March 2, 2018
Dear USD 385 Parents, Students, & Staff,
Providing educational excellence and opportunities for our students to succeed is the mission of USD 385 Andover Public Schools. An important part of the commitment to excellence means providing a safe learning environment for our students.
Please know that communicating to you in this way does not mean there have been any safety threats or concerns to our district or our facilities. Instead, in light of recent events involving school safety concerns, and to provide transparency and assurance when it comes to our long-standing commitment to safety, I felt it necessary to update you on our comprehensive safety plan.
We have implemented a comprehensive safety approach that includes plans for intruders as well as fire protection and tornado shelters, along with many other potential hazards and emergencies. The focus of this letter will be safety as it relates to intruders, because I realize it is on your minds following the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida. Here is an overview of some of the important ways that we keep students and staff safe:
* In 2015, in partnership with the City of Andover, the district expanded its School Resource Officer (SRO) program. We hired two additional SRO's, making a total of four district-wide. There is an SRO who offices out of each middle school and high school in the district. The SRO’s also spend time in our elementary schools. One of the most important functions of our SRO’s is building trusting, positive relationships with students.
* We have a strong relationship with the Andover Police Department. District officials meet regularly with Andover Police Department leadership. The Andover Police Department is one of only eight departments in the state of Kansas that has received the highest level of accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). APD is an exemplary department that we are proud to partner with.
*Several years ago the district implemented the “Run, Hide, Fight” model that we use to train staff and also talk about with students. “Run, Hide, Fight” training provides the framework for how staff should respond if an intruder enters the building. Ongoing training is provided in this model, including drills with staff on professional learning days that simulate an active shooter situation with a de-brief afterward.
* A few years ago the district invested in locks for all interior classrooms. Doors can be locked from the inside without our teachers having to step outside their classrooms, which is an important way that we can protect students in an emergency situation.
* Our schools take threats very seriously. We have a threat assessment protocol in place to determine the credibility of a potential threat.
* We focus on building positive relationships with students, and cultivating an environment where students feel valued and connected. This is a powerful way to prevent violence in schools.
* This year the district hired additional counselors for each of the secondary schools. We now have two counselors at each middle school, and three counselors at the high schools. Our counselors play an essential role in helping to meet the social and emotional needs of students.
* Safety planning is essential. We have a district safety coordinator and a committee that meets regularly to ensure that we are responsive to changing needs. Staff receive ongoing training as well.
* Each month I meet with a group of fifteen high school students that I call my Superintendent’s Student Advisory Team. Our March meeting will focus on school safety. It is important to discuss students’ questions and concerns.
Finally, I’m looking forward to the safety enhancements district-wide with the bond issue that was passed a year ago. When construction is completed, each of our schools will have a secure entry way for all visitors who enter our facilities during the school day. Construction on those safety enhancements at our elementary schools is expected to be completed by August of this year, with additional safety enhancements to our middle and high schools coming throughout the construction process. You can follow the bond construction process here.
Thank you for entrusting the district to provide safe learning environments for our students. We care deeply about our students, and each of us has an important role in safeguarding them. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact your child’s principal or me, and we will be happy to visit. Together, we can continue to provide safe, positive, exemplary learning environments for all students.
Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy celebrating those people who have impacted your hearts.
Yesterday afternoon I had the pleasure of being a "Mystery Reader" in Ashley Wiltse's 2nd grade classroom at MES. One of the books that Ashley gave me was called Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino. The story is about a dog named Alfred who gets made fun of and treated badly by the other animals because he is a "lowly pug". In an attempt to make a new friend, Alfred says he is a golden retriever in order to impress a dog that has moved in next door. In the end, Alfred discovers that he is lovable just the way he is. He realizes that pretending to be something he is not isn't the way to live. Alfred finds the courage to stand up to the critics and naysayers, rather than allowing others to define him. Some great lessons from a children's book that I enjoyed sharing with a class of great kids.
Here are some updates that I want to share with you:
Bond Projects - We have 5 elementary sites under construction, as well as the turf fields at both high schools. The projects are progressing nicely. Turf fields are scheduled to be completed so that spring games can be hosted there. Our elementary projects will wrap up in early August, in time for the 2018-19 school year.
In addition, we are finishing our due diligence work on the site for the new MES. I expect that we will be able to set a closing date in the next several weeks Last week a team of MES teachers toured schools in Wichita, Derby, & Ft. Riley to get ideas for the design of the new MES.
Lots of meetings and planning are happening for the other projects yet to start, including design work on our high schools. I have heard many positive comments about the collaborative way that the architects are seeking staff input through the design process.
Remember that this will be a three-year process, and the timeline that can be found on the bond issue portion of our website serves as our guide.
Career Center Director - One of the really cool bond projects is the Career Center that will provide real-life opportunities for secondary students to explore careers that are of interest to them. Brian Gregoire, Assistant Principal at ACHS, has been selected as the Director for the Career Center. Brian's experience leading the district's Career Technical Education initiatives, and his skill set are ideally suited for this position. Brian will lead the planning and facilitate the vision for the Career Center. Brian will officially begin his duties in the new position on August 1. We will begin implementing some of the programming for the Center in the 2019-20 year. It is an exciting adventure and we are fortunate to have Brian for this role!
Pre-Algebra Class Option - I want to thank Jill and the team of high school educators who presented on Monday night about the need to offer a Pre-Algebra course for incoming freshmen. This is a great example of our staff evaluating current offerings, and seeing an unmet need. The BOE approved this class, and it will be another way to meet all students' needs. Thanks for assessing the situation, and working together to propose this new class.
Spring break will be here before we know it - enjoy the break from the cold weather, and thanks for all you do!
I hope that your new 2018 is off to a great start. It's a busy time for the district, and I wanted to share a few updates:
1. January BOE meeting this evening - Some of the highlights include:
* Honoring the 19 elementary, middle, and high school students who were selected for KMEA All-State Honor Choir. This is an incredible accomplishment that would not be possible without the leadership of outstanding educators.
* Jill will present a report on current academic initiatives as well as the data dashboard for the first semester.
* Approval of the guaranteed maximum price for the roof bids. This bid package came in well under projections, which is great news!
* Action to approve the devices for the 1:1 initiative at both high schools for 2018-19, as well as approval of the building refresh devices for AHS & CES as part of the capital outlay plan.
* We also have an action item for the purchase of real property as part of the bond projects. Following BOE action this evening, we will send you an update about the land purchase.
2. January 15 Professional Learning - You have seen the agenda, and I am really looking forward to this. Thanks to all those who have worked hard to plan an extraordinary day for our educators.
3. Climate Survey - The climate survey is open through Jan. 26, and I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to complete this. Nicole sent those links out earlier today. We value the feedback, and three of the questions from the survey (safety, quality of instruction, & feeling valued) are part of our data dashboard. Your input is important!
Have a great week!
As American Education Week draws to a close, I want to thank you for all that you do to make the Andover School District an extraordinary place. To show our appreciation, we have sent Equity Bank gift cards to each building/department. The gift cards will be used for staff meals/treats. Wellness information will be available for you during the time that you enjoy a meal or snack with your colleagues. This is courtesy of our wellness stipend from Aetna, and a small way to honor your hard work and dedication. By the way, with the change of health insurance to Blue Cross, we will continue to have a wellness stipend of $25,000 for the next 12 months. Our wellness committee meets to plan ways to utilize those monies to promote the health and wellness of our staff members.
I hope you are able to attend the groundbreaking ceremony at 4:00 this afternoon at the ACHS fields as we celebrate the beginning of our bond projects. Who could have guessed that we would have temperatures in the 70's for this exciting event?
Some of the highlights of our November 13 BOE meeting included:
* Discussion on weighted grades for the high schools. A committee met this fall and worked extensively to research best practices and receive feedback and input from our stakeholders about weighted grades. This topic will come back to our BOE in December for action.
* A report on the implementation of Capturing Kids' Hearts in six schools in our district
* Approval of the construction contract for Hutton Construction
* Approval of the contract for Icon Structures serve as the Owner's Representative during the bond projects
* Approval of the Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) of $13,441,580 for our 5 elementary school classroom additions and storm shelters for schools that do not currently have one. The new MES school will be bid at a later time.
* Approval to begin using Frontline products, rather than the current Talent Ed products, for applicant recruiting/hiring & electronic personnel files management. This will enable us to bring our HR systems under the Frontline umbrella, and will enhance efficiency and the flow of information among those systems.
During this time of Thanksgiving, we have many good things to celebrate. I was able to attend a couple of the Veteran's Day activities last Friday, and they were truly amazing! Our schools honor the service and sacrifices of our vets like no other district I have seen. Powerful and inspiring! Last weekend I attended the AHS performance of Xanadu, and it was tremendous. I look forward to attending Seussical this evening at ACHS. We have so much to be thankful for.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving break. Best wishes for a relaxing time with family and friends. Thanks for making a difference!
Greetings Andover Team -
Autumn weather has arrived, and the holidays will be here before we know it. It's been a busy fall. Here are some updates for you:
District ACT: Our district ACT composite score for 2017 was 23.9, which matches the composite score in 2016. Over the past five years, our composite has increased from the low 23's to 23.9, which is an impressive score and well above the state average of 21.7.
Fall Activities: Activities abound this time of year. I enjoyed attending the WES & MES vocal concerts recently. The programs were first-class. We continue to have exemplary performing arts departments in this district that are as strong as any in the state. Our bands had great marching seasons as well, from the GAD parade through the Southern Plains Marching Festival, where our high schools received superior ratings. I really encourage you to attend the upcoming high school theater performances. AHS will perform Xanadu on November 11-12, and ACHS will present Seussical on November 17-19.
Congrats to our teams that placed at state, including the ACHS boys and girls cross country squads, who finished second. The AHS boys cross country team took 3rd place as a team. The AHS girls golf team finished second at state, and the AHS volleyball team advanced to the state tournament as well. We also had some individual tennis state qualifiers. Good luck to the ACHS soccer team as they compete later today in the state semi-finals versus Spring Hill. Also, cheer on the ACHS football team this evening as the Jags travel to Mulvane.
Negotiations Completion: As you heard earlier this week, the compensation & benefits package was ratified by our teachers, and will be approved by the BOE on Monday. Our business/payroll office has begun work to get the new compensation and health insurance amounts reflected in the November 15 paychecks. I want to thank the members of the negotiations team for many hours that were invested in the process. Members include: Toni Cusick, Brian Gregoire, James Harris, Polly Haynes, Kim Hett, Dana Matheny, Russ Miller & Deb Regier. Reaching closure on negotiations was extremely important for our district, and we are very pleased to have an agreement.
Bond Groundbreaking Ceremony: We are having our opening groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate the start of all the bond projects on Friday, November 17 @ 4:00 p.m. at the ACHS fields. We will then have refreshments in the ACMS commons. This is an historic time in our district - we would love to have you join us as we celebrate.
Bond Projects Update: We are on track for the turf baseball and softball fields to be completed by the end of March. The elementary renovations will start in late November/early December for completion by the start of next school year. We are also making good progress on securing land for the new MES.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I want to thank you for helping to making the Andover district extraordinary. We have so much to be thankful for! Enjoy the weekend.