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Teacher of the Year nominees head to Salina
Reading Roadmap funding continues, for now
TOY Wilson.jpg 2019
Cortnea Wilson

The new school year is off to a successful start with total enrollment at the end of last week at 2,801, which is the same number of students that were enrolled at the end of May, Superintendent Khris Thexton said.

The district has started a monthlong Attendance Awareness Campaign. September is also Suicide Prevention Month.

These and other topics were part of the Superintendent’s Report at Monday’s school board meeting.

Kansas Teacher of the Year

This Saturday, Great Bend will have two teachers represented at the Kansas Teacher of the Year Banquet in Salina. The district chose two nominees last March: Jenna Dreiling from Riley Elementary represents elementary schools and Cortnea Wilson from Great Bend Middle School was the secondary nominee.

Last year, Great Bend fifth-grade teacher Signe Cook from Park Elementary was named a finalist on the 2019 KTOY Team and spent time in the spring visiting her team members’ school districts and traveling to all 25 public colleges in Kansas to talk with aspiring teachers.

This year, 131 educators from across the state were nominated for the Kansas Teacher of the Year distinction. School Board member Susan Young commented that more schools are participating, even though the nomination process is somewhat laborious. It's a good program, she said.

According to the Kansas Department of Education, the mission of the Kansas Teacher of the Year program is to build and utilize a network of exemplary teachers who are leaders in the improvement of schools, student performance and the teaching profession.

KSDE, sponsor of the Kansas Teacher of the Year program, appoints regional selection panels comprised of teachers, education administrators and higher education representatives to select semifinalists and finalists from each region. Salina’s program is for Region 1. There will be a reception at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by lunch and the awards ceremony at noon at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Elsewhere in the Golden Belt, Lakin USD 215 has nominated secondary teacher Mandy Michaelis and Lyons USD 405 has nominated secondary teacher Benjamin Smith.

Kansas Reading Roadmap

Assistant Superintendent John Popp also gave several reports Monday. He noted that Kansas Reading Roadmap has been a successful program for the school district but its future is unknown due to funding. However, this year’s KRR grant approval for over $500,000 will sustain the program for the next year.

Last month, Kansas Department for Children and Families Secretary Laura Howard terminated the agreement with Hysell & Wagner LLC, which administered the KRR program. In addition, Howard also announced the agency will directly fund schools that made plans to offer the KRR program during the 2019-20 school year at the same level Hysell & Wagner was contractually obligated under the terminated grant.

“The Department for Children and Families is committed to ensuring that recipients of federal and state funds are spending those funds efficiently,” Howard stated in August. “After reviewing the results of a DCF audit and despite heightened oversight during the first six months of 2019, it’s clear that Hysell & Wagner is falling short of this basic standard.”

Gov. Laura Kelly agreed. In the same news release, Kelly stated, “I’ve always been concerned about the use of no-bid contracts and lack of accountability under the previous administration. It’s clear that the State of Kansas cannot continue to support Hysell & Wagner’s administration of the Kansas Reading Roadmap program.

“I am pleased that the Department for Children and Families is providing direct funding to schools for the coming year to ensure they receive the funds they’re counting on.”

Andrew Hysell, director of KRR, responded to the DCF announcement, citing violation of due process and “a grossly negligent report and abuse of governmental authority.” He said DCF renewed the company’s $8 million reading grant weeks before cancelation of the contract.

“After renewing the grant in June, DCF asked KRR to sign an amendment to the Reading Roadmap grant that would put schools at risk of breaking state law and we said no. Ten days later, DCF canceled the grant. KRR stands by its decision to not sign that amendment,” Hysell responded.

Popp said KRR has been a fixture in the district for the last four years. It has entirely funded the after-school programs and summer school programs during that time.

“We didn’t choose (Hysell & Wagner) but they provided a framework and taught us how to do it well,” Popp said. “We will continue to operate it exactly the same way. We will have the funding for this year; we’ll see where it goes from there. We'll know a lot more, probably, in six months.”

TOY Dreiling 2019
Jenna Dreiling