Lawrence school board to consider $100K contract for enrollment analysis, renewing Gaggle for $53K

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Another contract with RSP & Associates, a consulting firm that provides analyses for the Lawrence school district, and a renewal for the district’s student surveillance software are up for the school board’s consideration Monday.

RSP & Associates, an Overland Park-based firm, will be tasked with producing five-year enrollment projections, a development and housing analysis, and a demographic profile, while facilitating community input, to produce a boundary analysis report.

The district has worked with RSP for several years. The consultants’ analyses recently led to two elementary school closures, boundary assessments and more relating to budget decisions.

The tentative cost for the 2024-25 services is up to $100,000 from the district’s general fund, according to the agenda item. The contract itself was not attached to the meeting agenda as of Saturday afternoon. It is part of the board’s consent agenda, a list of items routinely approved in one motion unless a board member or the superintendent requests to pull an item for further discussion.

RSP was hired in August 2022 on a $120,000 contract to lead the district’s 2023-24 budget planning process. In May 2023, the board approved paying the firm an extra $27,500 for its work related to school closures. In October 2023, the board approved another contract for up to $80,000 for RSP to make five-year enrollment projections.

The Boundary Advisory Committee was working on potential middle school boundary changes to account for Liberty Memorial Central Middle School’s transition to a school focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). But the committee in February decided it’d be best to push any changes out a year so that the district could get acclimated to the STEAM school this fall.

The BAC will soon reconvene to work on boundary changes that would likely go into effect during the 2025-26 school year. Elementary boundaries will be evaluated, too.

Board President Kelly Jones also requested the BAC review current high school boundaries. During the board meeting on June 10, she said Lawrence High School is at “low risk — but certainly a consideration” to be reclassified from a 6A school to a 5A school. Currently, students who reside north of 15th Street are assigned to Free State High School, and students who reside south of 15th Street are assigned to LHS.

Surveillance software contract renewal

The board will also consider renewing an annual contract for Gaggle, the district’s artificial intelligence surveillance system, as part of its consent agenda.

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Gaggle sifts through information tied to the district’s Google Workspace — including Gmail, Drive and other products — and flags content it deems a safety risk, such as allusions to self-harm, depression, drug use and violence.

Lawrence High School student journalists in April convinced the district to remove their files from Gaggle’s reach, arguing that it violated their freedom of press rights. They said they’re still concerned, however, about the software’s threat to all students’ privacy.

The district entered a contract with Gaggle in August for $162,286, split over three years. If renewed Monday, the contract would continue with the second of three years, costing the district a little more than one-third of the three-year total — $53,411, according to an invoice.

A slew of other items are also listed on the consent agenda, including a new organizational chart that was not yet attached to the meeting agenda Saturday. Three high-ranking administrators have left or are leaving the district.

Electing new board leadership

Monday is the board’s annual organizational meeting, which calls for the selection of new board leadership. At the beginning of the meeting, board members are set to elect their new president and vice president.

Current members nominate one another and may hold a discussion together before receiving ballots to vote. Votes will be counted and announced live.

Superintendent’s exit interview

Monday’s meeting will conclude with an hourlong executive session, or closed-door meeting, in which Superintendent Anthony Lewis is scheduled to do his exit interview with the board. 

Lewis was selected on June 29 to lead the Durham, North Carolina school district. His last day in Lawrence Public Schools will be Aug. 9. No action is set to follow the executive session.

The school board meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. Monday, July 8 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

Meetings are open to the public, livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel, youtube.com/@USD497, and broadcast on Midco channel 26. Full meeting agendas are available on BoardDocs, via go.boarddocs.com.

To give public comment during the board meeting, sign up before the meeting starts either in person or by emailing PublicComment@usd497.org. Commenters may request to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing.

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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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