Special education teacher Alyson Burkhart’s resignation was not accepted Monday by the Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education. Instead, the board will petition the state to revoke her license for failing to fulfill her contract with the district.
Assistant Superintendent John Popp reminded the board that Burkhart asked to be released from her contract last month, but the board took no action.
“She resigned — gave us a letter Aug. 2nd,” Popp said. “Our policy states that once the statutory date has passed we would consider releasing her from her contract if a suitable replacement can be found; at this point we’ve had zero applications for that position. Miss Burkhart came to work for us starting Aug. 17, but she informed us Sept. 1st she is not returning to work and she’s going to work in another district.”
Board member Susan Young asked whether Burkhart understood what could happen. He said she did.
“She doesn’t want to leave us in a lurch but she feels like this is an opportunity that she has to take,” Popp said.
In the past, teachers who left the district after the cutoff date for giving notice were subject to a fine, but it wasn’t unusual for them to pay the penalty and leave. Meanwhile, the district had difficulty filling positions at the last minute, Popp said. The latest negotiated agreement has more teeth; it gives the district the option to ask the state to revoke a teacher’s license for breach of contract.
If the Kansas Department of Education does revoke Burkhart’s teaching license, she will be able to apply for reinstatement in a year, Popp said, adding he does not know whether she needs a teaching license for her new job.
The decision to petition the state was unanimous.
“This is clearly part of our contract,” board member Cheryl Rugan said.
Board member Joyce Carter added, “The bottom line is, we can’t have our children at risk.”
Overall, the effect of the tougher contract language has been positive for the district, Popp said. In most cases, teachers who wait too long to tender their resignations end up staying another year to fulfill their contract obligation.
The district did approve another teacher’s late resignation on Monday. Sheri Heilman returned to USD 428 this fall to teach English at Great Bend High School but will be unable to continue due to health problems, Popp said. She plans to finish this week and then the district will attempt to fill her position with a substitute for the rest of the semester.
“She’s resigned with a very heavy heart,” Popp said.
The contract language allows the school board to be lenient in special circumstances, he said.
“This is the very definition of a special circumstance.”
Spring break trip
In other business, the board approved a spring break trip to Dallas for Great Bend High School’s band and orchestra students. Band Director Mark DeWald said students won’t be required to attend and they won’t be performing on the trip, which will cost $300.
But they will attend some musical performances and visit the Dallas Museum of Art, along with a trip to Six Flags amusement park. Students will have opportunities to raise the money for their trip if desired. The instrumental music directors expect up to 90 students will attend.
Donations and grants
The board also approved the following grant applications and donations:
• Jefferson Elementary School Nurse Linda Johnson will apply for two $1,000 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas Healthy Habit for Life Grants. The grant for Jefferson Elementary would enable the school to offer healthy fruit and vegetable snacks. A Great Bend Middle School grant would allow implementation of a girls’ walking club that includes lessons to build self-esteem for the teens.
• A $125 donation has been received for the Riley Elementary Back-to-school Bash and Open House. The donation was used to fund a photo booth during the open house. The donor wishes to remain anonymous.
• A $100 donation has been received for GBMS student support. The donor wishes to remain anonymous. This person plans to donate $100 a month that the administration may use as needed to help at-risk students.