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December Kansas State Board of Education highlights: Board members approve task force's recommended tobacco-free school policy

Posted: Dec 13, 2019
Author: Ann Bush

The Kansas State Board of Education approved the recommended tobacco-free school policy developed by the E-cigarette/Vaping Task Force during its meeting Dec. 10-11 in Topeka.

The policy recommendation is:

Students and staff: The use, possession or promotion of any tobacco product by and student or staff is prohibited in any district facility; in school vehicles; at school-sponsored activities, programs or events; and on school-owned or operated property at all times.

Visitors: The use of any tobacco product by parents, contractors, volunteers and all other visitors is prohibited in any district facility; in school vehicles; at school-sponsored activities, programs or events; and on school-owned or operated property at all times.

The policy includes a breakdown of what “tobacco product,” “Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)” and “promotion” mean.

Student violations will result in disciplinary actions as outlined by local school districts. Disciplinary actions may include parent/guarding notification, participation in a tobacco and ENDS education program, referral to a cessation program and/or community service. Student violations may be reported to law enforcement if use or possession is deemed to be illegal.

The task force was established after a May presentation on e-cigarettes/vaping. Board members after the presentation asked that a small group of people develop and present a set of actions on e-cigarettes/vaping for the board’s consideration at the June 2019 meeting. One of the recommendations was the formation of a task force to assist schools in dealing with the recent e-cigarette/vaping epidemic that is negatively impacting Kansas students and schools.

At the October meeting, board members requested that the E-cigarette/Vaping Task Force present a Tobacco-Free School Policy that encompassed e-cigarettes. The policy was presented as a finalized draft at the State Board of Education’s November meeting.

Dr. Mark Thompson, an education program consultant for the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) Career, Standards and Assessment Services (CSAS) team, provided board members with the update on the E-cigarette/Vaping Task Force.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson gave his monthly report. He spoke about the Kansans Can Star Recognition Program and his visits across the state to recognize the districts that received the Commissioner’s Award, Highest Distinction.

The number of counselors and social workers has increased during the past two years, Watson said. There has been an increase of 132 school counselors, which is 11%, and 133 social workers, which is 26%.

Watson also shared some details about kindergarten readiness. Each student in Kansas has access to all-day kindergarten, he said. During the past three years, 1,600 more children are being served in the 4-year-old, at-risk programs, which is about a 22% increase.

He also discussed high school graduation rates with Kansas State Board of Education members. From 2015 to 2019, the high school graduation rate increased from 85.7 to 87.5, which is an increase of 1.8%. English Language Learners, from 2015 to 2019, went from 77.2% to 82.6%, an increase of 5.4%. Rates for free and reduced students increased from 77.5% in 2015 to 80.2% in 2019. There was an increase in the graduation rate of students with disabilities from 77.2% in 2015 to 79.5% in 2018. However, it decreased from 79.5% in 2018 to 77.9% in 2019.

Watson announced the Apollo II Phase of the Kansans Can School Redesign Project. There will be a webinar with additional detail at 9 a.m. Jan. 21, 2020. The application window opens Monday, Feb. 4, 2020. The application window closes April 3, 2020. The Apollo II districts will be announced April 14, 2020.

KSDE’s Dr. Stephen King gave an update on computer science education implementation. At the April 2019 State Board of Education meeting, the adoption of the Computer Science Model Standards led to the commission of a task force to evaluate and recommend policies and actions leading to successful statewide implementation of the standards. The task force was formed in June and divided into four committees – student experience (policy), ecosystem, teacher preparation and curriculum.

Under student experience, recommendations included creating a plan for statewide computer science in education in Kansas; defining computer science; creating a dedicated director of computer science position at KSDE; encouraging all secondary schools to offer computer science courses; and allowing computer science to fulfill core graduation requirements.

Under ecosystems, recommendations included adding a statewide agent; initial work being done through multigroup work; and working on a website and state conference.

Under teacher prep, recommendations included focusing on integration into existing coursework in elementary school and looking at grade band vs. teacher status.

State Board members recognized the 2019 Kansas Blue Ribbon Schools, which were Central Plains Elementary School, Central Plains Unified School District 112; Clear Creek Elementary School, De Soto USD 232; Corinth Elementary School, Shawnee Mission USD 512; Kathryn O’Loughlin McCarthy Elementary School, Hays USD 489; Lakewood Elementary School, Blue Valley USD 229; and Holy Rosary-Wea Catholic School, Bucyrus. Clear Creek and Lakewood elementary schools couldn’t attend the recognition.

Deputy Commissioner Dale Dennis introduced staff members from the Blue Ribbon Schools.

Jane Oeser, principal of Central Plains, presented on the school has built strong relationships with families and the community. The school also has a 4-year-old preschool; all-day kindergarten; a student improvement team; and one-to-one technology.

Chris Lowe, principal of Corinth Elementary, said his school serves 560 kindergarten through fifth-grade students. This is his fifth year at the school. Building positive relationships between students, teachers and the community has been the most influential practice at Corinth Elementary, Lowe said. Corinth has a schoolwide Positive Behavioral Intervention and Supports (PBIS) program in place.

Vicki Gile, principal of Kathryn O’Loughlin McCarthy Elementary, said her school’s success hinges on its teachers. Patsy Thorell, a kindergarten and first-grade teacher, and Sonya Herl, a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher, shared about the school’s looping, which means teachers stay with the same class for two years.

Nick Antista, principal of Holy Rosary-Wea Catholic School, said the school’s factors of success include its teaching staff; school community; growth mindset; a deep dive into Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS); and empowering kids to take risks and learn from failure.

Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander provided an update on evidence-based best practices for at-risk students, legislation and steps to fulfill the requirement of the law.

The State Board voted to send the Special Education Transition Work Group report to the Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC) for further review and ask SEAC to report back to the State Board with comments and suggestions no later than February 2020.

The Transition Work Group was assembled in 2018 in lieu of action by the Kansas Legislature on 2018 House Bill 2745. The work group is accomplishing all of the activities and outputs that would have been required by that bill with the goal of children with disabilities successfully transitioning to adulthood. Membership of the work group includes people from state agencies, educators, administrators, parents, disability advocates and Kansas experts in the field of postsecondary transition.

Work group facilitators were Jim Porter, a State Board of Education member, and Rocky Nichols, executive director of the Disability Rights Center of Kansas.

Deputy Commissioner Dennis and Craig Neuenswander, director of school finance, reviewed the definition of extraordinary enrollment growth with board members.

Kansas statute states that the State Board of Education shall define enrollment growth for the purpose of allowing school districts that meet the State Board’s definition to appeal to the State Board of Tax Appeals for additional authority to open a new facility. The process consists of a school district authorizing and approving a bond issue to construct a new facility. If the school district has rapid enrollment growth that meets the State Board’s requirements, they are given the opportunity to submit an appeal to the State Board of Tax Appeals for the purpose of making an additional levy to open a new facility.

There are about six school districts that use the provision. If the State Board of Tax Appeals approves a dollar amount, the school district may levy up to the amount authorized for two years. After two years, there is a six-year phase down of the amount approved.

The current definition of extraordinary enrollment growth is:

  • A three-year average of at least 6% increase in enrollment.
  • An increase of 1,500 or more students during the past three years, or
  • An increase of 750 or more students during three of the past six years if the new facilities being constructed aren’t replacement.

At issue is the enrollment growth in a selected part of a school district. For example, a school district could have minor enrollment growth overall but one part of the district is experiencing rapid enrollment growth that requires additional facilities.

One option to consider would be to add the following provision to the definition of extraordinary growth: A substantial increase in student enrollment which causes a school to be at 100% of its enrollment capacity with projected enrollment growth to at least 130% of capacity, which necessitates the building of new school facilities to relieve future crowding. If using this rationale, the school district must submit a research-based study showing the history and projected enrollment growth.

If the State Board of Education approves the addition to the definition, it isn’t likely it would be used prior to the Spring of 2022.

The issue is scheduled to come before the board again in January 2020.

Jon Harding, superintendent for the Kansas State School for the Blind, kicked off Wednesday morning’s meeting with an update on the School for the Blind. The school is starting a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) makerspace, he said, and also an online computer science class.

The school has partnered with the Kansas Cosmosphere to offer students accessible modules and a special “White Cane Day,” where students who are visually impaired can tour the facility.

Harding said the school in the future also will get a new playground and click-and-go tactile maps.

The school is recruiting teachers, too, Harding said, by attending career fairs.

Luanne Barron, superintendent of the Kansas School for the Deaf, gave an update on the School for the Deaf. The school recently went through its accreditation process through the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD).

The CEASD Accreditation Team commended the Kansas School for the Deaf’s ability to bring increasing recognition, support and use of its campus and resources at the state’s hub of specialized knowledge in the field of deaf/hard of hearing with critical stakeholders such as the governor’s office, legislators, the State Board of Education, KSDE, colleges and universities, school districts, families and the deaf and local community. The accreditation team also commended the school for the significant expansion of its outreach department and provision of statewide services.

Barron also shared information about the School for the Deaf’s STEM program and the VEX Robotics Club, which is funded by an outside source.

The Deaf Mentor Program now has a total of 15 mentors, Barron said. The mentors work with families of deaf and hard-of-hearing babies and students.

She also shared partnerships the school has with the CEASD, the Kansas Technical Assistance System Network (TASN), Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EDHI), Ski Hi and Deaf View Image Art (De’VIA).

In honor of Computer Science Education Week, Lisa Roberts Proffitt, executive director of FlagshipKansas.Tech, and students from Oskaloosa, Wichita and Wamego were paired up with State Board of Education members for a hands-on computer science demonstration.

Dec. 9-15 is the 10th annual celebration of Computer Science Education Week. This observance takes place in recognition of the birthday of computing pioneer Admiral Grace Murray Hopper. During the week, citizens are encouraged to learn about computer science and how it can be used to solver everyday problems.

The board appointed two new people to the Professional Standards Board. Shelly Weir, secondary English teacher at Blue Valley North High School, will fill the teacher, public secondary, vacancy, and John Wyrick, superintendent at Labette County USD 506, will fill the administrator, chief public school, vacancy. The appointments will run through June 30, 2022.

KSDE’s Mischel Miller, director of Teacher Licensure and Accreditation (TLA), and Jeannette Nobo, TLA assistant director, gave board members an update on the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) process, which started in 2017-2018. There have been 10 public school systems and 20 private systems accredited under KESA.

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