Special Board Recap – July 28, 2017

President Dr. Ferrell Miller called a special meeting of the Board of Education on July 28, 2017 in consideration of the Kansans Can School Redesign. The Kansas State Department of Education is accepting applications for seven school districts to participate in its Kansans Can School Redesign Project. Under the program, an elementary and secondary school in each of the seven districts will be redesigned in conjunction with the State Board of Education’s Kansans Can mission of leading the world in the success of each student. Those schools will focus on the five outcomes identified by KSDE: social-emotional growth, kindergarten readiness, individual plan of study, high school graduation rates and post-secondary completion/attendance.

Junction City High School and Westwood Elementary are the two schools that will submit applications for USD 475. The deadline for school districts to apply is August 1. To apply, a school district must get approval from the school board, 80 percent of the faculty in the buildings, and the teacher association must provide a letter of support. Kim Dressman, principal of Westwood Elementary, and Melissa Sharp, principal of Junction City High School, were present to promote the Kansas Can School Redesign Project. Kim and Melissa shared that both their buildings have secured the votes needed from the faculty in order to proceed with the application. Westwood faculty was a unanimous vote to move forward with the project; while the plan would pose more work, it would be centered around student needs. Melissa Sharp shared that her Strategic Planning Team has been intrigued by the Kansans Can School Redesign Project; the course of study would look different for each student, meeting individual needs.

Sharp was asked what the redesign might look like. Her response: teachers could choose how they work their eight hours and post their schedule. Attendance would be taken at the door and recorded immediately. This type of learning is based on motivation and is much more personalized. In this model, there will be counselors that guide students. Sharp also plans to take a team to Salt Lake City to observe a high school that has implemented a redesign to gather more information.

To be considered for the Kansans Can School Redesign Project districts must: 1) agree to redesign one elementary and one secondary school; 2) each district and school must provide evidence and have approval by their school board with vote; faculty with a vote of 80 percent; and local Kansas -National Education Association or other professional organization support; 3) be able and willing to completely redesign one elementary and one secondary school around the vision, outcomes and definition of a successful high school graduate; 4) be able and willing to launch a new school design in the 2018-2019 school year; 5) be willing to serve as a demonstration school/district for others in Kansas to study, learn and visit. Dr. Witt shared the steps that once the application is submitted to the state, it should be determined within 90 days whether USD 475 will adopt the Kansans Can School Redesign in the two schools.

Tom Brungardt shared his reservations about the project while the rest of the board shared their enthusiasm for the need for change in how a student learns. Carolyn Gaston mentioned that this could help students look outside the box and benefit from the change in structure. Dr. Ferrell Miller ended the topic by reiterating that the community and parent collaboration will be considered during the redesign. The motion to apply for Kansans Can School Redesign Project passed 6-0.

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