With the start of school less than two weeks away, Great Bend USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton is excited.
“I love walking through the buildings this time of year because they’re starting to get sparkly and shiny and the wax is all buffed up,” Thexton said. “I like this time of year just because of the fact it’s getting ready to start and it’s a new beginning.”
Thexton spoke recently about how the 2017-2018 school year is shaping up for Great Bend:
“We’ve had a lot of facility improvements as the year’s gone on. We’ve had some HVAC, we also had a new roof put on at the high school, and then we also had some carpeting go in at two of our buildings — that was a major undertaking during the summer,” Thexton said. “I want to thank our custodial, maintenance, grounds and our District Education (Center) staff. They’ve done an outstanding job this summer of getting things ready.”
“We’ve got some really neat things going for our kids and for our teachers,” Thexton said. Thanks to changes in the Kansas Legislature and USD 428’s budget, Great Bend will expand early childhood education, offering all-day kindergarten at Riley Elementary School.
“We think early childhood education is a big key for really helping our kids do well and be successful as they go through school,” he said.
The district has added a guidance counselor at Great Bend Middle School and an attendance coordinator at Great Bend High School. Also new at GBHS is the grant-funded Jobs for America’s Graduates program, known as JAG. It prepares students for graduation and beyond. It may help them gain so-called soft skills such as punctuality and responsibility, that they will need to be successful in the workforce and in life.
Summer for teachers
June, July and August are busy months for educators, Thexton said.
“We’ve had a lot of things going on. We’ve had trainings all summer long out here.
We’ve had packed houses out here with our teachers coming in and extending their learning. We offer these great programs to help teachers better serve our students.”
Technology and curricula
USD 428’s 1:1 technology initiative gives each student access to a computer.
“Currently we are 1:1 with Chromebooks (in grades 5-12) and we are actually going to push that down — we are going to go 1:1 throughout our district. We will have iPads for all our kindergartners and first graders, and then from second grade on up they will have their own Chromebook that they will be able to use. So, technology’s a big push in our district, and we’ve been able to jump right onto that and our kids will have incredible access,” Thexton said.
“To go along with that, we’ve added new curriculum. Mainly in our K-6, we’ve added a new district-wide math curriculum, which is the Envision, and also our Wonders, which is our reading program. They’ll dovetail in really well with our new technology. This was a big goal with our district to be district-wide with our curriculum, so we’re definitely taking a step in the right direction there.”
The district has also been working with the Kansas State Department of Education and its Technical Assistance System Network. TASN provides technical assistance to support school the systematic implementation of evidence-based practices. That, in turn, is part of MTSS, the Kansas Multi-Tier System of Support. Just as the K-6 reading and math curricula are now the same at each school, USD 428 is looking at the “big picture” district-wide, Thexton said.
“We’re trying to get everybody on the same page so that as kids go through our system they’re hearing the same message as they go through. They’re getting an individual plan of study for each child as they go through. We’ve got more information than we’ve ever had on our children as they go through, and we can be more effective and more efficient at educating our students.”