Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Safe Finish and New Start

     It’s hard to believe that another school year is almost complete, but in less than a month, high school graduations and 8th grade promotions will occur. What a year it has been. I congratulate all of the students on their efforts to succeed and to the staff for providing their caring instruction. As each of our students finish their last month of school this year, I encourage them to work hard and strive to do their very best in preparation for a new start next school year and remind everyone to stay safe and continue their learning throughout the summer.
     What have we accomplished this year? We began new career pathways in the high schools with several introductory courses that could be taken in the 8th grade. The career and technical education teachers met with community committees, updated their academic plans and looked at new career pathways that could be added for the next school year. We implemented a complete new English-Language Arts series (the first in many years) for our elementary students which complements our elementary math series (in its second year of implementation), but also updated the math series to focus on the new common core standards. A district curriculum team met monthly to develop and align the curriculum for all grades K-12 and will continue next year with development of the common core standards transition plan. We began development of the Multi-tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to help our struggling readers or math students. Each building has a team who analyzed data to determine which students could benefit from tiered instruction and full implementation should occur next year.
     We worked closely last year with Kingman County Emergency Management, Kansas Homeland Security, Kansas Safe and Prepared Schools, and the emergency responders to evaluate the schools’ vulnerabilities and to improve their safety and security. This school year, each teacher has a classroom crisis kit, entrances are limited with access controlled by the office, and soon we will have enhanced and expanded video inside and outside each school. Mr. Jerry Tenbrink (Director of Kansas School Resource Officers’ Program of the Attorney General’s Office) stated that parents want to know their kids will be safe and in some portions of the state, they pick their schools based upon safety and security of the schools. Each staff member has an identification badge and all teacher badges also serve as an electronic access to the building. Emergency Operations Plans along with training have been updated in each building and a comprehensive district plan is near completion.
     Students, too, have made great strides. Kingman High School student council along with Norwich High School Students against Destructive Decisions (SADD) co-sponsored two activities where a national speaker and local celebrities and local law enforcement all spoke and celebrated in improving the school and community climate. The elementary and middle schools were involved separately where Kingman Elementary piloted the Steps to Respect program and will be honored in Topeka in early May. The Steps to Respect program was expanded to Kingman Middle School and Norwich Elementary and Middle schools. Additionally, a Kingman High School Alum, David Hill, worked with Kingman Middle School to begin the “One Spark” program which essentially is a program to start a “spark” of kindness rather than douse others with a bucket of water, thus drowning their hopes and dreams. Kingman Middle School has done several community projects including visits to the local nursing home and clean-up projects as a result. Do you believe these great programs expand? Kingman High School now is the only high school who is beginning their own chapter of “One Spark” and KHS has revived their SADD program.
     Both Norwich High School and Kingman High School have applied for a grant with the Kansas State Department of Education called the S-3 grant. S-3 is designed to look at all types of safety and security with a particular focus on school climate. If this grant is received, additional focus will be given to improving the climate at each high school ultimately to help each student succeed in a positive school climate.
Finally, our collaboration with local law enforcement will allow us to expand our safety and security even further. They will continue to use the schools for training so they can respond quickly and appropriately in case of an emergency. We will be updating all radios for improved communication along with video access on an emergency basis. The police are in the process of obtaining a dog that can renew searches in the schools for drugs and the sheriff recently provided me a public website to assist parents and teachers in identifying signs of illicit drug use.
     I believe the school district has made great strides in academics and curriculum, school climate, safety, security, and emergency preparedness. We continue to work to improve our seamless integration of technology into our instruction, added blogs, Facebook, and enhanced phone messaging system to improve communication, and develop 21st century skills our student must have to compete. The district is committed to continual improvement in all facets of educating our students and appreciates the support you have given our students, teachers, and staff through the journey.  The journey continues.