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Wichita school board OKs $3 million security upgrade, debates on how to proceed with Southeast discussions

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, May 6, 2013, at 10 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, at 2:53 p.m.

The Wichita school board unanimously approved a $3 million security upgrade Monday, but members differed on how to proceed with discussions about Southeast High School.

Board president Lynn Rogers proposed eliminating one option before community discussions about the fate of Southeast High begin this week: the possibility of both renovating Southeast and building a high school at 127th Street East and Pawnee.

“To me, it’s really a no-brainer,” Rogers said. “Do we really feel like it’s feasible to cut $1 million out of seven other high schools’ budgets? … I don’t.”

Beginning this week, district officials plan to host community meetings to collect input as the board considers whether to expand and renovate the current school, build another one or do both. Members intend to approve a plan June 24.

Rogers wanted to make Southeast an either-or proposition, saying the district can’t afford the estimated $10 million a year it would cost to operate a new comprehensive high school in addition to Southeast.

Board vice president Jeff Davis agreed. So did Betty Arnold.

“If we clearly cannot operate … a new attendance center and keep an existing center, then for me, I am saying Option C … should be removed,” Arnold said.

Other board members, however, thought all three options should remain part of public discussions.

“I feel strongly that we at least need to hear from the community,” said Sheril Logan, adding that information about budget challenges and proposed boundary changes should be part of the conversation.

Rogers did not make a formal motion to drop the two-schools option.

The board did approve one change to the Southeast proposals, however: All scenarios for expanding and renovating Southeast High will include land acquisition.

One of the drawings Superintendent John Allison had included for discussion called for no additional land for athletic facilities and parking at Southeast. Instead, the public will see and discuss options that call for buying 22 to 43 tracts to the west of the school or the Sunrise Park Apartments property to the south, near Caldwell Elementary.

Also on Monday, board members approved a $3 million school security upgrade that calls for new high-definition cameras, computers, keyless-entry doors, a revamped dispatch center and more.

“We need to have a long-term plan, districtwide, to be able to support this and replace equipment as we move forward,” Allison said.

Rogers agreed.

Nonclassroom expenses such as security “tends to be something we cut when we need to find something to cut,” he said. “Unfortunately, technology is an ongoing expense.”

Principal resigns

Kimberly Jackson, principal at Clark Elementary School in southeast Wichita, has resigned, school district officials said Monday.

Jackson, who was in her first year at Clark, formerly was principal at Adams Elementary. She joined the district in August 2006.

Susan Arensman, spokeswoman for the district, said she could not comment on the resignation because it is a personnel matter. Clark, near Lincoln and Woodlawn in southeast Wichita, has about 370 students.

Debbie Thompson, who retired as principal at Gammon Elementary School, will serve as interim principal at Clark for the remainder of the school year, Arensman said.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SuzanneTobias.

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