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Reception will honor three outgoing State Board members

Reception will honor three outgoing State Board members

Three Kansas State Board of Education members, with a combined 32 years of service to Kansans, are leaving office after the December meeting. 

A reception honoring outgoing Board members Janet Waugh, District 1, Jean Clifford, District 5, and Ben Jones, District 7, will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at the Landon State Office Building, 900 S.W. Jackson St., Suite 102, in Topeka. 

Waugh, who currently serves as vice chair, began her tenure on the State Board in 1999. She served as State Board chair from 2003-2004 and 2009-2010. Waugh, of Kansas City, Kansas, retired from a family-owned used car business. She has two grown children. 

During her 24 years on the Board, Waugh has been a part of some great changes in Kansas education. However, she also has faced some obstacles and challenges. 

“I always enjoyed visiting schools,” Waugh said. “It was always great to interact with staff and students. I was so impressed observing great things happening in each school. I am so fortunate to have served with so many great board members, many of whom became close friends.” 

Waugh also enjoyed working with Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) staff members and personnel from education associations. 

“The biggest challenge I faced was evolution,” she said. “This started during my first term and continued for several years. Kansas became quite famous, not only in the United States but throughout the world. I was personally interviewed by Australia, Japan and France and am confident many others heard from even more countries. The other greatest challenge was COVID-19. I was so impressed by our educators who were so dedicated to their students that they put in whatever it took to ensure each student received the best education possible in ways they were not trained to teach.”  

Upon leaving her position as a State Board member, Waugh plans to take January off and spend time with friends and family. She wants to do volunteer work, which will most likely put her in school settings. 

In more than 20 years of service to Kansans, Waugh did see some major shifts in the way the Board worked. For example, she said the State Board has become more informed and active with the Kansas Legislature by asking legislators to serve on various committees, providing input on different issues and encouraging more communication between the two bodies. 

Clifford, of Garden City, served one term on the State Board, beginning her service in 2019. She has been an active member of her community. Clifford received her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida in Tampa. She also has a master’s degree in special education from Fort Hays State University and a Juris Doctor from Stetson University College of Law in Florida. 

She and her husband, William Clifford, have six children. 

During her time representing District 5, Clifford said she was especially proud of the efforts that she and the Board made to address dyslexia. 

“Reading is a critical foundational skill and so important to the success in every subject area,” she said. “I believe that efforts to improve reading skills will have the most impact on student success both in school and in life.” 

Like Waugh, Clifford said there have been some challenges along the way. 

“One of the biggest challenges has been the misunderstanding by many individuals of the factors that go into student success,” she said. “Schools are tasked to educate students and set them up for success after they graduate, but success is more than just rote academic knowledge. Future success for our students requires that they are able to critically think through problems and persist in their efforts. Many students also require supports, such as behavioral, mental health and many more, to be ready to take on academic challenges. Academic excellence is achieved when all of these supports are utilized in schools. Unfortunately, some only focus on the academic without seeing the underlying structures that must be in place to ensure that success. We must continue to work hard to educate everyone on how important all of these programs are to helping students become successful.” 

Clifford hopes the State Board continues to supply information to Kansans on programs and policies in schools, as well as continues to work hard to support educators and highlight their efforts and dedication to student success. 

“Raising public awareness of the great things going on in our schools and the hard work of educators will help dispel misunderstanding and raise support for our educators and schools,” she said. “This, in turn, can improve student learning and attract more dedicated individuals into the teaching profession.” 

Clifford plans to stay involved in education. She is interested in career and technical education (CTE), as well as the postsecondary transition students make after they graduate. She said she hopes to focus her efforts on those areas. 

Jones, of Sterling, joined the State Board at the same time as Clifford. He is active in community theater and served as former co-chair of the Council of Church Ministries at First United Methodist Church in Lyons and former vice president of the board of directors at Rice County Historical Society. Jones attended Southwest Baptist University, Hutchinson Community College and Sterling College. He currently works as a substitute teacher and director of discipleship and outreach for Lyons First United Methodist Church. 

“I have enjoyed working with people to develop policies that benefit all students,” Jones said. “KSDE has some of the best people in the state serving 500,000 students. Kansas has amazing teachers and staff in our 286 school districts. And KSD (Kansas School for the Deaf) and KSSB (Kansas State School for the Blind) are amazing institutions that really have taken on the mission of serving the entire state, which for those of us out west is a big deal and a true game changer for students and families desperately seeking services.” 

Jones will miss collaborating with people throughout the state and visiting schools. 

“I will also miss my work on NASBE (National Association of State Board of Education) and discussing student policy with counterparts from across the country to learn from their successes and shortfalls,” he said. “Above all, I will miss the people. There are hundreds of people I’ve worked with over the last four years who made me a better person and leader. I will miss that terribly.” 

In January, Jones plans to move to Pratt and serve the people of Pratt United Methodist Church as the director of discipleship. He will continue to substitute in classrooms in Pratt and Skyline schools 

All outgoing State Board members had advice for incoming Board members. The number one thing they mentioned is the importance of listening. 

“Listen to other’s needs,” Jones said. “Knowing people come to you from different backgrounds is important. I feel the direction of the State Board has been positive and worry that big changes could be coming that would set education back. The desire to return to the 1950s education where graduation rates were below 60% in our high schools and academic achievement really was dependent upon your socio-economic level. As we approach the 90% mark in our statewide graduation rate, that is enormous as our job market requires a high school diploma. Returning our schools to a prep school for four-year colleges does a disservice to students going into the technical fields. They deserve a quality public education, as well.” 

Clifford said a high-quality education is critical to the success of individual students, as well as to communities and the state. In recent years, schools have been tasked to provide many things that used to be provided by families – and students have more challenges now. 

“As a result, there are many competing interests, and all must be addressed,” Clifford said. “There are no easy answers, but listening to and working with our educators, administrators, as well as the Commissioner and KSDE staff, will greatly improve understanding of how current programs will lead to the results that we all want to see – for Kansas to lead the world in the success of each student.” 

Posted: Dec 8, 2022,
Comments: 0,
Author: Ann Bush
Tags: KSBE

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