USD 428 News

3rd Place West District Congress Sweepstakes: Quinton Heath, Rhys Froetschner, Hunter McClanahan, Chrisangel Adame, Milena Carbajal, and Parker Coleman

National Qualifier Milena Carbajal

GBHS Panthers -- 2nd place at Manhattan High School Invitational: Zachary Hart, Darcy Feist, Reese King, Milena Carbajal, and Chrisangel Adame

Milena Carbajal Qualifies for the National Speech Tournament

March 12, 2024

The Great Bend High School Speech and Debate Team had an outstanding showing at the National Qualifying Student Congress Tournament at Newton High School on March 8.

The tournament hosted ten West Kansas District schools with competitors of all Kansas school classifications mixed together. The Great Bend team’s combined scores earned them the distinction of third place behind Hutchinson and Salina South. A field of 55 students debated in the mock Congress with the goal of qualifying for the NSDA National Speech and Debate Tournament in Des Moines, Iowa this June. The Panthers came away with one qualifier: senior Milena Carbajel qualified to represent West Kansas in the House of Representatives. In addition, Senior Chrisangel Adame was second alternate for National Qualification in Congressional Senate Debate after a strong Congress performance.

Freshman Parker Coleman and sophomore Quinton Heath were finalists in the Supersession of the House of Representatives. Underclassmen Rhys Froetschner and Hunter McClanahan also had a good showing in the House with several excellent speech scores.

The Panther Forensics team will have one more opportunity next month to qualify additional students to compete with the best in the nation. The West Kansas district national qualifier for individual speech events will take place the third weekend in April. This will be the fortieth overall year the team has qualified students for the national meet.

Head Coach Kim Heath was extremely proud of the GBHS team. "These students spend so much time and work so hard to prepare for their debates," said Heath. "It is a privilege to work with every one of our students, and these debaters all demonstrated so much personal and skill growth since the beginning of the season way back in September."

Great Bend Forensics 2nd Place at Large Manhattan Tournament 

A set of five varsity forensics students won the 2nd place team sweepstakes trophy at Manhattan High last Saturday finishing behind Lawerence Free State. 

The team was led by Seniors Carbajal and Adame. Carbajal placed seventh in Poetry, first in Program of Oral Interpretation, first in Dramatic Interpretation and first in Duo Interpretation with Junior Darcy Feist. Adame placed 2nd in Impromptu speaking, 5th in Informative speaking and 7th in Prose Interpretation.

In addition to the first place in Duo Interpretation, Feist also earned a 2nd place medal in Original Oratory and a 3rd place award in Program of Oral Interpretation.

Another Junior Reese King placed 3rd in Informative speaking and 5th in Oratory. The only Sophomore on the team Zachary Hart finished 6th in Humorous Interpretation.

Heath said, “The fact that five students were able to gain enough points to place in the team sweepstakes shows how talented these students are in a variety of competitive events. Their commitment to constantly improving is commendable and forms the foundation of our team. With the second half of the forensics season looming just ahead, I'm excited to see how far this team can go.” 

While the varsity was at Manhattan, a young group of Panther forensics students competed at Clay Center. Parker Coleman earned a 4th Place award in Extemporaneous Speaking. Hunter McClanahan was 7th in Informative and

Kaitlyn Froetschner was 7th in Original Oratory.

Next up, the team will stay close to home for a few invitationals. Most of the Panther Forensics team will compete at either Hays or Hoisington when the students return from Spring Break.


February 13, 2024

The Great Bend USD 428 Board of Education approved the appointment of Mr. Brock Funke as the next Principal of Great Bend High School at their monthly meeting held on Monday, February 12. His position will be effective August 1, 2024, after the retirement of current GBHS Principal, Tim Friess.

A graduate of Fort Hays State University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education and a Master of Science in Education ESOL & Curriculum from Newman University, Mr. Funke brings extensive experience and training to his new role. His professional journey began at Park Elementary School in Great Bend in 2011 as a Teacher/ Instructional Coach, before returning to his hometown of Washington, KS in 2019 to serve as a secondary Social Studies Teacher and Junior High/High School Building Principal since 2020.

Known for his motto, "Every student. Every day. Whatever it takes.," Mr. Funke is committed to the success and well-being of each student. USD 428 Superintendent Khris Thexton, expressed confidence in Mr. Funke's leadership capabilities, stating, "We are fortunate to have Mr. Funke return to our district. His determination, work ethic, and strong connection with students make him an ideal candidate for this role at GBHS. We believe he will continue to foster a positive and inclusive learning environment at GBHS where students can thrive."

Excited about the opportunity to return to Great Bend, Mr. Funke said, "Great Bend gave me every opportunity to grow not only as an educator but as a person. It is a very special place, and I'm excited to call it 'home' once again."

The community is invited to join USD 428 and Great Bend High School in welcoming Mr. Brock Funke as the next Principal of Great Bend High School.

For questions, please contact the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500.

Eisenhower mural celebrates the life of former custodian, Joe Murphy

February 1, 2024

Thanks to a memorial gift in honor of Joe Murphy, former custodian at Eisenhower Elementary, students and staff will be inspired by an eagle mural recently installed in the Eisenhower Gym.

After "retiring" from Midwest Energy after a 30-year career as a technical systems coordinator, Murphy began a second career at Eisenhower as a custodian where he worked for 20 years until the age of 77. Murphy passed away on October 31, 2023, and the family designated Eisenhower Elementary as a beneficiary of memorials collected in his honor. A dedication reception was hosted on January 31, bringing together past and present Eisenhower staff as well as Joe's sons, Patrick (of Wichita) and Mark (of Olathe) for the celebration.

Abby Jonas, principal, and Tricia Reiser, former principal, offered remarks about Joe's dedication to his job and the students and staff he served. The mural was painted in December during Winter Break by Anna Popp, Great Bend native. Jonas extended her appreciation to the Murphy family as well as the Eisenhower PTO for their assistance in bringing this mural to life for students to enjoy for decades to come.

Stefanie Herter receives "Be our Guest" Community Impact Award

January 16, 2024 - Courtesy of Great Bend Post, by Cole Reif

The Be Our Guest Academy was launched in January 2023 to improve customer service in Great Bend. A customized training educates participants on Great Bend’s attractions to pass on to visitors.

Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Christina Hayes said the CVB Board accepted nominations for the 2023 Frontline Employees of the Year.

"These awardees excelled in customer service, positive talk about Great Bend and are willing to share it," said Hayes. "One is a city employee and one is a community employee. We named them both Frontline Employees of the Year."

Completing the online training, Stefanie Herter from Jefferson Elementary School and Monica Villalobos Medrano from the City of Great Bend Front Door utility building were awarded plaques at Monday’s Great Bend City Council meeting.

The training takes roughly three hours to complete and businesses can have their staff participate to become more knowledgeable about Great Bend’s attractions. Sign up at

Cody Cale receives R.O.S.E. Award

January 8, 2024

Cody Cale, District Support Specialist, is nominated for the R.O.S.E. Award. Cody was at a varsity basketball game and noticed a person in distress was turning blue as they exhibited the universal sign of choking. Cody quickly proceeded to perform the Heimlich maneuver to eject a throat obstruction. Cody’s quick response and knowledge of the maneuver changed a dangerous situation into a positive ending. Thank you, Cody, for being present and knowing how to respond!

The Board of Education’s continuing efforts to recognize individuals or groups for their services to the school district, the R.O.S.E. (Recognizing Outstanding Support of Education) Award was created.

Great Bend Panther Debate Team Shines in Recent Tournaments

October 23, 2023

The Great Bend High School Debate Team has had impressive performances in a series of tournaments over the past several weeks. These talented young debaters have showcased their determination and skill, securing top positions and gaining valuable experience along the way.

McPherson Tournament - September 23rd - The recent string of successes began at the McPherson Tournament on September 23rd, where the Great Bend Panther Debate Team secured the 3rd place sweepstakes trophy.

In the Junior Varsity Division, the Sophomore duo of Rhys Froetschner and Quinton Heath dominated the competition, emerging as champions with four wins and only one loss. Their exceptional skills and teamwork earned them a well-deserved victory.

Caroline Vandenberg and Keaton Kruckenberg also delivered an impressive performance in the Junior Varsity Division, finishing with a commendable 4-1 record, which secured them a 5th place position.

In the Varsity Division, Chrisangel Adame and Lea Nokes fought hard, winning two rounds and facing three losses. Milena Carbajal and Zachary Hart had a similar performance, with two wins and three losses. Analeah Ochs, Chanler Riley, and Theo Hopkinson-Smith finished the day with one win and four losses.

The Novice Division showcased the talents of Dominik Zimmerman and Madison Drewel, who achieved an impressive 4-1 record and secured a 6th place finish. Also in Novice, Freshmen Kaitlyn Froetschner and Kendra Scheideman, along with Trista Riley and Jordan Ochs, faced tough competition and gained valuable experience, finishing with one win and four losses each.

Halstead Tournament - September 30th - The team continued to impress at the Halstead Tournament on September 30th.  In the Varsity  Division, Juniors Darcy Feist and Reese King accumulated three wins and two losses. Freshman Kyra Lewis and Sophomore Ailey Williams competed in Open and won one of their five rounds.

The Novice Division was equally competitive with Freshmen Rey Portillo and Hunter McClanahan earning two wins and facing three losses.  Another Freshman team made up of Dominik Zimmerman and Madison Drewel had three wins and two losses.

Kinsley Novice Night - October 5th At the Kinsley Novice Night on October 5th, the team continued to shine.

Freshmen Trason Stevens and Hunter McClanahan faced stiff competition with three losses. However, Kaitlyn Froetschner and Sheridan Johnson stole the spotlight with a flawless performance, winning all three rounds and finishing in 2nd place after a speaker point tiebreaker.  Junior Brandon Morgan and Freshman Parker Coleman demonstrated their capabilities with two wins and one loss.

Wichita South East and Hays Tournaments - October 14th - The Great Bend Panther Debate team took a break from competition on Saturday October 7th to host a tournament for 12 area schools.  But the team was immediately back on the road the next Saturday for not one, but two competitions. 

The Panther Varsity team traveled to compete at a sizable tournament at Wichita South East.  The senior team of Milena Carbajal and Thomas Henrikson and the team of Lea Nokes and Ellie Damm both had a record of 2 wins and 2 losses for the day. 

Also on October 14th, a different group of Panthers debated at Hays.  Hays recently reestablished their debate program and had not hosted a tournament for several years.  GBHS won the second-place sweepstakes trophy.  Freshmen Brinley Creamer and Mila Shives placed 2nd in the Novice Division, winning four rounds and losing one. Freshmen Trista Riley and Jordan Ochs placed 9th with a 3-2 record. In the Open Division, Analeah Ochs and Chanler Riley won three of the five rounds and placed 4th.

Hoisington Tournament - October 21st - At the Hoisington Cardinal Nest Debate tournament on October 21st, the varsity debaters led the Panthers to a 2nd Place Sweepstakes finish.  McPherson took the top spot with Great Bend only one win behind first place. In the Open division, Darcy Feist and Milena Carbajal placed 2nd, and Tommy Henrikson and Chrisangel Adame finished fourth. Both varsity teams had four wins and one loss.  In Junior Varsity, freshmen Dominik Zimmerman and Kyra Lewis earned 2nd place with a 4-1 win/loss record, while Quinton Heath and Rhys Froetschner secured 5th place. Finally, in the novice division, Brandon Morgan and Kaitlyn Froetschner took 6th place.  Also earning points for the Panthers were Reese King, Kendra Scheideman, Keaton Kruckenberg, Hunter McClanahan and Rey Portillo.

With these recent victories and consistently strong showings, the Great Bend Panthers Debate Team will compete with a small team at the DeSoto tournament next weekend and will be back in full force for the Boot Hill Invitational in Dodge City in November.

Shannon Wedel, right, receives the Overall Outstanding Art Educator of the Year award on Saturday, October 7th in Emporia. The honor was presented by Elizabeth Madden KAEA Awards Chair and Past President.

Wedel named 2023 Overall Outstanding Art Educator of the Year by KAEA 

October 18, 2023

Shannon Wedel has been named the 2023 Overall Outstanding Art Educator of the Year. The Kansas Art Education Association (KAEA) presented the award at its fall conference on October 7th at Emporia State University, Emporia, Kansas. The Kansas Art Education Association is a statewide professional organization dedicated to the growth and development of art educators and the advancement of high-quality art education.

Mrs. Wedel has taught Elementary Art for the Great Bend school district for 28 years and has served as the K-12 Department Chair since 2005. Shannon has served KAEA in multiple capacities, serving on countless committees with her most recent position as Secretary. As Secretary, Shannon has helped digitize all the KAEA archives. Shannon served as the Conference Chair for the Fall Conference in 2007 and hosted the Fiber Fest Summer Camp in 2023. She has also presented at multiple KAEA fall conferences and was chosen to present “Archeology, Can You Dig It?” at the National Art Education Association’s Convention in New York City. In 2013, she was recognized as the Outstanding Elementary Art Educator of the Year.

Tricia Reiser, former assistant superintendent for USD 428, said, “When you mix her passion for art with her commitment to student achievement it is no surprise she thrives as an educator.”

USD 428 Welcomes Community to Newly Renovated Support Services Facility


Great Bend, KS — USD 428 invites the community to an Open House and Job Fair at their newly renovated Support Services facility scheduled for Wednesday, October 11, 2023. The facility houses the Food and Nutrition Department & Central Kitchen, Maintenance, Grounds, and Transportation services, all conveniently located under one roof.


Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Time: 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Location: 625 E 10th Street, Great Bend


The Open House will provide an opportunity for attendees to explore the facility, gain insight into the services that support Great Bend students & teachers, and understand how this centralized location and important services support a high-quality education in our district.


“The work of our team at Support Services positively impacts students every day,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “Meals that nourish students, safe transportation, and well-maintained classrooms and buildings – they keep our district running. We encourage parents and community members to stop by, take a tour, enjoy light refreshments, and learn more about how the new facility enhances our ability to serve our schools and community.”


In addition to the Open House, the event will also include a Job Fair. With a variety of openings at the Support Services building, interested candidates can learn more about positions, pay, and benefits available to USD 428 employees.


Highlighted Job Openings include:


To explore these career opportunities and apply online, please visit Questions about the Support Services Open House & Job Fair can be directed to the District Education Center at 620-793-1500.

Learning through play, Little Panthers Preschool receives COPE grant for new playground equipment


GREAT BEND, KS – Little Panthers Preschool is enjoying new play structures thanks to a grant from Communities Organizing to Promote Equity (COPE) and Heart of Kansas Healthcare. This grant has breathed new life into playtime and the surrounding neighborhood at 21st & Polk by providing a safe place for over 50 enthusiastic students each day and the neighborhood community outside of school hours.

“The grant provides students with a safe and engaging play structure that will nurture their physical, social, and emotional development,” said Khris Thexton, superintendent for USD 428. “In addition to COPE, we also want to express our gratitude for the USD 428 Maintenance & Grounds team for assembling the playground and getting it installed before the start of school this August.”

The play structure located at the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 3400 21st St. in Great Bend, features two towers, a connecting bridge, opportunities to climb, swing, slide, and more. The $5,000 grant also covered the purchase of 4 convertible tricycles that foster the development of motor skills and balance.

For more information about Little Panthers Preschool, please contact the coordinator, Amanda Moran-Jones at 620-793-1662. For additional information regarding the Barton County COPE program, contact the group’s Lead Liaison, Callie Miller, at 620-792-3299.


About COPE: Communities Organizing to Promote Equity (COPE) is a collaboration formed in Barton County made possible by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and is administered by the University of Kansas School of Medicine (KU Med). The goal of the COPE program is to identify and reduce barriers to health and well-being that members of our community face, especially those in high-risk and under-resourced communities. Locally, the COPE action team is currently comprised of 16 members from across Barton County who meet two times a month to discuss and prioritize action strategies based on community needs. As part of this effort, the COPE team is building and leveraging partnerships with organizations within our community to bring awareness to resources that are available as well as address gaps. Flor Sanchez is the Community Health Worker (CHW) who is based out of the Heart of Kansas Family Healthcare office in Great Bend.

Panther Forensics competes at Nationals

June 20, 2023

The Panther Forensics team spent the last week competing against some of the top speech and debate students in the country at the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) National Tournament. The tournament had over 6,000 competitors and was held in different schools and venues around Phoenix, Arizona. 


Eight students from the forensics team qualified in April and spent hours refining their pieces for national-level style and competition.  Since the state tournament ended at the beginning of May, they have been working with the coaches to make sure that their performances would be the best they could be. 


In addition to Kim and Dan Heath, Great Bend High School has added another coach to its staff.  Pamela Williams began working with the students before the national competition and will continue to help coach the team in the 2023-24 school year.  Ms. Williams teaches art at Great Bend Middle School and already assists with the GBHS drama program.  Williams was a member of both the debate and forensics teams at Lyons High School.  She also competed in forensics while in college.  These experiences, as well as her theater knowledge, make her a great addition to the team. 


The team faced a wide variety of skilled speakers and performers representing the best of the best from all areas of the country.  As Senior, Maddix Pokorski, said, “Nationals was the toughest competition all year. Thousands gathered in one spot to compete in seven main events. The Phoenix heat was the coolest part of the competition.”


During the first two days of the tournament, our eight national qualifiers performed their main events.  Senior Alondra Alvarez shared a speech about gifted education in original oratory.  Pokorski entered international extemporaneous speaking and analyzed various current issues happening around the world.


Alvarez reflected on the competition by saying, “This year was my second year representing GBHS at nationals, and I can honestly say that it has been one of the most unique experiences of my life. I met so many wonderful people, and was lucky enough to hear a lot of talented speakers. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to use my voice, and share my ideas with others.”


The rest of the Panthers were entered in Interpretation events.  In duo interpretation, senior Eave Taylor and Junior Thomas Henrikson performed a humorous scene adapted from Mark Twain’s “Diary of Adam and Eve”.   Two students from GBHS were entered in dramatic interpretation, Senior Xanna Smith shared a scene about the Sandy Hook shooting and Freshman Quinton Heath used his scene to speak out against bullying.  Great Bend also had two Sophomores qualify in program of oral interpretation.  Darcy Feist shared a program about body dysmorphia, and Anna Bitter put together a program on domestic violence. 


There were more than 260 entries in each of the individual events at the tournament. The students felt that watching others give excellent performances gave them ideas of how to build their own performance and the motivation to push themselves to improve.   Sadly, none of the Panthers advanced to the top 60 in their main event. 


Fortunately, if a performer doesn’t break into elimination rounds, they will then move on into entirely different supplemental events on Wednesday morning. Smith competed in poetry.  Alvarez and Heath both entered prose interpretation.  Pokorski presented extemporaneous commentaries. Taylor shared poetry that she had written herself in spoken word poetry.  Feist competed in expository speaking, and Bitter honed her storytelling skills. Henrikson tried an event known as extemporaneous debate where he received the topic for the one-on-one debate rounds thirty minutes before the start of the round.


After another day of intense competition, the field of competitors was narrowed to the top 120 in each supplemental event.  Pokorski broke to Double-Octo Finals in Extemporaneous Commentary, Bitter in Storytelling, and Taylor in original Spoken Word Poetry.  These events all had over 350 entries.   Taylor described her reaction to breaking by saying, "If you would've told me a year ago that my poetry would be top 120 in the nation, I would've laughed. But now I'm smiling. Because I have achieved something I thought I could only dream of.”


Coach Kim Heath reflected on the week by explaining, “The prestigious national tournament was an exciting chance for talented performers to showcase their skills, build connections with peers across the country, and compete at the highest level of high school speech competition in the world.”  After leaving Phoenix, the team was able to enjoy the Grand Canyon on the way home.   The GBHS Debate and Forensics team is grateful for the opportunity to travel and be part of such a dynamic event. 

Confidence in Kansas Public Education Task Force announces 2022 Challenge Award recipients

May 23, 2023

The Confidence in Kansas Public Education Task Force has named 91 schools as recipients of the 2022 Challenge Awards. Great Bend USD 428 is proud to celebrate two of your schools receiving Certificates of Merit, Park Elementary School & Riley Elementary School.

The awards recognize Kansas schools making a notable difference in student achievement despite facing significant challenges in their school population. Since its inception in 2002, more than 1,800 awards have been presented to schools across the state.

The Challenge Award recognizes schools for outstanding achievement and uncommon accomplishments based on Kansas Assessment results in math and reading, graduation rates, chronic absenteeism rates, and the socio-economic status of those taking the test.

The Confidence in Public Education Task Force is a nonprofit corporation whose primary purpose is to strengthen confidence in Kansas public education and to increase awareness of the positive aspects of public education in the state. The Task Force was created in 1981.

Members of the Task Force include the American Association of University Women; Kansas PTA; Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB); Kansas National Education Association (KNEA); Kansas State Board of Education; Kansas State High School Activities Association (KSHAA); Kansas Partners in Education; League of Women Voters – Kansas; and United School Administrators of Kansas (USA-Kansas).

For more information about the Challenge Awards program, call Tamla Miller, public service administrator for Communications and Recognition Programs at the Kansas State Department of Education, at (785) 296-4950.

New Education Program Offers $1,000 Grants to Families in Kansas

March 17, 2023

Kansas Education Enrichment Program Grant is accepting applications for K-12 students whose parent or legal guardian’s household income is less than 185% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The one-time grant pays for educational goods and services that promote learning recovery and academic enrichment.  Parents and guardians can receive $1,000 for education-related camps, tutoring, language and music lessons, curriculum materials, supplies, and technology.  

The grants are available for all Kansas students between the ages of 5 (as of August 31, 2022) and 18 (as of May 31, 2023). KEEP awards are also available for students with disabilities through age 21 and those above 18 years of age who are still in high school, with proof of active school enrollment in a K-12 program. Families of students in that age group may apply, whether in public, private or home schools.  

Applicants will be asked to provide their most recently completed tax return to determine household income and establish guardianship of the student(s). Applicants will also need to provide proof of residency.  

The grants may be used to purchase approved goods and services from Qualified Education Service Providers under the program. Those providers can be found through an online KEEP Education Marketplace. The providers in this marketplace have been reviewed and approved to offer services or goods that qualify for reimbursement in this program.  

Information about the program for parents and providers is available here.

Parents and guardians that are eligible can apply here

The KEEP Claims app is available to parents and guardians to submit claims for the item(s) or service(s) they would like to use the funds. You can access the KEEP Claims app at You can also find a mobile version on the Apple and Google Play stores.

Always time for a good book – Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent, shares a story with Gretchen Westerhaus’ kindergarten class at Jefferson Elementary. During a special story time each Friday, Westerhaus invites student athletes, community members, and other district staff to share a story with her students. 

USD 428 celebrates Public Schools Week

February 27, 2023

Great Bend USD 428 joins schools across the state and nation to celebrate Public Schools Week, Feb. 27 – March 3, a week designated to highlight the vital role local public schools play in both our students and the nation’s future.  

“We’ll take any opportunity to celebrate the staff, students, and families of USD 428,” said Khris Thexton, superintendent of USD 428. “Take a look inside any building, any classroom, and you’ll find dedicated professionals who are working every day to nurture students and positively impact their growth and development.”

One highlight that captures the success of USD 428 is the steady improvement in graduation rates over the past decade. From 2010 to 2022, Great Bend High School’s graduation rate improved from 80.7% to 92.8%.

“Improved graduation rates are a district-wide accomplishment,” said Thexton. “A strong foundation for learning begins in preschool and continues throughout a student’s educational career. Seeing more students successfully reach this milestone takes intentional and focused academic support at every level and especially by the dedicated staff at GBHS.”

Across the nation, public schools are providing educational opportunities for more than 50 million students inside their school buildings. According to the Learning First Alliance, nine out of every ten students in the US attend public schools. Public Schools Week 2023 (#PSW23) is part of a larger campaign - #HerefortheKids - one that brings together families, educators, and community members to shine a light on local public schools and share the stories of the positive things happening in classrooms and school buildings nationwide.

As USD 428 shares positive highlights on social media this week, they invite the community to reach out to teachers and school staff and thank them for their efforts to make Great Bend Public Schools a great place to learn and grow.  

For more information about Public Schools Week, Feb. 27-Mar. 3, visit Learning First Alliance’s website, For questions about Great Bend USD 428, please contact the District Education Center at 620-793-1500 or visit


About the Learning First Alliance

The Learning First Alliance is a partnership of leading education organizations with more than 10 million members dedicated to improving student learning in America’s public schools. Alliance members include American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education; AASA: The School Superintendents Association; American Federation of Teachers; American School Counselor Association; Consortium for School Networking; Learning Forward; National Association of Elementary School Principals; National Association of Secondary School Principals; National Education Association; National PTA; National School Boards Association, National School Public Relations Association, and PDK International.

Taking a first look at the 2023 GB Reads book, these fourth-grade students from Riley Elementary are eager to read Zoey and Sassafras Dragons and Marshmallows in January. The 2023 Great Bend Reading Initiative will launch in early January, providing numerous opportunities for families, students, and classrooms to engage with the book that inspires imagination, STEM exploration, and develops a love for reading. 

GB Reads: adventure and mystery await in 2023

December 15, 2022

When school resumes in January, Great Bend elementary students will meet two adventurous characters, Zoey and Sassafras, as they dive into the 2023 Great Bend Reading Initiative and a book filled with magical animals, science, and mystery. 

The Great Bend Reading Initiative, GB Reads for short, first launched in 2015 with the goal of promoting student literacy skills through school and family engagement. 

“GB Reads is a shared experience for children and parents in our school communities,” said Tricia Reiser, assistant superintendent for USD 428.

“There is a positive connection between family involvement, literacy skills, and success in school. GB Reads is a fun and engaging way to build vocabulary, foster an enjoyment for reading, and strengthen parent-child relationships,” said Reiser.

GB Reads will launch on January 6, 2023, with all USD 428 elementary students in grades Kindergarten – 6th receiving a copy of Zoey and Sassafras Dragons and Marshmallows. 

“The series has quickly gained recognition for the imaginative and inviting adventures of a little girl named Zoey and her cat Sassafrass,” said Holly Tittel, USD 428 librarian. “While we’re excited to introduce our families and students to these characters, we’ve also stocked our elementary libraries with other books in the series anticipating their popularity.”

GB Reads is sponsored by USD 428 and presented in partnership with the Great Bend Public Library and other community partners. This year, over 1,300 students will receive a copy of the book along with a calendar providing a schedule for reading the book and information on supporting activities and events. 

Calendar Highlights Include: 

Students at Great Bend Middle School and Great Bend High School will be encouraged to participate with younger siblings as well as join in a month-long reading program that will engage students in STEM enrichment and building student relationships through cooperative activities. 

About the 2023 GB Reads book:

Dragons and Marshmallows is the first book in the Zoey and Sassafras series. Zoey discovers a glowing photo and learns an amazing secret. Injured magical animals come to their backyard barn for help! When a sick baby dragon appears, it is up to Zoey and Sassafras to figure out what’s wrong. Will they be able to help little Marshmallow before it’s too late?

For more information about GB Reads, please contact the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500 or visit

Before departing for their first job of the day, GBHS intern, Bradley Hopkins reviews a job ticket a technician at Stueder Contractors. Hopkins starts his “school day” at his internship site Monday – Thursday from 8-9:15 am, Fridays are spent in the classroom with reflection exercises, completing time logs, and learning other employability skills. 
GBHS interns, Kaydence Jean & Nayomi Olivas, observe Dr. Ty Brunswig during a K-9 exam. During their time at the clinic, they learn about veterinary medicine from veterinarians and technicians, but also about soft skills in patient/customer communication, office management, and other duties.  

GBHS students gain career insight and experience in first year of internship program

November 4, 2022

Great Bend High School’s Internship Program has launched 13 seniors into the local workforce this fall, giving students the opportunity put classroom learning to practical use in the workplace. 

In the first academic year for this program, 13 students received placement at seven local employers that represent a wide-variety of industries. The Internship Program is a capstone for GBHS’ Career and Technical Education tracts. Interns must meet high academic and attendance standards before applying and interviewing for an internship placement with a host business partner. 

“The GBHS Internship Program is beneficial for everyone involved,” said Lacy Wolters, ACT & Career Coordinator at GBHS. “For students, the goal is to increase their knowledge of workplace skills and receive on-the-job experience that build upon what they’ve learned in the classroom. For employers, they get to influence career training, help students make informed educational and career choices, and gain access to an expanded pool of qualified applicants. The list of benefits goes on and on, it’s really a ‘win’ for everyone involved!”

By the end of this first semester, each intern will have logged roughly 60 hours at his or her host business. Some will continue their work at their host business with another 60 hours in the spring semester.

“Recruiting is a big reason we patriciate in opportunities like this,” said Dr. Ty Brunswig, veterinarian at Animal Medical Center. “For students who are interested in a medical career of some type, we want to provide exposure to veterinary medicine and let them get to know us and our practice with the hope that they may come back to our community.”

In addition to on-the-job experience, the GBHS Internship Program includes a classroom component that Wolters describes as a powerful time of reflection. 

“On Fridays, we meet as a class to record observations from the week,” said Wolters. “This provides an opportunity for students to share experiences with their peers, formulate questions for their host businesses, and work on portfolio items.”    

Interns will showcase their digital portfolios at a special event scheduled for December 7 from 6-8 pm at Great Bend High School. Families, host businesses, as well as prospective interns for the 23-24 school year are invited to attend. 

For more information about the GBHS Internship Program, please contact Lacy Wolters, ACT & Career Coordinator at or 620-793-1521.

GBHS would like to extend its gratitude to the 2022-2023 host businesses partners: 

Gonzalez recognized as future medical leader

October 13, 2022

Trading his summer vacation for career exploration, Great Bend High School Senior Kevin Gonzalez attended the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in June. The nationally recognized honors program seeks to acknowledge high-achieving students for their dedication, talent, and leadership potential in medicine by engaging them in a meaningful career exploration program. 

“It doesn’t matter what background you come from, or what you have or haven’t achieved,” said Gonzalez, “there’s still an opportunity to advance in your plans and dreams if you follow your passion.” 

Held virtually in 2022, the congress included a series of notable keynote speakers and numerous Nobel Prize winners, including Mario Capecchi, Ph.D. and 2007 Nobel Prize winner as the event’s grand master. In addition, breakout sessions allowed attendees from around the world to collaborate and converse with accomplished scientists, doctors, industry leaders, and their peers. Participants had the opportunity to view surgical procedures with the ability to submit questions for the surgeon to answer in real time. 

Reflecting on the students he connected with from around the world, specifically mentioning attendees from China, Japan, Brazil, and the US, Gonzalez noted that they all had a shared focus and appreciation for the eye-opening opportunity in pursuit of their career goals.

Gonzalez plans to pursue a career in Biomedical Engineering and has already been admitted to the University of Kansas and Kansas State University. In February, he hopes to earn his Seal of Biliteracy in both Spanish and German. 

As Gonzalez completes his career at GBHS, he is president of the Robotics Club, a board member for the Drama Club, member of National Honor Society, HOSA, Student Ambassadors, KAYS, Random Acts of Kindness (RAK), and a Junior Rotarian. 

The Congress of Future Medical Leaders is presented by the National Academy of Future Physicians and Medical Scientist, learn more at For more information about initiatives specific to GBHS, please contact the Lacy Wolters, ACT & career coordinator at 620-793-1560.

GBHS Debate Sweeps 2022 Novice Stampede in Garden City 

September 18, 2022

All aboard!

The sleek white Panther Activity Bus pulled to a stop just before 5 AM Saturday morning. A large group of sleepy but excited young Panthers had gathered outside GBHS for the 2-hour trek to Garden City for the opening weekend of the debate season. Fourteen novice debaters loaded their laptops and file boxes onto the bus and prepared to face their first policy debate competitors from Garden City, Dodge City, and Liberal, Hugoton, and Ottawa. While a thunderstorm battered the city of Great Bend, our young debaters were battering the competition out west. By 7 PM Saturday evening, the storms had passed, and the Panther debate team returned home with a total record of 16 wins and 5 losses, and five of the top six places.

2022-23 National Debate Topic

“Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its security cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in one or more of the following areas: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, cybersecurity.”

The 2022-2023 National Debate Topic will have the students learning about emerging technologies and how these advances in artificial intelligence, bio-technology and cyber security may impact the United States’ involvement with NATO. The students will be researching how the world is rapidly changing and how the new technologies provide many risks and opportunities related to security for the United States and the other 29 NATO countries.

“The topic is very complicated, especially for the younger students. It really is almost two topics combined into one,” commented GBHS debate coach, Kim Heath. “The learning curve for understanding emerging tech AND global geo-politics has been pretty steep, and I am so proud of the debaters for the intense amount of work they have all put in during the first month of school.”

“Angels on their shoulders”

Each team debated 5 rounds, but in the first two rounds, they received help from the experienced debaters. This style of tournament, known as an “angel on your shoulder” experience, allows the students to get a feel for the flow of a debate round on both the affirmative and negative side without the pressure of being judged.

Serving as angels for the Panther debaters were Seniors Alondra Alvarez, Maddix Pokorski, and Xanna Smith; Junior -- Thomas Henrikson; and Sophomores Analeah Ochs and Lea Nokes.

Coach Heath shared how: “Over and over again the debaters were commenting on how much they were learning from the older students. Not only did it help strengthen our team unity and morale, but the experienced debaters also provided invaluable help to our novices.”

After the two opening “angel” rounds, the novices competed in three rounds without help, and the experienced students became judges. 

Panthers dominate

Only four teams at the tournament posted a perfect 3-0 record on the day. And three of those teams were GBHS Panthers! 

Freshmen, Ellie Damm and Kaylee Haag were undefeated and earned perfect speaker points. They defeated teams from Liberal, Ottawa and Dodge City on their way to a first place finish.

Senior, Gavin Hirsh and Freshman, Hannah Hopkins were runner-up. They won all their rounds beating teams from Ottawa, Hugoton and Garden City.

Freshmen, Rhys Froetschner and Quinton Heath also were undefeated and finished in third place. They were victorious in debates with Liberal, Garden City and Dodge City.

Sophomore, Anna Bitter and Freshman, Zachary Hart placed 5th overall. They beat Ottawa and Garden City but came up just short of defeating Liberal.

Sophomores, Ailey Williams and Danica Cline had a loss against Garden City, but came back with wins against a different Garden City team and a team from Dodge City to place 6th.

Sophomores, Jay Creamer and Junior, Theo Hopkinson - Smith finished in 9th place with wins over teams from Garden and Dodge and a loss to Liberal.

Keaton Kruckenberg and Jennifer Palacio beat a team from Liberal but lost their rounds against Ottawa and Garden City.

“Having our novices win so many rounds as they learn the activity was a great way to start out the season. I’m looking forward to a fantastic year,” Heath said. “Of course, I am excited to have so many individual awards, but seeing the squad work together and support each other was the best part of the tournament. I am so proud of our team.” 

Halstead then the home meet

Panther debate next travels to Halstead this Saturday, September 24, in a contest featuring both novice and open divisions. The squad will host their home tournament on October 1st at GBHS. Coach Heath welcomes anyone with an interest in debate, technology, or politics to volunteer as a judge.

“Judging debate may sound intimidating, but you really don’t need to have been a debater to be a good judge. One of the most important skills we teach is learning to adjust to your audience. An open mind, and a willingness to help the kids develop their speaking and listening skills is all it takes to be a great judge,” said Heath.

Anyone interested in judging for the Panther Debate tournament on October 1, 2022, can contact Kim Heath by email at

Free Summer Eats!

USD 428 Food Service is ready to serve our community children this summer! 

Each weekday, USD 428 Food Service will provide free meals for ALL Children 18 years of age and younger at elementary school locations from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm in the gyms. Children will be provided with a to-go lunch and a breakfast pack. They can choose to eat in the gyms or take the meals home. 

*Summer School Students (June) and REACH Participants (July) will be invited to eat meals on-site in the cafeteria, they will not receive to-go meals. 

Parent Pick-Up Permits will be allowed again this summer. Parents/Guardians will bring all children for the first time with them to their preferred school location. This allows parents/guardians permission to pick up meals without the children present. Parents/guardians MUST have this permit with them every day to pick up the meals, with no exceptions. 

**NEW this summer, permits can only be used at the location where they are issued. Meaning, that parents cannot switch their pick-up location. Permits for families utilizing Jefferson & Lincoln in June can be reissued for another location in July.

These meals are FREE to all children, no income guidelines, and no registration or paperwork. We highly encourage all our families to eat with us.  

Daily menus can be viewed online or using the "Web Menus" app which is available in both Apple & Andriod platforms. Click here to learn more about menus. 

See you this summer!

Kristy Alvord

Food Service Director

This program is a federally funded program through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Services. USD 428 is an equal opportunity provider and employer. 

Students share art with the community

May 10, 2022

Young learners in USD 428 are inviting the community to view highlights of their artistic accomplishments from the past year during the 22nd Annual “Watching Young Artists Grow” virtual art show.

While the virtual platform is new in recent years, the annual show continues to engage the community and nurture the talents of young artists. A link to the show is available now through June 1 on the District’s website, The show is categorized by school building and features over 1,000 works of art from USD 428’s K-6 students.

“This year we invited each student to select their favorite piece to be included in the show,” said Shannon Wedel, USD 428 art teacher. “To develop their creativity, curiosity, and confidence, it’s important for these young artists to celebrate their work with family and the community.”

For more information about the “Watching Young Artists Grow” art show or the K-6 art program led by Shannon Wedel and Miraya Starnes, please visit or contact the District Education Center at 620-793-1500. 

USD 428 Celebrates Public Schools Week, Feb. 21-25

Great Bend USD 428 joins schools across the state and nation to celebrate Public Schools Week, Feb. 21-25, a week designated to highlight and speak out on the vital role that local public schools play in students and our nation’s future.  

“We’ll take any opportunity to celebrate the staff, students, and families of USD 428,” said Khris Thexton, superintendent. “Especially in the past two years, we’ve seen our 428 team work with commitment, creativity, and calm to provide engaging learning opportunities for nearly 2,900 students.”

“From foundational learning in preschool through career and technical exploration in high school, we strive for academic growth for all students,” said Tricia Reiser, assistant superintendent for USD 428. “But beyond core academic instruction, we also support our students’ social-emotional development and wellbeing.” 

Across the nation, public schools are providing educational opportunities for more than 50 million students inside their school buildings. According to the Learning First Alliance, nine out of every ten students in the US attend public schools. 

“Public Schools Week 2022 provides a much-needed opportunity to showcase success stories and public-school champions—those who have gone above and beyond to meet students’ social, emotional, and academic needs—particularly in these extraordinary times and circumstances,” said Richard Long, executive director of the Learning First Alliance.

USD 428 encourages the community to reach out to teachers and school staff, your friends and neighbors, and thank them for their efforts to make Great Bend Public Schools a great place to learn and grow.  

For more information about Great Bend USD 428, please visit or follow USD 428 on social media. 

Johnathan Ruiz, senior at Great Bend High School, was recently named a 2022 Give Back Scholar. The award provides mentoring opportunities as well as a full-ride scholarship to Baker University.

‘Give Back’ award provides life-changing opportunity for GBHS senior

January 20, 2022

An important phone call earlier this month brought the educational aspirations of one Great Bend student from dream to reality. Recently named a 2022 Give Back Scholar, Jonathan Ruiz will receive a full-ride scholarship for college. Beyond the financial impact, Give Back Scholars also receive mentor opportunities that support, challenge, and guide them through their educational journey. 

After an extensive application and interview process that began last fall, Ruiz, received the award announcement just as he begins his final semester at Great Bend High School.   

“I am so impressed by Jonathan’s hard work and determination,” said Lacy Wolters, GBHS ACT/Career coordinator. “When he began the application process it was for Give Back’s new program called ‘Give Back Careers’ that seeks to provide mentorship in high school and promote attendance of junior college. However, during the interview process, Give Back learned of Jonathan’s desire to attend a university and ended up offering him one of the few remaining spots at Baker University.”

Ruiz plans to pursue a degree in physical therapy at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kan., and while he does not plan to play collegiate sports, he said athletic training might be something he will explore as a student. 

“This is why I transitioned into education from the business world,” said Wolters. “Helping students of ours receive these opportunities is one of the most fulling aspects of my job.” 

Wolters describes this as a life-changing opportunity for students. Every Give Back scholar receives a full scholarship that covers college tuition, fees, room and board, lifting the financial burden associated with higher education. 

The Give Back program is highly competitive with only 30 awards given in the state of Kansas each year. 

“This is the fourth consecutive year that Give Back has selected at least one GBHS student,” said Wolters. “We’ve had a total of eight students selected for the program since 2019, three are currently in college while the other five are in high school and participating in mentor opportunities.” 

Give Back’s mission is to provide mentoring and financial support for education to students who have faced economic hardship and other adversities. Their website describes Give Back Scholars as academically motivated and resilient. Most are first-generation college or trade school students who come from families below the poverty line. A special outreach is given to students who have experienced heightened social risks such as foster care or the incarceration of a parent. Learn more about the Give Back Foundation at

Tricia Reiser, Assistant Superintendent

Great Bend USD 428

Reiser promoted to assistant superintendent for Great Bend Schools

January 10, 2022

Building on a 35-year career in public education, Tricia Reiser has been promoted to assistant superintendent for USD 428 Great Bend Public Schools. The announcement was made at the USD 428 Board of Education meeting on Monday, January 10.

Beginning her career as a classroom teacher in multiple school districts across the state, Reiser moved “home” to Great Bend in 2005 to serve as Principal of Eisenhower Elementary for 11 years. In 2016, Reiser’s focus shifted to district leadership as Federal Programs Director, then as Director of Teaching and Learning.

“I’ve made equity in education my life’s mission,” said Reiser. “Together as a district we’ve made great progress in our systematic approach to addressing the needs of all students.”

As assistant superintendent, Reiser will continue to oversee district curriculum, Federal and State Title programs, district multicultural program, professional development opportunities for teachers, social-emotional learning, Parents as Teachers, and the Parent Teacher Resource Center.

“Mrs. Reiser is a driving force in our pursuit of academic excellence in Great Bend Schools,” said Khris Thexton, superintendent. “This promotion was earned with decades of dedicated service to our district; she is a leader and advocate who works tirelessly for students and teachers.” 

Adding to her credentials, Reiser earned her Ed. S. in Educational Leadership from Fort Hays State University in 2020, she also has a master’s degree in School Leadership from Baker University and bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education from Kansas State University.

As a graduate of Great Bend High School, Reiser commented, “I’m a Great Bend Panther through and through, and both excited and proud to continue to serve our students, teachers, and community.”

You can learn more about Tricia Reiser and the USD 428 Administration Team by visiting

It’s a Match! GBHS student receives full-ride, QuestBridge “Match Program” Scholarship

December 16, 2021

Nearing the end of the first semester, many seniors have their eyes set on graduation and their plans after high school. For Gabriella Reyes, a student at Great Bend High School, an award from QuestBridge National College Match program has dramatically, and positively, influenced her plans to pursue higher education with a full four-year scholarship to Williams College in Massachusetts.

QuestBridge National College Match is a national program that connects high-achieving high school seniors from low-income backgrounds with full four-year scholarships to top colleges. Out of over 16,500 applicants, QuestBridge selected 6,312 Finalists to be considered for the QuestBridge National College Match Scholarship (Match Scholarship). This year, QuestBridge’s 45 college partners matched with 1,674 Finalists, who are recognized as Match Scholarship Recipients. 

For Reyes, the Match Scholarship will cover tuition, room/board, as well as airfare to travel to/from Massachusetts, totaling over $200,000. 

“This is a life-changing opportunity,” said Lacy Wolters, ACT/Career coordinator at GBHS. “Gaby has consistently been at the top of her class and has worked hard for many years with this goal in sight.”

In addition to support from Wolters, Reyes is lucky to have a close mentor to support her through the difficult application process that began earlier this year. Reyes’ older sister, Rossiel, is also a Match Scholarship recipient and will graduate from Tuft’s University this May. She also shared gratitude for the Barton County Upward Bound Program and staff member Kelsey Hall for years of invaluable mentorship.  

After the initial application, essays, and interview rounds, Reyes was anticipating an email from QuestBridge on December 1.

“I knew the email would arrive before 4 pm,” said Reyes, “I went into each class that day fully expecting to get news, good or bad. Walking out of 7th hour I received the good news and was able to celebrate with my friends!” 

Reyes visited Williams College earlier this Fall. She shared that she likes the smaller school atmosphere where professors know your name and campus that feels like a close community. Reyes plans to study English and Literature.

About QuestBridge: 

QuestBridge is a national nonprofit that connects the nation’s most exceptional, low-income youth with leading institutions of higher education and further life opportunities. By recruiting, developing, and motivating these students — beginning in high school through college to their early career — QuestBridge aims to help talented, low-income students attend the nation’s best colleges and to support them to achieve success in their respective careers and communities.

Great Bend Reads 2022

November 15, 2021

The 2022 Great Bend Reading Initiative will kick-off on Tuesday, January 4 with the book Charlotte’s Web. Over the course of the month, students and families will be invited to experience the story in new ways, read the book together, and explore the community! 

The Great Bend Reading Initiative is open to all preschool and elementary-aged students in our community. Programming is presented in partnership with the Great Bend Public Library, Great Bend USD 428, the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, and numerous local businesses. 

Event Highlights Include:

Become a Blue Ribbon Business by sponsoring the 2022 Great Bend Reading Initiative 

Local businesses are invited to sponsor this year’s event. In return for a $100 sponsorship, your business will be included on the community scavenger hunt and will receive a “county fair animal” to display in your front window from Jan. 4 - Feb. 15, 2022. Money raised will be used to purchase “Family Fun Packages” to encourage families to participate in the GB Reads activities. 

Click Here to register to be a Blue Ribbon Business

Make checks payable to: 

USD 428 Education Foundation

℅: Andrea Bauer

201 S Patton Rd. 

Great Bend, KS 67530

Please include “GB Reads” in the memo line. 

Touslee: Surrounded by an audience of energetic kindergarten students, Dara Touslee, teacher at Park Elementary School, was named the 2022 USD 428 Elementary Teacher of the Year on Tuesday, October 12, 2021. Touslee has taught in Great Bend for 28 years. Pictured left to right, Khris Thexton, superintendent; Adam Cline, principal of Park Elementary; Dara Touslee, kindergarten teacher at Park; John Popp, assistant superintendent; Tricia Reiser, director of teaching and learning; and Touslee’s proud kindergarten students. 

Bliven: Joseph Bliven, a science teacher at Great Bend Middle School was named the 2022 USD 428 Secondary Teacher of the Year. Pictured left to right, Tricia Reiser, director of teaching and learning; John Popp, assistant superintendent; Joseph Bliven, science teacher at GBMS; Khris Thexton, superintendent; and David Reiser, principal of GBMS. 

Top teachers recognized in USD 428

October 14, 2021

Two well-deserving educators from Great Bend USD 428 have been named the 2022 USD 428 Teachers of the Year. Honorees, Dara Touslee, kindergarten teacher at Park Elementary School, and Joseph Bliven, a science teacher at Great Bend Middle School, will advance to the 2023 Kansas Teacher of the Year competition.


“The Kansas Teacher of the Year program is a great way to celebrate our outstanding teachers as well as elevate their work for recognition among colleagues and peers across the state,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 Superintendent.


“Mr. Bliven and Mrs. Touslee were chosen from a strong pool of candidates,” said Thexton. “I congratulate them on the work they do every day. Beyond the classroom, these teachers are leaders in their departments, buildings, and in our school community.”

Questions about the local Kansas Teacher of the contest can be directed to the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500.


Dara Touslee, 2022 USD 428 Elementary Teacher of the Year

“Mrs. Touslee’s knowledge of primary instruction is second to none,” said Adam Cline, principal at Park Elementary School. “When you walk into her room you will notice a very welcoming, nurturing, and warm climate. She actively volunteers her time, experience, and great sense of humor to our educational stakeholders. Park Elementary is proud of you and your accomplishments.” 

Touslee earned her Elementary Education Degree from Panhandle State University and later pursued a Master’s Degree in Education from Kansas State University. She has taught 4th-6th grades, worked at the district level in staff development and technology instruction, followed by the last 11 years teaching kindergarten at Park Elementary School.

Sharing her experience in education, Touslee serves as a mentor for students at Fort Hays University and Barton Community College and mentors a GBHS student who is interested in Early Childhood Education. Touslee is active in the community, serving on numerous boards and committees that all have a common interest of support the academic, emotional, and social development of youth.

While Touslee has 32 years of teaching experience, 28 of which have been served in Great Bend, she doesn’t shy away from implementing new technology into her classroom.

“I think technology is a ‘must’ in education,” Touslee said, “it is an active part of student learning.”

In recent years, she has received several grants from the USD 428 Education Foundation to implement Touchtronics, a hands-on alphabet and phonics development tool, as well as embraced iPads with a strategy to have her students record video as a way to learn and develop speaking skills.

When asked to explain her teaching philosophy, Touslee referenced a quote on her wall that came from a former kindergarten student, “Sometimes you have to get off the sidewalk.” To Touslee, it reminds her of the importance to teach the curriculum, but also of the importance, “to make it fun, and make it real.”

“I try to expand my students’ knowledge and help them explore, create and discover the joy of learning,” said Touslee. “’Fun’ is the most used word in my classroom.” 


Joseph Bliven, 2022 USD 428 Secondary Teacher of the Year

“When you combine relationship building with engaging teaching, you end up with an exceptional teacher like Mr. Bliven,” said David Reiser, principal at Great Bend Middle School. “Students naturally gravitate to him because of how he goes about establishing positive relationships. He also does a great job of making science interesting and relevant to his students.”

Bliven received his M.A. in Education Studies in 2016 from Michigan University before moving to Great Bend to be a Science Teacher at Great Bend Middle School. Within his first year of teaching, Bliven received the Panther Technology Star Award for his implementation of Google Classroom and was selected as USD 428’s nominee for the Kansas Horizon Award, a recognition program for outstanding first-year teachers.

Bliven has given back to area youth and community through coaching and tutoring in the classroom as well as on the tennis court. In 2018, Bliven was awarded the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in Men’s Tennis.

“I feel my greatest contribution to education is my willingness to meet students where they are,” said Bliven, “to make science something that every student can see in their own lives.”

“I believe that through carefully constructed lessons and striving to make science a relevant and applicable tool, I can change the stigma that science is only for the ‘smart kids’ and bring a sense of wonder and excitement to my students that they may not even know they are missing.”

Building Bridges: Creating Connections, Education to Career

October 4, 2021

One strategy to address local workforce challenges is to build connections between educators, families, and the business community. On November 3, Building Bridges invites interested parties to join the conversation in an effort to open lines of communication and build relationships.

Welcoming business leaders, employers, parents, students, and educators, Lacy Wolters spoke of the evening’s agenda, saying, “Building Bridges provides valuable insight for all who attend. The evening gives the community a chance to learn more about our Career Pathways at GBHS, and students and families get to network with professionals who offer real-world experience.”

Building Bridges is presented in partnership with Kansas WorkforceONE, The Great Bend Chamber of Commerce, Great Bend Economic Development, and JAG-K (Jobs for America’s Graduates). The evening will begin in the Great Bend High School Commons at 5:30 pm on November 3 for students and families. All other attendees will be welcomed at 6 pm with appetizers, refreshments, and networking.  

New in 2021, several awards and presentations will be made at the event, recognizing GBHS studnets who have earned National Career Readiness Certification, Manufacturing Awards, as well as success spotlights for GBHS’ career shadow program. The evening will conclude with breakout sessions where students will connect with industry professionals in a conversation facilitated by GBHS Career & Technical Education Teachers and JAG-K instructors. 

The event is free to attend. RSVP’s are requested by visiting For questions or more information, please contact Lacy Wolters at 620-793-1521. 

Building Bridges, Thursday, Nov. 3

Schedule of Events:

Networking, Appetizers, and Table Visitation 

5:30 - 6:00 pm (early access for students and parents)

6:00 - 6:30 pm (all attendees)

- Tables will be offered to any attendee that would like to display/provide information about their business/organization (indicate interest when completing the RSVP form below).

Opening Introductions, Awards, and Presentations

6:30 - 7:15 pm: 

- WorkKeys Recognition: GBHS students earning National Career Readiness Certification 

- Career Shadow Partnership Recognition and Success Spotlight

- Great Bend Chamber: Manufacturing Awards

- Great Bend Economic Development: Grow GB Workforce Initiative

- GBHS Work-Based Learning Model Overview


Break-Out Sessions with CTE/JAG Instructors

7:15 - 8:00 pm:

- Discussion Topics will focus on: 

    - Offering Work-Based Learning experiences (internships, apprenticeships, etc.) to our students.

    - Providing essential skills training and continued practice to our students. 

Free meals for students during the 21-22 School Year

August 16, 2021

USD 428 is excited to announce that the National School Lunch Program Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waiver has been extended through the 2021-2022 School Year. This allows all Kansas students the option of free breakfast and lunch each school day – ensuring students are fueled and ready to learn.

The USDA covers the cost of the meals for all students. There is no need for families to fill out an application. It is a continuation of a commitment to provide safe, healthy meals free of charge to children as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten food and nutrition security of the most vulnerable – our students, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

We encourage families to take advantage of this opportunity for free meals! Every meal that is served helps USD 428 foodservice program financially and keeps our food service staff members employed. 

The free meals, which are nutritious and delicious, help extend family food budgets, too!

Stay well and have a great week!

Kristy Alvord

Director of Food and Nutrition

Frequently Asked Questions: 

Q:  Where can I view menus? 

Q:  What about students at GBMS & GBHS who want to purchase a la carte items? 

Q:  Will you still be offering a wide variety of menu items? 

Q:  Is there an application for free meals? 

*USD 428 is an equal opportunity provider. 

Families invited to explore early learning resources

March 25, 2021

Making connections that support child development and early learning opportunities, USD 428 is inviting parents and guardians to attend the first-ever Preschool and Kindergarten Pre-Enrollment Information Fair at the Great Bend Events Center on Wednesday, April 21.

“Learning begins long before a child enters kindergarten,” said Tricia Reiser, USD 428 director of teaching and learning. “This enrollment fair will be an opportunity for parents and families to connect with community resources as well as learn more about USD 428 Preschool and Kindergarten programs, enrollment requirements, and complete necessary paperwork before online enrollment opens in July.”

At the come-and-go event, USD 428 teachers and support staff will be available to talk with parents about academics, social-emotional support, and more. Preschool typically includes programs for both 3 and 4-year-olds, kindergarten requires students to be 5-years-old on or before August 31.

“One of the strengths of our kindergarten program, and really our elementary buildings, is a unified curriculum taught across each grade level,” said Reiser. “A kindergarten student attending Park Elementary will have the same academic program and supports as a kindergarten student at Eisenhower Elementary. Our teachers have flexibility in how they implement lesson plans, but they also have peer teachers for collaboration and encouragement in their work.”

Other exhibitors at the event include community preschools, Barton County Health Department, Great Bend Public Library, United Way of Central Kansas, Parents as Teachers, and other services and resources that support young learners.

“We started a conversation about a district-wide ‘kindergarten round-up,’ and the ideas grew from there,” said Reiser. “By including community partners we hope to give families a big-picture overview of the resources available for their young learners. Parents, students, community, and schools – we’re all partners in building a child’s foundation for learning.”

To learn more about the Preschool and Kindergarten Pre-Enrollment Information Fair, please visit our website.. Vendor applications are also being accepted on the website through April 10.

Specific questions should be directed to the District Education Center by calling 620-793-1500.

25 Year Milestones:

30 Year Milestones:

35 Year Milestone:

45 Year Milestone:

Milestones matter in USD 428

March 9, 2021

With a cumulative 835 years serving the educational journey of Great Bend students, USD 428 celebrates the career milestones of 68 employees in 2021.

“We know that our schools are strengthened by the dedicated work of our staff,” said John Popp, assistant superintended for Great Bend USD 428. “Education is important and challenging work, and milestones matter. Each year of service not only illustrates the dedication of our employees and their commitment to quality education in Great Bend, but it also represents thousands of students who benefit every day from a teacher’s expertise, a paraprofessional’s skilled support, a secretary’s attentive and organized nature, or a coach’s encouragement - every role makes a difference.”

The USD 428 Milestones Program was launched in 2020 and seeks to recognize career longevity, marking each 5-year career milestone with special recognition and a gift as a token of appreciation. 

“We are fortunate to have a strong foundation of support influencing positive outcomes for our students, and our community,” said Popp.

Staff celebrating 25 to 45-year milestones were recognized at the USD 428 Board of Education meeting held on Monday, March 8 at the District Education Center. Additional staff celebrating 5 to 20-year milestones will receive their personally selected Milestones gifts at their buildings this week. A list of those being recognized can be found on USD 428’s Facebook page and website.

For more information about the USD 428 Milestones Program, the public is invited to visit or contact Andrea Bauer at the US 428 District Education Center, 620-793-1500.

Popp receives top recognition by Kansas Art Education Association

March 4, 2021

The Kansas Art Education Association (KAEA) recently awarded two, 2021 Harry Hart Memorial Scholarships, one of which was recently awarded to Anna Popp, senior at Great Bend High School.

“This scholarship is very competitive,” said Sergio Ramirez, GBHS art instructor. “While the scholarship money is obviously beneficial, it’s a big honor to be one of the two students selected from across the state. We’re extremely proud of Anna’s talent and hard work.”

Each year, art educators from across the state submit nominations for the annual Harry Hart Memorial Senior Scholarship, providing several portfolio pieces for review by a panel of judges. The other 2021 winner is Jennifer Montaque from Seaman High School in Topeka. Both students will receive a $500 scholarship to pursue higher education.

“Anna is an incredibly thoughtful artist who plans her work out well,” said Jennifer Christiansen, GBHS art teacher and nominator for the KAEA award. “This is my first year with Anna, she had only taken drawing and painting previously and as a senior was encouraged to try 3D to broaden her skill base.  In 3D and jewelry, she has excelled as a beginner. If you asked Anna, she would tell you she's more skilled in Drawing and Painting, but given enough time, I believe Anna would be excel in any media she chose to explore.”

Popp plans to attend The University of Kansas next fall, majoring in graphic design, and planning to continue creating art as a hobby in her free time.

“I am inspired by about anything in the world,” said Popp. “Often, I will just see something on the street that allows me to wonder how I can create an art piece from it. My teachers (Mr. Ramirez and Mrs. Christiansen) and other artists inspire me by giving me a longing to create something as amazing as what they have created.”

Popp submitted several pieces to the KAEA review committee. Night Light is a 17”x23” charcoal self-portrait that has garnered attention from her instructors, community and now judges as the state level.

More information about the KAEA Harry Hart Memorial Senior Scholarship can be found at Questions about the Great Bend High School Arts program can be directed to GBHS staff at 620-793-1500.

USD 428 School Counselors:

USD 428 Family Support Workers:

All if for Students, USD 428 Celebrates School Counselors Week Feb. 1-5

February 1, 2021

National School Counseling Week 2021, “School Counselors: All in for All Students,” sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), will be celebrated from Feb. 1–5, 2021, to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems and how students are different as a result of what school counselors do. National School Counseling Week highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. 

“This year’s theme really captures the positive and inclusive attitude our school counselors and family support workers exhibit in their support of students,” said John Popp, assistant superintendent for USD 428. “Each day they strive to serve the ‘whole child’ with a mix of social/emotional support, collaboration, and community connections.”

In Great Bend Public Schools, the continuum of support begins in the Pre-K or elementary setting with a Family Support Worker at each elementary building and continues at the middle school and high school with School Counselors. As a student moves through their educational career, family support workers and school counselors are present to support the student’s social/emotional and academic.

“They are champions, advocates, and trusted advisors in our buildings,” said Popp. “They often work in partnership with parents and also serve as a community connector for mental health services, medical services, and basic needs like food, shelter, and transportation.” 

Popp explained that each day presents new challenges and new opportunities for these professionals as they focus on positive ways to support students and families. A closer look at each building and the various programs and supports provided illustrates the ability of each school counselor or family support worker to adapt and respond to the changing needs of their students. 

“School counselors work with all students to remove barriers to learning by addressing students’ academic concerns, post-secondary options, and social/emotional skills,” said Jill Cook, ASCA executive director. “School counseling programs help to increase student achievement and provide a much-needed resource for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. School counselors are integral to student success.”

Great Bend students receive the support of five school counselors and five family support workers. As part of its celebration for National School Counseling Week, USD 428 encourages the community to reach out and offer encouraging words to the counselors who serve Great Bend’s students. Parents or community members with specific questions or concerns about school counseling programs should contact the school counselors at their local schools. General information can also be found at

Persevering through challenging times, USD 428 applauds Board of Education leaders

January 14, 2021

January is School Board Appreciation Month across the State of Kansas. In a school year that has presented unprecedented challenges, USD 428 invites the community to express their gratitude to the men and women who dedicate their time in service to the students and families in our community.  

Great Bend USD 428’s board of education members include Jacquie Disque, Aaron Emerson, Deanna Essmiller, Chris Umphres, Lori Reneau, Don Williams, and Susan Young.

Elected at-large to serve a four-year term, these seven community leaders volunteer hundreds of hours attending meetings, reading reports, and discussing plans and programs to support educational achievement in Great Bend Public Schools.

“Each year, our board members develop policies and make complex decisions that shape the future of our education system,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “However, in 2020, they’ve stepped outside the norms, and stepped up to the challenge of leading our district through uncharted territory of the pandemic.”

In USD 428, board members are accountable for an annual budget near $60 million, over 2,800 students, nearly 700 employees and 11 buildings. Their responsibility goes far behind the monthly board meeting.

“We are fortunate to have this dedicated group of individuals who invest their time in our schools, engage with the community, and advocate for the future of education with state policy makers. While we start the New Year with this moment of ‘thanks,’ our appreciation for our board members continues throughout the year,” Thexton said.

USD 428 encourages the community to join-in by thanking school board members for their work. Notes of gratitude and encouragement can be sent care of the District Education Center, 201 S Patton Rd, Great Bend, KS.

The USD 428 Board of Education meets regularly on the second Monday of the month at 5 p.m. at the USD 428 District Education Center. Their next meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 11. More information about the USD 428 Board of Education, as well as archived board reports, can be found at

Meet Gabby!

January 13, 2021

The Barton County Special Services Cooperative has added a four-legged friend to their team, a furry friend who will serve the needs of students across the county. 

“We started thinking about a therapy dog after a visit from a staff member at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility who works with their therapy dog program,” said Christie Gerdes, director of BCSS. “The trainer and her dog visited some of our classrooms in the 2015-16 school year and the visit made such an impact on some of our students with special needs that we decided to look into a therapy dog for our cooperative.” 

While funds were acquired at that time from the Post Rock Jaycees club, a grant from Wal-Mart, and other private donations, BCSS remained on a waiting list but was never matched with a therapy dog. Gerdes also noted the difficulty of finding a “parent” for the dog who can share time with a wide range of classrooms across the cooperative.

“The idea surfaced again this school year as we work to make connections with students who might feel more isolated and unsure of themselves,” Gerdes said. “Knowing the challenges we faced before, trying to find a match of a mature dog who was already trained, we decided to ‘grow our own.’ This is a concept we’re very familiar with as we often grow passionate staff members into licensed special education professionals to fill teaching positions across the cooperative.”

Gabby (the 10-week-old sheepadoodle with soft, curly black hair) is a “grow their own” therapy dog who is already receiving praise from students and teachers alike. 

“Gabby came to us from one of our previous preschool teachers,” said Gerdes. “So far, she has just the right temperament and motivation to work with students with special needs. Gabby’s presence will help students learn how to self-regulate and stay calm, as well as lessons of kindness and caring.”

BCSS staff will begin training with Gabby this week at puppy kindergarten and she will progress through more advanced training as she gets older. As for her “puppy parent,” Gerdes happily assumed the role and Gabby can be found following along at her feet most days. 

“It is our plan that she will be able to go into different special education classrooms across the cooperative and visit with students and staff for a day. When she comes up to you and wags her tail (and her whole body), you can’t help but smile and feel a little better about your day,” Gerdes shared.  

In her first two weeks at school, Gabby has visited several places as she gets to know the buildings, meeting students at Eisenhower Elementary, Park Elementary (where she was able to meet Rudy, her cohort therapy dog), Helping Hands Preschool, Ellinwood Grade School, and the USD 428 District Education Center. 

For more information about the therapy dog program or Barton County Special Services, please contact their office at 620-793-1550.

A Simpler Time

By: Jonathan Dorf, Tyler Dwiggins, Claire Epstein, Kathryn Funkhouser, Patrick Greene, Mora V. Harris, Carrie McWethy (McCrossen), Ian McWethy, Don Zolidis

Enjoy “A Simpler Time,” virtually 

December 10, 2020

 The Great Bend High School Drama Department invites the community to view their Fall 2020 play “A Simpler Time.” Presented in partnership with, the production is available to view for free on the Panther Media YouTube Channel.

Production is a collection of nine, 10 minute plays that find fun and familiar themes across every era. The tale of three time travelers illustrates a common thread throughout history; there is humor in human nature. 

“Planning for our play in 2020 doubled our effort in some areas,” said Holly Johnson, GBHS drama teacher. “We didn’t know if we’d be able to perform it live or not and while the recording didn’t require to many changes in the way to staging, we had to record each scene individually which added production time.”

Johnson shared that while students are proud of the final product, “there’s no replacement for the rush you get from performing in front of a live audience.”

The GBHS Drama Department would like to thank the generous sponsors who supported their production, which include, Just In Time Remodeling, Credit Union of America, Barton Community College, Nex-Tech, and Nex-Tech Wireless.

“Without ticket revenue from a live performance, our community sponsors were more important, and more appreciated than ever,” said Johnson.

 A link to GBHS Drama’s 2020 Fall Production can be found on the homepage of

Quarantine Reduced to 10 days with no symptoms, moving forward

December 9, 2020

 The Barton County Health Department, working in cooperation with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, will shorten quarantine recommendations from 14 days to 10 days (with no symptoms) moving forward. While there is still potential to develop symptoms in days 11-14, the risk is reduced. This change is effective as of December 7 and is not retroactive. Meaning, there will be no change on the duration of quarantine for orders issued before December 7.

USD 428 will follow the 10-day quarantine recommendation for anyone determined to be a close contact with a confirmed case and has exhibited no symptoms during their quarantine.  For added safety for staff and students, anyone returning from quarantine on day 11 will be asked to check-in with the nurse upon arrival at school for additional screening until past the 14-day mark. The nurse will do an additional temperature check beyond the door check and will ask a series of questions to make sure the student is not starting to exhibit symptoms. We also ask parents and students to screen before coming to school to avoid risking any additional exposure to other people.  

Day 11-14 Return to School Procedure:

Students will be temperature screened at the door, like all students. Upon arrival, students returning from quarantine will report to the nurse each day on day 11, 12, 13 and 14 for additional screening:

Stay well!

Revised Athletics/Activities Attendance Restrictions

December 9, 2020

 Message to Families and Students:

Restricted attendance rules have been amended by the Kansas State High School Activities Association and beginning Thursday, December 10, KSHSAA will allow attendance of up to two parents/guardians per participant(s) family at athletic events. 

We are working to implement this change for home athletic events for GBHS this week. We ask for your patience and cooperation with the procedures detailed below. Please know that this process is subject to change in the future as we work to create a safe and positive environment for our students, parents/guardians, as well as visiting teams.  

Restricted Attendance

Safety Precautions

Parents/guardians are required to adhere to the following health and safety guidelines. 

GBHS Arrival/Entry Instructions

More information will be provided as it becomes available. Please visit our websites for up to date calendar information or details about live-stream options. 

Thanksgiving Break Extended, Nov. 23 - 27

Nov. 17, 2020

 Message to Families and Students:

We are proud of what we have accomplished together this semester. Our teachers, staff, and community have worked tirelessly to support the health and safety of our schools - we are thankful for their efforts. As we prepare for Thanksgiving break, USD 428 administration has decided to close the district November 23-27 to allow extra time out of schools, hopefully lowering the number of quarantines and active cases of COVID-19. All buildings, including the Central Kitchen will be closed.

School will resume on November 30 for all students.

Please continue your efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Enjoy the extra time with family and please consider taking precautions to celebrate safely. Thank you for your commitment to our schools, students, and families.

Stay well, stay safe.

To learn more about Sora, or to download the app, visit

Sora reading app digitally links USD 428 and Central Kansas Library System, modernizing reading and literacy through Ebooks and E-audiobooks

Oct. 28, 2020

In this mobile age, technology has become increasingly valuable in supporting new generations of lifelong learners and readers. USD 428 and the Central Kansas Library System (CKLS) have formed an innovative partnership to increase access to ebooks and e-audiobooks, allowing students to learn anytime, anywhere, and from any device.

Sora, the student reading app from OverDrive Education, gives USD 428 students the ability to borrow age-appropriate e-books and audiobooks from a digital collection available through CKLS. To support the unique needs of all readers, Sora offers inclusive tools, including Read-Alongs, dyslexic font, adjustable text, a multilingual interface, and Google Translate.

One platform, thousands of e-books and audiobooks

“I have always wanted to get eBooks for my students,” said Holly Tittel, GBMS librarian, “but eBooks are so expensive and many purchases are only good for one year.  In speaking with CKLS, I learned about Sora and how the program ties right in with the eBooks that CKLS has already purchased for Great Bend Public Library.”

Through Sora, USD 428 students now have access to a digital library of over 5,000 juvenile titles, over 3,000 young adult titles, and 742 audiobooks. This digital collection is available to students learning on-site as well as those enrolled in GB Remote Learning.

Expanding access to reading materials

While USD 428 buildings maintain libraries of their own, inventory does not always match the demand for specific titles or genres. Add the unique scenario of remote learning in 2020, and the need for digital access to reading materials becomes more evident.

“This year provided a unique challenge and opportunity as we worked to safely get books in the hands of students - both inside and outside the classroom,” said Tricia Reiser, USD 428 director of teaching and learning. “We appreciate the work of Holly Tittel, CKLS, and Great Bend Public Library for helping us create this digital link for our students and teachers.”

As the district introduces Sora for classroom and extra-curricular use, students can track their reading achievements in the form of badges, which are earned by finishing books and using different app features. Students also benefit from private insight into their personal reading stats.

 “I feel that anything that helps encourage readers is a win-win,” said Tittel.

Sora is launching across USD 428 this month and is accessible for students through their Chromebook, phone, or tablet, using their USD 428 Google login. To learn more about Sora, visit

For more information on the USD 428 Sora roll-out or literacy programs, please contact the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500.

About OverDrive and OverDrive EducationOverDrive is the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools worldwide. The company’s K-12 division – OverDrive Education – supports reading and learning in the classroom. OverDrive strives to create “a world enlightened by reading” by delivering the industry’s largest catalog of ebooks, audiobooks, magazines and other digital media to a growing network of 50,000 libraries and schools in 78 countries, including more than 30,000 schools. OverDrive’s popular reading apps provide best-in-class user experience and tools for staff management: the Libby app for libraries is one of PCMag’s Best Free Software of 2019 and Popular Mechanics’ 20 Best Apps of the 2010s, while the student reading app Sora is one of TIME’s Best Inventions of 2019. Founded in 1986, OverDrive is based in Cleveland, Ohio USA and was named a Certified B Corp in 2017. OverDrive is owned by KKR, a leading global investment firm.

USD 428 names 2021 Horizon Award nominee

Sept. 25, 2020

USD 428 recently announced its nominee for the 2021 Kansas Horizon Award. Dorothy Leidig, fourth-grade teacher at Park Elementary was surprised with the award in her classroom on Thursday, September 24.

The Kansas Horizon Award program offers Kansas school districts an opportunity to honor exemplary first-year teachers whose performance distinguishes themselves as outstanding. Leidig began her second year at Park Elementary School this fall.

“Ms. Leidig goes above and beyond expectations,” said Phil Heeke, principal of Park Elementary School. “She makes sure each student works to their greatest potential, treating them with respect and creating a rapport with both them, and their parents.”

Heeke also commented on Leidig’s strength in teaching the subjects of math and science, STEM curriculum, and referenced her previous work experience and education as cultivating these talents.

“My degree is in biology,” said Leidig. “I love seeing things click in my students. I enjoy the challenge of finding where students are at and watching them grow.”

“I have embraced teaching from a conceptual understanding rather than just teaching an algorithm or a trick. I strive to find a personal connection to the material and activate prior background knowledge so that material is relevant to my students and engages them, maximizing learning.”

“USD 428, Park Elementary, and our students, are fortunate to have Dorothy Leidig lending her talents, and passion to our youth,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “She has our support and admiration as she advances to the state competition.”

The Kansas Horizon Award program, sponsored by the Kansas Department of Education, allows all school districts in the state an opportunity to nominate one elementary and one secondary teacher for the award. The Kansas Horizon Award Program is a regional competition. Nominations from school districts within the same U.S. congressional district will compete for statewide recognition. Kansas Horizon Award winners will be announced January of 2021 and will be recognized at the KEEN State Education Conference, which is typically held each February in Topeka.

Learn more about the Kansas Horizon Award Program at Local questions can be directed to Andrea Bauer, USD 428 public information director at 620-793-1560.

USD 428 partners with Kinsa's FLUency program, providing a free smart thermometer for elementary students 

Sept. 14, 2020


Kinsa is on a mission to stop the spread of illness! Learn more at FLUency is Kinsa’s school health program. For the past five years, FLUency has partnered with sponsors to provide parents free thermometers and a smartphone app to help detect and respond to spreading illnesses. This year, participation in FLUency matters more than ever to keep your family and school community healthy!

Sign up now to join the waitlist for a FREE smart thermometer!

*Messages and data rates may apply. You can always text STOP to end messages.

Free meals for students through Dec. 31, 2020

Sept. 8, 2020

New and exciting changes in USD 428 Meal Service will begin today, Tuesday, September 8. 

These expanded services begin Tuesday, Sept. 8. There is no action required to participate in the free meal program. Positive lunch account balances will carry-forward and can be used when the free meal program expires. Students are still welcome to bring sack lunches to school. 

We hope our families feel supported by these additional efforts to care for the health, nutrition, and wellness of our students. We also ask for your patience as we adjust our food orders to meet the anticipated increased demand for hot lunches. Daily menus may continue to fluctuate or alternative items provided to make sure all students receive a meal. 

Stay well and have a great week!

Kristy Alvord

Director of Food and Nutrition

Quarantined Students / GB Remote Learning - Order student meals with LINQ:

USD 428 is an equal opportunity provider. 

Free meals for kids, summer lunch program continues July 6

July 2, 2020

Free summer meals will continue in July for children 18 years-old and younger at one Great Bend location.

With the close of USD 428’s summer school program, meal service will be consolidated to one centralized location. Meals will be available for curb-side pick-up beginning Monday, July 6, at the USD 428 Central Kitchen located at the corner of Broadway and Stone. Pick-up is available from 11 am – 1 pm, Monday through Thursday, with the program concluding on July 30.

Meal packages include a breakfast and lunch for each child. Grant funding requires that children be in the vehicle on the first visit. At that time, the parent or caregiver can receive a permit for future pick-ups when children are not present.   

“We want to see our students thrive,” said Kristy Alvord, food service director for USD 428. “In these uncertain times, these meals are fast and nutritious for our kids, not to mention a convenient option for our families.”

USD 428 has seen high numbers of participation in the curb-side program that has been operating at elementary buildings since mid-March. Central Kitchen Staff, with the help of other USD 428 employees, served 34,489 breakfasts and lunches in the month of June.

The summer meal program is underwritten through a partnership with USDA and USD 428 and has been provided locally for more than 20 years. For more information, please contact the USD 428 Central Kitchen at 620-793-1540.

USD 428 is an equal opportunity provider.

Great Bend High School prepares for 133rd Commencement

June 24, 2020

Great Bend High School invites the community to celebrate the Class of 2020 at the 133rd Commencement Ceremony scheduled for Saturday, June 27 at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Stadium. 

“Our seniors have been on a bit of a roller-coaster these last few months,” said Randy Wetzel, vice principal at GBHS. “While it’s happening a little later than expected, and with a few modifications, graduation is an important milestone before our students launch into their next adventure.”   

Gates at the Memorial Stadium will open at 6 p.m. and guests will be reminded to observe social distancing between family units. To reduce exposure risks, graduates will be spaced six feet apart on the field and there will be no handshakes as students receive diplomas. At the conclusion of the ceremony, guests and graduates will exit the facility to avoid congregating on the field. 

More information about graduation as well as tributes to the Class of 2020 can be found online at The commencement ceremony will also be live-streamed on the GBHS Media YouTube channel for those who are unable to attend the event. For more information, please contact Great Bend High School at 620-793-1521.

Drivers Education Enrollment Events

May 8, 2020

After experiencing delays and uncertainty, students in Great Bend are preparing to take to the roads with Drivers Education scheduled to begin June 10. 

Officials at Great Bend High School estimate over 100 students will participate in Drivers Education this summer in preparation to earn their drivers license. Students must be 14 on or before June 15, 2020 to take the course. 

Enrollment will be held on May 18 and 19, students can enroll from 11 am – 1 pm, or from 3 pm – 5 pm.  

“Extra precautions and safety measures have been put in place to ensure public health and safety,” said David Meter, GBHS activities director. “Both during enrollment and during the Drivers Education course, we will follow the regulations issued in Governor Kelly’s phases of reopening.”

The cost of Drivers Education is $150 per student, with a $50 discount available to those who qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program. Enrollments must be received by May 29 to participate in the 2020 Drivers Education program.  

More information can be found at Questions about Drivers Education can be directed to David Meter, Principal of Drivers Education or Traci Maneth, Secretary of Drivers Education at Great Bend High School (620)793-1521. 

Community members award wheels for perfect attendance

May 1, 2020

While school buildings may be closed for the remainder of the school year, education continues in new ways in Great Bend. Based on attendance records through March 5, 2020, when USD 428 students dismissed for Spring Break, a group of dedicated community members chose to recognize students with perfect attendance through the annual Perfect Attendance Bike Program. 

“The challenges faced this school year have nothing to do with the dedication and hard work of the students who qualify,” said Karen Shaner, program organizer. “We would like to thank all the students for their hard work and dedication during the school year. That also includes a big thank you to those who make it possible for students to be on time and do not miss out on a day of learning.” 

The program is in its eighth year thanks to the generous support of the Midwest Energy Community Fund, Wal-Mart, and lengthy list of community donors. This year, donors supported the purchase of 31 bicycles in all. 

“This is an amazing program that honors our well-deserving perfect attendance students,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 Superintendent. “We greatly appreciate the dedication of our students and families to accomplish perfect attendance - it takes a lot of work! We are fortunate to have such a great program organized by Karen Shaner and generous community sponsors to celebrate this notable accomplishment.”

Each elementary school was given six bikes to award to student who received perfect attendance. While the excitement of an all-school assembly was replaced with phone calls to families, photos of pick-up day show a glimpse of students’ excitement and joy.

Questions about the Perfect Attendance Bike Program can be directed the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500 or to Karen Shaner, community organizer at  

Selected from 136 school districts and peers in Central and Western Kansas, David Meter has been named the 2020 District 1 Athletic Director of the Year. Meter’s career in Great Bend includes over 41 years of service, 20 of which has been at the helm of the Great Bend High School Athletic Department. Meter will presented with the award at the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association State Convention on Saturday, April 4 in Manhattan, Kan.

Meter named 2020 Athletic Director of the Year

March 13, 2020

Acknowledging vision and passion for athletics, as well as exceptional leadership skills, David Meter has been selected as the 2020 District 1 Athletic Director of the Year. 

Awarded by the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, the Interscholastic Athletic Administrator Award is a mark of excellence and achievement. Meter was selected from 136 school districts in Central and Western Kansas. 

A longtime employee at USD 428, Meter taught and coached in Great Bend for ten years before becoming the Principal at Park Elementary.  In 2000, he became the Athletic Director at Great Bend High School, where he has continued to serve for the past 20 years. 

“David’s honesty, integrity and tireless work ethic are just a few of the traits that make him very deserving of this award,” said Tim Friess, principal of GBHS. “David has done more for GBHS Athletics and Activities than anyone that I have had the privilege to work with in my 37 years, we are privileged and honored to have David Meter as a colleague.”

Through his career he previously served as President of the Western Athletic Conference, a former member of the KSHSAA Board of Directors, and also a former member of the KIAAA Board of Directors. Meter has been involved with many renovations to Great Bend’s athletic department including upgrading the GBHS weight room, installation of swim scoreboard and electronic timing at BCC, tennis court renovation at Veterans Memorial Park, construction of the Panther Athletic Center, Memorial Stadium turf football field and grandstand improvements, new gymnasium at GBMS, and the addition to the GBHS auditorium. Meter received the ROSE Award from USD 428 and is a two-time recipient of the SW KMEA Outstanding Administrator Award.  Meter is also a member of the Kansas and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Associations of which this award is being presented. 

On a personal level, Meter considers himself ‘blessed’ to work with many quality students, staff, parents, and community members for the past 41 years.  He is married to his wife Cindy and has one son Brent who resides in the Kansas City area.  

“He says ‘he is blessed’ to work with us when, truly, he is the blessing.,” said Friess.

Khris Thexton, superintendent for USD 428, echoed Friess accolades, adding, “I appreciate David's professionalism as an administrator for our district, his desire to provide an outstanding experience for our students and staff is evident in all that he does.”  

Meter will receive the award at the Kansas Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association State Convention on Saturday, April 4 in Manhattan, Kan. Notes of congratulations can be sent to Meter’s attention at Great Bend High School, 2027 Morton St. Great Bend.  

Students, Trinity and Diana from Park Elementary School’s Multimedia Club captured community photos on a beautiful winter day. Members of the club are required to maintain good grades and classroom status to participate in these opportunities that take them out into the community. Students pilot drones to capture video and photos, documenting community events and footage for businesses.

Park’s Multimedia Club deployed their drones and crew at the Great Bend Zoological Society’s Fall Food Fling featuring the new grizzly bear exhibit. While wind kept their drone on the ground during some of the event, IPads let students capture video and photos on the ground. Pilots and photographers on the project included Jorge, Trinity, Isaac & Diana. 

Community connections, taking flight

February 10, 2020

Reading, math, science, social studies, and citizenship? While Great Bend Public Schools emphasize core academic instruction, teachers are also found navigating new educational territory - teaching students how to connect in an increasingly digital world. 

             It is common for classrooms to welcome guest speakers and community presenters, but unique to Park Elementary School, students go beyond their building to offer their time and talents to the community. The Park Multimedia Club, formerly the Park Drone Club, has been producing community videos for five years and celebrates more than 45-50 active students and alumni.

            “It’s hard to count the number of community partners we’ve made over the past five years,” said Phil Heeke, principal at Park Elementary School. “One of the most exciting moments for the students is when they see their video footage, or a photo they took, pop up on a TV commercial or an advertisement or flyer.”

            The club looks for opportunities to deploy their media skills for community groups, events and businesses. Examples of past partnerships include aerial footage for the Kansas Wetlands Education Center, video footage for the Great Bend Fire Department’s Youth Academy, Great Bend Recreation Commission, Harper Camperland, Great Bend Rotary Club and recently, a collaboration with the Great Bend Zoological Society to showcase their Fall Food Fling membership drive at the new bear exhibit.  

            "The students gave up their time on a Saturday to provide us with a special video keepsake, that shows dedication to their passion and to their community," said Aaron Emerson, Great Bend Zoological Society board member. "We had a whole team at the event and their professionalism and attention to detail with a variety of angles was impressive. I'm sure the bears felt like celebrities!"

            With hundreds of photos and several hours of video footage to comb through, the team’s final video was edited down to an action packed one minute and fifteen seconds. Published to the Park Elementary School and Zoological Society Facebook pages, the video has received nearly 2,000 views since October. 

            “Just one minute of finished video takes at least one hour of review and editing,” said Heeke. “Watching the kids’ creative process of selecting the best video frames, soundtracks, and text are some of the most rewarding moments to watch, collaboration and teamwork at its best.”

            Once a video is published, the students closely monitor the number of “likes,” “shares,” or “comments,” it receives. 

“We’re proud to interact with the community, but it’s even better when the community interacts back,” Heeke said. “It’s a boost to their confidence and pride when they see that a finished project connects with the right audience.”

Launching the Park Multimedia Club was also a learning experience for Heeke. Operating a drone in the State of Kansas requires permits and training. Inquires from the community as well as students’ interests direct many of the projects and initiatives the club tackles. Park’s Student Council and Parent Booster Club also benefit from the talents of the club. The club meets after school Monday – Thursday, and on evenings and weekends for special projects. 

            The public is invited to visit Park Elementary School’s Facebook page to view a gallery of videos produced by the Park Multimedia Club. For more information, please contact Park Elementary School at 620-793-1505.

Back Row:  Brooke Lewis, CJ Gibson, Isaiah Smith, Maddix Pokoroski, Malachi Wasson, Dustin Emig, Dalton Dicks, Gavin Hirsch, Daniel AbbottFront Row:  Xanna Smith, Adeline Dougherty, Breanne Allen, Skylar Fletcher, Katria Kindscher, Bayle Sandy


January 24, 2020

Great Bend High School’s forensics team recently attended the annual Model United Nations Conference at Wichita State University.  

The conference was held in the Rhatigan Student Center on WSU’s campus.  It was attended by around 180 students from 17 Kansas high schools.  

At Model UN conferences, students participate in simulations of United Nations sessions, debating, negotiating, caucusing, drafting, and voting on resolutions that address world problems.  

The GBHS students represented Iraq, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Panama, and Cyprus.  Each team consisted of three students.  The two topic areas that were covered involved control of small arms and promotion of education for democracy.

Students met in their committees, where they debated world issues and interacted with faculty and graduate students who are experts on the topics before each committee.  

Sophomore Breanne Allen noted that she felt the day was beneficial, “because I got to understand a little bit more about how the UN is run and how to make compromises to meet a common goal.”  Another GBHS representative Dalton Dicks enjoyed, “the level of cooperation, the caucusing, and the level of general respect for other delegates present in the conference.”

Awards were announced during the closing ceremonies.  Daniel Abbott, Dalton Dicks, CJ Gibson and Bayle Sandy team won “Outstanding Position Paper.”  These four seniors had collaboratively written a paper presenting Iraq’s position on arms control and education.   A freshman, Maddix Pokoroski, received an honorable mention for his work as a delegate from Vietnam.  

GBHS student Tristen Milligan, showed off the award winning electric car and shared other details about the Vocational Technology Club. Woodworking Teacher, Travis Straub, oversee the club as they compete with both their electric car and solar car across Kansas. 

Sharing blue prints and scaled designs, GBHS student Maria Miranda provided visuals to convey how projects in the various architectural and CAD drafting classes have helped her learn the fundamentals of design with hands-on experience. 

Students representing Audio/Visual Technology and Communications talked with eighth-grade students from GBMS about opportunities to explore digital and print media at GBHS. Coursework also includes social media management, a digital newspaper, yearbook, video production and more. 

Education opens the door to career exploration

January 22, 2020

Wielding cameras, blueprints, measuring cups, and more, students at Great Bend High School shared their career aspirations and insight with eighth-grade students from Great Bend Middle School on January 22. As students prepare for high school enrollment in the coming weeks, the Career Adventures Fair allowed students to browse the career and technical education electives that comprise the over 20 career pathways offered at Great Bend High School. 

Organized by the GBHS Guidance Office, this fair is a valuable time for students to sample the coursework and content of Career & Technical Education (CTE) coursework, and maybe most importantly, hear first-hand accounts from students pursuing the various pathways. 

“I can point to the class names on a page all day, but when an actual student shares their experiences and excitement, the content comes to life,” said Rachel Thexton, high school guidance counselor. “Giving eighth-graders an opportunity to hear from all the pathways opens their eyes to subjects they might not have thought they would enjoy.” 

GBHS provides a diverse offering of career and technical education, from biomedical to welding and manufacturing, business finance to early childhood education. 

“Career pathways provide a valuable method for career exploration,” said Randy Wetzel, assistant principal at GBHS. “Our pathways at GBHS reflect workforce needs and give students a chance to gain fundamental knowledge and experience that prepares them to enter the workforce, a technical certificate program, or attend college.” 

Skilled Trades, Workforce Development:

National news headlines, as well as local job boards, tell the story of high demand for skilled labor in the workforce. In-line with the national average, seventy-percent of construction companies in the Midwest are having trouble finding qualified workers, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. Additional trade programs like carpentry, electrical, plumbing and welding continue to be in high demand for workers. While these career paths may require a certificate program in place of a four-year college degree, wages for skilled trades are competitive. In all, some 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 per year don't require bachelor's degrees, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

“Career paths and plans might seem a distant thought for some eighth-grade students,” said Lacy Wolters, career & ACT coordinator at GBHS, “but statistics tell us that involvement in career and technical education makes a positive impact on students. Students who complete at least three CTE courses have a 10% higher high school graduation rate.”

“We also want students to understand that pursuing a skilled trade or certificate program after high school is a viable career option,” said Wolters. “I often share with students that in Kansas, 42% of ‘good jobs’ can be obtained without a 4-year college degree. A ‘good job’ is described with an average wage of $55,000 per year.”  

“In many of our Career and Technical Education programs, not only are students gaining valuable career exploration,” said Wolters, “but as juniors and seniors they can also earn free college credit through partnerships with areas schools like Barton Community College.”

More information about the Career and Technical Education Pathways can be found on the Great Bend High School website at, or by calling the guidance department at 620-793-1616.

Special Education students from Great Bend High School, joined by their teacher Mrs. Galusha, smile for a photo to show their appreciation to the generous community sponsors who underwrote the event expenses. Thank you - First Christian Church, Superior Essex, Makinna Ann Hope Foundation, Krebaum Chiropractic, and The Upside of Down Syndrome Parent Group. Specials thanks to the Great Bend Recreation Commission for the use of the Imagination Playground and to Ron Mink (Santa) for donating his time. 

 A very special, inclusive, Christmas party

December 16, 2019

    Laughter and activity echoed through the Washington Education Center Gymnasium and students smiled from ear-to-ear. Nearly 50 students served by Barton County Special Services - Special Education, attended for the first ever “Very Special Christmas Party” on Friday, December 13. 

   The event welcomed students and staff from Riley, Lincoln, and Eisenhower Elementary Schools, Great Bend Middle School, Great Bend High School, and Ellinwood Schools. 

   “This party was created to be all inclusive,” said Jessica Nelson, special education teacher at Eisenhower Elementary. “Too often, students with special needs cannot fully access their general education classroom parties or maybe do not have an opportunity in their home building. This year, we decided to fix that!”

   Nelson teamed-up with Special Education Teachers Connie Ward from Great Bend Middle School, and Dawn Galusha from Great Bend High School, to provide this memorable event. 

   “The response from the community was overwhelming,” said Nelson. “Generous community partners provided all the funding for the event, allowing us to provide ample activities, a sundae bar, goodie bags, and a special handpicked present for each student.” 

   In addition to making new memories, students had the chance to connect with old friends and past teachers. Teachers were also excited to gather, reinforcing their shared goals and passion for their students. 

   “It was special to see my former students and to watch them reconnect with other friends that they forgot they had,” said Nelson. “It takes a village to raise and educate a child and last week we were able to gather our village and reinforce the importance of collaboration, compassion, and empathy.”

   If you would like more information, please contact the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500.

Great Bend Reads, students bring home the hardworking hen

November 1, 2019

    This week, students across Great Bend will welcome the hardworking, little red hen to their classrooms. Celebrating literacy and community involvement, the Great Bend Reads program kicks off district-wide November 1. 

    “This year we’re focusing on our early readers,” said Misty Straub, principal of Lincoln Elementary School and 2019 Great Bend Reads chair. “The idea in mind is to encourage the love for reading using a children's book that enables families to read and re-read a simple story with a meaningful lesson.” 

    Great Bend Reads is sponsored by USD 428 and presented in partnership with the Great Bend Public Library. This year, nearly 1,000 students pre-k through second-grade, will receive a copy of the book to take home. The book is also accompanied by a calendar, providing prompts on where and how to read the book each day.

“Read in the car, read with a pet, read with a neighbor… we’ve shared some fun ideas with families to help the story come to life in new ways each day,” said Straub. 

    Students beyond the ages of k-2 will also participate in Great Bend Reads in various ways. In some buildings, older students will serve as reading mentors and at home, families are encouraged to read together. Great Bend High School’s Theatre department will also visit each school to perform a skit for students.

    At the end of the end of the two-week program, the Great Bend Public Library will host The Little Red Hen’s Barnyard Bash from 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. on Saturday, November 16. The event will include flour and bread baking demonstrations from the Stafford County Flour Mill, touch a tractor, crafts, games and more planned by the GBPL staff and community partners. 

    “The community is invited to join the fun,” said Straub. “The book shares lessons of hardwork and responsibility that everyone can appreciate and enjoy, no matter your age. 

     For more information about Great Bend Reads and this year’s programing, please contact Misty Straub at Lincoln Elementary School, 620-793-1503. 

Eat Smart. Play Hard.

October 24, 2019

    While the message is simple, actually creating an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits can sometimes prove complicated. On Tuesday, aspects of nutrition, wellness, physical activity, and body function came to life for Great Bend 5th-graders through Body Venture.

    Sponsored by the Kansas Department of Education, the 50’ interactive exhibit takes students through an engaging tour of the human body and the body’s critical organs and functions. The message and experiential education activities provide lessons on good nutrition, physical activity, and other healthy lifestyle choices. 

    Locally, the Body Venture event is coordinated by USD 428’s school nurses. Volunteers from the Great Bend Pilot Club and Great Bend High School Kays Club help by staffing the presentations throughout the exhibit. This year’s event welcomed nearly 275 5th-grade students from all Great Bend elementary schools, including Holy Family and Central Kansas Christian Academy. 

    Students also received a take-home activity book, bookmark and reusable bag of healthy snacks.

     As students enter Body Venture they are assigned the role of a specific food item.

     “You are not here today to eat food, you are food,” said Gerri Marietta, Pilot Club volunteer, as she welcomed a group of students into the exhibit’s “Lunch Room” and introduced the concept of the tour. 

     “Body Venture brings information to life,” said Linda Johnson, USD 428 school nurse. “Even though students may hear these messages in the classroom, the experience of walking through the human body and seeing the visual impacts their choices make is very powerful.”      

      The tour ends in the “Pathway to Life,” summarizing the lessons learned in each portion of the body and the practical life applications to creating a healthy habits and lifestyle.  

    “We want to thank The Fieldhouse, OPI, Credit Union of America, Nex-Tech and the Center for Counseling, for their generosity in helping us provide all students with a take-home healthy snack bag,” said Johnson. “Also, this event would not be possible without the amazing volunteers from the Pilot Club of Great Bend and the GBHS Kays Club.”

    For more information about the Body Venture program and the office of Child Nutrition and Wellness, please visit Local questions can be directed to the USD 428 District Office at 620-793-1500. 

Kids Belong in School: September celebrates National Attendance Awareness Month

September 6, 2019

The opening days of school conjure up images of backpacks stuffed with notebooks and unsharpened pencils, bulletin boards freshly decorated by teachers, and students showing off new clothes to old friends. 

But even in these early days of the new school year, some students already are heading toward academic trouble:  They’re missing too many days of school. Across the country, nearly 8 million students miss nearly a month of school every year—absences that can correlate with poor performance at every grade level.

This trend starts as early as kindergarten and continues through high school, contributing to achievement gaps and ultimately to dropout rates. In our community, attendance rates reported in 2018 were 92.7, falling short of the State average of 94.5. 

This year, our school district is celebrating the Attendance Awareness Campaign, part of a nationwide movement intended to convey the message that every school day counts.

We can’t afford to think of absenteeism as simply an administrative matter. Good attendance is central to student achievement and our broader efforts to improve schools. All of our investments in curriculum and instruction won’t amount to much if students aren’t showing up to benefit from them. 

Problems with absenteeism start surprisingly early:  National research shows that one in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students are chronically absent, meaning that they miss 10 percent of the school year, or about 18 days of instruction, because of excused and unexcused absences. 

Chronic absence can have consequences throughout a child’s academic career, especially for those students living in poverty, who need school the most and are sometimes getting the least. Children who are chronically absent in kindergarten and first grade are less likely to read proficiently by third grade, and students who don’t read well by that critical juncture are more likely to struggle in school. They are also more likely to be chronically absent in later years, since they never developed good attendance habits. 

By middle school, chronic absence becomes one of the leading indicators that a child will drop out of high school. By ninth grade, it’s a better indicator than how well a student did on eighth grade tests.

Chronic absence isn’t just about truancy or willfully skipping school. Instead, children stay home because of chronic illness, unreliable transportation, housing issues, bullying or simply because their parents don’t understand how quickly absences add up—and affect school performance. 

After all, 18 days is only two days a month in a typical school year.  This is true whether absences are excused or unexcused, whether they come consecutively or sporadically throughout the school year.

So how do we turn this around? 

“A key step is reminding families about the critical role they play in getting children to school on time every day,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “Parents or caregivers can help develop the habit of good attendance by enforce bedtimes and other routines, as well as avoiding vacations while school is in session.” 

Within USD 428 buildings and classrooms, teachers also reinforce these messages and, when they can, offer fun incentives for those students who show the best attendance or most improvement. Businesses, faith leaders, and community volunteers can also convey this message.

“Our building principals monitor attendance numbers closely,” said Thexton. “We want to know how many students have a high rate of absenteeism, who they are, and do our best to understand why.” 

At Great Bend High School, Karla Martinez, attendance and behavior interventionist, is working to address chronic absenteeism. Starting her fourth year in the position, Martinez’s focus is shifting slightly from discipline to intervention. Instead of automatic In School Suspension after an unexcused absence, students will now spend a week in lunch detention in Martinez’s office.

“The goal of the intervention is to develop a relationship with the student and to get to the root cause of why the student is missing school,” said Martinez. “Now that students know who I am and what I do in my position, I’m optimistic that interventions will start to address and overcome some of the issues that prevent students from getting to school every day.” 

But schools can’t do this alone. 

Building a strong foundation for learning and life requires the help of the whole community. Opening conversations and expanding partnerships health care providers, non-profit agencies, volunteers, and the business community are a necessary factor to come-up with solutions. 

Volunteers from businesses, faith-based groups, and nonprofits can provide that extra shift of adults we need to mentor chronically absent students and reach out to parents. 

The community is encouraged to think about what they can do within their own family and or neighborhood to help get more kids to school. USD 428 invites you to join in the effort to make every day count.

USD 428 and Barton County Health Department collaborate to bring immunizations to students

July 18, 2019

Back-to-school season initiates several “to-do’s” and tasks for families preparing for enrollment. This year, a new partnership between USD 428 and the Barton County Health Department will provide a convenient opportunity for students to receive their state required immunizations in conjunction with Athletic Physicals scheduled for the morning of August 3 at Great Bend High School.

         “Supporting the health and wellness of our students is top priority,” said Dana Wilson, school nurse at USD 428. “Immunizations protect our student body from a wide variety of health threats. We are excited to make immunizations more accessible and convenient on a Saturday morning, and in a familiar location like GBHS.” 

        “Two recent additions to state required immunizations go into effect August 2,” said Wilson. “Kindergarten and first-grade students will now be required to have a Hepatitis A vaccine, and the meningococcal vaccine at seventh-grade and a second dose at junior (11-grade) year. A full list of immunizations required by the State of Kansas, including these additions, is available on the USD 428 website for parents to reference.” 

The Barton County Health Department will have all state required immunizations available at the Great Bend High School Commons Area from 7am – 10am on Saturday, August 3. School age children grades K – 12 who need immunizations are invited to attend. This is a walk-in event; an appointment is not required. Families are asked to bring their insurance information. Private insurance, Medicaid and uninsured will be accepted. Parents must be present for their children to receive vaccinations. A list of immunization requirements, as well as additional student health information, can be found on

Students attending Great Bend Middle School and Great Bend High School who plan to participate in athletics in the 2019-2020 school year are the primary focus of this free event. Free Athletic Physicals for sophomores, juniors, and seniors are available between 7 – 8:30 a.m., followed by grades 7, 8 & 9 from 8:30 – 10 a.m. on Saturday, August 3. 

Questions about immunizations or other student health related concerns can be directed to the Great Bend High School Activities Office at 620-793-1300 or to the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500. More information can also be found at

Online Enrollment Opens July 17

July 15, 2019

Mid-July marks the peak of the summer travel season, and it also marks the final stretch of summer vacation with school scheduled to resume on August 19 for Great Bend Public Schools. In preparation for the back-to-school season, USD 428 will launch online enrollment on July 17. 

            “This is a great convenience for our parents,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent.   “Online enrollment also ensures that our students’ information is up to date, accurate, and readily available to our building and district administrators.” 

For students who are either returning or preregistered in USD 428, online enrollment is required. Parents/guardians can simply login to their “Family Access” portal on the USD 428 website to complete the 2019-2020 enrollment process. New students, or those needing assistance or access to a computer, are asked to enroll in-person at their attendance center in August.

New in 2019, to further streamline the online enrollment process, credit card processing fees will be waived for all transactions. Check and cash will also be accepted at the school buildings.

“Each year we look to see how we can make the online enrollment process easier for our families,” said Thexton. “Removing the small transaction fee removes an inconvenience and will hopefully encourage parents and guardians to take care of everything in one-stop.”

Elementary enrollment will be held August 6 from 1-7 p.m., and on August 7 from 8 a.m. – 1 p.m. at all five neighborhood elementary buildings. Great Bend Middle School and Great Bend High School will host enrollment on August 6 from 8 a.m.-7 p.m. and August 7 from 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Questions can be directed to the specific attendance centers, or to the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500. More information can also be found under Parents & Students/Enrollment.

In recognition for twenty-five years of service as a teacher, five USD 428 teachers were honored for the influence such service extends across the years, making a fundamental contribution to the future of Kansas and the Nation. Pictured from left to right, Khris Thexton, superintendent; Diana Zecha, teacher; Travis McAtee, teacher; and Linda Reschke, teacher. Not pictured, Kelly Brack and Susan Thornburg. 

USD 428, Great Bend Middles School and Great Bend High School Athletics extend a message of appreciation for Steve Beaumont’s 31 years of classroom and 19 years as the head coach of the GBHS Swim Team. Students, colleagues and the community are proud to celebrate Beaumont’s career and impact on USD 428 throughout his distinguished career. 

At the close of an eight-year career with Barton County Special Services and USD 428, Peggy McMillon (center) celebrates retirement with Christie Gerdes, BCSS director and Khris Thexton, superintendent. 

Khris Thexton, superintendent, congratulates Jan Keeley on a 20 year career with USD 428. After nine years in the administrative office at GBHS, Keeley worked for 11 years at the District Education Center. 

Serving as the public information director for 11 years, Jennifer Schartz accepted a token of appreciation from Khris Thexten, superintendent, to commemorate her retirement from USD 428. 

After nearly 22 years, Sue Ware retired from the position of accounts payable clerk at USD 428.  

Service and careers celebrated at USD 428

May 9, 2019

Two teachers are answering the call of retirement at the close of this school year. Additionally, twelve classified personnel are retiring or have already retired during the year.

Retirees were honored at the annual Employee Recognition Banquet held on Wednesday, May 8 at the Great Bend Middle School commons area. At that time, five educators were also recognized for 25 years of service to the education profession.

Retiring teachers include Steve Beaumont, Great Bend Middle School computer teacher, and GBHS swim coach; and Jackie Peters, Riley Elementary fourth-grade teacher.

Classified retirees include Steve Corn, maintenance; Angie Fanshier, Lincoln paraprofessional; John Heinrich, Jr., maintenance; Hal Hollembeak, maintenance; Jan Keeley, district assistant financial director; Marlene Martin, Parent Teacher Resource Center; Nancy McAllister, BCSS in Ellinwood; Peggy McMillon, Washington school psychologist; Scott Morrow, maintenance; Teri Newman, GBHS paraprofessional; Jennifer Schartz, district public information director; Sue Ware, district account payable clerk. 

Twenty-five year veteran educators include Kelly Brack, GBMS physical education teacher; Travis McAtee, GBHS science teacher; Linda Reschke, Jefferson Elementary special education teacher; Susan Thornburg, Park Elementary English language teacher; and Diana Zecha, Hoisington High School special education teacher. 

Information from retiring teachers and staff who provided comments about their careers in Great Bend follow. 

Steve Beaumont

For 31 years, Beaumont has shared his passion for teaching and classroom instruction with USD 428. Beginning his career in elementary education, Beaumont taught fifth-grade at Riley Elementary for five years, he taught sixth-grade at Washington Elementary for six years, followed by teaching sixth-grade at Eisenhower Elementary for three years. Beaumont then landed at Great Bend Middle for the past 17 years where he will close his career as a computer science teacher. 

During his time in education, Beaumont commented on the significant changes he’s witnessed in classroom technology.

“Students are able to access and use technology for learning in many ways, but teachers able to create lessons, share ideas, and communicate with others so much more effectively,” said Beaumont. “I look back at the days when we recorded grades and attendance in a spiral-bound gradebook, calculated grades using a calculator, and had to write out our lessons each week in our plan books. I truly appreciate how much easier it is to manage daily tasks now compared to 30 years ago.”

In addition to his skill in the classroom, Beaumont also lent his talents and leadership to the Great Bend High School Swim Team for 19 years as head coach. David Meter, GBHS athletic director, commended Beaumont’s 16 straight WAC titles, his involvement with the Golden Belt Summer Swim Program, as well as his outstanding retention rate of swim team members from freshman year through senior year. 

Peggy McMillon

Peggy McMillon worked within USD 428 and the Barton County Special Service Cooperative for over eight years. She served students in several buildings, including, Eisenhower, Otis-Bison, Holy Family, Central Kansas Christian Academy, Helping Hands, and most recently, Riley Elementary. 

McMillon shared a favorite moment from a few weeks ago while testing with a student at Riley Elementary.

“Working on a subtest, I asked the student to give me definitions for common words,” said McMillon. “As the words began to get more difficult his frustration started to grow. Finally he put his head in his hands and said ‘can’t you just Google it!’ – a reminder of how things have changed,” said McMillon. 

Jan Keeley

Celebrating 20 years with USD 428, Keeley’s career included nine years at Great Bend High School followed by 11 years at the USD 428 District Education Center. 

“I’ve always felt USD 428 was an excellent school district,” said Keeley. 

Reflecting on time spent with colleagues, Keeley commented, “My favorite moments include Homecoming parades, Christmas parties, and coffee breaks.”

Jennifer Schartz

Working for 11 years as USD 428’s pubic information director, Jennifer Schartz retired in the fall of 2018. Schartz expressed her appreciation for Dr. Vernon who hired her and understood her responsibility as a Barton County commissioner. “He allowed me to work a flexible schedule and I appreciate Khris Thexton who continued to honor that agreement.” 

“The best part of the job for me was the relations I formed,” said Schartz. “I enjoyed getting back to my newspaper roots by producing The Relay on a monthly basis and the freedom I was given to make the job my own.”

Sue Ware

Sue Ware served as the accounts payable clerk for USD 428 for nearly 22 years before retiring in the summer of 2018. 

Ware commended USD 428 for “always staying at the front edge of technology and for continued support of the Fine Arts.”

The last day of school for USD 428 is scheduled for Thursday, May 23. After a teacher workday on the 24, summer recess will commence with Memorial Day weekend for both students and teachers. 

To acknowledge notable achievement in the face of socio-economic challenges in their student populations, Jean Clifford, State Board of Education Member, presented Riley Elementary Principal, JoAnn Blevins and Park Elementary Principal, Phil Heeke, with Challenge Awards on Friday, April 12.  Left to right, Thexton, Blevins, Clifford, and Heeke.

Students rise to the challenge 

April 12, 2019

Two Great Bend elementary schools received special recognition this week in the form of a Challenge Award from the Kansas State Department of Education for making a noticeable difference in student achievement despite facing challenges in their student populations. 

USD 428’s Park Elementary School and Riley Elementary School received the Challenge Award honor for 2018. Jean Clifford, district 5 representative to the Kansas State Board of Education, delivered the certificates and sincere congratulations in Great Bend on Friday, April 12. 

“41 schools in District 5 received Challenge Awards, more than any other district,” said Clifford. “To me, this illustrates that our rural schools are doing well for our students and helping them to excel.” 

Administered by the Confidence in Education Task Force. Since the awards inception in 2002, Challenge Awards have been presented to over 1,600 schools across the state. Award criteria from the KSDE website states that Challenge Awards recognize schools for outstanding achievement and uncommon accomplishment based on Kansas math and reading assessment results and other qualifying factors, specifically the sample size, ethnicity and social-economic status of those taking the test. 

“We are proud of our teachers and support staff at Park, Riley, and across the district who are investing in the success of our children every day,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “The Challenge Award is motivation for our administrators and teacher to reach for even higher levels of performance.”

Strength in numbers, over 800 GBHS students and staff served the community as part of the 7th Annual GBHS Community Service Day. 

GBHS students, led by GBHS Teacher Dan Heath, discussed the game plan for cleanup efforts at the City Band shell and Jack Kilby Square. 

Morgan Stevens, owner of Yoga Central, welcome GBHS teacher Sergio Ramirez and a crew of seven students for Community Service Day on April 24. 

Community served, community built

April 24, 2019

Great Bend High School’s Seventh Annual Community Service Day led over 800 students and staff out of the school and into the community on Wednesday, April 24. Students and teachers were scattered throughout Great Bend, and Barton County, working on various projects that included everything from painting, sorting, picking up trash, working on city, church, and school grounds, and helping local nonprofits and businesses.  With students logging hours of community service and working hard to better the community, job sites across Great Bend served as “classrooms” for life skills and community pride.  

"Community Service Day has been a huge success at GBHS by giving us one day where we can show our entire community that 800 teenagers can, and do make a difference in this city,” said Great Bend High School Principal, Tim Friess. “The day is a great way to give back a little to those that have helped us and to show the value of helping others. Our students seem to get as much satisfaction out of the day as those who are being helped.”  

Morgan Stevens, owner of Yoga Central in Great Bend, welcomed students to her business to help refresh her landscaping and a few other small projects. “It means the world to me that these kids come out and put the effort in,” Stevens said. “To do the work of these eight people would take me days and days, when as a business owner, finding even one day seems impossible.” 

“Community service day helps bring things together, helping our students be a part of our community builds the connections that keep our community afloat,” said Stevens.

At the Barton County Historical Village, students divided and conquered to accomplish both indoor and outdoor tasks. Monica Bowers, volunteer and master gardener commented about students clearing flowerbeds and landscaping, saying, “we are so grateful for community service day. This day gives us a fresh start for the season and makes the work of our volunteers attainable.”

The idea for this project came from a few passionate students more than seven years ago and continues to be refined and enhanced with the help of several student organizations and Andrea Stalcup who serves as the Community Service Day coordinator. Generous corporate sponsors underwrite expenses from the day. The event has garnered tremendous support over the years, giving the student body the opportunity to select a charity to support with the excess funds. This year, Kans for Kids Fighting Cancer Foundation was chosen and representatives Deb Reif, executive director, and Kaito Richter, cancer survivor and Kans for Kids ambassador, accepted a check in the amount of $1,250 for the organization. Additionally, Tina Hiss led a district-wide effort, involving the elementary buildings, in the collection of cans to be donated to Kans for Kids. 

(Above, left to right) Dir. of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser, Assistant Superintendent John Popp, Superintendent Khris Thexton, and Riley Student Support Coach Beth Rein, surprised Jenna Dreiling, first-grade teacher, with the elementary nomination to Kansas Teacher of the Year. 

(Above, left to right) Assistant Superintendent John Popp, Superintendent Khris Thexton, GBMS Principal David Reiser and Dir. of Teaching and Learning Tricia Reiser surprised Cortnea Wilson, eighth-grade science teacher, with the secondary Kansas Teacher of the Year nomination on Thursday, March 28. 

Top teachers recognized in USD 428

April 5, 2019

Two well-deserving educators from Great Bend USD 428 have been recognized for teaching excellence by being named the district’s Elementary and Secondary Teachers of the Year.

Jenna Dreiling, first-grade teacher at Riley Elementary School, and Cortnea Wilson, eighth-grade science teacher at Great Bend Middle School, will advance to the 2020 Kansas Teacher of the Year competition. 

“The Teacher of the Year program is a great way to recognize our outstanding teachers and to also showcase to other districts in the state the innovative teaching methods and programs our teachers provide to our students, district and community,” said Khris Thexton, superintendent. 

“Jenna and Cortnea were chosen from a very strong pool of candidates,” Thexton said. “I want to congratulate them on a job well done. We are confident that they will represent our district well as the 2019-2020 USD 428 Kansas Teacher of the Year nominees.” 

The Board of Education will congratulated these outstanding teachers at its meeting regular monthly meeting, scheduled for Monday, April 8 at 5pm at the District Education Center.

Jenna Dreiling, Elementary Nominee – Kansas Teacher of the Year

“A cheerful smile and positive attitude might be Jenna’s most obvious attributes,” said Riley School Principal JoAnn Blevins, “but when you look into her classroom, what sets her apart is her ability to truly listen to her students, validate their thoughts and feelings, and make each student feel special every single day.” 

“This year, Mrs. Dreiling has embraced making her classroom trauma-responsive. She has set up different avenues for students to express themselves and advocate for their needs in positive ways. Her students are able to resolve conflict with one another more easily and focus on learning.”

“Mrs. Dreiling builds community and collaboration with the people who work around her,” said Blevins. “She mentors new teachers and invites colleagues into her classroom, as well as asking questions and communicating well with others. She wants to see others be successful.”

Dreiling earned a Bachelor’s in Elementary Education K-6 with a minor in Special Education from Fort Hays State University, and later a Master’s in Science Education with an endorsement in English for Speakers of other Languages from Newman University. She began her teaching career at USD 232 De Soto, Kan. at Riverview Elementary. After her first year of teaching, she returned to Great Bend to Riley Elementary School where she has been teaching first-grade for 10 years. Dreiling serves on the Trauma Informed Team at Riley Elementary as well as the English Language Arts committee, and MTSS team (multi-tier system of support). At the district level, Dreiling serves on the Curriculum Steering Committee and Healthy Living Committee.

In speaking of her teaching philosophy, Dreiling explains that her experience as a first-grade student herself is one thing that guides her teaching practices today.

“It was my teacher that noticed early in the year that I was struggling. She knew my ability and knew I could succeed. She sought out the right tools, created a plan with my parents, and set me on the path of success.

“All students are unique and should be given an education based on their needs and abilities,” said Dreiling. “I work to create a positive and caring classroom environment, as well as build relationships with my students that allow for their individual success.

“Watching my students advance on their educational path and celebrating their accomplishments is the largest reward any educator could hope for,” Dreiling said.  

Cortnea Wilson, Secondary Nominee – Kansas Teacher of the Year

“The staff and students are all proud of Mrs. Wilson and her accomplishments,” said GBMS Principal David Reiser. “Preparing students for life after high school, she is leading our building in integrating college and career competencies into her daily instruction. 

“She helps lead our College and Career Competencies school improvement committee that is focused on the skills kids need to be successful,” Reiser said. “She is a great collaborator, actively sharing her expertise and classroom methods with colleagues for the benefit of our students and goals. 

“The enthusiastic reaction from her students speaks volumes about Mrs. Wilson’s impact and reputation. We know she will represent USD 428 well in the state competition,” he said.

Wilson is an eight-year veteran teacher at the middle school. Wilson returned to her hometown to teach after graduating from Sterling College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Biology. She earned a Master’s in Education from Fort Hays State University in 2016 while teaching full-time. Wilson serves on the GBMS Building Leadership Team, MTSS Implementation Team and is co-chair of the College and Career Competencies School Improvement Team. 

“I believe my greatest contribution to education is providing students with opportunity to become problem solvers, work cooperatively with others, find their own strengths through goal setting all while covering science curriculum,” Wilson said in her application. 

“I find the ‘ah-ha’ moment very rewarding,” she said. “Seeing a student’s face light-up with pride because they mastered a skill or came up with a solution to a problem is a one of a kind feeling.

“To see a student beaming with pride after accomplishing a goal, witnessing growth in my students – that’s the most rewarding part of my job,” said Wilson. 

Student achievement on display

March 18, 2019

Show and tell is more than a kindergarten mainstay, Great Bend Middle School teachers and students applied this concept at Monday night’s Spring Expo to engage the whole family and build relationships. 

On March 18, The Second Annual Great Bend Middle School Spring Expo welcomed nearly 300 attendees to view student achievements in an engaging format. Families enjoyed hands-on booths highlighting educational tools used in classrooms, the opportunity to drive robots or even to experience with hands-on equations.  A scavenger hunt encouraged interaction and conversation, with prizes provided by the GBMS Booster Club and the Great Bend Convention and Visitors Bureau.  

New this year, sixth-grade students from across the district were invited to attend, providing an early look into life at GBMS. 

“The Spring Expo was a great way to introduce the sixth graders to our building and to view part of the exciting learning that takes place at GBMS,” said Tami Schepmann, GBMS teacher. “I really enjoyed seeing families visit with teachers and interact with the different projects, especially the middle school students showing and demonstrating for their younger siblings.” 

Photo Captions:

GBMS Robotics: At the Second Annual GBMS Spring Expo, eighth-grade student Sawyer Stoskopf was on-hand to encourage parents and family members to try out the Vex Robot, which is used in the classroom as well as by the GBMS Robotics Club.

English Language Arts: Renee Buntain, literacy coach at GBMS, speaks with a student and his family Monday evening at the Second Annual GBMS Spring Expo. The event gave parents and families an opportunity to connect with teachers and explore their student’s achievements.

GBMS Math: Jennifer Axman, seventh-grade math teacher, demonstrates hands-on equations to a sixth-grade student from Park Elementary School and her father. This educational tool uses math manipulatives to teach algebraic equations. 

Learning the risk and reward of Wall Street

March 20, 2019

Three Great Bend High School students are one step closer to wall street after coming out on top of the Hiss Sherman Investment Challenge.  

Utilizing a software called “How the Market Works,” over 40 participating students started the month of February with $100,000 virtual cash to invest according to what they have been learning in class and their own discretion. The online trading platform provides research tools, investment content, and real-time trading to simulate participation in the stock market. 

At the end of the month-long simulation, the top three winners were John Szot, first; Trent Stueder, second; and Pablo Martinez, third. Recognized in front of their peers on March 18, students were surprised in class and rewarded for their efforts with gift cards provided by the local investment firm.

“Of the top 10 finishers, 9 are students in my Investing class,” said Lacy Wolters, GBHS career/ACT coordinator. “Most of them followed the stock prices closely and captured investment gains frequently.

“An unexpected twist was our first-place winner who is both a freshman and new to investing all together” said Wolters. “John Szot invested in one stock and held it the entire time, realizing the largest gain of over 8%.

“This was a great opportunity for our students to apply what they are learning in the classroom to a real-life simulation,” she said. “Students were able to experience the movement of the market when returns were both positive and negative.

“We hope this helped give students a good, real-life foundation in the world of investments and financial planning,” said Matt Hiss, investment advisor representative with Hiss-Sherman Wealth Management. “We’ve had great feedback from this program, nearly doubling the participation from year one to year two tells us we’re offering a program that students both learn from and enjoy.  We are happy to partner with the school and give students this experience.”

Photo Captions: Matt & Dena Hiss with Hiss Sherman Wealth Management, along with Lacy Wolters, GBHS career/ACT advisor, pose with winning students who were surprised in class on March 18. 

Top photo, John Szot, first place; middle photo, Trent Stueder, second place; bottom photo, Pablo Martinez, third place.

Taking the show on the road

March 13, 2019

After more than 12 months of preparation and planning, members of the A Cappella Choir from Great Bend High School are in route to Washington, D.C. More than a sightseeing excursion, the choir composed of 40 members will perform at numerous notable locations including the National WWII Memorial, National Shrine and the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, a new location on the itinerary this year. 

Susan Stambaugh, vocal music director for GBHS has spearheaded this trip throughout her 25-year career. On the other end of the spectrum, Lorrie Stickney, accompanist, is embarking on her first A Cappella trip. Lucky for students, this trip is not ‘all work and no play.’ They, along with the 20 chaperones accompanying the group, will have time to enjoy the highlights of Washington, D.C. with tours scheduled at the US Holocaust Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, US Capitol Building, the Smithsonian Museums and more. Another highlight of the trip is a Spirit Dinner Cruise on the Potomac River to celebrate their final evening in D.C. 

A Cappella is comprised of juniors and seniors from GBHS who audition to participate each year. Some students have been working to raise funds for this trip for nearly two years. From chili suppers to “rent-a-student” opportunities, the students and staff would like to thank the Great Bend business community as well as the community-at-large for their generous financial support. The community is invited to view highlights from the trip on Great Bend High School’s Facebook page. Upon their return, A Cappella, the Madrigal Pop Singers, as well as the freshmen and sophomore choirs, will begin preparation for the Annual Variety Show scheduled for May 10 and 11, 2019.

Photo Caption: Before loading the buses, students performed a few of pieces they have prepared to sing in Washington, D.C. this weekend. Susan Stambaugh, vocal music director at GBHS, also shared a sincere “thank-you” to the parents gathered, as well as the community, for their support and encouragement of the students as they prepared and raised funds for the trip. 

Dr. Matt Friedeman named to GBHS Hall of Fame 

February 15, 2019

For 10 years, Great Bend High School has been proud to honor the accomplishments and career achievements of its graduates through the Great Bend High School Hall of Fame awards. On February 15, the community is invited to celebrate the induction of Dr. Matt Friedman. 

Matt Friedeman is currently a professor of evangelism and discipleship at Wesley Biblical Seminary, Jackson, Miss. He is married to Mary Friedeman, and they have six children, Caleb, Joshua, Elijah, Hannah, Ezekiel and Isaiah. After graduating from GBHS, Friedeman earned a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a master’s degree in education from the University of Kansas in 1981 and 1982. He then earned a master’s in theology from Asbury Theological Seminary in 1985 and a Ph.D in education from KU in 1987.

His resume is varied. It includes:

• Played football and track at Great Bend High School – still holds the discuss record of 198’ 11”

• Honors in track at KU – 3 year captain of KU track team, National Collegiate Athletic Association All-American, Big Eight champion and selected to compete in the 1980 Olympic trials in the discuss

• Had a radio talk show broadcast daily on American Family Radio

• Contributing columnist for the Jackson Clarion-Ledger

• Founding pastor of Day Spring Community Church

• Political commentator for WAPT/Channel 16 in Jackson 

• Mission area coordinator and chaplain at Hinds County Detention Center and Penal Farm

• Traveled to Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand, Hungary, East Europe and the Netherlands speaking and conducting seminars

• Written over 1,200 columns, articles, papers and book chapters

While attending Great Bend High School, Dr. Friedeman was an accomplished athlete. Part of the football and track teams, he still holds a GBHS record for a discuss throw of 198’11”. His career at KU began with a track scholarship and additional athletic accolades. He was a three-year captain of the KU track team, NCAA All-American, Big Eight Champion, and selected to compete in the 1980 Olympic trials for discuss. 

The Great Bend High School Hall of Fame luncheon was held on Friday, February 15 at Stoneridge Country Club. Dr. Friedeman was also honored before the boys basketball game that evening, followed by reception for the public to congratulate him.

Great Bend High School Hall of Fame Inductees:

2008 – Skip Yowell, John Keller and Jack Kilby

2009 – Jack Bowman, Sean Murphy and Tim Weiser

2010 – Jenny Allford and Glenn Opie 

2011 – Don Halbower and Dan McGovern

2012 – Karla (Bender) Leibham and Bill McKown 

2013 – Allen Keiswetter and Celia LaBranche

2014 – George Nossaman and Randy Goering

2015 – Shannon Schartz and Ty Cobb

2016 – Jean Cavanaugh and Mike Goss

2017 – Larry Becker and Jim Calcara

2018 – Dr. Matt Friedeman

Make-A-Wish Presentation – Team Owen

February 7, 2019

A curious student-body assembled in a sea of purple at Eisenhower Elementary School on Thursday, unknowing the tremendous surprise one of their classmates was about to receive. Opening remarks by Eisenhower Principal, Laurie Harwood, were quickly eclipsed by a troupe of adults wearing mouse ears and performing silly antics to excite the audience. Students would soon realize that “Team Owen” was about to be granted the wish of a lifetime. 

“Today is a momentous occasion as Owen will be surprised with the news that his one-true wish will be coming true. We hope that his wish experience will bring him and his family a much-needed break from the realities associated with his condition. We are also extremely grateful for the support of Great Bend Schools and the Eisenhower Elementary community. Today is a true testament to the caring nature of the state of Kansas and we couldn’t be more excited for Owen,” said LuAnn Bott, President & CEO of Make-A-Wish Missouri & Kansas.

Lori Likes, representing Fee Insurance Group out of Hutchinson, Kan., was one of the wish grantors on-site to help deliver the good news. 

“It was an absolute joy meeting our Wish Kid, Owen and his family,” said Likes. I fell in love immediately with his little freckled face and his big smile. It was an eye opening experience watching Owen and his family interact. They were all so on point as to Owen’s needs. I learned a lot that day about Owen, it was easy to see what gives him joy in life. Since that initial meeting, I have been able to stay up to date with Owen as one of his many followers on social media. We were all completely overjoyed with tear-filled eyes, when Make-A-Wish was able to make Owen’s wish come true.”  

“Owen and his family are very deserving of this dream-come-true trip to Disney World,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “We are humbled by Owen’s strength, determination and joy. Including the Eisenhower family in this big announcement gave our family at USD 428 the chance to cheer-on the Klug family; we couldn’t be more excited for them!”

Laurie Harwood, Eisenhower Elementary School principal, worked behind the scenes with Make-A-Wish and the family to ensure the day would be a success. Students, staff and faculty were asked to wear purple because it is the designated color for Epilepsy Awareness as well as the color of the “Team Owen” shirts that have been produced locally.

About Owen: 

Owen is an 11-year-old 5th grader at Eisenhower Elementary in Great Bend. He lives in Odin with his dad Gavin, mom Kiley, little brothers Dexter and Blake, and dog Brutus. Owen enjoys anything that involves biking, swinging, spinning, music, and jumping. He loves people, especially his teachers, bus driver, caretakers, friends, and family. He is a sweet, laid back boy who spreads happiness and inspiration wherever he goes.

Owen had his first seizure at 6 months of age after an uncomplicated birth. The next few years were full of testing, several different medication trials, procedures, surgeries, and a lot of questions. Owen, at his worst, had over 250 seizures a day. Because of the severe intractable epilepsy he was enduring, Owen lost a number of developmental skills such as sitting independently, clapping, and walking in a walker. Owen was finally clinically diagnosed with Dravet Syndrome when he was 6 years old. Dravet Syndrome is characterized by severe, chronic, intractable epilepsy, oftentimes paired with global developmental delay, sensory impairment, orthopedic conditions, and many other issues. 

Owen takes his daily struggles in stride. He loves life, and his smile lights up the lives of everyone who knows him. He is so tough, so resilient, and so deserving of a granted wish! 

GBHS Robotics Club tackles first tournament

January 29, 2019

The excitement was electric as Great Bend Robotics Club members prepared for their first competition, the VEX Turning Point Robotics Tournament held in St. John, Kan on Tuesday, Jan. 29. The Great Bend High School team competed against more than 25 teams from eight school districts. 

The teams use robots from VEX Robotics. While each team gets exactly the same robot pieces, the design and programing are entirely up to the individual teams. Coached by Jake Hofflinger (GBHS) and Amber Lucchesi (GBMS), students began designing their robot last September and have been working diligently after school since the beginning of the year to prepare for this inaugural tournament. Working within a 12’x12’ playing area, the robots have to work autonomously (by themselves) for the first 15 seconds of a round then the driver takes over for the remaining 1:45 seconds. 

“In the fast-paced tournament format, the kids were able to score and overcame some of their programing errors,” said Hofflinger. “It was impressive to watch them expose design flaws and come up with alternative programing on the fly.” 

“Sometimes you see that your design is not going to work,” said Gregory Aumiller, eighth-grade club member who accompanied the high school team for research. “You just have to start over. You can’t get too attached to a design idea.”

While the Great Bend team placed 21 in the tournament, their sights are already set on their next opportunity to compete. “I am happy and surprised with how we did today,” said Mayra Ramirez, club president. “We did not have time to practice before we competed at the venue, but the months of preparation kept us competitive.”

A next step for the Great Bend Robotics Club is to identify a corporate partner/sponsor to enhance the technology available to the middle school and high school students. “Access to better equipment would make the team more competitive at the tournaments, in addition to the robust skills they’ll gain using the technology,” said Hofflinger. Anyone interested in learning more about the program or sponsorship opportunities is invited to contact Jake Hofflinger, GBHS technology teacher and robotics coach.  

Photo Caption: 

The Great Bend High School Robotics team, accompanied by two middle school observers, competed in their first ever tournament this week in St. John. 

Meet the Team - front row: Mayra Ramirez, club president and designer, Amy To, driver, Ana Alvarez, programmer; back row: Sawyer Stoskopf, eighth-grade, Gregory Aumiller, eighth-grade, Justin Owen, logistics

100th day of school transports kindergartners back 100 years

January 25, 2019

Kindergartners at Jefferson Elementary School left a few modern conveniences behind as they traveled back 100 years to celebrate the 100th day of school on Friday, Jan. 25. 

Abigail Jonas, kindergarten teacher, spent extra time at the school transforming her classroom into a one-room schoolhouse with brown paper walls, a prop word burning stove, chalk board details, and a portrait of Thomas Jefferson, the school’s namesake, for a finishing touch. The day was made possible with the help of Denise Morrison, Renee Owen and many other enthusiastic parents who helped with clothes to complete the experience for the kids. 

“Beyond the fun and games, the 100th day of school gives my students a chance to reflect on what they’ve learned so far,” said Jonas. “This year’s 1919 theme also gave them an appreciation for the technology, and classroom tools we use every day to learn. And an added bonus is the memories they made!” 

Christmas came early at Great Bend Middle School

December 20, 2018

When needs were identified, Special Education Teacher Connie Ward, got rolling on a solution. A new trike was recently delivered to the Great Bend Middle School Special Education program, meeting the physical needs of their students while generating confidence.    

“Last May, when I decided to follow my students from Lincoln Elementary to the Great Bend Middle School, one of my first priorities was addressing the absence of a playground with something to get my students moving,” said Ward. “I knew these students had never enjoyed the experience of riding a bike. Thanks to the help of Todd Vanskike, I’ve seen smiles, heard joyful singing, and listened to the kids talk about the freedom they feel on the trike.”  

Eager to try out their new wheels, the class is utilizing the multipurpose room at the Great Bend Middle School to ride the trike. As temperatures get warmer this spring, the trike will easily move outdoors. Due to the nature of their disabilities, 7th & 8th grade special education students are bussed to the Great Bend High School for Adaptive PE, the trike provides a social and emotional outlet, as well as physical exercise for the students in a much closer proximity. 

To select the right equipment, Ward provided a list of safety and security requirements to Todd Vanskike, owner of Golden Belt Bicycle in downtown Great Bend. Balance and stability were two of the issues that were a priority. Vanskike worked Worksman Cycles to customize the bike with seat belts, two sets of pedals and other elements to meet the needs of the students. 

“I’m always happy to help a customer find the right bike,” said Vanskike, “but this project was pretty special knowing it will provide a new experience for the students and be something they can enjoy.”

Miller achieves national certification

December 10, 2018

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards celebrates 3,907 new National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) and another 4,446 Board-certified teachers who successfully renewed their certification in 2018. Traci Miller, second-grade teacher at Riley Elementary School was the only candidate from USD 428 in Great Bend, KS to complete the three-year process and achieve NBCT. 

 “The NTSB process has made me a more reflective practitioner,” said Miller. While Miller has been a successful teacher for over 20 years, she explained how the road to certification provided a fresh look at her classroom. “It’s a connected approach,” she said, “seeing students as individuals, acknowledging their preferences in learning and applying evaluation tools to monitor my teaching methods for positive outcomes.” 

“Going through the National Board Certification is one of the most difficult things a teachers can do,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “NBCT shows the dedication Mrs. Miller has to her profession, assuring our students, parents, and community she has met the highest standards of the teaching profession. Mrs. Miller is an outstanding educator and we are extremely proud to have her as a part of the USD 428 family!”

Miller joins over 450 teachers across Kansas, and over 122,000 across all 50 states, who have earned the profession’s highest mark of achievement through a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process, demonstrating their proven impact on student learning and achievement.

“I’m thrilled to celebrate our new National Board Certified Teachers. This is a great personal accomplishment, but it’s more than that – this accomplishment is reason to celebrate the impact Board-certified teachers have on millions of students nationwide and on the teaching profession at-large. School principals and systems leaders from across the country regularly tell me that NBCTs are making a difference in their students’ learning, strengthening their schools and their communities,” said Peggy Brookins, NBCT, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. 

During the week of December 10, Educators across the country will celebrate all Board-certified teachers with #TeamNBCT week. The activities include in-person and online recognition of this important accomplishment. 

“National Board Certification is about helping teachers become great, it is about elevating the teaching profession, and it is about helping children achieve at higher rates,” said Brookins. “The certification process impacts teaching and learning well beyond an individual teacher’s classroom.”  

Signe Cook named to 2019 KTOY Team

November 21, 2018

A winner in every sense of the word, Signe Cook, a fifth-grade teacher at Park Elementary School, was honored as one of eight finalists from across the state at the annual Kansas Teacher of the Year (KTOY) awards presentation held on Saturday, November 17 in Wichita, KS. While Cook was not the top recipient, being named a finalist on the 2019 KTOY Team is a significant honor and provides ample opportunity to share her passion for teaching and influence the future of education in Kansas. 

“I am honored to be a part of the 2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team,” said Cook.  “The team is comprised of the best of the best, representing all the hardworking and amazing teachers across the state. In the year ahead, I am excited to use my voice to advocate in a positive way for the teachers and students of Kansas.”  

As a member of the 2019 KTOY Team, Cook will spend time this spring visiting her team members’ school districts, as well as traveling to all 25 colleges in Kansas to talk with pre-service teachers. 

“Each member of the team will have a different message and focus when visiting with the college students,” said Cook. “I will focus on teaching to the whole child, building relationships and creating a positive environment in which students can learn. “Teaching is the profession that makes all other careers possible. Right now, teacher shortage and retention are big issues facing our state. We hope to put teaching in a more positive light and inspire others to join the profession and stay.”    

Cook has been a teacher at Park Elementary School for three years. She has also taught in a number of Kansas communities including Fowler, Junction City, Dighton, Lakin, Horton, and Winchester for a combined 20 years. Cook is one of only three teachers from USD 428 to be named a finalist since the award program began in 1992. Crystal Cross was named a finalist in 2000, followed by Joyce Anschutz in 2005.

“Signe is phenomenal teacher and leader in our district,” said Park school Principal Phil Heeke. “We will miss her in the classroom this spring while she travels with the KTOY team, but we are excited about the knowledge and tools she will bring back to our district to benefit our students.”

If you are interested in following Mrs. Cook and the 2019 KTOY Team’s journey, connect with the Facebook page “2019 Kansas Teacher of the Year Team” or on Twitter @KTOY2019 or Instagram @ktoy2019.