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Riley School hosts school board
Students at Riley Elementary School served as tour guides to their building Thursday when the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education visited the school. Pictured are, back row, from left: Mason Davidson, Josie Blevins, Nathalia Gonzalez, Alejandra Castruita; front row: Angel Cardenas, Kavien Delgadillo and Jammelly Delgadillo.

Seven children from Riley Elementary School served as tour guides Thursday when the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education visited their building.

Mason Davidson, Josie Blevins, Nathalia Gonzalez, Alejandra Castruita, Angel Cardenas, Kavien Delgadillo and Jammelly Delgadillo showed board members their classrooms and other features of the school, which in celebrating its 102nd year of existence.

There were no action items on the agenda, but the school board holds monthly luncheon meetings during the school year so it can visit each attendance center in the district and hear a report from the principals and their staffs. The board also met Andrea Bauer, who is leaving her position at the Great Bend Chamber of Commerce to take the job of USD 428 public information director when Jennifer Schartz retires next month.

Principal JoAnn Blevins said the school has 338 students in grades Pre-K through 6. That is a decline from last year’s enrollment but the number of preschool students is increasing, she said.

Riley is the only school in the district with two English language arts (ELA) teachers and they have been working with students in the classrooms as opposed to taking them out of class for extra help. “We’re pushing in vs. pulling out,” Blevins said.

She also introduced Brenda Guerra, president of the new Parent Teacher Organization, the Riley Booster Club. Guerra  was a Riley student and now has two children who attend school there.

The number one goal of the Riley Booster Club is to establish communication between parents and teachers, Guerra said. They also conduct fundraisers to support the school.

“Our parents are so excited,” she said. She noted that many of the parents are immigrants from Mexico and the group is helping them to learn how they can be involved in their children’s education. “I want them to see (their child's teacher) as not only a teacher but also a friend.”

Establishing relationships is also one of the top priorities for the school’s three-year goal to become a trauma-responsive school, Blevins said. Now in year one, employees are becoming “trauma-informed,” which means they’re learning more about the reasons for behavior problems and better responses than simply reacting to problems by punishing students. 

Last year, Riley had 98 out of school suspensions and one expulsion, Blevins said. “That’s not OK with me.”

The school has a trauma team and the entire staff is studying the book, “Help For Billy.”

“Our number one goal is developing positive relationships with students,” Blevins said. While the techniques being studied aren’t new, the staff is working to incorporate more problem solving and less punishment. So far, it appears to be working. “I think we’ve already prevented 10 out of school suspensions,” she said.