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New safety feature suggested for schools
Orchestra trip approved
Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education member Chad Burroughs shows a KnoxBox, a rapid access key that firefighters recommend for local school buildings. The boxes enable first-responder access. - photo by Susan Thacker

It pays to have a firefighter on your board.

At Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting, member Chad Burroughs, who also works for the Great Bend Fire Department, said a walk-through of buildings in the district revealed none of the grade schools have a rapid-access device known by the brand name KnoxBox. He estimated eight boxes would cost about $3,700.

Burroughs brought an example of a KnoxBox, a metal box similar in size to a fire alarm. Using one key, the system removes barriers to entry when first responders respond to an emergency call.

Superintendent Khris Thexton said he thought the buildings already had the boxes and Burroughs was also surprised. The superintendent said if the board had no objections he would get them installed where needed.

Late resignations/personnel

Personnel continues to be a top issue as the new school year approaches. The board met in an executive session for 40 minutes to discuss personnel. After that, the board approved three late resignations, from Suzann Bouray, computer science teacher at Great Bend Middle School, Darwin Bouray, technology specialist at Park Elementary School, and Rhonda Mock, an eighth-grade science teacher at GBMS.

These resignations came after the deadline for teachers to leave without facing a possible financial penalty. However, Thexton said no penalty was assessed because the district was able to find suitable replacements for these individuals. Assistant Superintendent John Popp said the district has the potential to fill the positions with licensed teachers.

Earlier in the meeting, Popp summarized personnel changes over the past year.

• 0 new licensed positions were added

• 6 positions were unable to be filled; these were instructional coaches

• 8 positions were filled with long-term substitute teachers, most in various stages of acquiring licensure

• 5 positions were filled with people with provisional licensure (licensed but completing teacher programs)

• 22 total teachers were hired; 16 fully licensed people were hired who were new to the district

• there were 23 resignations

Organization of 2022-2023 board

In other business, the board elected officers and handled routine business to organize for the 2022-2023 school year. The board kept the same officers as last year; Jacquie Disque will continue as president and Aaron Emerson as vice president.

Most of the appointments were unchanged. There was a vacancy for a board representative to the USD 428 Education Foundation and Emerson was named to that post.

Organizational procedures were also unchanged for the most part, with two exceptions. The mileage rate for approved travel for district employees was increased from 55 cents to 58.5 cents, the state recommendation. The second change is that while substitute teacher pay is still $105 per day and the half-day rate is $52.50, the district will actually pay substitutes $120 per day this year, using federal ESSER money. The Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief funds are included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and are intended to provide emergency relief funds to address the impact of COVID-19 on schools.

Approval of orchestra trip

Orchestra Director Isaac Enochs addressed the board Monday and received permission for approximately 50 orchestra students to take a four-day trip to Colorado Springs, Colo., during the 2023 summer break, shortly after Memorial Day. District buses will be used and students will raise money for this trip.

The choir is taking its regular trip to Washington, D.C., in 2023. Enochs said music department administrators talked about a three-year rotation of big trips for band, choir and orchestra. 

“We’ll have a short trip this year and a longer trip in three years,” Enochs said. Students were surveyed and Colorado was their top choice. They will spend one day in Denver and have one performance, perhaps adjudicated by the Denver School of Music.

Destinations would include the Garden of the Gods, the USAF, cog train to Pike's Peak, and Manitou cliff dwellings. They will see one musical performance such as Riverdance. Enochs said he’ll be using a travel agency for the first time, which will add 20% to the cost but includes a tour guide and other amenities.

Literacy kits

Great Bend Public Library’s Assistant Director Amy Mayhill received a grant for 200 literacy kids for families to use at home for summer to encourage summer reading. Students who attended the June summer school program received these kits that included books, a timer, crafts and activities for families.

This contribution was approved by the board, along with reward incentive contributions from Strawbridge Studios. Strawbridge, which handles school portraits, donated $905 to Riley Elementary and $307 to Jefferson Elementary.

Lemonade War is Friday

Assistant Superintendent Tricia Reiser said students attending summer school this month will operate lemonade stands from 9-11 a.m. this Friday. The stands will be at Eisenhower Elementary School, 1212 Garfield St., and Park Elementary School, 1801 Williams St., where lemonade will be sold for 50 cents a cup.

June summer school classes were by invitation only but the July sessions were available district-wide. Each building has 60-65 students attending.

“We’re a week in and we have a lot of smiling faces,” Reiser said.

Last Friday, students got to ride the bus and attend the Barton County Fair, board president Jacquie Disque noted.

Reiser said the winner of the “Lemonade War” (which is also the title of a book that was featured by the school district for its 2017 community reading series) will have bragging rights. All of the students are expected to have fun while learning some math and other skills. They will decide later how to spend the money earned.

Jacquie Disque, right, will serve another year as president of the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education and Aaron Emerson will continue to serve as vice president. The board organized for the 2022-2023 school year at Monday’s meeting. - photo by photo by Susan Thacker/Great Bend Tribune

Meeting at a glance

Here is a brief look at Monday’s Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education meeting:

• A four-day trip to Colorado in the summer of 2023 was approved for GBHS orchestra students.

• Officers were elected and routine annual business such as representative assignments and other designations were approved. These included naming the Great Bend Tribune as the official district newspaper, First Kansas Bank as the depository for active accounts, and Farmers Bank and Trust for direct deposit of payroll and funds from the State of Kansas. Idle funds will be deposited with bank(s) within the district that will pay the public fund rate and have a Kansas charter.

• New and revised policies recommended by the Kansas Association of School Board were approved. They were first presented at the June 13 meeting.

• The 2022-2023 activities and athletics handbooks were approved. Because there is a new activities director, no changes were made to last year’s handbooks other than names and dates.

• The handbook for Little Panthers Preschool families was presented for a first reading and the board will be asked to approve it in August. The preschool is starting its second year.

• Superintendent Khris Thexton talked about the Revenue Neutral Tax Rate (RNR) for financing next year’s budget. He said he will let the Barton County Clerk know the district plans to go beyond the RNR and the board will be asked to pass a resolution to that effect in August. The district budget hearing will be on Sept. 12.

• Assistant superintendents reported on summer school, staff training, graduation/withdrawal rates, and the schedule for August events at the beginning of the school year. Classes start Aug. 18 and 19, depending on grade level.

• The superintendent’s report included updates on budget planning, the summer meal program, summer projects at various buildings, and a report on contributions to the district. The board approved the contributions.

• The board met in executive session for 40 minutes to “discuss an individual employee’s performance pursuant to the non-elected personnel exception to the Kansas Open Meetings Act.”

• Three late resignations were approved with no penalty.