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Sports, tests, and mentors Board focus
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Seventh grade competitive league athletics is new to the district this year, and Administrators David Reiser and Kathy Hafner provided a status report to the USD 428 Board of Education Monday evening.
“This has been an exciting addition to the middle school,” said Great Bend Middle School Principal  David Reiser.  “We have more student participation than ever before.”
Middle school sports are underway, said GBMS Athletic Director Kathy Hafner.  This year, there are 42 8th grade students out for football, and 48 7th graders, for a total of 90 boys out for football.  No team selections took place for football.  
The same is true for cross country.  There are four divisions, made up of  four 8th grade boys and five 7th grade boys, as well as four 8th grade girls and eight 7th grade girls.  
Volleyball and soccer required team selection.  There are 22 8th grade girls and 18 7th grade girls on the volleyball team.  
Soccer is co-ed, with 17 8th grade boys and 11 8th grade girls.  There are 12 7th grade boys and 11 7th grade girls.  There is one team, divided into A and B teams.  Other districts in the league organize teams the same way,  Hafner said.  
For students who did not make the team, cross country and recreational league soccer through the Great Bend Recreation Center were options for play, she said.
“This change has provided more choices for our students to participate in our fall sports,” she said.  “We have 50 more students taking part in the fall sports this year compared with the same sports last year.”

Update on Mentor Program
Newly certified teachers in Kansas are hired under a provisional teaching license.  In order for first year teachers to receive their professional license, Kansas requires one year of on-the-job mentoring.  In the past, the state funded the program, but not any longer.  Still, it’s a good way to retain good teachers, so USD 428 has continued to privately fund the program, said Director of Curriculum John Popp.  
This year, experienced teachers in the district will mentor 24 new teachers, and will provide a second year of needed mentoring for 16 returning new teachers.  Popp said if a teacher receives their professional license during a school year, an additional year of mentoring is required.  
In addition, teachers that are experienced but new to the district are provided an ambassador to help them make the transition to their new position.  Teachers who act as mentors are given an additional stipend of around $500 for the year, while ambassadors are paid on an hourly basis for up to 10 hours.  
“It’s a very helpful program,” Popp said.

While testing results have often been the “gold standard” for determining how students in the district measure up to others around the state, it will still be another year before Kansas College and Career Readiness assessments will be in place.  Last year, 50 percent of assessment questions were designed according to the old state assessment standards, and 50 percent were  KCCR standards.  This year, tests will include 100 percent KCCR standards, but the final assessment design won’t be expected to roll out until the 2014-2015 school year.  
But that doesn’t mean the district is without any data.  Popp said preliminary data available before “official” results are released allow educators to determine an Assessment Performance Index, or API.   It works by averaging every score by every student to get API.  By doing this with previous years scores, the administration can begin to get a picture of how students are performing under the new standards compared with the past.
Still, Popp says it’s not really and accurate comparison because in the past, teachers were given sample questions, and were able to drill students prior to the test.  This isn’t the case with the new tests.  In addition, the questions students are answering are much more rigorous.  This resulted in a lower API last year compared to 2010.  
“It’s not that our kids are any less smart, it’s that the bar is changing,” Popp said.  “I believe we’re doing a better job of preparing them for KCCR standards.”

Middle school gym
The middle school gymnasium project is on target for completion by mid to late October, Thexton said.  This week, translucent panels are being installed on the south side, and skylights will be installed.  When both are in place, the light provided by the sun will help to keep energy costs lower for the district.  Board member Cheryl Rugan inquired if the added light will increase heat to the building.  
A handicap accessible ramp has been installed at the south entrance, and front steps are being formed this week, as well as the installation of heating and cooling units.
A change order has been made concerning where the new building joins the old building.  Foundations are not the same height, which required a step between the two.  In order to make sure this does not cause leaking at the roofline, guttering between the two walls will need to be removed, the space lined and turned into an expansion joint.  Guttering will then be replaced, and downspouts will drain into a storm drain system.  
Board members Dwight Young and Larry Kutina questioned if the district will responsible for the cost, or if the architects and contractors will be.  Thexton said he will report back to the board after further talks.
In addition, crews were working this week to remove a few feet of existing landscaping in order to move curbing in front of seven parking spaces in the south parking lot closer to the street.  It is expected this will provide buses enough room to drop students off in front of the gymnasium for practice and games, Thexton said.  

Other points of discussion and business included:

    *  Approved list of USD 428 learning center Site Council representatives.
    *  Heard a proposal to change monthly noon meetings from Tuesday to Wednesday afternoons to better accommodate board member Wade Babcock’s work schedule.  While board members voiced no conflicts with the proposal, action was postponed until more information could be obtained.  
    *  Thexton gave an update on district projects.  The parking lot south of GBHS was recently finished for a grand total of $24, 651. 40.  It provides an additional 20 parking spaces.
    *  The Board approved Thexton’s request to move forward with designing the new HVAC project at Riley Elementary approved in May.   LST Consulting Engineers will facilitate invitation to bid, with the intention of being ready to take advantage of February pricing for equipment.  The project will be installed over the summer of 2014.  
    *  Repairs to the GBHS track continue to be delayed.  Two options are available, either wait till after football season to start work, or begin during football season.  Wind and temperature will be factors in the decision.
    *  USD 428 Maintenance workers will spray and reseed the field at Lincoln Elementary, allowing the district to save money.  This will occur as part of their normal working duties.
    *  The board accepted a grant from Dollar General Reading Recovery for Eisenhower Elementary teacher Daniel Klaasen.  The grant of $2,000 will be used to purchase three iPad tablets and programs.
    *  The board accepted a grant from the Golden Belt Foundation for Special Services teacher Diana Scheurman in the amount of $1,028 to be used to purchase software to assist with classroom teaching and learning.
    *  The board approved two memorial contributions.  The family of Virgil Maser, and avid bowler throughout his life, donated $770 to the bowling activity at Great Bend High School.  Also, the family of longtime teacher, Dorothy Sodon, donated memorial contributions to the Success For All program at Riley Elementary School.
    *  The Education Foundation Dinner will be at 6:30 p.m. on November 26, at the Great Bend Convention Center.

The B.O.E. will meet next on Tuesday, Sept. 24 for a noon meeting at Eisenhower Elementary School. Board members are also invited to attend Kansas Association of School Board’s Fall Education Tour which will be happening that day in St. John.  The district will also host Chamber Coffee on Thursday, Sept. 26, and board members are invited to attend. The next regular meeting will be Oct. 14 at 5 p.m. at the district office.