KCK school board plans more listening tours

More community listening tours are planned for the Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education in the coming weeks.

The school board held its first listening tour for parents, students and the community last Saturday at the South Branch Library at 3104 Strong Ave., and plans three more meetings in the community.

Upcoming listening tour dates include:
• Monday, March 19: 6 to 8 p.m. in the Recital Hall at Wyandotte High School, 2501 Minnesota Ave.
• Saturday, March 31: 1 to 3 p.m. at Washington High School, 7340 Leavenworth Road.
• Tuesday, April 3: 10 a.m. to noon at the Central Office & Training Center, 2010 N. 59th St.

The Listening Tours will give the KCK Board of Education a chance to hear first-hand about important opportunities which could help inform future board priorities, according to a school district spokesman. It will also give parents, students and the community a chance to meet the new KCK board.

At last Saturday’s listening tour, the board members answered several questions from the audience.

Among the topics brought up by parents and the community were the search for a new superintendent, keeping the goals of the five-year plan for school improvements, school spirit, student involvement, parent involvement, and several substitute teachers for one classroom.

The transition of the recently elected board, and the transition to a new superintendent were among the concerns at the meeting. The superintendent search is still in the early stages, according to board members, with the selection of a search firm currently underway.

The recently elected board has been taking a new approach to their work by asking a lot of questions about expenditures and perhaps being more active than former boards. That led to some concerns about project delays.

Wanda Paige, one of the board members, said at the listening tour meeting that the board members have been inquisitive, asking questions about the building projects.

She said the board supports the district’s school improvement projects, and the board wanted to make sure that everything was in order and that the money was spent wisely.

Dr. Valdenia Winn, board vice president, said during the listening tour meeting that the board needs to know the strengths and weaknesses of the district, and the board will hold the new superintendent accountable.

The board’s first listening tour meeting is online on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0_k1o-yffw.


Higher ed cuts in Kansas shifting onto student tuition

(Graphic by Stephan Bisaha. Source: Kansas Board of Regents)

by Stephan Bisaha, Kansas News Service

Students in Kansas are bearing more than two-thirds of the cost of their education at public universities in the state.

That’s a sharp increase over the last 16 years. In 2001, revenue from tuition was little more than a third of the cost of education — about 35 percent. Today it’s just over 71 percent.

The main reason students — rather than the state — are paying a majority of the cost is years of state funding cuts. Funding for higher education has faced multiple cuts over the past decade. Adjusted for inflation, Kansas universities lost more than a quarter of their state funding since 2001.

That has caused universities to turn to tuition hikes. Since 2001, revenue from tuition for state universities increased more than 2.5 times (also adjusted for inflation).

“This, of course, doesn’t take into account expenses that they have for books or student fees,” said Elaine Frisbie, the vice president for finance and administration for the Kansas Board of Regents.

Those fees have also jumped, at least in part as a reaction to lower state funding.

The future of state funding and tuition is uncertain. While the Kansas Board of Regents is pushing the Legislature to restore $24 million from recent cuts, lawmakers have hinted at the possibility of more cuts to pay for K-12 funding.

Frisbie says the Board of Regents will review possible tuition increases for 2019 this summer, though she suspects the board is concerned about how tuition increases would further block Kansans’ access to higher education.

“Whether they are willing and interested in having the universities continue to increase tuition is going to be an interesting discussion,” Frisbie said.

There’s a third factor that goes into the cost of tuition: the actual cost of education. And that cost has grown over the last 16 years, outpacing inflation.

Some of the rise in education spending is out of the universities’ hands. State university faculty, for example, have a state employee health plan. As premiums go up, so does the cost of education.

“We are looking at ways of how do we reduce our costs and be more efficient,” said Ethan Erickson, the assistant vice president for budget planning at Kansas State University.

“But, at the end of the day, there are going to be some areas where if we want to continue to maintain and provide an excellent educational opportunity we have to able to increase and adjust for those operational costs,” he said.

Despite the increases to tuition, Erickson argues that K-State is worth the cost.

“Kansas State University is an exceptional bargain for our citizens,” he said. “We still provide a great value for our customers.”

Stephan Bisaha, based at KMUW in Wichita, is an education reporter for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KMUW, Kansas Public Radio, KCUR and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. Follow him on Twitter @SteveBisaha. Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to the original post.

See more at http://kcur.org/post/higher-ed-cuts-kansas-shifting-cost-student-tuition.


Groundbreaking takes place for new Gloria Willis Middle School

Ground was broken Thursday morning for the new Gloria Willis Middle School on the site of Coronado Middle School at 1735 N. 64th Terrace. School officials and students participated.
(Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

by Mary Rupert

With Superintendent Cynthia Lane’s remark, “Let the building begin,” a groundbreaking was held today for a new middle school to be named after long-time Kansas City, Kansas, Board of Education member and educator Gloria Willis.

Board President Brenda Jones thanked the voters of the school district for approving the new middle school. The groundbreaking for the new Gloria Willis School was located behind the existing Coronado Middle School at 1735 N. 64th Terrace.

Voters approved a $235 million bond issue in 2016 that will not cause a tax increase, according to district officials. It is used for this project, and improvement projects throughout the district.

The new Willis school will draw students from both the existing Coronado and the West middle school areas, according to school officials.

“I know Mrs. Willis is looking down, smiling, and just so appreciative that we’re making a building, not only in her name, but the fact that it’s for the young people, that they have adequate and up-to-date facilities to be educated in,” Jones said at the groundbreaking ceremony today.

Gloria Willis (Photo from Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools)

The Willis school groundbreaking was one of three held today in the school district. Groundbreakings for improvements at Stony Point North Elementary School, 8200 Elizabeth Ave., and for Claude Huyck Elementary School, 1530 N. 83rd St., also were held today.

Construction manager for the Willis school is J.E. Dunn and the project architect is Hollis and Miller Architects. The new two-story Willis school will be 127,000 square feet and will have 30 classrooms, according to district officials. It will have space for 750 students. It will have a science room, prep area, open collaboration space and a media center, according to district information.

Construction is set to begin this spring, with the school completed in time for the 2019-2020 school year, according to officials.

Dr. Kelli Mather, chief operating officer for the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools, said a community vision team helped identify the needs for the school district.

J.D. Rios, a former Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools administrator who worked on the community vision team, said it was a wonderful occasion to remember the dedication of a true professional educator, Gloria Willis.

“She wasn’t just about students and their achievement, but she was about community,” Rios said. “Education is defined as a partnership for success, and our community is rallying around our Board of Education, our professional staff and our students to provide the best possible facilities so that we can have a truly well-educated student population that will lead us as a community into a bright and prosperous future.”

J.D. Rios, with the community vision team, said, “She (Gloria Willis) wasn’t just about students and their achievement, but she was about community.”

Dr. Lane said it was the beginning of a wonderful, new future for the young people. She thanked the board and community for approving the bond issue.

“We believe you can become anything you choose with focus and effort,” Dr. Lane told the students. “We do believe in you.”

Gloria Willis believed in the students of Kansas City, Kansas, she said.

“We know our future is nothing but bright because you are talented, you are innovative and you will change the world,” Dr. Lane said.

“We believe you can become anything you choose with focus and effort,” Dr. Cynthia Lane, superintendent, told students at the groundbreaking today for the Gloria Willis Middle School. (Staff photo by Mary Rupert)

According to school district information, Stony Point North Elementary School improvements will include a 6,400-square-foot addition, four classrooms and a new office area with a secure entryway. The Stony Point project completion date is July of this year.

The Claude Huyck Elementary School improvements include a 9,500-square-foot classroom addition, six classrooms, a special education room and restrooms, according to district information. There also will be a 1,200-square-foot office renovation, new secure entry vestibule, and upgraded office and work rooms.