As this school year draws to a close, our district has had many accomplishments to celebrate. The May BOE meeting last night provided a chance to do just that. Please feel free to send any questions or comments you may have to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Presentation of Awards
This year, the USD 473 Board of Education established two awards that will be given annually to highlight the exemplary work of our teachers and staff members: OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO STUDENTS and OUTSTANDING SERVICE TO THE DISTRICT. Knowing the quality and dedication of all the USD employees, the board realized what a difficult task it would be to select just one person for each award. Therefore, we enlisted the help of the USD 473 employees to narrow our scope. We asked for and then received a number of nominations, which we reviewed. After reading and re-reading the nominations and discussing at length the merits of each, it became apparent that two individuals stood out.
James Bell, math teacher and coach at Chapman High School was given the inaugural award for Outstanding Service to Students. Tara Tiernan, “Nurse Tara,” was bestowed the Outstanding Service to the District award. These two individuals truly embody the qualities we look for in the employees of USD 473: caring, ethical, professional, having a collaborative spirit , being dedicated to kids, striving to be life-long learners, and giving of their time and talents.
An additional Outstanding Service to the District award was awarded to Tony Frieze, Superintendent from 1999 to 2011.
Stacy Smiley accompanied by Cheri Simpson, Rylee Schlesener, Elizabeth Brooks, and Diana June presented three new curricular proposals: a comprehensive preschool curriculum, Tier Level 2 and 3 Reading Resources for grades K-5th, and a Behavioral, Social, Emotional Learning (BSEL) curriculum for implementation at all levels Pre-K through 12thgrade. The teachers have organized research teams to help interpret the district data on reading and English Language Arts as well as social-emotional and behavioral characteristics of students at all grades. All teachers had the opportunity to review reading programs from various curriculum publishers. They unanimously agreed on the choice of materials to adopt. Now, all elementary schools will pursue the same educational goals following the same scope and sequence of skills. And having a third instructional plan to address our behavioral, social, emotional learning district-wide, all grade levels, is a monumental accomplishment. The teachers are enthusiastic about the upcoming year and are looking forward to the specialized training in how to use all materials they will receive this summer.
Superintendent Suther appraised the board of the district’s accreditation process and cycles. The district is in year 4 of a 5-year cycle. We will undergo our accreditation review next school year. Maintaining accreditation demonstrates to our students, parents, and our community the quality of teaching and learning taking place in the Chapman schools. And according to the regulations of the Kansas Department of Education, USD’s cannot operate schools that are not accredited. In the past, individual school buildings were accredited. Now the process accredits the district as a whole.
The Board approved two resignations, one transfer, and five new hires this month. The board reluctantly approved the resignations of two teachers: Lyndsey Saunders, CMS History teacher, and Steve Simpson, CMS football coach. The new hires are:
Kiah Keller – Chapman Elementary School
Savana Gorman – Chapman High School English Teacher
Nick Woodbury – CHS Assistant Football Coach
Connie Mitchell – CMS Secretary
Tim Gottschalk – CMS Social Studies Teacher
And Billy Golden – Transfer to CMS Head Football Coach
We are especially blessed to add these talented individuals to our ranks in their respective positions.
In June, the Board will have a planning retreat during which we will assess our performance over this past year and set goals for the upcoming school year. If you know of a particular area of growth that you feel the district should concentrate on, please let the board members know!
Please reach out to me or any of the other board members if you have questions, suggestions, or concerns. We want to hear from you. Thank you for your continued support of USD 473 and your students attending our schools.
President, USD 473 Board of Education
In this letter I will highlight discussions from the March Board of Education regular meeting. In this month’s meeting, the Board of Education made a change to the District’s Covid protocols, recognized student athletes, added a new policy, accepted donations to the district, and took personnel actions. Please feel free to send any questions or comments you may have to me at email@example.com.
But first…if you have attended a board meeting or viewed the meeting as it is live-streamed, you may get the impression the board just votes “yes” for everything the administration brings to us with very little conversation debating our positions. There is a good reason that our actions might appear that way. The board constantly receives reviews, updates, and reports that help us stay informed about the district’s direction and needs. This information comes directly from our superintendent or through another employee as designated by the superintendent. We aren’t “rubber stamping” any items on the monthly agenda. If any board member has a question regarding any item on the agenda, he or she receives an answer from Mr. Suther prior to the meeting. These questions and answers are shared with the entire board to help keep them informed.
Nurse Tara shared with the board that as reported on the Wednesday reporting days of February 23rd through March 9th, the district saw zero (0) new cases of COVID-19 and had zero (0) active quarantines. This information, coupled with the CDC’s announcement to withdraw their mask requirement on school busses, the board voted to modify our COVID -19 protocols. The board voted 6-0 to remove the mask mandate on our busses. Other successful measures the district has used this year will remain in place and will be reviewed monthly.
Presentations to the Board
Josie Strauss was awarded a third place NCKL medal for trap shooting. During this presentation, Josie’s grandfather, Larry George, spoke of the sport’s history in the district, he being instrumental in founding it. Coach Lukas introduced several members of our girl’s and boy’s wrestling teams, all of whom qualified for State: Chelsey Armbruster, Grace Johns, Julius Raygoza, Brayden Lexow, and Justin Wisner-McLane. These student-athletes have each demonstrated poise and determination to achieve these admirable levels of performance in their sports.
Donations to the District
The board was pleased to accept two monetary donations: one for Rural Center and the other for Chapman Elementary.
Patti Anderes was awarded $5000.00 as the winning applicant for Dickinson County’s 2022 American Farmers Grow Communities Award. The money awarded through this program goes into the community in support of a local non-profit organization. Patti gave the winnings to Rural Center designated to their STEM Education Development Program. This is a substantial contribution that will help Rural Center implement lessons in science, technology, engineering, and math.
The second donation was made by the United Methodist Church in the amount of $580.00 to Chapman Elementary. These funds were designated to benefit students with special medical needs.
The Board approved a resignation and new hire in this meeting. The board reluctantly approved the resignation of Chapman Elementary fifth-grade teacher, Katelyn Morlan. We also approved the hiring of Codie Boyd to take the Chapman Elementary first-grade position opening created by Mrs. Sue Pearson’s retirement.
The board approved a new employee recognition policy that will come into effect this April. Desiring to honor those teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and staff members in any capacity for going beyond the boundaries of their job expectations, the board will annually present two awards in “Outstanding Service to the District” and “Outstanding Service to Students.” Fellow employees will nominate other employees to receive this honor. The board will make the final decision as to who should receive the awards.
Please reach out to me or any of the other board members if you have questions, suggestions, or concerns. We want to hear from you. Thank you for your continued support of USD 473 and our students attending our schools.
I hope you all had a blessed Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!
In this letter I will highlight discussions from the January Board of Education regular meeting. This month’s meeting was a bit uneventful with the exception of a lengthy discussion of the District’s Covid protocols, a presentation by Blue Ridge fifth graders, donations to the district, and personnel actions. Please feel free to send any questions or comments you may have to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After returning from the Christmas/winter break, we saw an increase in our positivity rate among students as well as staff. This was expected. On December 16, 2021, our student and staff combined positivity rate was .52%. The number quarantined was 1.21% for the total district. On January 12, 2022, the positivity rate climbed to 4.77% and the number quarantined was 2.74% of the student population and .45% of the staff. Over this same period, the Dickinson County Health Department released new COVID-19/Omicron guidelines based on new CDC guidelines. The Board agreed to modify our existing protocols to incorporate the changes. The primary change was the reduction of the required isolation period from ten days to five. However, in order to return to school on day six, a number of measures must be met including wearing a mask at all times for an additional five days while on the school campus, increased social distancing, and increased handwashing and sanitizing measures. The updated guidelines are located on the USD 473 website. The Board voted 5-0 to adopt these changes.
Presentations to the Board
Amber Audy, fifth-grade teacher from Blue Ridge, was accompanied by fifth-grade students, Truxton Ellis and Aaralyn Pickerill. The students presented a PowerPoint slide show detailing the class’s recent food drive in support of the Abilene Food Bank. The students did a great job presenting their information. The Blue Ridge fifth-grade spearheads the annual food drive as a traditional school event.
Donations to the District
The board was pleased to accept two monetary donations: one for Enterprise and the other for the Vo Ag program at the high school. The Sarah and Jeremy Hoffman Educational Trust Endowment presented a check for $1,160.00 to Enterprise Elementary. The CHS Vo Ag program was awarded $1,000.00 from Prairie Land Partners. The Vo Ag teachers have worked diligently to help graduates of the program secure jobs at Prairie Land Partners.
The Board approved an early retirement and a resignation at the January meeting. The board members were both excited for Susan Pearson, first-grade teacher at CES, on her early retirement and disappointed that she will not be back to share her nurturing care and teaching ability with our kids. Assistant Baseball Coach, Vic Garcia, resigned from his assistant baseball coaching position. He will be difficult to replace! Searches for replacements for these positions have already begun.
Please reach out to me or any of the other board members if you have questions, suggestions, or concerns. We want to hear from you. Thank you for your continued support of USD 473 and each of our schools.
President, USD 473 Board of Education
November 29, 2021
First, let me apologize for being so late in sharing the Board highlights. November has been a busy month! In this letter I will highlight discussions from the November Board of Education regular meeting. This month’s topics are: old business (Covid update, track update, and public participation policy), presentations to the Board, special awards and donations, and personnel actions. Please feel free to send any questions or comments you may have to me at email@example.com.
Old Business Updates
Tara Tiernan, affectionately known as “Nurse Tara,” reported that the incidence of Covid in our schools is extremely low with positive cases traced to exposure in the community, not in the schools. Our interventions are effective and we will continue to provide sanitation of the schools, social distancing, and hand sanitizing.
CHS Assistant Principal and 7-12 Athletic Director Clint Merritt (more on that later) shared aerial photographs of the newly completed track. The painting crew will return in the spring to repaint the white striping at no charge. We’re ready to use the new track this track season!
The Board voted to return to having public participation as an item on each month’s agenda. Patrons who wish to address the Board must first complete the request to appear and follow the protocol stated on this form and in Board policy. The form is available at the Education Center and will soon be found on our website.
Presentations to the Board
Mrs. Aramowicz, music instructor at Chapman Elementary, previewed a video that the students prepared for Veterans’ Day. The kids did an outstanding job under Mrs. Aramowicz’s direction. The full video was posted to CES’s Facebook page.
A group of teachers representing the high school, the middle school, and the elementary schools presented on the third level of the Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS): Professional Learning Communities. The Board had previously learned about the structure and purpose of the district-level team and the building-level teams. The Professional Learning Communities, or teams, allow for weekly contact between teachers of either the same grade level or the same curricular area. This gives the teachers time to collaborate and coordinate on learning content, teaching sequencing, and building goals. This process strengthens our students’ experiences. At the elementary level, when a district has multiple schools, it is so important that the kids are exposed to the same learning opportunities, no matter which school they attend.
Awards and Donations
SueAnn Wanklin, the STEM teacher at our middle school, was granted a Community Foundation Award that will allow her to purchase four iMac computers for the students. Doug Lindahl from the Foundation was present to announce the award.
The district also received a donation from Sunflower Bank that will afford each school $439.82 to use as they see fit to enhance the students’ learning. The CHS Nurse’s Corner, which provides a store of personal hygiene products free to the students, received a $100 donation from an alumnus who had toured the high school.
Several new hires and employee transfers took place in November. Jenny Elliot transferred from the district gym to Blue Ridge Elementary as the fulltime custodian. This transfer followed the resignation of custodian Adam Woodridge.
We are pleased to welcome three new employees:
Parker Bruce – CHS Assistant Boys’ Basketball Coach, JV position
Kylan Thomas – Assistant Freshman Boys’ Basketball Coach
Brenda Brown – School Nurse
The Board was so pleased to be able to hire an additional school nurse to help carry the current heavy workload that Nurse Tara was handling alone.
We were also very pleased to approve the transfers of Kate Thornton from CHS Assistant Principal to CHS Principal. Kate will be an outstanding lead administrator for the high school. We believe Kate will continue the successful programs begun under her predecessor and will bring additional innovations into the curriculum and operation of the high school.
The second administrative transfer was Clint Merritt from the District Athletic Director to CHS Assistant Principal and 7-12 Athletic Director. Before coming to USD 473, Clint served in this position in another district. His experience makes him up to the challenge.
If this letter rambles, my first-grader came in to help me halfway through the letter! Love that girl, but she can add a lot of time to completing any task!
As always, thank you for your continued support of USD 473 — its students, families, employees, and our community as a whole.
President, USD 473 Board of Education
October 21, 2021
On October 20, 2021, in a Special Board Meeting, the USD 473 Board of Education hired Kevin Suther as superintendent. The unanimous vote followed a lengthy interview. The Board is pleased to be working with Mr. Suther in his new capacity.
USD 473 Board President Monthly Update, October 2021
The month of October was “business as usual” as the Board moved forward on several issues. In this letter I will highlight discussions from the October Board of Education regular meeting. This month’s topics are: special presentations to include SMART Goals, new teacher introductions, Building Leadership Teams, North Central Kansas League request to join, Superintendent search, and public participation policy. Please feel free to send any questions or comments you may have to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rural Center SMART Goals
Cheri Simpson, Rural Center lead teacher, and Savannah Smiley, Rural Center first grader, explained the school’s project to increase the expressions of kindness by the students and staff. The students worked together to create a SMART goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely – all terms the students know and can use!) that within one week 90% of the students would say ‘thank you’ to the school’s cook as they went through the lunch line. By Friday of that week, the students exceeded their target with 92% saying ‘thank you!’ Miss Savannah carried the SMART goal setting a step farther. She and her mother wrote a SMART goal for Savannah to finish reading her chapter book within one week. She was on target to accomplish her goal!
New Teachers Introductions
Twelve new instructors were invited to introduce themselves to the Board. Our district is blessed to have such a professional, knowledgeable, and talented group join our outstanding faculty! The new teachers and staff are:
- Alexa Raney – CHS Spanish
- Kirsten Smallwood – CHS/CMS Band
- Jacob Rutledge – CHS Ag
- Michael Wahlmeier – CHS Math
- Brandon Morse – CMS History
- Lori Erickson – CMS Science
- Merissa Hiatt – CMS English
- Ethan Shippy – CMS History
- Lyndsey Saunders – CMS Science
- Amber Audy – Blue Ridge Elementary 5th Grade
- Angela Bonnema – Rural Center Music
- Dan Kirkpatrick – CES Counselor
Building Leadership Teams
The district is in its second year of implementation of the Kansas Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) program. Through the technical assistance of TASN (Technical Assistance System Network) the district has created multiple teams to address student needs. Last month, the Board heard from the District Level Team. This month we were given an overview of the Building Level Teams (BLT). Each school has a Building Level Team. These teams work to translate the broad district level goals into appropriate actions or programs at their schools. This year the focus is on literacy. An example of how this process works its way to the students was given. At the high school, students, faculty, and staff have created book clubs. They meet each Friday to discuss their book. This program not only supports reading comprehension or understanding, but it also allows students and staff the opportunity to simply talk with each other and build stronger relationships.
North Central Kansas League
Athletic Director, Clint Merritt, informed the Board of a request made by Rock Creek to join the NCKL. Rock Creek is the largest school in its current league. They experience difficulty filling their schedules for JV and middle school teams to the point that in some sports they must scrimmage against themselves. Mr. Merritt believes this would be a positive addition to our league. It requires a unanimous vote of the superintendents of all the districts currently in the league to accept a new school into the league. This vote will take place at their meeting on October 21, 2021.
The Board heard a presentation by Gary Sechrist from the Leadership Services team of Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) about their superintendent search services. They offer Kansas school districts several services for the steps in the process of hiring a superintendent to include a planning session with the board and the new superintendent at the end of the process. The Board is considering its options to proceed as they go about their most important task – hiring the right leader for the students, families, and employees of USD 473.
At the October board meeting we continued the board’s conversation on our policy on public participation. I am interested in providing the public a venue to express their positive, negative, or productive recommendations. This process must be handled in an orderly manner following strict protocols established by Board policy. The Board will have Public Comment on its November agenda as an action item. I’d like to hear from you regarding this opportunity.
Thank you for your continued support of USD 473 — its students, families, employees, and our community as a whole.
President, USD 473 Board of Education
USD 473 Board President Monthly Update, September 2021
The month of September saw many advances for the district as well as one setback. In this letter I will highlight discussions from the September Board of Education regular and special meetings. This month’s topics are: Covid protocols, Leadership Teams, food service funds, track update, the resolution of the disputed natural gas costs from the February cold snap, and public participation policy. Please feel free to send any questions or comments you may have to me at email@example.com.
Temporary Change in Leadership
After three hours of deliberation at the September 13th special board meeting, Superintendent Jerry Hodson was placed on administrative leave. The Board appointed Chapman High School Principal Kevin Suther as interim superintendent. Mr. Suther has 21 years of administrative experience in our district and holds a superintendent’s certification. Kate Thornton, Chapman High School Assistant Principal, was named as the interim high school principal. Clint Merritt will serve as the assistant principal and continue in his current position of District Athletic Director. I trust these individuals implicitly and know that our district is in very capable hands.
The Board reviewed the data for the number of positive Covid cases and quarantines throughout the district. Our district-wide positivity rate is 2.4%, which is down from the week before. We are continuing practices established last year for social distancing, increased hand washing/hand sanitizing, and sanitizing classrooms and shared spaces such as the gyms and cafeterias. The Board was pleased and somewhat relieved that these measures seem to be working. Of the 42 staff and students quarantined as of Wednesday, September 15th, 2021, ONLY ONE resulted from a contact at school. The 41 other quarantined individuals were all exposed outside of the school community. We will continue as is and review the situation again at the October Board meeting.
District Leadership Teams
The district is in its second year of implementation of the Kansas Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) program. Through the technical assistance of TASN (Technical Assistance System Network) the district has created multiple teams to address student needs. The teams range from district level, comprised of all administrators, to professional collaborative teams of teachers of the same grade level. These teams have worked diligently to jointly rewrite the districts vision, mission, and goals statements so that these align with our focus on our overall purpose “to do what is best for ALL students.” All teams, from teachers, to building level teams, to district level teams, to the Board will support the district’s efforts to fulfill these statements. The Board aims to be an active participant in this conversation in order to support the same vision.
Food Service Funds
Since the return of face-to-face instruction last year, the federal and state governments have provided free breakfast and lunch for all students. This has resulted an increase of funds specifically earmarked for food services. This has proven to be beneficial for our district. By law, the food services funds can only be spent in support of the food program. After paying for the food bill from OPAA, our meal provider, we have accumulated a healthy fund. Since these monies can only be used in support of our food services, we were pleased to be in a position to make much needed replacements to older equipment in our schools to include commercial ovens and stove tops, dishwashers, refrigerators, and smaller pieces of equipment necessary for food preparation. If the excess fund amounts continue to accumulate, we may possibly be able to provide meals in the summer of 2022 or start the next school year with a positive fund balance.
The district track is on target to be completed by October 1st. The total cost of the project exceeded the agreed upon contract amount; however, the district will not be responsible for these cost over-runs since the district will have paid the maximum amount by the time the track is finished. The much-needed reconstruction of the track and the enhancements to the scoreboard have been goals for a number of years. The investment in this project will be an investment in our students for years to come.
Resolution of Disputed Natural Gas Costs
You undoubtedly remember the week-long arctic cold spell Kansas endured last February. As a result, USDs across the state were hit with astronomical natural gas bills, often three to four times a typical winter month’s payment. At that time USD 473, along with several other school districts, was a member of an energy pool secured through the (KASB) Kansas Association of School Boards’ energy program (KJUMP). Because of this massive increase in fuel costs to member districts, KASB secured a new marketer to provide the natural gas for this pool. The new marketer has agreed to charge a flat rate of $4.26 per MMbtu for the term of the contract, which is five years. This price is below the standard market price if we were to obtain our natural gas individually through a carrier. The flat rate will enable the district to budget accurately for the next five years. As for the February gas bill? KASB and their attorneys negotiated a settlement, which effectively cut our amount owed in half.
At the regular September board meeting I began a conversation with the Board regarding our Board policy on public participation. I am interested in providing the public a venue to express their positive, negative, or productive recommendations. This process must be handled in an orderly manner following strict protocols established by Board policy.
Public comment is not the appropriate time or place to voice complaints. The district has a complaint process that follows the chain of command. Any comments brought before the Board in public participation that identify any staff or students by name or position will be immediately terminated. This is not the proper forum for complaints.
If the Board decides to include public comment on its agendas, there will be a set of standard requirements. The first is that those wishing to express their opinions must complete the request form (available at the Education Center) and submit it FIVE days before the meeting at which they wish to speak to the Board. The notification prior to the meeting allows the administrative team and the Board time to research the subject that you plan to present, and determine whether or not your concern can be addressed elsewhere at the building or district level. Second, the patron will have five (5) minutes to present their facts or beliefs. Therefore, having your points written out and read will be more beneficial to you to get your points across. Third, there will be no board discussion or debate about your presentation; however, you can be assured that the Board will consider your comments and act appropriately whether you see the immediate outcome or not. Fourth, if comments become combative, confrontational, or inappropriate, the Board will reconsider keeping public comments as part of their regular agenda. I want to hear from you and hope to make this available to you in the near future.
Thank you for your continued support of USD 473 and each of our schools.
President, USD 473 Board of Education
September 8, 2021
In a special meeting of the Board of Education on September 7, 2021, the Board voted unanimously to place Superintendent Jerry Hodson on administrative leave until further notice. The Board, also in a unanimous vote, named Chapman High School principal Kevin Suther as interim superintendent.
August 20, 2021
To the Patrons of USD 473, Greetings!
Each month I will post a recap of highlights from that month’s Board of Education meeting as well as feature some of our schools’ accomplishments. You will find this post under the Board of Education link on the homepage of our website: www.usd473.net. This month’s topics are: return to school protocols, the budget, Revenue Neutral Rate, and Kansas Educational Systems Accreditation (KESA).
Return to School Protocols
After a lengthy discussion, the Board approved the return to school protocols to include making the wearing of masks optional. We will monitor the positivity rate and number of new cases of COVID-19 and the Delta variant as we progress through the fall. The Board will review the situation on an on-going basis. The district has posted its “COVID-19 Quarantine Protocols for School Exposure” on the website. Just a reminder, if you or your student is exposed to COVID-19 while at home or in the community, you/they should quarantine at home. The quarantine protocols apply only to exposure at school.
This year’s budget has been completed. We will have the Budget Hearing on the morning of August 23rd at 7:45. Prior to that, we will have a hearing on the Revenue Neutral Rate at 7:30 AM. The Revenue Neutral Rate (RNR) is a new state law that became effective this budget year.
The district’s budget is calculated using mills. One mill is equal to 0.001 of a dollar, or $1.00 for every $1000.00 of assessed property value. By state law, all USDs in Kansas are required to assess 20 mills to support their district’s general budget fund.
The Revenue Neutral Rate (RNR) is calculated on a dollar amount regardless of the millage rate. To illustrate, if our budget was $1million last year, the state legislature wants us to assess our 20 mills and also to cap our current year’s budget at $1million. However, if our current millage rate generates more than $1million based on assessed property values, the district must seek authorization to exceed that cap. Most if not all USDs in our state will be seeking this authorization to exceed the RNR cap.
Kansas Educational Systems Accreditation (KESA)
The Kansas Education Systems Accreditation (KESA) is the state’s accrediting process for K-12 schools, which accredits the schools at the district level. Accreditation at the system (district) level is intended to create comprehensive change within and among the individual schools across the district. The Kansas State Board of Education identified five goal areas believed to produce a successful high school graduate. These goals are:
- Social-Emotional Factors Measured Locally
- Kindergarten Readiness
- Individual Plans of Study
- High School Graduation
- Postsecondary Success
The KESA model focuses school districts on meeting these goals. The Board of Education aligns its goals with these aims. The Board will meet with the district directors and building principals later in September to turn the board goals into action steps.
I’ll reach out to you again following the September BOE meeting on Monday, September 13th. Thank you for allowing us to share in your children’s lives. They are our future.
President, USD 473 Board of Education