacher had endangered the safety of students and failed to report an accident on school property. 

“The resolution could not be made public until the board had the opportunity to discuss it in Executive Session,” district spokesperson Julie Boyle said via email. “Once the board approved it as part of the Consent Agenda, the resolution was made public.”

Boyle said “No student injuries were involved.” A news release Boyle sent later Monday evening said the teacher was terminated “for unprofessional conduct.”

The board clerk will give the teacher written notice, including that she is entitled to a hearing before the board if she files a written request within 10 days of receiving notice, the release stated.

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

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