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Tour educating educators
State officials gathering input on educational system
randy watson school success tour pic
Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson addresses those gathered for the Kansans Can Success Tour Friday afternoon at the Great Bend Events Center. The idea was to gather input on how to improve Kansas schools. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune

As part of an ambitious statewide tour to garner input on how to reshape the state’s schools for the future, Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Brad Neuenswander stopped in Great Bend Friday afternoon. 

This was one of the 50 community visits on their Kansans Can Success Tour which kicked off Monday. 

Meeting at the Great Bend Events Center and hosted by Great Bend’s Unified School District 428, they shared success stories, as well as challenges, discussed the Kansans Can School Redesign Project, answered questions and gathered information. Packing the room were educators, parents, legislators, members of the business community and public officials.

“The purpose of the tour is to bring together parents, educators, local school board members, higher education representatives, legislators and members of the business community,” Watson said. They are wanting to discuss the future Kansans want for their children and the role education will play in supporting that future.

“It is important for us to go and hear these ideas in person,” Watson said. They want to know what Kansans from all parts of the state want from the educational system.

This is a follow-up to the 2015 Kansas Children Kansas’ Future tour that included 25 stops. Using the feedback gathered from more than 2,000 parents, educators, legislators, school board members, business community members and more, the State Board Education created a new vision for education: Kansas leads the world in the success of each student.

What did they learn?

“We were doing a great job for the many, but not such a great job for the few,” Neuenswander said. By relying on test scores, important, non-academic skills like professionalism, problem solving and time management slipped through the cracks.

“My job description totally changed,” Neuenswander said. They learned schools, from high school to college, were churning out students who lacked what was needed be hired.

Across the board from students in school to business leaders, the responses were the same. They heard lessons learned outside the classroom were as important, if not more so, than those learned sitting at a desk.

“We were out of balance,” he said. So, they started shifting the focus.

“Now, nearly six years later, we need to know if we are on the right track,” Neuenswander said. “We are asking people to lend their voices to the conversation.”

The Friday event included large group sessions and small break-out sessions. They addressed questions like how schools can respond to the needs of Kansans and what does a successful 24-year-old look like.

The tour started in Salina Monday and wraps up at Shawnee Heights Unified School District 450 in Techumseh on Thursday, Sept. 9.  They made 14 stops this week.

Great Bend falls in the State Board of Education’s District 5. There are 10 districts, each representing about 50,000 students.

Tour visits were or will be made in each.

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Great Bend City Administrator Kendal Francis, left, talks with USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton prior to the start of the Kansans Can Success Tour Friday afternoon at the Great Bend Events Center. - photo by DALE HOGG Great Bend Tribune