Page 1

THE MISSING

PIECES

A special pull-out section about the effects of proposed cuts in the state education and SMSD budgets on the East community

P. 2

PP. 4-5

East reacts to decision not to cut elementary band and orchestra programs

Proposed cuts to supplies and services budget raises question of utilizing green solutions

P. 6 SMSD teachers’ salaries will likely be frozen at current levels for the upcoming school year

P. 7 An update on the budget proposals in the state legislature + PLUS a look at how districts across the nation are dealing with cuts


BUDGET CUTS

02

SAVING the

MUSIC KatyWesthoff

Parents and students held their breath in anticipation of superintendent Gene Johnson’s proposals. Slide by slide, he presented survey results and noted whether or not he would recommend to the board to make certain cuts. Upon the slide concerning the elimination of elementary band and strings, tensions were high. When Dr. Johnson announced that he would not recommend to make that particular cut, which would have saved the district $140,144, applause broke out. Several attendees of the meeting stood up and left, thankful that the program was off the chopping block. The same cannot be said for many other districts in Kansas, whose music programs have been cut as the budget crises weighs heavier and heavier on the schools. Last year, the Board of Education approved the budget reduction by eliminating fourth grade strings programs. Many feared this cut would set a precedent and the district would try to make further cuts to orchestra and band. Dr. Johnson originally proposed to the Board to cut elementary strings and bands entirely, but decided not to recommend this action to the

Board at the meeting on April 11. Kealie O’Brien, an eighth grader in the district, read for the Board an essay she wrote in defense of elementary strings. “Educational boards think music programs do not make a difference, but they are wrong,” O’Brien told the SMSD Board of Education. She read that band and orchestra “help you focus, do better in school, and enhance social skills.” Dr. Johnson approached her during a recess in the board meeting and thanked her for reading. The public outcry about the proposed cuts influenced Dr. Johnson’s decision. Of the 8,500 survey recipients, over 74 percent disagreed with the proposed cut to elementary strings and band. This was the highest disagree percentage of the survey results. Jennifer Mitchell, the elementary strings teacher in the Shawnee Mission East area, has coped well with the elimination of fourth grade strings from last year. She says that by having students choose band or strings in the same year, the class size is kept manageable and Mitchell can give students more individual attention. She was

WHY IT COULD BE CUT Money saved by cutting elementary-level band:

$140,144 annually

Most elementary and middle schools don’t offer art or sports as school-sponsored activities.

Some kids really have a passion for music. I wanted to play saxophone and I had a head start in orchestra in fourth grade. It’s definitely good that senior DUNCAN GIBBS they’re keeping it.”

Elementary level orchestra cuts are avoided due to pressure from advocates of the music program and its success

quite relieved to hear that the elementary program was not subject to further cuts. “The orchestra is one of the biggies that the district has to brag about,” Mitchell said. The East orchestra received the top score at the state competition and the high standards of the orchestra program across the district has always been a talking point. There are 135 fifth and sixth-grade students in the East area right now. “It gives all of those students who aren’t great at sports or math a chance to excel,” Mitchell said. “There are only a few kids that really stick with it.” Despite the support the elementary programs received from the public, Mitchell was still nervous about the potential cuts. The Lee’s Summit School District only offers elementary strings after school for sixth graders, and for some districts the cuts are even worse. “Arts are often the first thing to go,” Mitchell said. “Hopefully the district will continue to realize the importance of the program in schools, especially at the elementary age.”

TAKING A STAND Eighth-grader Kealie O’Brien voices her opinion at a recent board meeting as to why orchestra should stay

Many people have experienced the magic of making music, but a lot of children are no longer going to get the chance to make music, because some schools are cutting their music programs. Educational boards think music programs do not make a difference, but they are wrong. I think we should keep music programs because they help you focus, do better in school and enhance social skills. Music makes you focus. When you learn to read music, it opens new neurological pathways in your brain. The different combined rhythms, tones and melodies require you to use more of your brain, making it easier to focus and make new connections, thereby increasing brain power. As you can see, music helps kids a lot. Schools that drop music programs are not just hurting their students. They are also hurting themselves and the greater society. We must keep music programs in our schools, at all levels, for the good of our future.”

WHY IT’S IMPORTANT

135

fifth- and sixthgraders who will feed into East orchestra

74%

of survey recipients disagreed with the orchestra and band Students involved in music scored 20 cuts, the highest percentage to 40 points higher on their verbal and of the polls.

math SATs than their counterparts.

www.smsd.org

BREAKING

it

DOWN


BUDGET CUTS

DISTRICT CONTEMPLATES WHERE TO CUT MONEY LoganHeley LoganHeley Bigger class sizes, closed schools and fewer teachers mark the signs of a district hit hard by funding losses. Help from Topeka looks about as bleak as ever, but other options may be available to help the district maintain educational standards. Kent Peterson is a managing partner at The Strategic Organization, a group that focuses on leadership and strategic planning for public and private organizations, and also is the parent of one East graduate and two other children currently at Indian Hills and Westwood View. He believes the district needs to look into other ways of funding besides state financing. Peterson cites endowments at public universities as an example of a possible solution and said the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation (SMEF) should focus on expanding its efforts to provide the district with more monetary support. SMEF executive director Linda Roser said that while a more local authority and higher state funding are the solutions for the long term, the foundation is looking into ways it can have a bigger impact. Roser said one way would be to have the foundation fund specific district programs but added that identifying potential donors’ educational passions is key. “These are conversations that are bubbling to the surface right now,” Roser said. “What we have to work at is connecting our individuals in our community with our schools.” University endowments like the ones Peterson mentioned often have significant donations from alumni groups. Roser said there is no such organization that encompasses all of the Shawnee Mission School District. “That information kind of rests at every high school and how we bring that information all together has been a part of the conversation for this foundation for a really long time,” Roser said. “We would be happy to be the repository of that information, but it doesn’t exist right now.” There are other ways to raise money for school districts, Peterson said. According to Peterson, utility companies serving the SMSD area could add a place for patrons to voluntarily donate to the district on their utility bills. Similarly, real estate companies in the area that feel the district has enhanced

property values could have a check box for sellers to donate part of a real estate transaction to the district. Peterson said he’s not overly critical of the district’s board of education or administration, but he’s disappointed that the district is not leading the way when it comes to financing schools. But, he said, they’re not much different than others across the country. “I think it’s a very typical mindset because the systems of funding education and basing our education expenditures purely on taxes is what the industry has been doing for many decades,” Peterson said. “That’s business as usual. That’s the comfort zone. That’s how they’re trained to do their job. So I think you come to a point as a leader that you say ‘That strategy hasn’t worked to fund schools. What are we going to do differently?’” Fred Logan, the president of the SMSD Committee for Excellence, said that he believes a district endowment isn’t realistic due to the large amounts of money the district needs. He feels the district will rely on the state legislature’s decisions. “I think that realistically we’re looking at either the state legislature coming up with more money for schools or we’re looking at changing the [school finance] formula to allow patrons and voters in school districts to decide ‘hey, we want to provide more funds,’” Logan said. But state senator Terrie Huntington of Fairway doesn’t believe significant funding changes will be coming from Topeka any time soon. She said a bill to allow at-risk dollars to be spent in district’s general operating fund was in committee, but such a bill has not passed committee in several recent tries. SM West area board member Craig Denny noted at last Monday’s meeting that over 90 school districts in Kansas get enough money from the state to operate that they don’t need to tax their patrons for building upkeep. According to Huntington, this issue has only surfaced in the last year and a half. A lack of support from the state legislature can lead to teacher discouragement, according to former SMSD superintendent Cal Cormack. He believes a strong statement is needed from communities and the Legislature that education is an

03

Shawnee Mission has budget meeting to discuss cuts essential enterprise and needs to be funded properly. “Teachers need to be told, and we need to demonstrate, that we appreciate what they are doing and support them,” Cormack said. “I don’t think they’re hearing that.” One suggestion that Superintendent Gene Johnson said was a recurring theme in the district’s budget reduction survey was cutting salaries of administrators. When asked if toplevel district administrators would be willing to take a pay cut as an act of solidarity, Dr. Johnson said that since administrators account for about 4.7 percent of district salaries there might not be much of a benefit. “It would be a symbolic effort, like you say, but if you want to do something symbolically, you want to get some pay back for it and maybe we would,” Dr. Johnson said. “And if we think that would be a good thing to do, we would entertain it.” Deputy Superintendent for Operations Bob DiPierro said the Board of Education had submitted a proposal to contract negotiations with the teachers’ union that stated “the salary schedule may have to be adjusted to meet any financial needs of the district.” DiPierro said that issue and other finance issues had not been discussed at negotiations as of deadline. The Associate Superintendent of Elementary Administrative Services position currently held by the retiring Bill Frick will not be filled for next year, according to Dr. Johnson. Dr. Johnson said the position would not be filled until the district is in a “financially stable position.” After attending last Wednesday’s board meeting and listening to Dr. Johnson budget reduction proposals, Peterson thought a few things were missing. “I wish I had seen a more purposeful plan for creating excellence at every school,” Peterson said. “I saw the administration and the board working very hard to deal with very shortterm issues. And I know it’s a very difficult budget situation, but at no time in the administrators’ conversation with the board tonight did they mention or allude to or demonstrate how they were going to maintain or enhance excellence at every school. No board members questioned or talked about how to do a better job of engaging local residents in problem solving.”

STAFFER ENCOURAGES DISTRICT COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT IN PROBLEM SOLVING “All of us who care about the education of our children and youth, and the future of an opinion of Logan Heley our state and nation, must become more involved in helping set social priorities that keep quality public education at the top of our state and national agendas.” Don Wilson, a former longtime teacher, administrator and superintendent in the Shawnee Mission School District recently sent me this statement via email. Shawnee Mission is blessed with a pro-education community, but it’s one thing to say you support schools and another to show it. Our schools are facing the toughest of times and we need help from the community more than ever. Instead of criticizing our district’s administration, reach out to them and find ways to work with them. Instead of using state funding as an excuse for lowering standards, donate your time, money and talents to maintain and improve our district’s wide range of quality programs. And instead of complaining about our elected officials, actively voice your opinion to them, work on campaigns and, most importantly,

vote for candidates that will do what is necessary to fund and support our schools. Now is not the time to be apathetic, but to engage. When I ask tough questions of our top district administration I usually get very defensive answers. Why is that? Well, first of all I think they’re afraid of the community vilifying them for something they may have done wrong. Secondly, most of the decisions they make are theirs and theirs only. And lastly, they’re only human. Our elected school board employs these people to run our district, but we need to remember that it is our district. Decisions they make affect our students directly and it’s our responsibility to make sure they are the right ones. Community members need to be involved in decision-making from the beginning. Instead of having our superintendents and finance personnel make their budget cut proposals behind closed doors, why not ask for community input in public forums around the district before any proposals are formulated? Actual transparency and openness to community input is needed for our district to reach its full potential. Our district’s programs are in dire need of support. Electives and extracurriculars – areas of our education system that make us in-

novative and creative – are on the chopping board. While some still believe that core classes are all students need, that is simply not the case. Innovation is the key to our nation’s future success, and programs like journalism, drama and band foster that. Until the state changes the school finance formula, the district probably will not be able to fund all the programs our community feels are necessary. So what can be done until that happens? Shawnee Mission Education Foundation executive director Linda Roser confided in me that they are looking into funding specific programs that community members value, but the district can still afford. In its 22 years, SMEF has donated over $2 million to the district, but in order to programmatically fund the district much more is needed. Also, volunteers are needed in addition to money. If you appreciate the services our district provides, please donate whatever money or time you can. Our students need your help. It’s important to remember that we elect our representatives. If you think the No Child Left Behind Act is doing nothing but feeding our nation’s obsession with standardized testing, then tell Kevin Yoder, Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran. If you feel the school

finance formula is gypping the SMSD, then let your state legislators know how you feel. If you’re worried about the direction of the district, then communicate that with Donna Bysfield and other school board members. And after you do that, ask those people how you can help and get involved in being a part of the solution. If you’ve given those individuals a chance and you’re still not satisfied then work to elect candidates that will do what we need them to do. As a young person, I’m worried that older generations will continue to be apathetic to the issues like education that, if not dealt with now, will severely harm my generation’s prosperity. Every day I see East students participating in the amazing activities we have to offer. My generation has the awesome potential to do great things, but what we do now to foster that potential will decide if those great things will ever happen. Patrons and parents, we need your help.

The change needs to come from the legislature so we all keep our jobs.” teacher KELLI KURLE


04 BUDGET CUTS

BUDGET CUTS

GETTING

green

FINDING A NEW SOURCE

THE

Energy efficient solar panels to be integrated into school layout by summer through science grant AnnieSgroi

LIGHT

Budget cuts call for a reduction of money spent on staff supplies, opening a door to environmentally-friendly alternatives KatyWesthoff

Superintendent Dr. Gene Johnson has recommended to the Board of Education to make just under $1.3 million in cuts to the supplies and services budget. Maintenance contracts, replacement parts, consultants, service work and “a myriad of other items” are purchased through these budgets, said deputy superintendent Robert DiPierro. In recent years, the goal behind the “green initiative” has become more of a money-saving benefit than an environment-saving benefit. In the Shawnee Mission School District, energy analyst Bruce Palmer has conducted an “Energy and Conservation Management Program” and has been able to lead the schools in energy efficiency. The goal is to save money on utility and energy costs. Palmer has seen great strides in energy conservation in the last year. He says that the department has been consistently under-budget, and that money can feed back into the district. The Board of Education mandated in 2010 that the district make a conscious effort to save on energy conservation, when they hired Palmer. Since the initiative began, the district has saved 27% in its natural gas consumption and 18% of its electrical budget. “That commitment [from the Board of Education] is key to getting a good program implemented across the district,” Palmer said. At East, lights have been turned off in the

“ senior MICAH MELIA

It never hurts to try to be a little bit greener—even if it’s something like making recycling more accessible, especially in the cafeteria.”

hallways during passing periods. Palmer has mostly been looking for ways to decrease light output and conserving other sources of energy. According to Ryan Freed and Terry Steubner of the Kansas Energy Office in the Facility Conservation Improvement Program, of which the SMSD is not a part of, upgrading heating and cooling equipment is a long-term investment. “It pays for itself within 30 years,” Freed said. School districts are the biggest clients of the FCIP, as Steubner pointed out that the “project has more benefits for a governmental body than for a non-governmental body.” A school is a non-profit organization that is supposed to break even at the end of the year, so the goal of the FCIP is a budget-neutral approach. The FCIP works with third party energy service companies to audit schools on ways to upgrade light and heat. Many of the upgrades made are well-needed, anyway, said Freed, with many schools running old and inefficient boilers. The goal of the Supply and Services budget is not a green initiative, but it could become one. Recycling revenue has earned a total of just over $21,000 from all of the combined schools. By reducing the amount of money able to be spent on paper supplies, money can be saved instead of earned. Palmer is excited by the prospect of schools furthering their environmentally friendly pursuits.

ANOTHER

ALTERNATIVE Kansas Green Schools Program offers grants to K-12 schools

05

all photos by EdenSchoofs

‘Quote’ Tomahawk Elementary School was awarded a Kansas “Green School” award, celebrated at the Board’s meeting. They are one of three schools in the state to receive the honor, achieved their cafeteria food compost. “It will be interesting to see when those 6th graders get to middle school if that program continues and grows or if it just remains at the elementary schools” Money earned from recycling typically goes into a PTA fund to be used at the PTA’s discretion, usually for Palmer sees many more opportunities for recycling to be done in high schools. Getting environmental clubs involved at sporting events has the potential to bring another ton of recycling to the school, increasing the revenue it receives. Recycling pizza boxes from the cafeteria would also benefit the schools. Other savings could come from different paper usage from the school. Counselors spend weeks working on enrollment, having students fill out hundreds of cardstock forms by hand, penciling in their course numbers. After that, counselors spend weeks entering those numbers by hand into their computers. Time and money could be saved if high schools took the same approach as colleges: eliminating the middle man and having students enter their own courses into the computer. Counselors would

A total of $5,000 is available this year through a competitive grant process, intended to encourage schools to develop creative, innovative, effective environmental projects which improve the environment and to save money through reduced use of natural resources.

still be needed to make proper changes to a student’s schedule and ensuring that every student is enrolled in the right class; that should be the focus of enrollment, not making sure that the enrollment card is filled out properly. As the district has already shown an interest in a green initiative, it is possible to utilize these budget cuts as a chance to further the program. Green programs have a chance to bring revenue to the school outside of just recycling, such as composting food waste and selling it to local farmers as livestock feed. Taking advantage of that is a way to make the programs selfsufficient. “I think [the energy conservation effort] has been excellent this year,” Palmer said. “It’s the first full school year that we’ve been able to implement our standard energy conservations measures across the district.”

photo illustration by EdenSchoofs

East’s moves towards alternative energy began as a competition. Shawnee Mission West had invested in alternative energy projects, so Environmental Education and Environmental Science teacher James Lockard wanted to do the same at East. “It was a keeping up with the Jones kind of thing, only this time it was keeping up with West,” Lockard said. “They got a big windmill and solar panels.” Lockard started out looking into getting a wind turbine at East, but plans fell through and he is now waiting on approval of a grant for solar panels. Lockard set to work writing the grant proposal for the turbine last May. The plan was for a vertical-axis wind turbine that would be capable of generating 1 kilowatt of electricity, that would then feed into East’s grid. Lockard explained that having the electricity donated to the district at no additional cost was one of the key benefits. “That’s one of the things the East Fund liked about it,” Lockard said. “The electricity gets donated to the district.” But after gaining approval for the $10,500 wind turbine from the Prairie Village Planning commission and City council, the plans fell through. Windspire, the manufacturer of the turbine, refused to guarantee the product unless they installed it themselves. This was problematic because the district had hoped to save funds by having the turbine installation, such as pouring the concrete base forms, done by district maintenance. Principal Karl Krawitz worked with Lockard throughout the grant process. Dr. Krawitz recalls being worried that the location of the turbine and worries about its appearance would pose challenges in the process, but said the warranty conflict with Windspire ended up ultimately de-

railed the project. “They said ‘we’re not putting a warranty on this because we’re not doing the installation’ and all of a sudden the costs nearly doubled,” Dr. Krawitz said. “It fell grossly outside of the grant request. Not that the East Fund wasn’t willing to consider it, but it had taken this project to a whole different level.” Although he was quite disappointed with the failure of the project at the time, Lockard now has some sense of relief that it didn’t come to pass. After doing additional research he discovered that vertical axis turbines like the one he was proposing are not the most efficient models. In fact, they are not recommended by many energy experts. After what Lockard calls the “wind turbine fiasco”, he began looking for other more feasible alternative energy options for East to adapt the grant for. He decided on solar panels, which would generate the same 1 kilowatt of energy that the wind turbine would have provided. Lockard explained that the energy output can be thought of in terms of 20 watt lightbulbs, so the solar panels would power the equivalent of 50 lightbulbs in the building. Currently, Lockard is waiting for the school board to approve the grant, so the project can begin to be funded and take shape. Dr Krawitz does not forsee any challenges with getting the grant approved, because solar panels are not obtrusive in the least, as they would be placed out of sight on the roof. Lockard is confident that the solar panels will be up by this summer, if not before.

Potential Areas the Grant will Affect Energy Efficiency Energy management audits; improved efficiency; conservation and reduction, acquired energy savings; converting schools to Energy Star; reducing or offsetting carbon footprints.

Air Quality: Anti-idling programs; programs encouraging students to walk or bike to school such as Walking School Bus; monitoring; efforts that improve air quality; public or family outreach to encourage air friendly practices; using alternative cleaning products with desirable health and environmental attributes.

Green Space: Improving school or community green space that is utilized by students; role of green space in improving environmental conditions; employing green infrastructures such as bio-retention cells, outdoor classrooms or Outdoor Wildlife Learning Sites-OWLS.

Waste Reduction/Recycling: Conducting waste stream analysis; developing waste reduction and recycling programs; “green or bulk purchasing”; completion of the recycling circle; composting.

Water Conservation and Water Quality Improvements: Implementing water conservation best practices; low-flow toilets and faucets; monitoring; Kansas stream teams; rain or waterspout gardens; xeriscaping at schools and community sites; constructing or using a rain barrel, and ongoing data collection. www.kansasgreenschools.org

We’ve been aggressive and we’ve been saving money from what we had budgeted from what we had planned. We’re consistently underbudget.”

energy analyst BRUCE PALMER


04 BUDGET CUTS

BUDGET CUTS

GETTING

green

FINDING A NEW SOURCE

THE

Energy efficient solar panels to be integrated into school layout by summer through science grant AnnieSgroi

LIGHT

Budget cuts call for a reduction of money spent on staff supplies, opening a door to environmentally-friendly alternatives KatyWesthoff

Superintendent Dr. Gene Johnson has recommended to the Board of Education to make just under $1.3 million in cuts to the supplies and services budget. Maintenance contracts, replacement parts, consultants, service work and “a myriad of other items” are purchased through these budgets, said deputy superintendent Robert DiPierro. In recent years, the goal behind the “green initiative” has become more of a money-saving benefit than an environment-saving benefit. In the Shawnee Mission School District, energy analyst Bruce Palmer has conducted an “Energy and Conservation Management Program” and has been able to lead the schools in energy efficiency. The goal is to save money on utility and energy costs. Palmer has seen great strides in energy conservation in the last year. He says that the department has been consistently under-budget, and that money can feed back into the district. The Board of Education mandated in 2010 that the district make a conscious effort to save on energy conservation, when they hired Palmer. Since the initiative began, the district has saved 27% in its natural gas consumption and 18% of its electrical budget. “That commitment [from the Board of Education] is key to getting a good program implemented across the district,” Palmer said. At East, lights have been turned off in the

“ senior MICAH MELIA

It never hurts to try to be a little bit greener—even if it’s something like making recycling more accessible, especially in the cafeteria.”

hallways during passing periods. Palmer has mostly been looking for ways to decrease light output and conserving other sources of energy. According to Ryan Freed and Terry Steubner of the Kansas Energy Office in the Facility Conservation Improvement Program, of which the SMSD is not a part of, upgrading heating and cooling equipment is a long-term investment. “It pays for itself within 30 years,” Freed said. School districts are the biggest clients of the FCIP, as Steubner pointed out that the “project has more benefits for a governmental body than for a non-governmental body.” A school is a non-profit organization that is supposed to break even at the end of the year, so the goal of the FCIP is a budget-neutral approach. The FCIP works with third party energy service companies to audit schools on ways to upgrade light and heat. Many of the upgrades made are well-needed, anyway, said Freed, with many schools running old and inefficient boilers. The goal of the Supply and Services budget is not a green initiative, but it could become one. Recycling revenue has earned a total of just over $21,000 from all of the combined schools. By reducing the amount of money able to be spent on paper supplies, money can be saved instead of earned. Palmer is excited by the prospect of schools furthering their environmentally friendly pursuits.

ANOTHER

ALTERNATIVE Kansas Green Schools Program offers grants to K-12 schools

05

all photos by EdenSchoofs

‘Quote’ Tomahawk Elementary School was awarded a Kansas “Green School” award, celebrated at the Board’s meeting. They are one of three schools in the state to receive the honor, achieved their cafeteria food compost. “It will be interesting to see when those 6th graders get to middle school if that program continues and grows or if it just remains at the elementary schools” Money earned from recycling typically goes into a PTA fund to be used at the PTA’s discretion, usually for Palmer sees many more opportunities for recycling to be done in high schools. Getting environmental clubs involved at sporting events has the potential to bring another ton of recycling to the school, increasing the revenue it receives. Recycling pizza boxes from the cafeteria would also benefit the schools. Other savings could come from different paper usage from the school. Counselors spend weeks working on enrollment, having students fill out hundreds of cardstock forms by hand, penciling in their course numbers. After that, counselors spend weeks entering those numbers by hand into their computers. Time and money could be saved if high schools took the same approach as colleges: eliminating the middle man and having students enter their own courses into the computer. Counselors would

A total of $5,000 is available this year through a competitive grant process, intended to encourage schools to develop creative, innovative, effective environmental projects which improve the environment and to save money through reduced use of natural resources.

still be needed to make proper changes to a student’s schedule and ensuring that every student is enrolled in the right class; that should be the focus of enrollment, not making sure that the enrollment card is filled out properly. As the district has already shown an interest in a green initiative, it is possible to utilize these budget cuts as a chance to further the program. Green programs have a chance to bring revenue to the school outside of just recycling, such as composting food waste and selling it to local farmers as livestock feed. Taking advantage of that is a way to make the programs selfsufficient. “I think [the energy conservation effort] has been excellent this year,” Palmer said. “It’s the first full school year that we’ve been able to implement our standard energy conservations measures across the district.”

photo illustration by EdenSchoofs

East’s moves towards alternative energy began as a competition. Shawnee Mission West had invested in alternative energy projects, so Environmental Education and Environmental Science teacher James Lockard wanted to do the same at East. “It was a keeping up with the Jones kind of thing, only this time it was keeping up with West,” Lockard said. “They got a big windmill and solar panels.” Lockard started out looking into getting a wind turbine at East, but plans fell through and he is now waiting on approval of a grant for solar panels. Lockard set to work writing the grant proposal for the turbine last May. The plan was for a vertical-axis wind turbine that would be capable of generating 1 kilowatt of electricity, that would then feed into East’s grid. Lockard explained that having the electricity donated to the district at no additional cost was one of the key benefits. “That’s one of the things the East Fund liked about it,” Lockard said. “The electricity gets donated to the district.” But after gaining approval for the $10,500 wind turbine from the Prairie Village Planning commission and City council, the plans fell through. Windspire, the manufacturer of the turbine, refused to guarantee the product unless they installed it themselves. This was problematic because the district had hoped to save funds by having the turbine installation, such as pouring the concrete base forms, done by district maintenance. Principal Karl Krawitz worked with Lockard throughout the grant process. Dr. Krawitz recalls being worried that the location of the turbine and worries about its appearance would pose challenges in the process, but said the warranty conflict with Windspire ended up ultimately de-

railed the project. “They said ‘we’re not putting a warranty on this because we’re not doing the installation’ and all of a sudden the costs nearly doubled,” Dr. Krawitz said. “It fell grossly outside of the grant request. Not that the East Fund wasn’t willing to consider it, but it had taken this project to a whole different level.” Although he was quite disappointed with the failure of the project at the time, Lockard now has some sense of relief that it didn’t come to pass. After doing additional research he discovered that vertical axis turbines like the one he was proposing are not the most efficient models. In fact, they are not recommended by many energy experts. After what Lockard calls the “wind turbine fiasco”, he began looking for other more feasible alternative energy options for East to adapt the grant for. He decided on solar panels, which would generate the same 1 kilowatt of energy that the wind turbine would have provided. Lockard explained that the energy output can be thought of in terms of 20 watt lightbulbs, so the solar panels would power the equivalent of 50 lightbulbs in the building. Currently, Lockard is waiting for the school board to approve the grant, so the project can begin to be funded and take shape. Dr Krawitz does not forsee any challenges with getting the grant approved, because solar panels are not obtrusive in the least, as they would be placed out of sight on the roof. Lockard is confident that the solar panels will be up by this summer, if not before.

Potential Areas the Grant will Affect Energy Efficiency Energy management audits; improved efficiency; conservation and reduction, acquired energy savings; converting schools to Energy Star; reducing or offsetting carbon footprints.

Air Quality: Anti-idling programs; programs encouraging students to walk or bike to school such as Walking School Bus; monitoring; efforts that improve air quality; public or family outreach to encourage air friendly practices; using alternative cleaning products with desirable health and environmental attributes.

Green Space: Improving school or community green space that is utilized by students; role of green space in improving environmental conditions; employing green infrastructures such as bio-retention cells, outdoor classrooms or Outdoor Wildlife Learning Sites-OWLS.

Waste Reduction/Recycling: Conducting waste stream analysis; developing waste reduction and recycling programs; “green or bulk purchasing”; completion of the recycling circle; composting.

Water Conservation and Water Quality Improvements: Implementing water conservation best practices; low-flow toilets and faucets; monitoring; Kansas stream teams; rain or waterspout gardens; xeriscaping at schools and community sites; constructing or using a rain barrel, and ongoing data collection. www.kansasgreenschools.org

We’ve been aggressive and we’ve been saving money from what we had budgeted from what we had planned. We’re consistently underbudget.”

energy analyst BRUCE PALMER


06 BUDGET CUTS

STUCK AnnieSgroi

When the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) and the SMSD’s negotiating teams meet to write teachers’ contracts, the ultimate goal is a “winwin” contract, according to KNEA Executive Board Member and Spanish teacher Linda Sieck. But at the end of last May, due to budget constraints, the decision was made to freeze district teachers’ salaries at current levels, and according to Sieck and Principal Karl Krawitz, it is likely that the same freeze will be put in the next contract. “The district’s intention, probably without any question, is to freeze salaries again,” Dr. Krawitz said. The KNEA’s negotiating team and the district’s tea m’s yearly goal is to have contracts for the upcoming year written by the start of the summer. According to Sieck, they meet often to discuss any changes the teachers’ would like to their contracts, as well as what is necessary for the district’s budget. In the district, teachers’ salaries can move up the pay scale in two ways. The first is moving “down a step”, this means the salary is increased based on a

IN

PLACE

teacher’s years of experience. The second is column movement, in which a teacher’s salary is increased because they have earned an advance degree or hours that count towards an advanced degree. Sieck explained that this means teachers essentially lose all credit for a year of their teaching career. “If I was a teacher with seven years experience, rather than go to and moving to the eighth year step, I would be frozen at seven,” Sieck said. “And you lose that step for all time. Next year, if I had nine years of experience if they didn’t freeze steps, I’d still only be at eight. So you lose that year forever.” In the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS), teachers’ retirement benefits are based partly on their salaries over their entire careers, so frozen salaries are a long-term lose as well. Raises for teachers and building administrators are the same, so when last year teachers didn’t get a raise, building administrators did not either. Dr. Krawitz recalled that although the salary freeze was clearly upsetting for teachers, he saw teachers being reasonable and measured in their reactions.

Districts teachers salaries are likely to be frozen as is for another year

“Overall, teachers did a pretty good job of understanding the circumstances, that’s not to be said that obviously not receiving a raise of any sort creates lots of issues,” Dr. Krawitz said. “People were disappointed, but they understood what the circumstances were. It wasn’t a circumstance that was created by the school district itself, but rather the lack of funds coming to the district because of the financial issues that had developed. “ Sieck anticipates that the contracts’ wil be finalized by the end of this school year and ready to sign in the fall. Although the harm to teachers is the most identifiable problem caused by salary freezes, Sieck points out that the district also loses when teachers are stuck at one constant pay. “Frozen salaries over time are not really a winwin for either side,” Sieck said. “It’s hard to attract new teachers to the district, it’s hard to retain quality teachers, especially younger teachers who can go somewhere else and earn a higher income.

NECESSARY TERMS NEA

The United States labor union committed to advancing the cause of public education. NEA represents teachers, secretaries and educational support personnel.

KNEA

The Kansas branch of the NEA’s mission is “to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members, Kansans, and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world.”

KPERS

The Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) was established in 1961 to provide a defined benefit pension plan for employees of the state of Kansas. Membership is mandatory for all employees of the state, regardless of age.

I just don’t think it’s fair because if a teacher is willing to work hard and get a higher degree then their salaries should be senior HANNAH ROSTE raised.”

AVERAGE YEARLY PAY FOR TEACHERS information provided by The Kansas Department of Education

$66,806 $61,133 $57,805 $54,304 $53,288 $52,875

SHAWNEE MISSION BLUE VALLEY OLATHE

JOHNSON

COUNTY 2009-2010

SPRING HILL GARDNER-EDGERTON DESOTO

STATE AVERAGES TEACHER PAY

$53,041 PERCENT CHANGE

from 2008-2009 school year

.06%


Lookingat the Legislature AnnieSgroi

For over 30 years, Jim Sullinger covered the Kansas Legislature for the Kansas City Star. In his time in Topeka, he followed the state education budget closely, as it was one of the issues readers cared the most deeply about. Even for a veteran reporter, the current state of the education budget is shocking. “This is the worst I’ve seen in the 30 years that I’ve watched it.” Sullinger said. “From what we can gather, I have never seen budgets that cut so much out of education. We’ve never seen this drastic of a reduction before.” Governor Sam Brownback proposed cutting the base state aid per pupil (BSAPP) by $75 this year and $151 for the 2011-2012 school year or fiscal year (FY) 2012. BSAPP is a set amount of funding allotted by legislators each year for each full-time student in Kansas. Based on numbers from the Kansas Department of Education, Kansas’s BSAPP increased marginally mid-decade, but in the past few years it has been reduced to cope with budget stress. Brownback’s Communications Director and Press Secretary Sherriene Jones-Sontag said that since education makes up 53 percent of the state budget, cuts in that area are unavoidable. Even with the Governor considering cuts in “pretty much every state agency,” deep education cuts will still be implemented. She described the situation of the state’s education budget as similar to

a student working with a limited income. “It’s kind of like as a high school student, you have a part time job—if you’re only able to work on Saturday as opposed to working both Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday night, you’re going to have less money coming in,” Jones-Sontag said. “Then you’re going to have less money to spend.” Jones-Sontag cited the since-blocked proposed elimination of the Kansas Arts Commission and proposal to cut PBS funding as examples of the Governor looking for areas aside from education in which to make cuts. Eliminating the KAC would have saved $500,000 and eliminating PBS funding from the state would save $1.6 million. According to Jones-Sontag, both of those expenditures, while they have merit, are not given high priority in the Governor’s office in the current economic climate. “When you have the money, when the economy’s strong and revenues are strong, it’s good and nice to be able to do those types of programs,” Jones-Sontag said. “But when your funding is decreasing and your spending is limited, you have to set priorities.” The Kansas Legislature reconvenes on April 27, at which point debate with continue on budget plans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Sen-

COUNTRY

HAWAII

17 DAYS

A school district in Ohio

saved$2.5 million by cutting all sports and clubs

“The worst part is the fact that you’ve played all your life, and you didn’t get to decide that you’re not playing anymore. Somebody else decided you’re not playing.” — Mike Mayers, senior quarterback nytimes.com, msnbc.com

MEMPHIS requires

each student

to take an

ONLINE COURSE

But questions have been raised about the quality of these web-based classes.

07

A breakdown of the recent actions of the legislature that affect school funding

ate’s current proposal would reduce BSAPP by $33, while the House’s more aggressive plan would cut it $88. Sullinger said that the way for the legislature and the governor to avoid such drastic education cuts would be to look to raise taxes to generate revenue. “Severe cuts of some kind are inevitable, if you do not raise taxes,” Sullinger said. “If you decide you’re not going to raise taxes or you’re not going to increase income anywhere, then the scale of the state’s deficit forces you to probably do as much as they’re proposing to do.” Kansas State Senator for District 7 Terrie Huntington said that there is no chance either chamber of the Kansas legislature will move to raise taxes to cope with the tight budget. In fact, she said the idea has not even been considered or brought up for debate. While she did support the one cent sales tax increase passed last year that raised $330 million, she does not feel that raising taxes is a good option right now. “The legislature isn’t interested, I’m not interested and I don’t think the taxpayers are interested,” Huntington said. But what Huntington reports she and her constituents are interested in is the ability to choose to pay more taxes to support local schools through the local option budget. The local option budget, which Sullinger calls the “saving grace for Shawnee Mission,” is a strategy for raising

WHAT’S across BEING DONE the now has the shortest school year in the country to save money by cutting

BUDGET CUTS

school funds in which property taxes are increased and the funds raised benefit local school districts directly. Sullinger said that although many Kansans are concerned by cuts in education, few are informed enough about the way school financing actually takes place. And in Sullinger’s experience, this can lead to confusion and frustration with legislators when people feel like their district or interest group was treated poorly. “There’s an old saying that school finance is like a Russian novel,” Sullinger said. “It’s extremely complicated, nobody understands it and in the end everyone dies.” Despite all the recent community debate that has occurred in the SMSD, Huntington has received very little feedback from her constituents about the choices being made about the education budget. She does not attribute this to lack of interest, but rather to a sense in the community that cuts are a storm that must be weathered due to the current economic problems facing the state and nation. “It’s finally sinking in,” Huntington said. “People are aware that the economy has been in a slump and income tax is down, revenues are down and everybody, including our city and county governments, are making cuts. They understand those cuts are finally sinking down to our local school districts.”

A quick look at how other school districts around the country are creatively dealing with the recent budget cuts parents in California are selling healthy

LUNCHES for $6 each to turn a profit of $40,000

LA United school

A school district in

cancels majority of

sells merchandise

PROGRAMS

Hutt, Texas displayed on the

statue of their mascot:

a Hippo

SUMMER SCHOOL

We should raise taxes even if people don’t like it because if you cut from school budgets you end up with under-educated kids that can’t function in society.”

senior ANGELA CLEM


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Budget Special Section  

Special edition pullout secton from Issue 14 of Shawnee Mission East's The Harbinger

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