Category Archives: Wichita schools

Makes sense to increase capital outlay authority

school-fundingIt made sense for the Wichita school board to vote Monday to increase its capital outlay property tax authority from 7 mills to 8 mills. Most of the additional school funding approved by the Legislature this past session will go to local property tax reductions and won’t help the district pay its bills. If the school board decides to increase the capital outlay mill levy, which currently is set at 4.25 mills, that would provide the district with additional funds it could use on capital projects, facility maintenance and technology.

Are school security scanners really needed?

southeasthighNew security systems being tested in four Wichita public schools seem like an expensive solution in search of a problem. The systems scan the driver’s licenses of parents and other school visitors and check them against a nationwide database of sex offenders. In addition to privacy concerns and logistical problems, including the fact that the offices at some schools aren’t by the front door, it is unclear why this system is needed. Are there sex offenders wandering the halls of schools? Based on feedback through Friday, the district plans to select a preferred system and begin using it districtwide this fall. Here’s some feedback: Skip the scanners and put the money in the classrooms.

Colvin students met high expectations

colvinchallengeCongratulations to Brianna Falvey’s fourth-graders at Colvin Elementary School for completing their homework for 100 consecutive days. Falvey promised her students that if they met the goal, she would dye her hair orange and wear a prom dress to school – which she did Monday. Someone also is donating $10 to the school for every day all the students did their homework, and the class plans to use part of the money on a trip to All Star Adventures. But the biggest reward is the pride of accomplishment and the lessons the students learned about persistence, teamwork and personal responsibility. Nearly 98 percent of Colvin students are from low-income families. Falvey and the students proved that if you set high expectations, students can rise to meet them.

Congratulations to top-ranked East High

easthighThanks to U.S. News and World Report’s latest rankings of U.S. public high schools, Wichita East High School now stands out as not only the biggest high school in Kansas but also the best. That is a great new point of pride for USD 259 as well as for East and its 130 full-time teachers and 2,300 students. The evaluation took into account test scores and academic rigor, including that of East’s International Baccalaureate program and Advanced Placement courses, as well as schools’ effectiveness in educating at-risk students. At East, 67 percent of students are minorities and 68 percent are economically disadvantaged. Congratulations to East and its fellow silver-medal winner, second-ranked Liberal High School, as well as to the 30 Kansas public high schools accorded bronze medals, including Andover Central, Belle Plaine, Goddard, Haven, Hesston, Hutchinson and Sedgwick. There was no cause for celebration in the state-by-state rankings, unfortunately: Only the Dakotas, Louisiana and Mississippi ranked below Kansas in how many of its high schools earned gold or silver medals.

School-funding plans could cost Wichita

schoolbusNot only might the Wichita school district receive little budgetary help if the state equalizes school funding, proposals in the Kansas House and Senate to help pay for that equalization by reducing transportation aid would cost USD 259 more than $1.2 million. Because local option budgets are capped, Wichita won’t be able to keep any of the additional $11.9 million it would receive if the state equalized supplemental school aid, as ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court. Unless the rules are changed – a GOP Senate plan proposes raising the cap, subject to local voters’ approval – USD 259 would have to reduce its local property taxes by $11.9 million to offset the state money. All total, of the $134 million in state aid to schools in the Senate plan, about $56 million of it would be paid for by cuts to current funding.

Nice progress on graduation rates

mortarboardThere is still room for improvement in USD 259’s graduation rate of 76.5 percent, which lags the state average of 86 percent. But the district is moving in the right direction, having brought up the rate from 63.1 percent four years ago. With the help of special programs that engage and support students, the Wichita district has been able to help more Hispanic males (up 30 percent) and African-American males (up 24 percent) reach the finish line since 2009 during a time when state per-pupil funding has been cut. Well done.

New abuse-reporting policy is common sense

Good for the Wichita school board for unanimously underscoring in district policy Monday something that seems like common sense – that employees should call 911 immediately if they witness “a situation involving suspected physical, mental, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect that may constitute criminal activity.” With USD 259 having logged 1,982 reports of suspected abuse or neglect last school year, employees need to have no doubt about their first responsibility, which is to safeguard the endangered student by calling the cops.

Insurance company wants no part in guns at schools

Most school districts across the state, including USD 259, already were planning not to allow employees to carry concealed guns in schools. But the districts have an added financial reason to continue their bans on guns: insurance. EMC Insurance Companies, the state’s main insurer of schools, informed districts that it won’t insure them if they allow employees to carry guns, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported. “We are making this underwriting decision simply to protect the financial security of our company,” the company said in a letter to districts. The Wichita district gets its insurance through Lexington Insurance. The company has not said whether it would drop coverage or raise rates if guns were allowed, a district spokeswoman said. Sen. Forrest Knox, R-Altoona, who championed gun-law changes, isn’t concerned about the insurance issue. “There are alternative insurers,” he told the Capital-Journal. “The markets are going to take care of this.”

Locals right to take time on state gun mandate

Actions this week by the Wichita City Council and Sedgwick County Commission have confirmed what state lawmakers should have realized – there is a lot to think about when deciding whether and how to allow concealed firearms in public buildings. To allow themselves more time to study their options, the City Council and County Commission voted Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, to ask for six-month exemptions from the state law meant to force locals to accept concealed-carry across their sites. Meanwhile, the Wichita school board will consider a new policy next week to underscore that Wichita schools are gun-free zones even for people with concealed-carry permits – another local reaction that would push back against state action. As Mayor Carl Brewer said: “Just because a state legislator thinks it’s the right thing doesn’t make it right.” Plus, the Legislature would have more credibility on guns if it had gone through with an effort to apply the concealed-carry mandate to the Capitol, but that glaring exemption still stands.

School district, voters wise to build storm shelters

When the Wichita school district included storm shelter safe rooms as part of its 2008 bond issue, some opponents of the bond questioned the expense. But the tragedy in Moore, Okla., shows why the rooms are important – even as we hope they are never needed. As The Eagle reported Wednesday, Wichita was the first public school district in the country to build a Federal Emergency Management Agency-approved storm shelter in a school. That was in 2000, and since then the district has built 69 safe rooms. Eight others are under construction, and 14 are in the planning or design stages.

Student’s suspension seems much too harsh

Is there more to the suspension of the senior class president at Wichita Heights High School than what school officials have said? They suspended Wesley Teague (in photo) for the rest of the school year and barred him from most graduation activities for what assistant principal Monique Arndt said were “very inappropriate tweets about the Heights athletic teams, aggressively disrespecting many athletes.” But the tweets seemed quite benign. The problem seemed to be the overreaction of some other students. School officials have a difficult job maintaining a safe and healthy school environment, but this punishment seems much too harsh.

Other school board members need to share thoughts on Southeast

Agree or disagree with Jeff Davis, vice president of the Wichita school board, who is leaning toward supporting a vote to close the current Southeast High and build a new $54 million building at 127th Street East and Pawnee. But at least Davis has shared his thinking with the community, as of an article in Monday’s Eagle by Suzanne Perez Tobias. “I’ve thought about it and looked at the plans, and I think it’s probably the right way to go,” Davis said, citing the benefits to students of state-of-the-art classrooms and athletic fields and a roomier site. Such talk arguably is premature, because the superintendent hasn’t made a formal recommendation to close Southeast and there haven’t been any public forums to gather stakeholders’ input. But as the process moves forward, the rest of the board members will owe the community their own explanations of their thinking and, ultimately, their votes on the issue, which will be defining for the school’s current 1,600 students and both neighborhoods.