Salina USD 305 teachers, including 90 educators new to the district, returned to the classroom Thursday.
The district kicked of the 2013 – 2014 school year with its annual all-school assembly, the only time during the year when the entire district gathers in one location. Teachers from every school in the district gathered at Salina Central High School.
USD 305 Board of Education President Nedra Elbl, a former teacher herself, spoke. She jokingly said that in moving from the classroom to the school board she has been accused of going to “the dark side”, referring to the side of evil from the Star Wars movies. She then became serious, saying there really is a “dark side”…things that prohibit the education of a child. She said that teachers have the power to overcome the “dark side”.
New NEA Salina President Brandon Cheeks spoke, urging all of the teachers to “make a stand for public education”. He said that public education and common core standards have come under attack saying “we need to stand together for a quality public education”.
2013 Kansas Master Teacher Michele Palmgren from South High School was recognized, as were teachers of the year Tara Vanderbilt from Meadowlark Elementary School and Deanna Cullins from Central High School.
Vanderbilt spoke, urging all of the teachers to strive to “keep that 1st day of school feeling of excitement all year long”.
Cullins spoke about her struggles to recover from a terrible automobile crash. She said that she polled her students last year, asking them what they though makes a good teacher. Among other things, some of the things students said include:
* I need my teachers to be non judgmental. I am trying to change.
* I like it when my teachers come to my games. I want them to be proud of me.
* My favorite teachers make me want to learn, not get good grades.
* I need my teachers to love me. When I feel loved, I try my best.
Cullins ended by saying “we need the students as much as they need us”.
USD 305 Superintendent Dr. Bill Hall continued with board president Elbl’s “dark side” theme to begin the final presentation of the morning. He entered the auditorium wearing a Darth Vader mask, and carrying a light saber.
Hall then began by handing out his second annual “Mr. Bill Awards”. He gave four district employees awards for among other things being kind and inspirational throughout the year. Those receiving the awards include night custodian Randy Maag from Meadowlark Elementary School, administrative secretary Debbie Shirack from Cottownwood Elementary School, administrative secretary Debbie Turner from Central High School, and Marilyn Long from Stewart Elementary School. Each received an action figure of the “Mr. Bill” cartoon character.
Hall, who is beginning his third year as superintendent, then got down to business. He reviewed some highlights from the last school year, and looked ahead to this year.
Hall spoke about a collaborative planning process, and planning for a $118 million bond issue. It will be unveiled to the public this year in preparation for a vote in April of 2014. Five priorities have been identified that need funding:
1. A Need for all day kindergarten. Out of 286 districts in Kansas, USD 305 is one of only eleven that still does not offer it.
2. School safety and security. All schools need secure access, and FEMA safe storm shelters that can also be used as community shelters.
3. Expanded career and technical education opportunities to help students that opt to no go to college.
4. Renovations to Central High School. The school was built in 1952, and is in need of upgrades.
5. Structural issues at South High School. The school, which was built in 1970 has major structure issues that include larges cracks in walls and floors, and floors that are sinking and tearing away from walls.
A series of community meetings on the bind issue will begin later this month. Hall asked for everyone in the district to “help spread the word”, to register, and to vote.
In the end Hall left a final challenge to “make a difference everyday”.
USD 305 students head back to school beginning next week on Wednesday.