In the News - ARCHIVED STORIES 2018-2020

Emporia Public Schools
Behind the Scenes: Gearing Up for the 2018-19 School Year:

Behind the Scenes: Gearing Up for the 2018-19 School Year:

What really happens at USD 253 during the summer?  For many, it might appear that when school ends in May, the district closes for the summer.  In other words, the inner workings of our school district during the summer simply go unnoticed by many.  The truth is, here at Emporia Schools we have a team of dedicated staff throughout the district that accomplishes a substantial number of projects so that when August rolls around, we are ready to begin the school year.  

Beginning as early as January and often much sooner, our Director of Maintenance, Bob Fancher, begins working with administrators, teachers, and vendors to start the process of planning for summer work that occurs like clockwork each year.  A few major projects that took place this summer include a new roof at Village, a new loading dock at Logan Avenue, renovating an entire classroom at Walnut, and some major kitchen renovations in the EHS kitchen, not to mention the routine deep cleaning, floor waxing and carpet cleaning that take place throughout all of our buildings.  We have an awesome group of dedicated custodial, maintenance, and grounds staff who make sure our buildings are ready inside and out for students and staff when they return in August. This group works tirelessly under the radar to ensure that our facilities are ready for the first day of school.

Another group that works hard during the summer includes Becky, Jason, and Forrest, along with their counterparts at the Transportation Department, to make sure that all of our vehicles are ready to start the school year.  For example, each year the Kansas Highway Patrol completes inspections of the entire fleet of USD 253 vehicles that carry students. This year, like most years, all of our vehicles passed on the first inspection. That does not happen by accident; it happens because great people are working behind the scenes to make sure that our fleet is maintained properly.  This year, our district had 45 buses pass inspection along with an additional 19 passenger vehicles that transport students as well as an additional 36 vehicles that support other areas of our organization.

Other departments that are busy during the summer include Food Service staff members who provided approximately 536 meals each day this summer during our summer meal program.  The Community Relations department began planning for student enrollment shortly after the first of the year and has enrolled approximately 3,700 students to date. Finally, building and district-level secretaries devoted time this summer to make sure that supplies were ordered, salaries were accurate, schedules were updated, and student and parent questions were answered.  District staff organized a summer migrant program designed to help eliminate a loss of academic skills over the summer in which around 50 students participated, and approximately 100 students participated in summer driver education classes.

Certified staff members also spent several days out of their summer working to expand their teaching skill set.  Our lead teachers began their summer by spending three days to revise and expand our curriculum while other staff members received professional training at a variety of locations to learn more about Adaptive Schools, Trauma Informed Schools, International Society for Technology in Education, Kansas Leadership Center, AVID, and specialized training from The Buck Institute.  The bottom line is that our staff members are truly dedicated to growing professionally in order to continue to meet the needs of our students.

The list of summer activities I have shared only scratches the surface of the many activities, accomplishments, and projects that have been completed during the past two months.  As you can see, while most students may not attend classes during the summer, a great deal of coordination, effort, and time goes into ensuring that when all students return to school, they have a great experience.  We are truly blessed to have a dedicated, supportive, and skilled staff that truly cares about the Emporia school community. We look forward to an awesome 2018-19 school year.

In Case You’re Wondering: #MuchToBeProudOf

In Case You’re Wondering: #MuchToBeProudOf

The days on the calendar have transitioned from April to May, the weather outside has abruptly transitioned from 50’s and 60’s to the high 80’s, and end-of-year school activities require an oversized calendar to accommodate the lengthy list.  Yes, it is May at Emporia Public Schools. Too often in all of our busyness we simply lose track of time, and before we know it, we transition into summer activities. At the risk of sounding a bit sentimental, a trip down memory lane to celebrate a few milestones from the 2017-18 school year seems appropriate.  

Sometimes in all of the activity of our daily lives, we forget simply to take a little time each day or even each week just to think about the great things that we have experienced.  If you are a parent of a kindergarten student at Emporia Schools, it is very likely that your son or daughter progressed from being a struggling reader to one who comes home excited about what he or she can read.  Staff members, although ready for the upcoming summer vacation, are taking time to reflect and laugh with students about the many accomplishments and growth that have occurred throughout the school year. We take time at the end of the year to celebrate many achievements ranging from bus drivers being recognized at the statewide bus “Roadeo,” to three schools being honored as Challenge Award winners, to Horizon Award winners and Kansas Teacher of the Year nominees and a Kansas Master Teacher award winner.  And we can’t forget our Capturing Kids Hearts Showcase Nationally Recognized School, our first graduates from an onsite program with a community business partner, and numerous partnerships that have been established among our schools, businesses, and community organizations. This list represents a small percentage of a much larger pool of accomplishments from the past year that includes the personal best achievement at an activity or sporting event, the student, school employee, and parent who worked diligently throughout the year to help create a successful situation that left everyone smiling, and the nearly 6,821 #Emporia Proud interactions that have been shared on Twitter.  Simply said, WE have much to be proud of.

At this time of year, we are in full swing with transition mode.  Emporia Public Schools employs approximately 1,200 employees. It is during this time of year that we celebrate the successes of our current staff who will be retiring or moving to another position.  This year, we have 33 employees who will be retiring. With these retirements, we will be losing 655.5 years of experience, expertise and knowledge. In our district office alone, with the retirement of three employees, we will be losing 85 years of combined experience.  We cannot replace that experience, those friendships, the hard work and the relationships that they have worked so hard to cultivate. To our new hires, we are extremely excited to welcome you to Emporia Schools. We believe it is a great place! To our returning staff, you form the nucleus of the best team assembled at USD 253 in recent years.  Your skills, knowledge and experiences coupled with highly recruited incoming draft picks create great possibilities for the 2018-19 school year. Never underestimate what can be accomplished when a group of great people is assembled. To those looking for the possibility of working in an environment where you can make a difference each and every day for students, we invite you to be a part of our family.  

I can remember having a conversation with my grandmother when I was young, wishing that summer vacation would be here soon.  She simply told me, “Be careful wishing for things to happen too fast, you will end up wishing your life away.” So as you think about the conclusion of the 2017-18 school year, I challenge you not to wish that the school year were over but rather that you work to create memories of the current school year that will propel you into the summer and the upcoming 2018-19 school year.  We have much to be proud of, much to celebrate and much to look forward to. I challenge you to continue to create daily #EmporiaProud moments for your classroom, family, friends and colleagues throughout the remainder of May.

In Case You’re Wondering: #ThenEmporiaWins

In Case You’re Wondering: #ThenEmporiaWins

My wife, Jodi and I had the opportunity to attend the Emporia Chamber of Commerce Annual Meeting recently.  It was obvious by the turnout and the activities that a great deal of thought had gone into organizing and planning this event.  The evening was a tribute to the many positive things that are happening right here in Emporia, Kansas.  Many times we tend to focus on everything that is wrong or that could have been done better.  Thank you to the Chamber for the purposeful planning to make the evening a success.  

I was particularly interested in the remarks by Jeremy Rusco, founder of Dynamic Discs which was named the 2017 Business of the Year.  The remarks were well crafted and mixed with the correct amount of humor, but more importantly, they helped those present to be a part of the successful journey that he, his family, his employees and his business have embarked on during the past 13 years.  The one line that stuck with me that he stated a couple of different times went something like this, “When Dynamic Discs wins, Emporia wins,” and the story went on and he repeated, “When Dynamic Discs wins, Emporia wins.”  For some reason this statement resonated with me throughout the weekend.  If everyone in Emporia — businesses, students, staff, parents, community members and patrons — all embraced this motto, think of what that would mean not only for our whole community but the impact it could have on individuals in our community.

This past month, I had the opportunity to be a part of events that showcased the power of our staff working together toward a common cause.  I was fortunate to spend some time at Village Elementary School for the Capturing Kids Hearts National Showcase School nomination visit.  It was rewarding to see and hear dedicated staff members share their success stories.  The ultimate success story is that when our students win, Village Elementary wins, and when Village Elementary wins, Emporia Schools win, and when Emporia Schools win, Emporia wins.  What if we begin to think about the bigger picture?  What if we begin to think about the exponential benefit that one seemingly insignificant event might have on the community of Emporia?   

Prior to our January 24 Board of Education meeting, we had the opportunity to spend time at the beginning of our evening with approximately 60 members of the Emporia High Student Council.  I think I can speak for everyone in saying that we have a great group of young people who are providing leadership for EHS.  (When EHS StuCo wins, EHS wins . . . .)  The students spent time sharing about the positive experiences they have had this year.  Following that conversation, our board study session focused on the ever-changing landscape of social emotional learning needs.  Approximately 40 staff members, students, board members and community members shared an hour of their time discussing the importance of paying attention not only to academics but also to the social emotional needs of our students, staff and community.  The insight we gained from our time together will help to ensure that we have considered diverse opinions and ideas, thus allowing us to continue to move forward with valued input from a variety of stakeholder groups.  If we can help our students, staff and families to flourish, then Emporia wins.  

When the staff and students at Emporia Schools are successful, it only makes sense that Emporia wins.  It creates a sense of pride and accomplishment in our community and helps us to remember that each and every success we have contributes to bringing Emporia a step closer to what it can ultimately be.   

Imagine if we choose to be intentional about each win that we have, and purposefully consider the impact that it will ultimately have on our community?  I hope that Jeremy’s mantra gets stuck in your head and you begin to see success stories with your family, in your workplace and in our community.  Reflect, smile and then simply say, “With this win, Emporia wins.”

Seasonal Celebration Set for December 20-21

Seasonal Celebration Set for December 20-21

The Emporia Public Schools will present the 82nd annual Seasonal Celebration Dec. 20-21 in W.L. White Auditorium. The program will feature vocal and instrumental holiday music from around the world performed by students at Emporia Middle School and Emporia High School.

The program begins at 7:30 p.m. both nights and the doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Admission will be $3 at the door for school-age children and adults. Preschool children will be admitted free. A dress rehearsal at noon on Dec. 19 at the auditorium will be open to the public at no charge. Sign language interpreters will be at the program both nights, and a section will be reserved for the hearing impaired.

Flash photography will not be permitted in the auditorium for the evening performances but is welcome during the dress rehearsal.

For more information about the program, call Mary Herbert Education Center at 341-2200.

Hart Named KMEA’s North Central Honor Administrator

Members of KMEA North Central District have a special opportunity to nominate an administrator as a candidate for the KMEA NC Honor Administrator Award. This annual award recognizes those administrators who have demonstrated continuing leadership in developing, improving, and supporting music education within a wider commitment to arts education, i.e., music, theater, visual arts, and dance. This year’s Honor Administrator is Emporia High School Principal Dr. Britton Hart. 
Music educators are aware of the importance of principals and superintendents in creating and maintaining successful music programs. School district policy coupled with administrative management decisions pertaining to budget, scheduling, and facilities often have a long-range impact on arts education. Hence, administrators are key players in molding music education curricula. The Honor Administrator Award is an attempt to encourage and recognize the on-going administrative support of arts education in local school districts of Kansas. Dr. Hart’s dedication to all students’ success is evident in his commitment to the arts, teachers and staff.
2:30 PM Concert
Admission: Free Will Donation accepted
Concert Order:
  2:30 – Choir
  3:00 – Band
  3:30- Jazz Band
  4:00 – Orchestra
The award will be presented at the NCKMEA High School Honor Group Concert Saturday, December 2nd at Manhattan High School in Manhattan, Kansas.

In Case You’re Wondering: #AttendanceRevisited

Last month I took the opportunity to share information with you regarding the importance of student school attendance.  Because of the significance of this topic, I felt the need to follow up with additional thoughts and ideas on student attendance.  

At a recent District Leadership Team meeting, we spent some time looking at Emporia school attendance rates at each grade level and compared that to the state of Kansas attendance data.  As we explored the data, one of the things that became clear is how attendance patterns are set at an early age.  After critically looking at Emporia school data, one of the pieces that stood out was the number of students who miss more than 15 days of school as kindergartners.  We know that kindergarten helps to set the stage for a student’s school career in many different ways and is a strong predictor of how successful students will be as they progress through the educational system.  Two of the pillars of the #KansansCan Vision are Kindergarten Readiness and Post Secondary Success. Because of the relationship between kindergarten attendance and long- term student success, it is vital to begin consistent attendance habits/patterns at an early age.

The current data from the Kansas State Department of Education  from the 2016-17 school year indicates that 20.7% of Emporia’s kindergarten students are “Chronically Absent” as compared to the state chronic absenteeism rate of 11.4%.  “Chronically Absent” is defined as students who miss 15 or more days of school each year.  

Attendance data can be examined in a variety of ways.  In the days of the Quality Performance Accreditation System, or QPA as many will recall, school absenteeism was viewed through the lens of “what percent of students were in attendance on a daily basis.”  If we refer back to that data, a six-year average for our overall K-12 attendance rate at Emporia Public Schools was 94.7%.  During that six-year period, the highest rate was 96.6% and the lowest attendance rate was 93.5%.  At first glance, many of us would equate a 94.7% attendance rate to an A if we were using a standard school grading system.   

Currently, we are entering into a new school accreditation cycle called the Kansas Education Systems Accreditation or KESA.  As we dig deeper into the KESA process, we are being challenged to look at the data through multiple lenses.  As we begin to apply those different lenses, one might offer several different perspectives:   

  • We might begin to evaluate the number of students who are missing from school on a given day. In this case, if 6.3% (100% – 94.7%) of our students are missing each day, that would equate to approximately 290 students absent from school on a daily basis.
  • Another lens might spotlight the fact that transition grades (kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades) seem to have higher rates of chronic absenteeism.
  • Yet another lens to employ is the potential impact of absenteeism on entire classrooms. The data suggests that peers of absent students may experience reductions in their achievement levels compared to students that are not dealing with chronically absent classmates.

At our October Board of Education study session, board members, administrators, community members, parents and students in attendance spent time evaluating Emporia Public Schools’ attendance data.  We will continue to look at, discuss, and further define possible solutions to help our students be successful in school.  The first step is helping our community begin to understand the overall importance of students being in school.  

This past week we had the opportunity to hear Kansas State Department of Education Commissioner Dr. Randy Watson speak to our K-8 staff.  He shared the following data with administrators which  tied directly to our ongoing attendance conversations.  The three biggest predictors of success for a student not living in poverty as an adult are:  

  • Reading on grade level by third grade;
  • Graduating from high school;
  • Missing less than 10% of school as a kindergartener.

We know there are many factors that contribute to helping our students achieve success.  The more knowledge we have, along with access to accurate data, allow us to make connections and create opportunities not only for our students, but for our communities.  The final phase of the journey is to help all of our students achieve some form of post secondary success, whether that be a certification, a two-year degree  or a four-year degree.  Based on the knowledge we have of the importance of kindergarten attendance, know that making sure our kindergartners start strong attendance patterns will ultimately affect the level of post secondary success for the class of 2030.

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