USD 428 News

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 www.bodyventure.org. 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.

Breaking down the Bond - Part One: Why Now?

July 29, 2019

Continuing a legacy of investing in education, this fall, Great Bend Public Schools are seeking community support for a Facilities Improvement Bond. The mail-in ballot is due to the County Election Office on September 5 and will focus solely on supporting our kids and education. With the last bond expiring in 2018, it has been over 20 years since major renovations, maintenance and educational needs have been addressed in Great Bend’s Schools. The proposed bond includes renovations and/or expansions at every educational center, with elements that will positively impact safety and positive learning environments.

How we got here:

At the close of a nearly 18 month process of developing a Master Facilities Plan for USD 428, a steering committee comprised of nearly 50 community representatives presented their facts, findings and suggestions to the USD 428 Board of Education on January 14, 2019.

The Master Facilities Plan included research of community demographics and future trends; a comprehensive inventory of district buildings, including age, renovation history and current condition; and input and data from teaching staff addressing educational trends both present and future. The resulting plan includes comprehensive suggestions that encompass multiple phases over 20-30 years.

“One of the most critical phases of this process was community feedback,” said Khris Thexton, USD 428 superintendent. “Before recommendations were given to the Board of Education, we collected community feedback at over 17 public meetings, civic club and organization meetings, online surveys and more. The 2019 bond is comprised of the top priorities of the Board of Education with strong consideration given to the information received from the public and our teaching staff.”

Why now?

USD 428 is comprised of eight attendance centers, five elementary buildings, GBMS, GBHS, and Washington Education Center, all of which were constructed prior to 1960. Built to meet needs of the time, classrooms lack accommodations for students and technology, and buildings as a whole fall short in the categories of safety and security. Schools, just like our homes and businesses, require renovation and improvements.

“Several concerns rise to the top of the list when discussing safety and security,” said Thexton. “Tornado shelters, secure entrances, and addressing hazards at student drop-off/pick-up are topics we know need to be addressed.”

Currently, GBMS is the only building with a FEMA rated tornado shelter. If passed, the bond will add a multi-use tornado shelter at each attendance center, serving as a cafeteria, gym or classrooms depending on the location. All buildings will also be renovated with new and secure entrances. Beyond the threat of an active shooter, secure entrances allows school administration to closely monitor access to the building and protect students and staff from a variety of concerns.

“Over time, infrastructure requires maintenance, educational means and methods change, and our buildings must be adapted to meet both the concerns and opportunities of the 21st century,” Thexton said.

Breaking down the Bond:

There are three key categories identified in the 2019 Facilities Improvement Bond:

  1. Safety & Security – Necessary renovations in all five elementary buildings, Washington Education Center, Great Bend Middle School, and Great Bend High School will ensure our students have a safe environment to learn, grow and thrive.
  2. Early Childhood Education – Free preschool in neighborhood elementary schools is a critical step to establish a foundation for learning and development. By moving sixth-grade to Great Bend Middle School, we create capacity at all elementary buildings for early childhood education.
  3. Renovations, Enhancements, and Life Cycle Improvements – All school buildings will receive necessary renovations to meet education, technology, and infrastructure demands. A new Maintenance and Transportation Building is proposed at the DEC site due to the deteriorating condition of the current building and lack of private and secure parking/storage for the USD 428 vehicle fleet. (No renovations at the District Education Center or Central Kitchen are included.)

The community is encouraged to attend the public meetings to learn more about the Facilities Improvement Bond goals and key elements. USD 428 staff will present information and answer the community’s questions. Event are scheduled at the following times and locations:

  • Public Meeting (presented in English & Spanish) - Tuesday, July 30 at the Great Bend Front Door, 1310 10th St at 7 p.m.
  • Public Meeting – Wednesday, July 31 at the Great Bend High School Auditorium, 2027 Morton St at 7 p.m.
  • Open Doors Day – Sunday, August 4 at all USD 428 school buildings, 2 – 4 p.m.

Questions can be directed to the USD 428 District Education Center at 620-793-1500. More information, including a tax impact calculator, can be found at www.GreatBendSchools.net/bond.

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 www.GreatBendSchools.net/parents-students.

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 www.GreatBendSchools.net.

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.