Schools forum not about the money – Citizens can share views Wednesday

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April 26, 2011 - 12:00 AM

The citizens of Allen County can have their say about Kansas public schools here Wednesday evening. For one night at least, the focus will be on what school children should be learning to assure their best possible future, and not finding the money to pay for it.
Representatives of the Kansas Association of School Boards will moderate the public forum at the Iola High School commons area, starting at 7 o’clock. The forum is sponsored by USDs 256 (Moran-Elsmore), 257 (Iola-Gas-LaHarpe) and 258 (Humboldt).
In the aftermath of Gov. Sam Brownback’s decision to slash $50.2 million from public schools earlier this month, local school officials, including Craig Neuenswander, USD 257 superintendent of schools, are eager to see the focus put on the children.
“These conversations are being held all across the state,” Neuenswander said. “It’s an opportunity to have public input on what the local community school systems should look like in the future. It seems like all of the conversations lately have involved money. But this is a chance to ask, What’s important for our kids and what can we do to impact that in a positive way?”
Specifically, the panel will solicit public comments to three questions:
— What do public schools currently offer that promotes intellectual, educational, vocational and scientific improvement?
— What are public schools not doing that should be added to provide such improvement?
— What should public schools stop doing because it does not advance such improvement?
Even in the middle of severe budget cutbacks at the state and national level, Neuenswander says it’s important to take time to discuss what’s best for the children and the future.
“If we don’t have these conversations, we have a tendency to do what we’ve always done,” he said. “Then all of a sudden, the world has changed on us and we haven’t kept up. We think we have kept up, but our perspective is all inside the education system. We need an outside perspective. Maybe there are some issues that we’re not even aware of.
“There should be some dreaming involved,” he added. “It’s our job to help our children achieve those dreams. Anything we talk about Wednesday night, dollars and cents are going to be important down the line. Obviously in our current circumstances, there isn’t enough money for everything we want to accomplish, but maybe this discussion will give us a little more direction on our priorities as we move forward from here.”
“We’re looking for more ideas about what a child’s education ought to look like,” he added. “I think it will be interesting to hear what people have to say. It always is.”

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