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Superintendent’s Message: Changes Ahead in Emporia Schools

Theresa Davidson, Superintendent of Schools

Theresa Davidson, Superintendent of Schools

As you know, the legislature has failed to approve a budget that will adequately provide for commitments made to the people of Kansas.  The “march to zero income taxes” continues to put additional strain on the district’s financial resources as increasing demands weigh on our human resources.  The attacks on education and other public services have brought uncertainty and measured caution to the spirit and process of our decisions.

As a result, our district, like so many others, finds itself in a constant state of crisis.  In recent years, we have been forced to look for “efficiency” in every decision.  In order to afford our own “march” to college and career-ready students, our new reality is one where every vacancy requires us to study whether it should be filled or filled in different way.

Careful management and a strong commitment to our employees have influenced those decisions at every step.  As such, we strive to deal with reductions in force through attrition. With the recent administrative vacancy at Emporia High School, I feel that we must take another opportunity to address the changing needs of our district through attrition.

I have asked Dathan Fischer to fill the role of assistant principal at EHS.  Mr. Fischer has served our district as a teacher, special education coordinator and most recently as principal at W. A. White Elementary for the past three years.  He has proven knowledge and skills that will support EHS in the monumental challenges ahead for Kansas high schools.

At the same time, I have asked Tell Kirk to become the next principal at W. A. White Elementary as well as continuing as the principal for K-8 Turning Point Academy, making way for the movement of K-8 TPA classes from the Kansas Avenue building to W. A. White.  Mr. Kirk also has successfully served our district as a teacher and principal.  The TPA project-based philosophy and learning format will be sustained through the school-within-a-school concept alongside the traditional K-5 neighborhood school.

These changes will allow us to accomplish a number of goals:  notably, a reduction in administrative staff; a permanent home for Turning Point Academy students; the cost-savings of retiring the Kansas Avenue building; the incorporation of Flint Hills Learning Center under EHS administration; and the infusion of a diverse group of learners from around the district who choose to participate in the project-based option at the W. A. White neighborhood school.

For over 10 years, TPA has been located at the Kansas Avenue building.  Its growth has been limited by the lack of facilities and resources available to students in our other schools. As a result, the per-pupil cost, significantly higher than our other schools as noted by the Legislative Post Audit, has left the school in a perpetual state of “temporary.”

Because of these limitations, the district has been hesitant to make long-range investments, such as air-conditioning, gymnasium and cafeteria space, long-term repairs and updates at the site. Although our board of education demonstrates continuing commitment to the TPA choice for Emporia families, the financial resources for a new or updated school site are simply not practical at this time.

I fully understand the magnitude of these decisions and the emotional difficulty that comes with this significant change for our principals, students, parents and staff.  We know that this action will not be welcomed by everyone.  But if we are to continue in our quest to address staff reductions through attrition, we must take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves.

School has dismissed for the summer, so this announcement affects staff, students and parents in  very personal ways.  There will be challenges preparing W. A. White for its additional residents.  Please rest assured that all current staff will continue to be employed by the district.

I have great confidence in the resilience of our staff and in the professionalism that Mr. Fischer, Mr. Kirk, and Dr. Britton Hart at EHS will demonstrate in assuring a transition that, in the end, serves our students who will also experience their own unique brand of change.

It is with the best interest of our district in mind that I make this request of Mr. Fischer and Mr. Kirk!  They are committed to assuring the success of this endeavor and fulfilling the new responsibilities ahead of them.  I ask the community’s support for a successful transition to these new roles and new location for Turning Point Academy.

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