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Sizing things up
USD 428 Board and students recognized, faculty audit underway
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Jefferson Elementary School physical education teacher Tyler Shirley and students met with the board to talk about what they did to earn Sportsmanship Awards over the fall semester. Students included (not in order) Avery Wolf, William Clark, Logan Norman, Jacee Stevens, Wiley Brand, Anna Campbell, Bradley Beck, Mahala Sanchez, Camryn Mossberg, Hailey Peterson, Aden Mertens, Cody Miller, Bryce Mermis, and Riley Slater. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Other items of discussion and actions taken by the USD 428 Board of Education  included:
•    Appointed Doug Bender to serve as a representative on the Education Foundation board of trustees for a three year term.  Bender replaces Kevin Mauler, whose term expired Dec. 31, 2014.
•    Appointed Brenda McCulley to serve as a teacher representative on the Education Foundation’s board of trustees.
•    Approved the 2015-2016 fundraising schedule presented by the school’s parent-organization representatives.
•    Approved a request by the GBHS Student Council and sponsors Andrea Maxwell and Kacey Ford to hold the third annual school-wide Community Service Day in April.
•    Heard the first reading of a slate of BOE policies that will be acted upon at an upcoming meeting.
•    Approved the purchase of $12,137.85 worth of laundry equipment for the middle school.
•    Considered possible summer projects.
•    Discussed painting taking place at Washington EEC.  Bryan Scott is updating the color in the school.
•    Approved the retirements of Mrs. Judy Johnson, a guidance counselor at GBMS, effective June 1; Ms. Diana Scheuerman, a special education teacher at ECSE / HHP, effective June 1; and Mrs. Jacquiline Schultz, a first grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School, effective May 22.
•    Approved the appointment of Ms. Margaret (Meg) Clark,  a Success For All teacher at Riley Elementary School, effective Jan. 15.  
•    Recognized several donations.  See related story.

It was literally standing room only Monday night at the USD 428 District Education Center as Jefferson Elementary School students and their parents filled all available seats.  They were there to be recognized by Jefferson Elementary School physical education teacher Tyler Shirley.  Fourteen students received Shirley’s Sportsmanship Awards over the fall semester for demonstrating impressive actions worthy of all-school recognition.
“Sportsmanship is something we have talked about since the first week of school,” Shirley said.  “Whether it was running an extra quarter-mile with a struggling student, or whether it was a student walking around giving every single student a high-five and telling them what a good job they did in physical education that day, these students really exemplify what it means to be a good sport.”
USD 428 Superintendent Brad Reed started off the New Year by thanking the Board of Education members for their generous volunteer public service.  
“We greatly appreciate all you do for our district,” he said.
Each member received a selection of cookies and an custom personalized milk carton and a warm handshake from Reed.

Accounting for teachers
Assistant Superintendent John Popp reported DEC administrators are in the process of completing an audit of sorts of the district’s teachers.   
How many district teachers are there?
Where are they placed?
How many students do they impact.  
Starting with certified employees, and later moving on to the classified employees, the study is meant to identify opportunities to shift staff to fill pressing needs without increasing the number of teachers hired.  
“Our biggest part of our budget is in personnel,” Reed added.  “We want to make sure we have every teacher that we need, but not more than we need.”
Last year, there were a number of positions that the district could have eliminated, he said.  
“We could have staffed them in a different way and gotten just as much utility for fewer dollars,” Reed said.  “We’re going to find some savings for the district.”
Popp cited the current political climate in the state as one of the reasons the district was taking this proactive measure.
But that doesn’t mean there will be no new hiring.  During his Superintendent’s report, Reed said the district has identified several job fairs at out of state colleges the administration will be attending to recruit new teachers.  Colleges in Michigan, South Dakota and Wyoming have been targeted because there graduating more new teachers than there are positions to fill, and many are coming to Kansas, even western Kansas.

Model learning
Popp reported the K-6 Math Adoption team, after piloting two programs over the last semester, has reached a decision and is expected to approve one math curriculum for the entire district, which will be an agenda item for the Board in March.
He also reported on implementation of technology across the district, from improving infrastructure, increasing bandwidth, to adding more devices for students is on track with the Board’s goals.
Schools are also gearing up for round two of the K-8 AIMSweb benchmark testing.   He emphasized that the main purpose is to perfect a strategy for the test taking now, before Multi Tiered Systems of Support is implemented next year.  Testing results will then be used to help teachers create individualized learning plans for each student based on that student’s needs.  Teachers have been working for the past two years to familiarize themselves with the MTSS model, in addition to their ongoing teaching duties.  Once implemented, the hope is this early testing will allow for a more seamless adoption.  In the mean time, the district is also researching an assessment tool for grades 9-12.

Walking School Bus driving movement
In his report, Reed announced the district is going to expand the Walking School Bus program which was piloted by Riley Elementary this fall.
Last year, with grants from both PedNet and the Golden Belt Community Foundation, Riley Elementary School implemented an innovative initiative to help kids get to school safely.  The Walking School Bus provides adult supervision for students who meet at stops in the morning and walk to school together.  The volunteer driven program, headed by Riley P.E. teacher Bryan Scott, had four routes students signed up to walk. Riley Principal JoAnn Blevins reported to the Board the program started with 20 participants Oct. 1, and ended with 90 on Nov. 30.  
Additional funding came available for the program that will start again in the spring.  PedNet’s director, Robert Johnson, contacted Reed to report that Great Bend’s program was one of the most successful in the country, and offered to help the district to expand the program to include all five elementary schools.  He presented the proposal to the principals who were eager to get on board.  They will receive full funding for the spring, and anticipate receiving full funding for the entire second year also.
“There are a lot of good by-products to this program,” Reed said.  
Blevins said teachers reported students taking part were arriving on time, ate their entire breakfast when they arrived at school, and were alert and ready to learn at 8 a.m.  Since the program has been on hiatus through the winter, they’ve noticed a difference, and are eager for the program to start again.  Teachers, in fact, contributed many of the volunteer hours for the program.  In addition, several mothers also walked, some with younger kids in strollers.   
Already at the top nationwide, Reed said principals are excited at the prospect of what it might mean for Great Bend to roll out the program in all five schools.
Reed also updated the board on progress with the Gannon Decision, and reported the district is aware of 11 homeless students and measures the district is taking to meet those student’s needs.,  
The board then met in executive session for 30 minutes to discuss negotiations and non-elected personnel.  No action was taken.  
Upon return to regular session, the board approved the consent agenda, and adjourned.  They will meet for IBB training from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 15 at the District Education Center.  There will be a noon meeting on Jan. 29 at Park Elementary School.  The next regular meeting will be at 5 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the district offices.