USD 428 News

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?

  • A: Students will still be able to purchase a la carte items! Families/students can add money to their school lunch account via the GreatBendSchoolMeals website

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

  • A: Yes! We are excited to provide a wide variety of nutritious breakfast and lunch options. Each day students enjoy a minimum of two entree options as well as fruit, vegetable, and dairy options.

Q: Is there an application for free meals?

  • A: There is no application required. All Kansas Children are invited to enjoy a free breakfast and lunch each day. We encourage all families to take advantage of this opportunity throughout the 21-22 school year.

*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:

  • Tammy Bell

  • Traci Miller

  • Terri Rous

  • Shannon Wedel

  • Gregory Wells

30 Year Milestones:

  • Kay Burns

  • Brenda McCulley

  • Janel Tutak

  • Shelly Post

35 Year Milestone:

  • Susan Stambaugh

45 Year Milestone:

  • Marilyn Deason

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:

  • Kathy Davis, Great Bend High School

  • Kayla Meadows, Great Bend High School

  • Rachel Thexton, Great Bend High School

  • Sheryl Neeland, Great Bend Middle School

  • Brian Williams, Great Bend Middle School

USD 428 Family Support Workers:

  • Kelly McClure, Eisenhower Elementary

  • Krystal Woodral, Jefferson Elementary

  • Kylee Graves, Lincoln Elementary

  • Alan Blessing, Park Elementary

  • Michelle Daniel, Riley Elementary

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:

  1. Temperature check (ear, oral, etc.)

  2. Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms:

    1. Have you had a fever of 100 or more or symptoms of fever such as chills or shivering in the last 72 hours?

    2. Have you had a cough not otherwise explained?

    3. Have you had difficulty breathing?

    4. Have you had a new loss of taste or smell?

    5. Have you had other symptoms indicating an oncoming illness?

  3. Have you had new exposure to anyone who has tested positive for Coronavirus?

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

  • Dates: December 10 through January 28, 2021

  • Spectators allowed: Up to two parents/guardians per participant(s) family, meaning, two parents/guardians per family, NOT two parents/guardians per student. Live-stream will be available for students, siblings, grandparents, or other family members who are not permitted to attend, GBHS Athletics YouTube Channel.

  • Participants: The current interpretation of participants include the following

    • Players

    • Coaches

    • Student Managers

    • Cheer squads

    • Dance teams

    • Pep bands

    • Student Journalists

Safety Precautions

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

  • Mask facial covering must be properly worn at all times

  • Temperatures of all individuals will be screened at the pass gate

  • Family units will observe social distance from other family units

GBHS Arrival/Entry Instructions

  • A pass list compiled by the GBHS Activities Office will be used to admit two parents/guardians per family at the facility entrance

  • Parents/guardians are required to pay admission

  • A wristband will be issued to the parents/guardians and their attendance will be recorded on the pass list

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!

  • Know what’s going around your child’s school

  • Receive messages from your school nurse

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

  1. Text FLUENCYSCHOOL to 900900. This will place you on the waitlist for a free smart thermometer.*

  2. Hold tight until you receive another text in early September. This text will let you know when it’s time to officially sign up for your free smart thermometer and download the free Kinsa app.

*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.

  1. Free meals for all students! The USDA recently announced an extension of its free meal program. Beginning today, all students enrolled in USD 428 are now eligible for free lunch and breakfast through December 31, 2020.

    • *The deadline for the Free and Reduced Meal Application is still set for October 9, 2020. Families should complete this application to ensure their student(s) receive free or discounted meals once the USDA’s free meal program expires. The application can be completed online - click here.

  2. Meals for quarantined students and GB Remote Learners - Families can now use LINQ to place orders for student meals. Meals can be ordered online in advance for daily pick-up from the USD 428 Central Kitchen. Please see more details below and attached.

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:

  • Parents need to create an account at, parents will need their student Skyward ID number (Read attached instructions)

  • Orders must be submitted by 7:00 AM on the day of service, however, parents/students may order in advance as far out as menus are posted.

  • Parents/Students will choose the pick-up location, which will be the Central Kitchen for everyone.

  • The time to pick them up is from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm (these times are subject to change)

  • Parents / Students should go to the Central Kitchen entering the parking lot from the North-side and exiting from the South-side.

  • Parents / Students will wait in their cars, the staff will be outside to deliver the food they ordered.

  • Students will be charged based on the status of their meals, free or reduced-price will also be honored. FREE MEALS will be provided in partnership with USDA until December 31, 2020.

  • For GB Remote students: Parents are asked to bring the student, with student ID (secondary students only), on their first pick-up to verify the name and enrollment status. Parents will then be able to obtain a permit at that time for parents to pick-up food.

  • For quarantine students: We understand students in quarantine are unable to leave their homes. In this case, please bring a copy of the quarantine order (including dates of expected quarantine) to receive a permit for meal pick-up.

  • At this time, only students under quarantine or GB Remote Learning Students can use the online system to order their breakfast and lunch.

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.

  • Eisenhower Elementary – Eight students qualified for perfect attendance. Bikes were awarded to Cassidee, 4th grade; Allison, 4th grade; Jose, 6th grade; Joshua, 6th grade; Koby, 4th grade; Abigail, 6th grade.

  • Jefferson Elementary - 15 students qualified for perfect attendance. Bikes were awarded to Matt, Jacob, Arelly, Madi, Elle, and Branson.

  • Park Elementary – Nine students qualified for perfect attendance. Bikes were awarded to Kanyen, 4th Grade; Brianna, 2nd grade; Bierly, 3rd grade; Oscar, Kindergarten; Uziel, 4th grade; Jonathan, 5th grade.

  • Lincoln Elementary - 19 students qualified for perfect attendance. Bikes were awarded to Derrien, Daniel, Kaley, Braylee, Kolby, and Grady.

  • Riley Elementary - 10 students qualified for perfect attendance. Bikes were awarded to Angel, 6th grade; Sergio, 4th grade; Renata, 4th grade; Diego, 5th grade; Jayden, 5th grade; and Olivia, 5th grade. Riley Elementary also honored the first-ever Preschool Winner, Ruby, who received a special bike for the youngest recipient to date. Riley Elementary School is the only elementary building that houses a pre-school program.

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.

New Year, new options for nourishment

Remember your mom telling you breakfast is the most important meal of the day? Well, she was right!

For many students, the ‘morning rush’ causes them to skip breakfast. Beginning in 2019, the USD 428 Central Kitchen will open the cafeteria and other remote locations at Great Bend High School to provide a Second Chance Breakfast daily, between first and second period. Quick, grab-and-go menu items will be available in both the GBHS Cafeteria and the Panther Athletic Center. Students will simply scan their ID badges – making the checkout process quick and easy.

“Eating a healthy breakfast will impact just about every other dimension of your day,” said Kristy Alvord, Director of Food Service for USD 428. “It affects how you perform both mentally and physically. After a whole night of fasting during sleep, breakfast instantly raises your body’s energy level and restores your blood glucose levels to normal.”

Second Chance Breakfast is slated to begin on January 3, 2019 when school resumes after the winter break. Specific menu offerings will be announced soon.

Reading Creates Community

2018 Great Bend Reading Initiatives celebrates community connections and family engagement

In the month of November, nearly 1,300 students from across USD 428 have enjoyed reading “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Katie DiCamillo. Reading has the power to ignite the imagination, and when paired with family and community engagement, the positive outcomes are infinite. The 2018 Great Bend Reading Initiative provided kindergarten through students and families with a road map to complete the book in one month, as well as ample opportunities to explore the community. Kip Wilson, principal at Jefferson Elementary School, served as the 2018 coordinator and introduced partner programming with the Great Bend Public Library and the Kansas Wetlands Education Center.

“The overall goal for the initiative is to bring families together around literacy at home,” said Wilson. “We want parents to get involved; reading creates quality time and provides an avenue for parents to take an active role in their child’s learning.”

New additions to the schedule this year included “Books n’ Breakfast” and individual “Family Night” for each elementary school at the Great Bend Public Library. The grand finale was a district-wide Family Reading Night at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center that included book-based activities, an inflatable planetarium show, crafts, and an opportunity to explore newly renovated exhibits.

“The community partnerships we established this year have been great,” said Wilson. “Our partners helped connect the themes and characters in the book to engaging activities for our families. Beyond the events, our hosts took advantage of the opportunity to showcase resources and programs they provide year-round. “We hope our families will continue to utilize these resources and continue to engage as a family unit.”

In its fourth year, the Great Bend Reading Initiative is an annual program of USD 428. This program fulfills the mission of USD 428 “to educate and prepare all students to become responsible citizens and lifelong learners,” by engaging parents and families outside the classroom.