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Great Bend schools get wireless devices for K-12
Staff raises approved; one administrative position cut
Thexton Khris
Khris Thexton

Great Bend USD 428’s One to One Technology Initiative will encompass grades K-12 this fall, Superintendent Khris Thexton said Monday. The school board voted to buy 250 iPads for kindergartners and first-graders, and 250 Chromebooks for second- and third-graders, at a cost of $181,248.
Now each student in the district will have access to a wireless device. Devices are scheduled to be replaced after a three-year rotation. Title I funds will be used to purchase the equipment.
“It’s very exciting,” Thexton said, adding teachers will be able to use the new technology-based curriculum to its greatest effect.
Board member Kevin Mauler said the One to One Initiative, that began with a purchase funded by a 2015 grant from the Dorothy M. Morrison Foundation, has made “great leaps in two years.” He said the district needs to “continue to educate the educators.” Thexton assured him that will happen, since every school has a technology coach.

Teacher contracts
The board also approved next year’s fees and ratified its 2017-2018 contract with teachers. Great Bend-National Education Association members ratified the agreement last week.
Thexton said negotiations “went very smoothly.” The base salary was increased by $400 and a step in the salary schedule that we previously eliminated was restored, so teachers will all get a minimum salary increase of $800 next year.
For other employees, the board approved a 2 percent pay increase across the board.
“We’ve been able to get the money set aside for these additional costs,” Thexton said. This was done by a reduction in staff. Also, he said, “I think the (state) funding formula is a little brighter.”
John Popp, assistant superintendent of curriculum and human resources, said the staff reductions have come through attrition. Riley Elementary has fewer classes for each grade due to lower enrollment, for example.
“There’s been nobody, since I’ve been here, who lost a position through a job cut,” Popp said.

Cut in administration
The district is also saving money by cutting one administrative position. Thexton, who is assistant superintendent of business and operations, has also been the interim superintendent since shortly after the board accepted Superintendent Brad Reed’s early retirement/resignation last December. Officially, Thexton won’t be the superintendent until July 1. At that time, the district will do away with the business and operations position.
Administrative duties have been rearranged for Thexton and Popp and for Tricia Reiser, director of federal programs.

Fees and mileage
In other action Monday, the school board approved next year’s student fees and meal prices, and approved the 2016-2017 mileage reimbursement to parents who qualified for them last year.
Fees and student meals prices are unchanged, but the price of lunches will increase by 10 cents for adults, including teachers.
The mileage reimbursement increased from 27 cents to 30 cents per mile, reflecting a slight increase in gas prices.