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USD 428 appoints new administrators
Riley School needs a playground upgrade
Riley Elementary students Lincoln Cale, left, and Sebastian Castillo demonstrate the school’s robots on Wednesday in front of the school board. Technology coach Leah Yancey said educational robots were purchased with a mini-grant from the USD 428 Education Foundation and the students are learning coding and more. “The kids love them,” she said. “They rock the robots.” - photo by Susan Thacker

Two administrative vacancies at Great Bend USD 428 were filled at Wednesday’s board of education meeting.

Joann Blevins, principal at Eisenhower Elementary School, will become the next Director of Teaching and Learning. Myron Ellegood, assistant principal at Great Bend Middle School, will become the next GBMS principal. Superintendent Khris Thexton noted that by promoting within the district, the district will now need to find replacements for those new vacancies.

The vacancies were created by the resignation of Assistant Superintendent Tricia Reiser, who will leave at the end of June to take a position as superintendent of Winfield Public Schools, and the retirement of her husband, Great Bend Middle School Principal David Reiser. Tricia Reiser’s title was director of teaching and learning before she was promoted to assistant superintendent, and Thexton said Blevins’s qualifications were for that position. The district won’t necessarily need another assistant superintendent, Thexton added.

The board also approved the appointment of Katie Zimmerman as a special education teacher at Eisenhower Elementary School.

Resignations were accepted from Kinzie Behrends, fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary; Tina Vondracek, special education teacher at Eisenhower; Kiley Wahramn, fourth-grade teacher at Eisenhower; and Hannah Laurin, sixth-grade teacher at Riley.

Riley building report 

Every school in USD 428 takes a turn hosting a luncheon board meeting. Riley Elementary was the setting Wednesday for the final luncheon meeting of the school year. Principal Beth Rein and other staff members shared information regarding the academic programs and the school improvement efforts at Riley.

Rein used one of the school’s teaching tools for her presentation. Board members were given Chromebooks like those used by students and asked to play Kahoot!, a web-based learning game/quiz. The questions were tailored to Riley. Participants had multiple-choice and true/false questions.

In this way, they learned that 14 of Riley’s teachers are spending extra hours taking an intense course in the science of reading. The goal is to help them improve their methods of teaching reading.

The board learned that K-6 attendance is nearly 95%, so absenteeism is not a major challenge. The biggest discipline challenges are disrespect and work avoidance. Several teaching tools used by the district, such as Capturing Kids’ Hearts, address social-emotional learning and professional development. 

As for the facility, the area where Riley School really needs improvement is its playground, Rein said. “I started here 25 years ago and that’s the same playground.”

There is one student who uses a power wheelchair and wants a wheelchair swing, according to Michelle Daniel, Riley’s student and family advocate.

Rein said she is looking into funding options.

This year, 18 Riley students who are English-language learners passed the Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessment; 117 students were tested. Once a student passes this assessment, which is part of the federal elementary and secondary education legislation for English learners, the student does not have to take the assessment again.

Successful students

The board was also reminded that a Riley student, fifth-grader Christian Garcia, was this year’s Barton County Spelling Bee champion and advanced to the state bee at Wichita. At Wichita, he made it to the fourth round and placed 37th.

Riley attended its first Scholars Bowl this year and the fifth-grade team won third place in the countywide event sponsored by Holy Family School.

Sixth-graders will graduate from the All Stars prevention program at Riley on Thursday, April 27.

Riley students Lincoln Cale and Sebastian Castillo demonstrated the school’s robots. Technology coach Leah Yancey said educational robots were purchased with a mini-grant from the USD 428 Education Foundation and the students are learning coding and more. “The kids love them,” she said. “They rock the robots.”

In other business, the board approved grants and contributions. 

Ryan Axman, USD 428 IT director, gave a brief overview on network security and procedures to protect information.

The meeting wrapped up with Superintendent Thexton presenting a certificate to Rein. He said Riley and Park Elementary School were two of 100 districts in Kansas to receive a Challenge Award of Merit from the Confidence in Kansas Public Education Task Force.