LFT class hears from two Gemini districts

By Scott Rothschild, srothschild@kasb.org & Carol Pitts, cpitts@kasb.org

During the first session of KASB’s 2019 Leadership for Tomorrow class, class members learned about the diversity of Kansas school districts and ways to make informed, reasonable decisions that will affect student success.

As part of a get-to-know-you exercise, the class of 27 board members and administrators from across Kansas lined up from smallest enrollment district to largest; then from smallest to largest district in area and from the district with the lowest poverty rate to the one with the highest rate.

The exercise showed the variance in Kansas’ 286 districts. Members also noted that size, location and poverty rates also affected the ability to recruit and retain teachers and drive student success. Class members also noted that even when poverty rates are similar, districts could face different challenges based on whether they were urban or rural.

LFT also heard from leaders and students at the hosting schools — Beloit USD 273 and North Ottawa County 239. Both districts have been realigning school operations as part of the “Gemini” portion of the Kansans Can School Redesign Project.

At Beloit Junior-Senior High, students presented findings from an energy and conservation program in which they designed an efficient wind turbine and analyzed the school building’s energy use and proposed ways to save energy. Trane Corp, supports students and teachers in the BTU Crew program.

Beloit Junior-Senior High Principal Casey Seyfert said the community and students are much more involved in decisions that affect the schools. As part of the Gemin redesign, Beloit students built and run a coffee shop, there are student-led conferences, character education, bullying prevention, more personalized learning and project-based learning and student involvement.

All students at the school are involved in extra-curricular activities and recently the library received a major facelift with new bookshelves and furniture, such as couches, chairs, tables desks, computers and computer chairs. Last year, the school added new classes such as earth and space science, digital media creation and graphic design. Students in these classes produce the school’s banners and promotional material.

The class’ second day began at Minneapolis High School with a discussion of how competing values impact district decisions. The key, the class decided, is to create time for dialogue where both sides of the issues can develop understanding of each other’s points of view.

The remainder of the morning the class learned about North Ottawa County schools and their district’s redesign program. Chris Vignery, superintendent of schools, said the path to redesign is a journey, not a destination.

Staff do the “heavy lifting,” he said, and he stressed the importance of having the support of the board of education, parents and the entire community.

At Minneapolis High School, the class visited the Entrepreneurship Program under the direction of Lana Reinhart, business technology teacher.

Students enrolled in the program develop a business plan and learn how to operate a small business.

Once all expenses are deducted from any proceeds, students get to keep a portion of their earnings, Projects this year include “4-Reel Imprints” embroidery for hats, shirts, and blankets, and Landon Wilson Marketing, a successful vinyl banner printing company.

A visit to three classrooms at the Minneapolis Elementary School gave the leadership class time to hear from sixth grade students on the pros and cons of Summit learning, a technology tool used by North Ottawa County.

Third-graders presented reports on their exploration of area agriculture, and kindergarteners shared diaries they are creating around a project about the insects, animals and their environments.

The project includes monthly visits to Rolling Hills Wildlife Park and working with ‘buddies’ from fifth grade students who are helping the students write and illustrate their books. The final part of the project will be a last visit to the zoo where the kindergartners will serve as tour guides for the buddies.

The next session for Leadership for Tomorrow will be May 2 and 3 with visits to Coffeyville and Neodesha school districts.

Share this post