Riley County Law Board, June 21, 2021.

Observer: Greg Wurst

The Riley County Law Board met at noon on Monday, June 21, 2021.

Dr. Lackett of the KSU Social Work curriculum spoke about the Coalition for Equal Justice.  This group began in 2015 and its purpose is to insure impartial policing with no human bias.  They are building a constructive relationship with RCPD.  Areas for which they strive for fairness are:

1. recruiting, hiring and promotion

2.  prohibiting bias policies

3.  Impact training

4.  leadership

5.  methods of measurement

6.  promotion fair & impartial policies

7.  outreach, to engage the communities

Rachel Pace spoke for the Fraternal Order of Police promoting the fundraising run they are going to have in August.  Board members Hudgins and Stoney spoke well of the FOP’s efforts at the Juneteenth celebration and how they interacted with the community. 

There will be an open house for the new firing range on Tabor Valley Road from 9-11:00AM on June 30. 

The board voted a 2% midyear salary raise beginning July 1 using unused personnel funds. 

The board approved a 2022 budget which was 3.57% above the 2021 budget.

The board adjourned to executive session.  

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USD 383 Board of Education, June 2, 2021

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

During public comment time at the start of the meeting, 27 citizens addressed the board in regards to the culturally responsive teaching and learning curriculum the board had voted to purchase in April and then ultimately didn’t purchase. [At the May 5 meeting, it was reported the purchase would not be made this year due to a lack of funds. At-risk funds had been targeted for the purchase, but district accountants later said the training didn’t fit in a category that at-risk funds may be used for.] The citizens who spoke represented both sides of the issue. Those who were against the training were generally concerned that it included critical race theory, which they thought was divisive and doesn’t work. Those who supported the training were generally of the opinion that teachers should be provided with the tools to include diversity and equity in their lessons to create the optimal learning environment for all students.

A few of the candidates running for school board spoke during public comment on the matter. Candidate Christine Weixelman commented that the district provides opportunities, but some students need a hand up to access them. She wasn’t so naive as think there aren’t issues, but multiple methods have been implemented, questions need to be asked about employing these methods, and until there are answers, funds shouldn’t be spent on additional resources.

Candidate Teresa Parks thought reticence toward critical race theory comes from a lack of information and a little bit of fear. Once one has the information that explains what the problem is, then the excuse of “I didn’t know” is taken away.

Candidate Jayme Morris-Hardeman commented that she has spent her career working with vulnerable kids, and she has learned that three things are extremely important: place, relationship, and learning. You can’t learn if you don’t feel safe. There also needs to be a relationship for kids to learn and to have a teacher in the classroom who cares about them. Students can’t learn if they feel stressed.

During board members’ comments, Kristin Brighton asked other board members if they would be interested in holding a retreat and have experts provide them with information about critical race theory, and the board was generally interested in a retreat or work session. Karla Hagemeister commented that the district has been working on this for a long time and will continue to look at policies and procedures. She said it’s important work, worth doing, even if it’s uncomfortable, and it’s important to get to the root of the problem of how the district isn’t serving students of color and homeless students. Brandy Santos said the district is obligated to create an equal system, support the growth of all students, and training for teachers. She wasn’t supportive of critical race theory training but trusted that administration will develop training based on fact that would give teachers the tools they need to have inclusive classrooms. Curt Herrman thanked the public for providing comments and said diversity training is important. He said diversity isn’t only about race, but it’s also military kids, disabled, etc. He wasn’t sure what format training will look like, but it’s coming, and he will vote for it. Katrina Lewison commented that a few weeks ago, some community members sent a mass email that said the district plans to teach students to be racists, but that is wrong and the district is doing the opposite. She said at the last meeting, some citizens said implicit bias and systemic racism aren’t real, and perhaps community education is important. She said it’s a pendulum, and we will find the curriculum to address these issues. Darell Edie also thanked the speakers and said the district has been working to find where the problems are so we can do better. Jurdene Coleman commented that she was the only brown person in the room, and she had been struggling to have to give space to people who want to invalidate her life experiences. She felt the intent was negative behind the email that spurred the recent public participation. She thought it was unfortunate that people are being asked to prove that it’s difficult for them to exist in our community and in our buildings. She endorsed critical race theory and said it may make people uncomfortable, but that’s not a negative impact.

In other business, Lew Faust, Dir. of Business Service, reported on the ongoing challenge of the district’s high gas bill from the winter that is being disputed. He’d thought negotiations had been going well with Symmetry, the natural gas company, but then Symmetry had notified the Kansas Assoc. of School Boards that they were canceling the contract on June 30. The district had also received recently an overdue notice. He said the district was within its rights to dispute the bill and had been receiving outside counsel.

Mr. Faust also provided budget information. The district will receive $7.5 million in COVID relief funds. Funds may be used for, respond to, or recover from COVID. The board will be provided with an overview of how the funds will be used, which will have to be approved by the Kansas Dept. of Ed. before the district can draw on the funds.

The board received a report on Professional Learning and Collaboration from Dr. Paula Hough, Dir. of Teaching and Learning. During the report, it was mentioned the district is being monitored for improvement for populations that aren’t meeting expectations, including African American, homeless, English Language Learners, and disabled. Ms. Coleman commented that the district had been flagged for the disproportionate number of African American and special education students in in-school and out-of-school suspension.

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Riley County Law Board May 17, 2021

Observer: Greg Wurst

The Riley County Law Board met at noon on Monday, May 17.

The Consent Agenda was passed. 

Lorenzo Lockett of the Manhattan-Riley County Coalition for Equal Justice expressed concern that some minorities wanted to apply for boards, but did not know the application process or if they did apply were not apprised of the reason they were not chosen.  The board said some applications were not complete, e.g. I have lived in Manhattan for five years and I want to be on the law board.  Being on advisory boards is a great way to become involved in our local government. 

BeEtta Stoney said the Fair and Impartial Policing group was working well and forward thinking. 

Chief Butler said this was the 30th year of accreditation for RCPD which was very important. 

The water line, fencing and grading was done on the new firing range and it is for all intents and purposes done.

The board adjourned to executive session.

They agreed to have a special session for the 2022 budget, but no date was set.  

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USD 383 Board of Education, May 19, 2021

During the public comment period at the start of the meeting, nine citizens addressed the board. All nine expressed concerns about the BetterLesson for Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Training that the board had approved to purchase on April 21. [At the May 5 meeting, it was reported that the purchase would not be made this year due to a lack of funds. At-risk funds had been targeted for the purchase, but at-risk funds can’t be used for professional learning, and so the purchase will not move forward.] Citizens who spoke were concerned that the training material involved critical race theory, which they felt would lead to division and harmful generalizations. Some of the citizens commented that they didn’t believe USD 383 had identified a racism problem and thought the board should define the problem before expending resources. Others were concerned that the training included topics such as implicit bias and systemic racism, and they were of the opinion that this type of training doesn’t work. A number of the speakers referenced religion and the Christian bible, commenting that education is for teaching the god-given truth, true unity comes from Jesus Christ, and sin is the root of injustice.

During the board members’ comment time, several board members addressed the public’s concern about the training program. Jurdene Coleman commented that the large number of emails board members had received on the topic had been exhausting. She said claims that the district was trying to indoctrinate students, trying to alter the moral compass of the community, going against God, wasting money, and claims that USD 383 doesn’t have these problems had no basis in fact. She said the board had not explained to the public why talking about equity is important. She said the board has tiptoed around and never combed through its own data for students of color and low socio-economic status in terms of graduation rates, out-of-school suspension rates, under representation in AP classes, and over representation in special education because the district has been afraid to admit they’ve been doing it wrong. Ms. Coleman wanted to be honest about the numbers, to be committed to changing how the system works, and provide students with the support they need. Katrina Lewison said it’s the board’s responsibility to create a climate of diversity and respect, and we need to recognize the biases in our backgrounds. Curt Herrman commented a local political party had created false hysteria, nothing illegal had occurred when the board had voted to purchase the training materials, and he felt it was unconscionable to claim the board members were sinners. Brandy Santos thought the community is more united than it might seem. She believed there are biases associated with race, and she said the board is here to provide every student with every opportunity. Kristin Brighton hoped the community would be involved when the board next looks at the curriculum.

In other business, the board received preliminary information about the budget, including projected inflation, healthcare estimates, and new expenses such as the new elementary school and the gym additions to the middle schools.

The board also approved establishing a leadership team comprised of representatives of USD 383, MATC, the city, and the business community for the purposes of exploring the possibility of creating a college and career academy. The academy would provide high school students with academic and real-world experiences. The proposed location for the academy would be MHS East Campus.

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Law Board Meeting, Monday April 19, 2021

Observer: Greg Wurst

There was a discussion on what constituted “Use of Force” from a report on the consent agenda. Definitions and counting methods were clarified.Proclamations were read designating National Corrections Officer Week and National Police Day. The Fraternal Order of Police have raised $5,000 for the Special Olympics. There should be running water to the Firing Range in a couple weeks. The final grading and constructing a fence will finish the project. There was a report on the Safe Cam program where people can let the police department know they can use their cameras to help fight crime. These would include (doorbell) ring cameras. There was a recap of the budget presentation from last month and some questions, but no action was taken. Meeting adjourned.

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Riley County Law Board, Monday, September 21, 2020

Observer:  Greg Wurst

The Riley County Law Board met at noon on Monday, September 21.

Derek Wood of the Corrections Division was promoted to Captain.

Corporal Dirks was given an award for his project in the Chicago operation which led to many drug arrests.

Mr. Shipley of Gordon and Associates presented the annual audit and said all expenses and income were accounted for and there was no malfeasance.

Detective Kyle said the shooting range was on schedule.

RCPD received a  $62,000 emergency award from the Justice Department that was used mostly for sanitation and cleaning supplies.

Director Butler asked to be able to order new vehicles for 2021 now instead of waiting until January because the manufacturers had told him because of Covid 19 if he waited they could not get him the vehicles in a timely manner.

The Board went into a 10 minute executive session.

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USD 383 Board of Education, Sept. 16, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

The bulk of the meeting focused on the hybrid learning model, which involves students attending school two days a week and receiving remote instruction the other three days.

During public comment, several parents addressed the board and expressed their frustrations with the hybrid model. Dr. Ryan Knopp, MD, also addressed the board from a public health perspective. Dr. Knopp said we’re still in the middle of a health crisis, he recommended that the district continue with the hybrid model, and he would expect that if the decision were made to return to five days of schooling, that the decision was made based on sound data.

Dr. Paula Hough, Dir. of Teaching and Learning, reported to the board that after receiving a number of communications from parents prior to Labor Day, expressing concerns about KSU students in classrooms in light of the higher numbers of positive virus cases in that age group, she and Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, had met with KSU students to go over the district’s handbook and expectations. If KSU students travel out-of-state, they are expected to quarantine on their return. She also said only KSU interns (student teachers) are in classrooms, and other KSU education students are all online.

Eric Reid, Asst. Supt., reported that he’d had a Zoom meeting with the Kansas Dept. of Education (KSDE), and they had discussed accountability and the struggles families were having with the learning logs. KSDE was agreeable to discontinuing the logs and replacing them with a “parent assurance” form, which parents sign to show they will do the best they can to help their students learn.

Erin Meyers-Gambrel, NEA representative, presented the board with results of a survey she had sent to school staff. Results indicated staff didn’t think it would be safe for students or staff to return to 5-day weeks.

Three elementary teachers participated in a sort of panel discussion to share their experiences with hybrid learning. They expressed concerns about seeing kids in person only two days a week, concerns about already having a full plate and being asked to do more, concerns that colleagues might resign over concerns about exposure to the virus, and concerns about special education and other at-risk students. They also noted positives of the hybrid model, such as having smaller classes and getting to really know their students. Keeping para-educators has been an issue, especially since many are older and worried about exposure to the virus. The hybrid model helps reduce the need to be with every student every day at a time when staffing is an issue. Mr. Reid provided the board with an administrator’s perspective on the hybrid model and said he was concerned that if the district returned to a 5-day week too early, the district might lose staff because of it.

Board members shared their thoughts on the hybrid model. Jurdene Coleman asked other board members to think about what their priorities are. She said her priority was to keep teachers because the district has to have staff in order to have school. She also wondered if it were a priority to stop community spread of the virus. Kristin Brighton wondered if there might be a way to improve the quality of hybrid learning and wondered if the days students are at school could change. Currently, one group attends school Monday and Tuesday, Wednesdays no students are at school and schools are cleaned, and a second group of students attend school on Thursday and Friday. Ms. Brighton wondered if it would help to have one group attend on Monday and Thursday, and the second group to attend Tuesday and Friday, instead of having 5 days in a row of remote learning. She said her priority is to find the best solution and mitigate risk. Curt Herrman said his priority is the safety of students and staff and then education. Darell Edie was concerned about families’ stress levels. Brandy Santos asked about students in “Group D.” Dr. Wade explained that Group D students are students of teachers and staff who are allowed to be at school four days a week. He said it’s a way to support staff (who need childcare), and he viewed it as a benefit of the job. Ms. Santos asked when did education become a perk and asked if students at school four days a week are receiving the same education as students who attend two days? It was explained that Group D students work on their remote learning lessons on their own when they’re at school on one of the extra days. Ms. Santos was rather angry at the idea that the district was providing what she viewed as babysitting. Ms. Coleman said it was clear from the beginning that teachers would have the option of having their students in school four days a week, so she didn’t know why Ms. Santos was surprised by it.

Katrina Lewison asked if teacher frustration was about the possibility of infection or the workload. Ms. Meyers-Gambrel said it was both, with teachers in two different groups. She said one group is worried about their own mortality or a family member’s mortality, and another group is worried about the workload. She said there is especially a problem at the middle school level with the workload, where there are no designated remote-only teachers, there have been some resignations, and that results in more work for those who remain. Ms. Lewison asked about special education students, and Ms. Meyers-Gambrel said those students’ cases are are handled on a case by case level. Ms. Lewison asked Dr. Knopp what the endpoint is if we flattened the curve. Dr. Knopp said flattening the curve bought time to develop therapeutics. He said we’re trying to limit death and morbidity, and the virulence is the same as it has been. He thought the district has been doing well and has put the right protocols in place, but if one of the tools in the toolkit gets removed, it could lead to worse outcomes than we’re seeing now. Dr. Knopp said the positivity rate is one metric, but other metrics include the incident rate, staffing capacity, ICU capacity, etc. If the district does things right in schools, that helps the broader community. Ms. Lewison wondered why some districts have been able to have in-person school five days a week. Dr. Knopp said smaller schools might be able to use all the tools in the toolkit consistently better, and transmission rate isn’t as high yet in non-college towns.

The board approved  continuing with the hybrid model until Oct. 22, while continually evaluating the situation. Board members decided to schedule a work session for Sept. 23 to discuss how to improve the hybrid model.

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USD 383 Board of Education, Sept. 2, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

A few parents attended the meeting to address the board in-person and express their frustrations with the remote learning model. Other parents had submitted written comments, which were read aloud.

The NEA-Manhattan Ogden representative said a lot of work goes into planning online lessons and wondered about the sustainability of the hybrid learning model, which is the model where students physically attend school two days a week and have remote learning the other three days. She also commented that childcare for the remote learning days for families and for teachers with young children is a problem. She said that sometimes it’s difficult to do a mind shift when we only know one way of doing things.

Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, provided a report on the re-opening plan. He said glitches were anticipated, and the question is how do we refine the plan with the feedback that’s been provided. He mentioned that the number of positive cases of the COVID-19 virus in Riley County has gone up, but the board would not be deciding during the meeting to make changes, and the district would continue with the hybrid model. District representatives would be meeting with the task force on Thursday and would then make decisions. Dr. Wade said he would provide parents with a week’s notice if there will be a shift.

Eric Reid, Asst. Superintendent, discussed the logs students complete to document remote learning time. He said the school calendar that was adopted also includes a specific number of hours of instruction, and the district needs to be able to show the number of minutes students are learning and to be accountable. Board member Katrina Lewison commented that as a parent, it’s impossible to do the logs and to keep up, and the district has to find a different way to do it.

During board member comments, Brandy Santos commented that everyone is exhausted. Ms. Lewison read comments from a parent, which said there’s a wide gap between the proposed plan of rigorous study and the reality. Ms. Lewison said parents didn’t sign up for the hybrid model, and they can’t stop working to provide direction to their students. Jurdene Coleman said it’s not realistic to expect everything to be stellar right now, nor realistic to expect the district to have built a sustainable program in three months, and there isn’t time to pause to train teachers.

In addition, Mr. Reid provided preliminary enrollment information. He said enrollment in the middle and high school levels was up, but elementary enrollment was down over 250 students. His guess was families may have looked for options that provided five days per week of in-person schooling or decided to homeschool.

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Riley County Law Board, Monday, August 17, 2020.

Observer: Greg Wurst

The Riley County Law Board met at noon on Monday, August 17, 2020.

The Fraternal Order of Police representative gave a report.

Tori Lamb received a Letter of Appreciation for assisting with an injury accident.  Amber Fornier received a Certificate of Appreciation for help locating a missing person.

The Board approved spending almost $20,000 from the Edward Burns Memorial Justice Grant for new lights on patrol cars and gun suppression extensions* for firing from a tactical vehicle.

The RCPD received overtime reimbursements for time spent on the Kansas City FBI Joint Terrorist Task Force.

Lieutenant Brad Jager reported that the new firing range should be done in October at a cost of one million dollars.  The appurtenant building should cost about $415 thousand dollars and should be done in March, 2021.

Director Butler said that he was interviewing candidates for a captain’s position and they were to bring a plan to increase diversity in the department to their interview.

After a survey a committee made a new employee relationship policy which covers intimacy within the department, domestic abuse by employees and work complaint channels.

The survey also showed there was disapproval of the current uniforms which have been used for 46 years since consolidation.  A committee has selected new uniforms which are more comfortable, machine washable and cheaper.

*From what I understand it is an extension for the barrel of a rifle so that the end of the barrel will be outside the vehicle.  It makes it safer in that a gun will not go off inside the vehicle.  It makes the gun more accurate and cuts back on kickback.  (GW)
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USD 383 Board of Education, July 24, 2020

Kathy Dzewaltowski, observer

Special meeting:

The Board of Education held a special meeting via Zoom to determine the start date for the 2020-21 school year. Gov. Kelly had issued an executive order to delay schools opening until after Labor Day. The State Board of Education had deadlocked 5-5 in regards to the governor’s order, and the tie meant the State Board of Education failed to accept the order. When to open schools now falls back to individual school districts to determine.

Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent, said the original calendar had called for staff to report on Aug. 5 and school to start on Aug. 12. District administration plans to bring a second draft of the re-opening plans to the board on Aug. 5. The recommendation was to start school on Aug. 26, which would provide an additional two weeks for planning and training. Board member Jurdene Coleman asked if that would provide staff with enough time. Dr. Paula Hough, Dir. of Teaching and Learning, thought that once a deadline is established, staff will make it happen, and the additional two weeks will allow staff to become more familiar with Canvas (a digital learning platform) and be more ready if there’s a need to go to one of the contingency plans. Ms. Coleman also asked about the readiness of buildings. Matt Davis, Dir. of Maintenance, said building readiness was on track. “Touch point” cleaning in buildings will occur once an hour, and hand sanitizer stations have been added. Ms. Coleman asked if the board will be provided on Aug. 5 with direction as to which re-opening plan to follow, and Dr. Wade said that things can change quickly, so he wasn’t sure. He said administration had felt anxiety about the Aug. 12 start date, then the governor issued the executive order, and he didn’t think the district needed that many additional weeks to be ready. Board member Katrina Lewison asked how the virus played in the decision to delay starting school and not just needing more planning time. Dr. Wade answered that responding to COVID-19 has been the driving force and said delaying the start date was discussed as well as what effect the return of KSU students will have on the community. He said what it comes down to is having plans in place.

Board member Kristin Brighton asked how changing the start date will affect the school calendar. Eric Reid, Asst. Superintendent, shared that more professional development days have been scheduled for earlier in the school year. The later start date would have resulted in conferences for the secondary level occurring rather early, so secondary conferences will be flexible and can be scheduled over a month-long period. May 14 will be the last day of school and will be a full day. Ms. Brighton also asked about fall activities and the Kansas High School Activities Association (KHSAAA). Mr. Reid said KSHAAA will provide information later, and Dr. Wade said some things will be decided at the local level.  Board member Darell Edie thought the proposed Aug. 26 start date was a great compromise, and he moved to accept Aug. 26 as the start date, May 14 as the last day, and to accept the 2020-21 calendar. The motion was approved 7-0.

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