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In the News - ARCHIVED STORIES 2018-2020

Emporia Public Schools
In Case You Were Wondering, Start of the school year

In Case You Were Wondering, Start of the school year

In Case You Were Wondering, Start of the school year
Kevin Case, Superintendent of Schools

Question of the week . . . so, how was the start of the school year? I truly have struggled with providing everyone with the most appropriate response. For me, the response is “Different” and “we are off to a great start”. Please don’t stop reading here, because the word different is neither good nor bad, it is simply different. In this case, I’m using the word different to describe not normal, yet on the other hand, many things were normal. In no way would I associate it with the word bad. So for me different means:

• Positive, Professional Interactions: We have not interacted with students since March 13, in essence, an extended spring break from 5 days, to 10 days, then to 181 days. All of the staff, student, and parent interaction I observed this week has been great. I saw bus drivers giving kind, detailed instructions to students as they exited the bus. I observed friendly USD 253 staff greeting students as they entered the building and classrooms, and I was able to witness some great virtual interactions with both virtual staff and students

• Normal:- I observed many first day of school photo opportunities. This year those pictures were expanded to include about 25% of our student population who will be attending school remotely. Thank you to everyone who shared your first-day photos on social media!

• Stop Worrying About Masks: A worry that ended up not being a worry. There was a great deal of conversation about the ability of students to wear masks along with what will we do if students don’t wear their masks properly? From what I observed, the whole “mask issue” was a “non-issue”. Thank you to our staff, students, and parents for your support. By the way, I truly enjoyed seeing the wide variety of masks that students were wearing. The KC Chiefs masks seemed to be popular throughout all buildings along with widespread support for each Emporia School. I also appreciated the staff member who had a mustache mask on, indicating that he had shaved his mustache off and it made him feel more comfortable at least being able to wear a mustache. I was not disappointed by our fashion conscious staff and students who had a mask that matched or complemented their outfit. For me, “The Coffee” mask was what ended up in my car, no accessorizing on my part.

• Patience: No explanation needed! Blessed that all of our stakeholders are practicing patience.

• Not normal – staff members instructing from home due to quarantine, but able to be with their class even though they can’t be on-site and in-person.

• Normal – positive, we’ve got this attitude by all staff members. I spoke with one of our staff members who is teaching remote learners and she and her class were doing great things without any real challenges, all online. Thank you!

• Collaboration: I would say overall a new sense of a collaboration between staff, parents, and our community has been a byproduct of COVID-19. What an awesome byproduct, all of us working together toward a common goal.

• Normal – technology glitches with great people helping to solve those minor setbacks. In no way can I begin to explain the amount of extra work our technology department has done to make things run smoothly for day 1. On Tuesday evening at 7:30 pm, the entire district was without internet and we were having discussions about the need to possibly cancel day 1 of classes. Hard work and perseverance from our tech department led by Paul Beadles have turned challenge after challenge into possibilities.

• Flexibility: No explanation needed! Much appreciation to everyone for being flexible.

• First Day Always: Everyone was beyond happy to be back in school. Thank you to our preschool and kindergarten parents (and all parents) for your willingness to hand off your “little” to us outside of the school door. I know it is not what we normally do. I was able to observe those transitions from start to finish and they worked really well.

My point in all of this is, we had a great start to the school year. That great start did not happen without thought, hard work, planning, multiple modifications, and the #USD253Family, along with our parents and students, making numerous sacrifices. I am proud to be a member of the #USD253Family and the Emporia Community. We have much to be thankful for, much to be proud of, and much to look forward to. If we all embrace the #WeAreAllInThisTogether mantra, we will have a successful school year despite the setbacks and challenges we will ultimately face. I look forward to joining our staff, students, and community on the journey to experience the 2020-21 school year. Thank you to everyone for your part in making #BackToSchool2020 an #EmporiaProud moment.

USD 253 Receives Significant Donation To Support New Early Childhood Center

USD 253 Receives Significant Donation To Support New Early Childhood Center

Through the passage of the $78 million bond approved by district voters in November of 2019, a portion of the bond will be used to construct a new early learning center to support our three and four-year-old students.  As a result of ongoing conversations with the Jones Trust, it became evident that further developing and expanding our existing partnership would support the vision and mission of both  USD 253 and the Jones Trust.   Today, it is with a great sense of pride, excitement, and anticipation that we announce Bank of America as Trustee for the Walter S. and Evan C. Jones Testamentary Trust has awarded a multiyear grant in the total amount of $6,000,000 to Emporia USD 253 in support of the Early Childhood Center.   This partnership will combine the existing USD 253 bond money along with the Jones donation to provide our students and families with a wide range of early childhood and community-based services.  As we began the dialogue about what could be accomplished if additional resources were available for this project, it became evident that providing wraparound services combined with age-appropriate learning opportunities for our students would be an asset to our students, families, and community.  We are aware of the important role that providing our students with high quality early learning experiences plays in the long term success of students.  This generous and impactful donation will allow the facility which will be located directly west of Riverside Elementary School on property currently owned by USD 253, to meet a variety of needs including:

  • Space for expanded early childhood services including health screenings and services, food pantry, clothing locker, Infant-Toddler Services, Parents As Teachers, Crosswinds counseling services, and additional space for  future community partners;
  • Housing Mobilizing Literacy, one of our existing partnerships with the Jones Trust, which is providing collaborative community opportunities to support early literacy for children from birth to age 5, community daycare providers, private and public preschool-aged children, and families.  These efforts are guided by a board of community stakeholders;
  • Thoughtful design of the facility to meet the current and future infrastructure needs including common, age-appropriate learning spaces, high wind shelters, and age-appropriate community spaces that will provide support for academic, fine and gross motor skill development, and designed to meet the social and emotional needs of students;
  • The ability to meet the changing landscape of early learning including expansion services.  

We are beyond excited about what this donation means for the students and families of our youngest learners.  The combined vision and commitment to providing a strong foundation for our preschool-aged children will impact our community not only today but for future generations.

Transitioning to a November 5 Bond Election

Transitioning to a November 5 Bond Election

At the August 14th USD 253 Board of Education Meeting, the board voted to move the USD 253 bond election to the November 5th general election ballot.  This change was necessary due to a publication error of bond information. While this ultimately delays our timeline 60 days, the importance of ensuring that the district meets all required statutory deadlines was the deciding factor in moving the election to November 5th.

Given the fact that we now have an additional 75 days until the election, the district will continue to focus our efforts on providing district stakeholders with additional information regarding the upcoming bond election.  Our leadership team met earlier this week to discuss ways we can provide additional information to stakeholders regarding the key components of the proposed improvements. First, given the amount of time we have until the upcoming election, we plan to provide a more detailed outline of anticipated additions, renovations, and updates that each building will be receiving.  We plan to release an article each week over the next nine to eleven weeks. We hosted four community meetings in June and July and they were well attended. Additionally, we plan to offer open houses at a number of our buildings. The open house concept will give stakeholders an opportunity to tour the buildings and have informal conversations about the bond issue. More information regarding dates and times will be announced in the next few weeks.  There continues to be a great deal of information regarding the bond at www.usd253.net/bond/.  As additional or new information becomes available, we will also post and share that information.  Individual questions can be directed to communityrelations@usd253.net or kevin.case@usd253.net.  I am also available to talk with you individually and am willing to speak with your group or organization.

Part of the board’s recent discussions included defining the next steps for early learning.  HTK Architects encouraged the board of education to explore options as it related to the existing Maynard Early Childhood Center.  In May, the Board of Education appointed an early learning facilities task force to study the benefits of renovating Maynard or building a new facility.  The task force made the following recommendation at the July 31, 2019 board meeting – It is the recommendation of the Early Learning Facilities Task Force that Emporia Public Schools build a new facility for early learning. The current, $78 million bond scope of work included approximately $7.1 million dollars for renovations at Maynard.  Architects estimate the cost of a new early learning facility would not exceed $9 million. At the August 14th Board of Education meeting, the board voted to direct district administration to work collaboratively with HTK Architects to begin discussions on including a new early learning facility as part of the proposed bond issue.  I have been charged with providing options to the board regarding how to finance the potential $1.9 million dollar difference.  The board and task force both recognize the importance of early childhood education to support our youngest learners and the KSDE Vision for Kindergarten Readiness.  We plan to continue providing updates relating to an early learning facility as we approach the November 5th election date.

If you have not had the opportunity to register to vote, or need more information about voting timelines and options, the information below should be helpful or feel free to contact Tammy Vopat at the County Clerk’s office at 620-341-3243.

Tuesday, October 15th

Voter Registration Closes

Wednesday, October 16th

Advance Mail Ballot Voting Begins

Saturday, October 19th

Saturday Voting (Flint Hills Mall)

Monday, October 21st

Advance Voting in Office Begins-Mobile Voting Begins

Monday, November 4th

Advance Voting Ends (noon)

Tuesday, November 5th

City and School General Election

If you have not taken the opportunity to register to vote, that can be completed via the following link https://www.kdor.ks.gov/apps/voterreg/Default.aspx

Finally, we want to continue to encourage you to make an informed vote on November 5th.  This is a tremendous investment in our students and should not be taken lightly. We encourage you to ask questions, visit the bond website, and attend one of our open houses to fully understand the entire scope of the proposed project.

#InCaseYou’reWondering February 2019 #FacesOfEmporiaSchools and #FriendsOfUSD253

#InCaseYou’reWondering February 2019 #FacesOfEmporiaSchools and #FriendsOfUSD253

#InCaseYou’reWondering February 2019 #FacesOfEmporiaSchools and #FriendsOfUSD253

One of the things I truly appreciate about Emporia Public Schools is our size. We are a large enough district to
have access to a wide variety of services for our staff, students, and families while being small enough to have
that “family” feel. Over the course of the past four months of our district facilities needs assessment, we had
the opportunity to meet with staff members and patrons from each of our PK – 12 attendance centers. During
that time, we were able to gather valuable input from stakeholders about our facilities and our programming. A
number of common themes emerged from those visits, but one theme that stood out to me had to do with the
sense of PRIDE for each individual building that flowed through every community meeting that we held. That
sense of pride was directed toward two areas: a sense of family, and a staff that was willing to go beyond what
was expected of them to meet the needs of the students.

As we continue to reflect on our District Goals that were adopted by the USD 253 Board of Education in August
2018, and evaluate the input we gathered from community leaders, parents, and a diverse cross-section of
USD 253 staff members, we realize that this sense of pride directly relates to two of our District Goals:

  • A. Priority II: Communication and Culture: Commit to meaningful communication between the district and
    stakeholders to foster trusting relationships and build a collaborative culture; and
  • B. Priority III: Personnel: Attract, retain, and develop high-quality staff members who support our
    educational community.

Thus, one of our objectives became, how do we focus our energy and attention on these priorities and use
them to share that sense of district pride with a larger audience?

So, we took that lens and developed concepts called #FacesOfEmporiaSchools and #FriendsOfUSD253. The
#EmporiaProud hashtag has served us well and will continue to be a focus of how we share the great things
that are happening at USD 253. To further complement #EmporiaProud, we are launching an effort to spotlight
our great staff along with the ongoing support that exists with our parents and community. Through
#FacesOfEmporiaSchools and #FriendsOfUSD253, we are encouraging and inviting everyone to be a part of
this undertaking by sharing what you love about Emporia Public Schools.

We hope that you choose to take part in this project, and we encourage you to contact Lyndel Landgren,
lyndel.landgren@usd253.net, our Director of Community Relations, to share your story. We are excited about
continuing to showcase the ongoing #EmporiaProud moments through the lens of our entire school
community. We also look forward to hearing what you love about Emporia Public Schools, and we anticipate
sharing these messages with everyone over the coming days, months, and years. Thank you for helping us to
cultivate, create, and communicate the many #EmporiaProud moments that happen in our schools and
community on a daily basis.

In Case You’re Wondering: #AmericanEducationWeek

In Case You’re Wondering: #AmericanEducationWeek

During the month of November each year, we welcome the opportunity to celebrate American Education Week.  It seems fitting to spend some time this month highlighting that topic. Here at Emporia Public Schools we have 429 certified teachers who devote their days to helping the students of USD 253 and the Flint Hills Special Education Cooperative be successful.  A little further research provides some interesting information about the unique makeup of the great staff that has been assembled to provide unlimited learning opportunities for our students:

  • 49% of our teaching staff has earned master’s degrees or beyond.  A typical master’s degree program requires 36 hours of classes. The additional training that our staff members have completed helps to provide our students with even more opportunities for success.  Those masters degrees are in the areas of Special Education, Curriculum & Instruction, Educational Administration, and Master Teacher to name a few.
  • Additionally, 43% of our teaching staff has completed extra hours or certification tests to receive an ESOL endorsement.  This additional training and certification provides our staff with research-based strategies to help our English Language Learners (ELL) students achieve greater success.  We are proud of the dedication of our staff members and their willingness to spend time, energy, and resources gaining additional training to better support the needs of our student population.  
  • Approximately 25% of our teaching staff has spent more than 20 years teaching for Emporia Public Schools — a lifetime commitment of serving the students and Emporia community.  We are extremely pleased to have this core of veteran staff members providing positive leadership for our district.
  • Finally, our certified teaching staff has accumulated 481 degrees from Emporia State University which means that 88% of our staff has one or more degrees from ESU.  This highlights the great partnership that exists with Emporia State University and Emporia Schools.

During our recent District Needs Assessment Community Meetings, I had the opportunity to listen to the dialogue between HTK Architects and parents and community members at a majority of the site meetings.  There were two trends that were mentioned that spoke volumes about our schools, but more importantly, our staff.

The first question that HTK asked those in attendance was, “What makes your school special?”  That question, without hesitation, was answered, “We have a great staff!” In most cases, the answer was then followed up with, “Here at (your favorite Emporia school name), we have the best teachers in the district.  They really care about our students. They are in tune with the needs of our students.”

Secondly, those at nearly every site talked about the sense of family and community that existed within the buildings.  That sense of family was created because of the ability of our staff to form lasting relationships with each other and, more importantly, with the students and parents.  Building strong relationships takes time, commitment, and effort to grow and develop trust and create a sense of family. It is apparent that our staff is committed to making relationships with students and parents a high priority.

Every day we have a team of dedicated, caring teachers and support staff that provides our students with opportunities to achieve success.  Many times those efforts may go unnoticed as simply a part of a teacher’s daily routine of greeting, teaching, and providing opportunities for our students.  Ultimately, we are blessed to have an incredible staff at USD 253. While American Education Week is a great opportunity to support and celebrate our staff, it would be powerful if we could recognize and celebrate our staff members each and every day for shaping the minds of future generations.  I encourage you to thank your child’s teacher or former teacher during American Education Week and also to acknowledge them with appreciation throughout the school year. Thank you to the staff of Emporia Schools, and we look forward to many #EmporiaProud moments not only during this special week, but throughout the school year.

#InCaseYourWondering: District Needs Assessment – Your Input Matters!

#InCaseYourWondering: District Needs Assessment – Your Input Matters!

District Needs Assessment – Your Input Matters!

In May of 2018, Emporia Schools began the process of performing a district-wide facilities needs assessment.  As part of that process, representatives from HTK Architects of Topeka are currently gathering input about our existing facilities from various stakeholder groups.  To date, HTK Architects has met with USD 253 staff members about current and future needs and will soon be soliciting input from members of the Emporia community to gather additional perceptions of our facilities.  

HTK Architects has had the opportunity to complete tours of the interior, exterior, and building systems at all facilities.  During the USD 253 Board of Education meeting on September 12, 2018, HTK Architects shared information with board members regarding main entry access plans for our buildings.  That information will be beneficial to district staff members as they begin to work collaboratively with HTK to further develop an implementation plan to provide secure entries for our schools.  At the present time, collaborative meetings between HTK and individual building employees are taking place at each of our attendance centers. Currently, that process is approximately 75% complete with plans to finish this phase of the needs assessment by the end of September.  

As we look to October, we are excited to begin the process of gathering input from our parent and community stakeholders.  This input is an important piece of our needs assessment process. We have scheduled times at each building location to talk with community members about their perceptions of our facilities.  We encourage you to join us and share your thoughts at one or more of the community meetings that have been scheduled. If you are unable to attend one of the scheduled meetings, feel free to share with us any input you might have via email to rob.scheib@usd253.net.  USD 253 board members will have the opportunity to share their thoughts with HTK Architects during a board work session on Wednesday, October 10, 2018.  

Once information has been gathered from all stakeholders, HTK Architects will provide board members with the results of the facilities needs assessment.  The current plan is to share these results in January. We have been pleased with the information that the process is generating, and we look forward to hearing from our community stakeholders and seeing the final needs assessment and recommendations.  We hope you will be able to attend one of the meetings listed below or will take a few minutes to email us your thoughts. Thank you for your willingness to be a part of this process.

Monday, October 1, 2018 Riverside Elementary 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm

Monday, October 1, 2018 Village Elementary 5:20 pm – 6:20 pm

Tuesday, October 2, 2018 William Allen White/TPA 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Monday, October 8, 2018 Timmerman Elementary 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Thursday, October 11, 2018 Emporia High School 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Monday, October 22, 2018 Emporia Middle School 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm

Monday, October 22, 2018 Walnut Elementary 5:45 pm – 6:45 pm

Friday, October 26, 2018 Logan Avenue Elementary 11:15 am – 12:15 pm

Monday, November 5, 2018 Maynard Early Childhood 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm

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