January is School Board Recognition Month and USD 428 joins other public schools across the state to say thank you to these public servants who are working to make education the best it can be.
“These extraordinary seven individuals provide the leadership and vision to make great things happen in our schools,” said Khris Thexton, interim superintendent. “They volunteer countless hours by attending meetings, reading reports and discussing ideas. They also participate in workshops and seminars so that they can stay on top of education issues and trends. They provide an invaluable service to our community.
“Our school board members develop policies and make tough decisions that help shape the future of our education system,” Thexton said. “They bear responsibility and oversight for an annual budget of $60,000,000, 2,900 students, 710 employees and 12 buildings.
“I ask everyone to take time to thank our board members,” he said. “We are so fortunate that they are willing to sacrifice their time and talents to advocate for our community and our schools. Their job is sometimes challenging and they don’t often hear words of encouragement and appreciation.”
School board members serving USD 428 and their years of service are: Joyce Carter, president, eight years; Chris Umphres, vice president, two years; Cheryl Rugan, six years; Dr. Larry Kutina, eight years; Kevin Mauler, 15 years; Susan Young, two years; and Lori Reneau, two years.
Riley School PE Teacher Bryan Scott strategically placed boxes of tissues around the school gymnasium. Very few people understood the significance until minutes later when it became very clear.
Pam Merten, Barton County Special Services paraprofessional, was wide-eyed with surprise as her son, Cory, emerged from behind the stage during a flag etiquette program by the American Legion Riders Patriot Guard. Cory, a U.S. Air Force airman, surprised his mother between deployments in South Korea and Germany. It had been a year since she had seen him and he will have a three-week leave.
As mother and son hugged, teary-eyed staff members reached for the tissues.
Principal JoAnn Blevins said the conspiracy to surprise Pam began a couple of weeks ago with an idea from Mike Merten, Pam’s husband. Together the two planned the ruse using the Patriot Guard who descended on the school riding flag adorned motorcycles.
“We told the kids it was a flag-etiquette program,” Blevins said. Children rose when the guard entered the gym carrying American flags and stayed standing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance.
“It was really hard to keep this little secret from my wife,” Merten said.
Cory agreed, laughing. “She can be really nosy and ask a lot of questions.”
The young airman was given a plaque of support for his service and a special flag during the short, but moving, ceremony.
“We do this so that no one who comes home is forgotten,” said Roy Titsworth during the presentation. The sentiment was shared by his compatriots who, while holding American flags, were visibly tearing up and in need of some of Scott’s well-placed tissues.
There are many great things that happen at Great Bend High School on a daily basis. The National Honor Society Food Drive is just one example, said Kayci Strickland, NHS sponsor and English teacher.
“I’m proud of the NHS members for their goals, their determination and their passion for helping people,” Strickland said “It’s a privilege for me to be their sponsor.”
During a five-day food drive from Nov. 14-18, NHS members orchestrated an event that netted nearly 1,600 pounds of food for the local food bank. In the past four years, they have gathered more than six tons of food to feed local people in need.
“This is a tremendous act of service and the NHS members have fully invested themselves in this cause,” she said. “They know there is a need within our community – sometimes even within our own school – and they want to help.
“By participating in this food drive, they’re making a difference and they know it. That’s why this group of young people is so remarkable – they truly have a heart for serving others.
“This year’s officers Allison Muth, Konner Ireland, Maddy Otter, Ashtin Heath and Kaitlyn Moos have been outstanding,” Strickland said. “I couldn't do this project without all of their help, but all of our members step up to volunteer during this project.
“Students make posters, collect, count and box the food and help load it on the trailers when it’s picked up,” she said. “It takes the whole club to make this event happen and everyone works really hard.
“We’ve always deemed our food drive a success simply because we’re helping our community. We set big goals each year, but we’re grateful for any donations we receive, regardless of our numbers.
“This year, the five NHS officers decided that they weren’t satisfied with the goals of past donations. They were determined to collect even more and they wanted to reach out for community support,” she said.
That’s why the Great Bend Public Library became a drop-off site.
“It’s been wonderful to work with the library staff and have them get involved with this project,” she said.
Tami Schepmann, Great Bend Middle School ESOL/Reading Lab teacher and Student Council sponsor, loves it when a plan comes together.
So when Lisa Schwab, Head Start teacher, reached out to her with a need for her young students to increase their literacy levels, Schepmann was eager to help her pull a plan together.
Panther Pals was born.
“Weekly, the students from Head Start are coming to the middle school and our students are taking turns reading to them,” Schepmann said.
“This is part of our community involvement goal,” Schepmann said. “It is also helping Head Start with their goal of increasing literacy with their students.”
Great Bend Public Children’s Librarian Dayna Ball has been helping by selecting age-appropriate books.
Schepmann said that Head Start students walk to GBMS. Middle school students greet them at the door and then read to them.
“Middle school students are so excited about participating and are anticipating their turn,” she said.
“Even my English learners have had the opportunity to practice reading fluency and read with the preschoolers,” she said. “It’s a real win-win.”
It was old home week recently for Tricia Reiser, Federal Programs Director, as she invited her long-time friend and colleague to share his knowledge of Discovery Education (DE) with local instructional leaders.
Reiser explained that DE, a comprehensive digital resource that the district subscribes to, has what it calls a superintendent in residence. Her friend, Dwight Jones, serves as that education leader.
“Dwight leads the Discovery teams of educators across the U.S. in transforming districts to digital literacy,” Reiser said, “His charge is to travel the country to work with district leaders as they work to prepare students for the 21st century – teaching and learning.”
She noted that the district spends a lot of money on DE and the teachers really appreciate the streaming component. The special workshop helped teachers learn to use it to its full potential.
“Instructional coaches learned about the many components of DE,” Reiser said. “Educators in the district have been aware and utilizing the streaming videos that DE provides, but it offers so much more than just the videos.
“The purpose of the DE training was to become familiar with how DE can help teaching and learning in our district,” she said. “We want teachers to use DE and take advantage of everything it has to offer. DE has a plethora of resources and activities that promote teaching and learning.
The instructional coaches found the presentation, titled “Five Ways High Quality Digital Content Helps Close the Achievement Gap” to be very helpful.
“The coaches have been given the charge of sharing with the teachers in their buildings about DE,” Reiser said, noting that plans are in the works to continue a partnership with the DE for more training and professional development.
“Once the word is out about what DE has to offer, we believe that its usage will increase,” she said.
Discovery Education is designed and driven by state standards and uses engaging multimedia resources. It offers a portfolio of opportunities for districts to meet students where they want to learn in the digital age.
Discovery Education provides:
Extensive video library including videos from Discovery Channel, Scholastic, BBC, PBS and NASA. The basic package has content from more than 150 educational producers.
Image and audio libraries, an interactive atlas and encyclopedia articles. There are also add-on video libraries, such as a language pack that includes video clips in more than 30 languages.
Clips aligned to K-12 national and state curriculum standards. Many are organized according to themes and teachers can search for relevant clips by keyword, subject, grade level and curriculum standard. Search options for closed-captioned videos and videos in Spanish. Streaming that provides a library of lesson plans and suggestions for incorporating the videos into all areas of study.
Quiz builders: Teachers can create multiple-choice quizzes that students fill out using a computer. The quizzes are graded automatically and teachers can view the results, including the answers the students chose.
Writing prompts: As with the quizzes, teachers create the prompts and students complete the assignments using a computer. There’s also a library of prompts for a variety of writing styles, from expository to narrative.
Editable videos: Teachers can use video editing software to customize certain clips.
Professional Development: Discovery Education offers a wide array of complimentary professional development options that allow educators to learn more about integrating technology into the classroom.
Discovery Educator Network: A Discovery Education streaming subscription includes an invitation for all educators to join to the Discovery Educator Network (DEN). The DEN currently includes more than 88,000 members nationwide, providing professional development to more than a half a million educators.
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