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Time for a change?
USD 428 looking at changing leagues
new deh school board story pic
Surrounded by members of the Great Bend High School soccer team, Jean Cavanaugh, USD 428 School Board member, left, is honored by Kansas Sen. Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford, with a Senate proclamation during the school boards meeting Monday night. This was Cavanaughs last board meeting after 32 years. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

In other action, the USD 428 School Board:
• Learned the district as a whole made adequate yearly progress as outlined by No Child Left Behind, thanks to an error made by the Kansas State Department of Education. However, Park Elementary School still missed its reading target and Great Bend High School missed its math target. The numbers are still preliminary, and the status of the schools may change.
• Approved the district paper bid with Contract Paper Group, Uniontown, Ohio, for $21,454. Office Products Incorporate of Great Bend bid $23,638. Had OPI’s bid been within 1 percent of the low bid, the district could have opted for the local vendor despite it not being the lowest.
• Approved spending $25,576.80 with Renaissance Learning Inc., the makers and vendors of the NEO 2, a keyboarding device. The total includes 150 of the units, software, cart and other needed hardware. They will be used primarily for keyboard practice, but can also be used for test taking and other functions.
• Approved school fees for 2011-2012 at the same level as the past several years. However, meal prices will go up by 10 cents, except for patrons of the free-and-reduced program.
• OKed the mileage reimbursement rate for district patrons who live at least 2.5 miles from their student’s school, outside the city limits, but within the district. The rate, based on fuel prices, will be 45 cents per mile.
• Learned the property tax abatements offered by Barton County to pet-product maker Redbarn will cost the district $7,400 in tax revenue in the first year of the 10-year program. That amount will decrease each year since the abatement amount decreases each year. However, in the next 10 years, additional employees at Redbarn could bring more students to the district, garnering an estimated additional $3.4 million in state educational funding.
• Discussed several options for offering a financial literacy class for GBHS seniors. These options varied on what department would handle the class, whether it would be required or not, and how long the class would run (from a few weeks as a unit in another class to a semester dedicated to the topic). After more information is gathered, the board should make a decision at its July 11 meeting.
• Approved the resignations of Brian Bristol, a Great Bend Middle School science teacher; Jessica Feldhausen, psychologist for the Barton County Special Services Cooperative; and Angie Lister, an at-risk teacher at Riley Elementary. It also approved the appointments of Shawna Brown, at-risk teacher at Riley; Catrina Hanson, Riley teacher; Rachel Sennett, English teacher at Great Bend High School; Jestin Blake, teacher at Riley; Karen Ekberg, teacher/tutor at Lincoln Elementary; Isaac Enochs, orchestra/assistant band teacher at all elementary schools, GBMS and GBHS; Parker Gross, teacher at Riley; Peggy Haag, sixth-grade teacher at Riley; Tiffany Haug, teacher at Lincoln; Rebecca Kolden, special education teacher at GBMS; Lauren Turner, first-grade teacher at Lincoln; Amber Unrein, special ed co-op teacher; and Letitia Warren, special ed teacher at GBMS.
• Approved starting the 2011-2012 budget process at its July 11 meeting. The budget will be published by July 19 and the public budget hearing will be in August. The budget could be approved at that time.

In the 2010 season and, again, in the upcoming 2011 season, the Great Bend High School football team will only play eight games instead of the traditional nine.
So far, all the other sports at GBHS have full schedules, but resorted to playing smaller schools in order to accomplish this.
This is the situation for GBHS in the Western Athletic Conference, which also includes Dodge City, Garden City, Liberal and Hays. Unified School District 428 Activities Director David Meter has to go beyond the WAC to flesh out schedules in a state where fewer and fewer teams are willing to play the Great Bend Panthers, either because of the reputations for success or the distance other schools would have to travel.
So, Meter told the USD 428 School Board Monday night, the district has begun to search for an alternative to the WAC. “This all started with not having a full schedule in football,” Meter said during the meeting Monday at the District Education Center.
Great Bend is now shopping around for another league to call home. “I am working with three different leagues,” Meter said.
One possibility is the so-called “super league,” the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League. It includes 24 schools, including those from Hutchinson, Salina, and Maize, down to Augusta, Andale, Clearwater and Rosehill. It is divided into four divisions based on school size.
However, this is not a sure thing, Meter said. USD 428 would submit a letter by Aug. 3 requesting membership. Then, both the AVCTL activity directors and superintendents would have to approve it.
If it the request is rejected, USD 428 could appeal to the Kansas State High School Activities Association, but the fate of such a proposal there is uncertain, Meter said.
Other possibilities are the Central Kansas League (which includes Halstead, Lyons, Pratt and Sterling, among others) and staying with the WAC.
There are other leagues farther east, but travel becomes impractical. The cost of transporting a team from Great Bend, or to it, become a factor.
But, Meter said, just filling a schedule is not enough. “We need to schedule quality opponents.” This helps make the GBHS teams stronger come post-season time.
Should the change go through, what would become of the WAC? “I’m not sure what they’d do if we dropped out,” Meter said. A lot of people would be impacted and upset by GBHS’s move.
 “The decision is not an easy one,” Meter said. The board would have to decide at its July 11 meeting in order to make the AVCTL’s Aug. 3 application deadline.
“This is becoming a bigger deal,” said Roger Marshall, a Great Bend doctor who is a parent of a student athlete. Marshall and several other fathers of athletes were at the meeting. All supported a change if necessary.
“We have to do what’s best for Great Bend,” Marshall said. If that means jumping leagues, then so be it, he said. It is better than not playing enough games or having schedules diluted by playing lesser opponents.
“It’s not the WAC’s fault and its not the other schools’ fault,” he said. But, “it’s not working.”
We shouldn’t be playing teams just for the sake of playing, he said.
Marshall said he would be willing to lead a grass-roots campaign or petition drive to help Great Bend’s cause.