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Kansas State Board of Education October highlights: Board tours Twin Valley USD 240 schools

Posted: Oct 15, 2018
Author: Ann Bush

The Kansas State Board of Education met Tuesday, Oct. 9, in Topeka for a one-day meeting. On Wednesday, Oct. 10, the board visited Kansans Can School Redesign Project: Mercury 7 schools in Twin Valley Unified School District 240.

On Tuesday, State Board of Education members heard from Bill Faflick, executive director of the Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHSAA). He presented the organization’s annual report. KSHSAA is required by statute for providing a copy of reports and publications issued for the preceding year to the State Board of Education. These reports include an audit report, journals, minutes from KSHSAA board of directors’ meetings and major changes to that board.

Jon Harding, superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Blind, gave board members an update on progress of the goals the board established for the school. Those goals are:

  • Redesign of administration structure.
  • Expand outreach.
  • Increase visibility and communications.
  • Expand professional development.
  • Assist student transition to home and school communities.

The School for the Blind has 38 students on its campus in Kansas City, Kansas, which is an increase of 52 percent over the 2017-2018 school year, Harding said. Instructional staff include 12 field services; nine campus teachers; nine related services teachers; six paraprofessionals; six dorm staff members; three for the Deaf-Blind Project; and two for the Kansas Information Resource Center. The school’s enrollment includes 11 students who are taking part in the transitional program. Other students include six in secondary; nine in middle school; seven in elementary; three in life skills; and two in early childhood/deaf-blind.

The School for the Blind is seeing an increase in the number of field services requests. It also is seeing a great community and business involvement and an increase collaboration between the school’s campus and field services.

Challenges for the School for the Blind include a shortage of paraprofessionals and a lack of jobs for students.

Luanne Barron, superintendent of the Kansas State School for the Deaf, gave board members an update on the School for the Deaf. The school’s family and community engagement coordinator has been working hard to schedule parent information series; hosting regional family events; create a parent newsletter; overseeing social media; and collaborating with SoundBeginnings.

The Language Assessment Program (LAP) began July 1, and Barron said the school has spent a lot of time preparing for the program. The first stakeholders’ meeting took place in August and there were 15 members present. During these meetings, stakeholders share what is happening across the state.

LAP presentations have been given since July 1 at the National Association of the Deaf; the TASN leadership conference; and at the Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

In the past five weeks, 13 children have been assessed through LAP. The goal through the program is that 50 children will be assessed through by December.

LAP currently serves Johnson, Douglas and Dickinson counties, and also Arkansas City, Hutchinson, Ottawa and Kansas City, Kansas.

The school hired a teacher for the blended online learning services program. These free, interactive, live broadcasts to students across the state who are deaf or hard of hearing to promote language access and literacy developments using distance learning technologies and onsite visits. The school is developing interactive weekly lessons with American Sign Language to help students learn through storytelling and interact through social conversations. The program is geared toward students with a variety of different communication backgrounds, ranging from students who have no signing abilities to those who are fluent in American Sign Language. Students receive weekly 30-minute classes and stories are matched to the students’ language levels. The program is designed for early childhood through high school students.

Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Randy Watson gave his annual report and Kansans Can vision progress summary. He gave updates on the five outcomes – kindergarten readiness; social-emotional growth; Individual Plan of Study (IPS); high school graduation; and postsecondary success. He also discussed civic engagement and the inaugural Civic Advocacy Network Awards.

KSDE’s Kent Reed, Sue Kidd and Noalee McDonald-Augustine introduced the two 2018 National Schools of Character. The nonprofit organization Character.org recognized these two schools in May 2018 at the Brown v. Board National Historic Site in Topeka. The two schools are Beloit Junior/Senior High, Beloit Unified School District 273, and Nemaha Central Elementary/Middle School (NCEMS), Nemaha Central USD 115.

Amy Beck, NCEMS principal, and Laurie Niehues, NCEMS counselor, said it has taken a while to develop a good character program. In 2016, the school received an Enhanced Spotlight Recognition in Character Education award, and in 2017, NCEMS was given a Promising Practice award for its Make a Difference projects.

All NCEMS students and staff members participate in the Make a Difference projects in the community. Projects range from kindergartners making baskets for charity auctions to the eighth-grade class organizing a walk for diabetes awareness and all all-school Veterans Day celebration.

Casey Seyfert, principal at Beloit Junior/Senior High, Kyle Beisner, assistant principal, and Brennan Eilert and Stephanie Litton, counselors at the school, presented about the Beloit Junior/Senior High School’s character program. The core values at BJSHS include being Positive and Responsible, and having Integrity, Determination and Excellence (PRIDE). Beloit Junior-Senior High is involved in the Kansans Can School Redesign Project: Gemini I.

Like NCEMS, BJSHS staff members said the journey to building a good character education program took some time. The school received a Promising Practice award in 2015 and was named an Emerging Kansas School of Character in 2016. In 2017, the school received an honorable mention Kansas School of Character award.

During the past four years, the school has taken a stronger focus on academics and has implemented IPS for each student. The school has seen improved attendance and a decrease in behavior referrals.

KSDE’s Reed talked to the State Board of Education about Anti-Bullying Awareness Week, which is Oct. 8-14. This year’s theme is Choose Respect.

KSDE’s Mischel Miller, director of the Teacher Licensure and Accreditation team, and Susan Helbert, assistant director of TLA, discussed the Teacher Vacancy and Supply Committee (TVSC), which is a standing subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board, shared highlights of the Licensed Personnel Report. The committee was created to continue the work of the Blue Ribbon Task Force. State Board of Education members tasked the Professional Standards Board with addressing recommendations in the task force’s report.

They discussed two pilot programs – elementary education Limited Apprentice License (LAL) and high-incidence special education LAL.

There have been 69 high-incidence special education LALs issued and 27 in process, bringing the total potential LALS issued in 2018-2019 to 96.

There have two elementary education LALS issued and 21 in process, bringing the total potential LALs issued in 2018-2019 to 23.

The number of vacancies in the top five assignments (special education, elementary, English language arts, mathematics and science) increased to 612 in the fall of 2018 from 513 in the fall of 2017.

The average age of teachers is 43.6, and the average age of educators is 44.4. The average salary for first-year teachers is $39,744, and the average salary for teachers is $55,725.

The total number of new and renewed licenses being issued per year is stable (20,000), Helbert said.

Board members also approved the Kansas model standards for health education and the Kansas model standards for physical education.

The board toured Tescott Elementary and Bennington Junior/Senior High School on Wednesday, Oct. 10. The two schools are in Twin Valley USD 240, a Mercury 7 school redesign district. Activities at the schools included panel discussions with students, parents and teachers and classroom observations of project-based learning.

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