The Kansas Association of School Boards is traveling Kansas and met with area districts to share KASB goals and to hear district success stories and needs.
Staff members of the Kansas Association of School Boards came to Pratt Sept. 27 to share current trends and policies and to listen to local school districts share their activities that are making education better.
At a meeting in the Holiday Inn Express, board members as well as administrators from several districts including USD 382 Pratt and USD 438 Skyline took part in the event to see what direction KASB is headed and what they expect of the districts across Kansas.
This was the first of 10 meetings that KASB will conduct across Kansas. The KASB will tell the districts what KASB is doing then the districts will tell KASB what the districts are doing. And that information will be shared with other districts, said Mark Tallman, KASB associate executive director. Tallman said superintendents are already changing the design of their districts to improve student success. While the districts are doing a good job, there are still students who are not getting what they need to get to be successful in life. Districts are starting with that and figuring out what they need to do to help those students succeed.
The State Board of Education has changed accreditation and schools have to be accountable for student success for two years after they graduate from high school.
Teacher supply and teacher quality is an issue especially in rural areas where its hard to get teachers to apply and then to stay.
College affordability is a major issue facing students. Schools have to prepare students to tackle the four year or two year or technical schools.
Tallman said KASB and every school in the state is still waiting for a Kansas Supreme Court decision on the new Legislative funding formula. Will it be deemed adequate to fit the necessary requirements of will the court decide against it and what will that mean to education in Kansas.
"Every Friday at 9:30 a.m. we're all refreshing the Supreme Court website," Tallman said. "Then we'll have to react to the decision."
Part of the education issues in Kansas is demographics. In Kansas, 50 percent of the population lives in just five counties. That means the other 50 percent lives in 100 counties. It's important to have basic state goals but its just as important for people to figure out the best way to get there, Tallman said.
"We pride ourselves on local control," Tallman said.
Suzan Patton, USD 382 Superintendent, said schools can't be inside a bubble. The district doesn't want the students to not "get it" because of a lack of opportunities.
One opportunity they get is a robotics team. Students are given tasks in elementary and middle school that will help lead them to the robotics team much like feeder teams lead players to high school sports, Patton said.
The vocal music program feeds students into the high school music events including musicals where students can compete for Music Theater of Wichita Jester Awards. Pratt has had several Jester winners and the music program has made a huge difference in student performance.
Just because a school doesn't mean they can't provide big opportunities for their students, Patton said.
The district has initiated "The Uncommon Greenback" a program for grades K-12. Students were challenged to come up with the traits of the Uncommon Greenback. The traits they come up with are Grit, Team, Valor, Passion and Respect. The goal of Uncommon Greenback is for students to leave Pratt High School with these characteristics.
To that end, students from high school will visit the elementary school and work with the students. Members of the football team and cheerleaders have visited and worked with the elementary students.
With the addition of flex schedules, students have opportunities that were previously unavailable. The high school is working with Pratt Community College on a welding program that allows sophomore and juniors the opportunity to attend welding classes at PCC while still in high school. The are considered as students in the PCC welding program.
The district is working on three other programs and will announce them in the future. The district wants to reach out to the city and county to develop shared partnerships for the 150 preschool students. Summer academies and summer internships are also goals for the district.
Adding at least one more social and emotional program is a district goal as well.
One program that is very popular with the preschoolers is Lilly Pad Village. On the second floor of the preschool, a group of custom built miniature stores have been built to resemble their actual counter parts. The children love to play in those stores that have related toys to the careers associated with the stored. Through that play, they learn how a business operates.
While the district has a 1-1 ratio for iPads, Patton said there needs to be less emphasis on technology and more on humanity. Research shows this is best for our children, Patton said.
Having time for these programs is an issue. The money is tight and Patton said she couldn't afford to pay for extra days. There is a shortage of teachers in Kansas but the district still wants good teachers for the students. The district also wants to get parents more involved.
The district has 1,338 students enrolled in pre-kindergarten to grade 12. The district budget is $19.5 million with a payroll of $358,000. The district has 151 employees and is the third largest employer in the county. Besides having an impact on the students, the district has a big impact financially in the county.
The district has to change as the demographics changes. With more families qualifying for free or reduced lunches, the district has to fill more needs.
As business owners go into retirement, who will take their place. Will someone be there to take over the jewelry store or the boot repair shop. Finding people to fill those businesses is economic development.