SBR: Leadership for Tomorrow visits Wichita, Wellington

By Leah Fliter,

KASB’s Leadership for Tomorrow Class of 2018 visited Wichita and Wellington in September to learn how those districts focus on the needs of each student.

Wichita USD 259 is the state’s largest school district with an enrollment of more than 50,000 students. The school district, in its second year under Superintendent Alicia Thompson, has adopted a mission statement that students and staff will be empowered to Dream, Believe and Achieve. To that end, it offers 27 career and technical education pathways ranging from A/V Communications to Health Science to Web and Digital Communications.

At Wichita Northwest High School, the LFT class observed the culinary kitchen/classroom, the machine shop and the woods shop. Students from each of those programs frequently get internships during high school and often get job offers from local food service and commercial fabrication businesses before they graduate from Northwest. Northwest also has a new IT Academy, which offers coursework in information support services, network systems, programming and software development and web and digital communications. KASB’s Gary Sechrist led the class through a discussion of how USD 259’s programs offered Relationships, Relevance, Rigor, or Responsive Culture, the four elements of the state’s school system accreditation process.

In Wellington USD 353, the LFT class learned about the district’s Mercury redesign work, which focuses on flexibility, personalized blended learning, cognitive skills, project-based learning (PBL), mentoring and acceleration.

The 4th and 5th grades at Kennedy Elementary School and ninth and tenth grades at Wellington High School are piloting redesign this school year. The students and teachers use the Summit Learning platform to support 36 cognitive learning skills like collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. Those skills are among the outcomes sought by the State Board of Education in its Kansans Can vision for the success of each Kansas student. That vision was the impetus for the Mercury and Gemini redesign efforts now taking place across the state.

“The whole purpose is for kids to understand the why behind what’s going on in the classroom and be able to talk about it,” said Wellington High School Principal John Buckendorff. “It’s transferring content into skills.”

Following the Wellington school tours, KASB’s Brian Jordan led the class through a discussion of how the changes it saw taking place in Wellington intersected with earlier class work on leading change. The group also learned about how to target and frame conversations about change.

Haven USD 312 Superintendent Clark Wedel said the LFT program has been an asset for him and his school district. “We’re a [Gemini] redesign district so this is extremely timely and relevant,” Wedel said. “I like seeing how other districts work and how kids react to the changes.”

Wedel said getting to know his LFT classmates has been a highlight of the program. “It’s been so much fun meeting people and seeing them encouraging and motivating each other to learn and grow.”

Wichita Northwest students use equipment in the machine shop, one of several hands-on courses that leads to internships and future jobs.

A class at Wellington USD 353’s Kennedy Elementary School works on a project.

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