Superintendent Updates
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May 9, 2016

Update to Staff

Greetings and Happy Monday! I hope you had a nice weekend! 

Please note there is a BOE meeting tonight. The agenda is available on BoardDocs. Two items of specific interest are a budget report and the strategic plan for technology.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on the school finance case tomorrow. Remember, this is to determine if the most recently passed funding formula for NEXT YEAR ONLY is equitable (not how much money, just is the money that is allocated being distributed equitably). The Legislature still needs to work on a permanent funding formula for 2017 and beyond. As I've mentioned before, based on what we know now, Andover has a solid budget plan for next year that does not include any reductions. (We made all those last year!) -- If something changes, I will let you know. 

At the administrator meeting last week, our principals asked if I would update you on the progress of the Long Range Facilities Plan study. I'll try to summarize the process here and then watch for more information in upcoming "A-List" articles. There has been a great deal of behind the scenes activity, a lot of information processed and many suggestions for the future of Andover facilities. It is exciting to see the process get started, but we still have a long way to go! 

Conversation about the future of Andover facilities started last fall with the following questions. 

1. What do we want Andover facilities to look like in five, ten or even fifteen years from now?

2. How many students will we have in the future?

3. What type of educational spaces does Andover need to continue the excellence that our patrons have come to expect?

​With that in mind, the BOE interviewed architectural firms​ in January and selected Schaefer, Johnson, Cox, Frey (SJCF) from Wichita to lead us through the process to identify facility needs, analyze enrollment trends, dream for the future, put together options for the district to consider, get feedback on those options and make a final recommendation to the BOE about our long range facilities plan. (Do we need to Add? Remodel? Build New? Reconfigure?) To accomplish this SJCF formed several teams to help with the process:

    1. Educational Specs Teams  (Elementary, Middle, High and Non-student facilities) -- These groups were made up of mostly staff members with the purpose of determining the "ideal" educational spaces for the future. Staff were surveyed and the architects toured/analyzed all facilities.
    2. Educational Planning Teams (Elementary, Middle, High and Non-student facilities) - These teams are made up of a combination of staff and community. They take the "ideal" educational spaces developed by the Ed Specs teams and compare them to what we have now, identify what we would need and make recommendations on how we might make that happen. These groups have produced A LOT of ideas and it is important to understand, these are just ideas! These ideas are then presented to the District Steering Team. 
    3. District Steering Team is made up of about 40 people. Both staff and community are involved - Their role is to take the many ideas produced by the four Educational Planning Teams, join them together in district wide ideas and begin to analyze which are the most beneficial to the district. They will ultimately narrow ideas down and present several (3-4) long range ideas to the district and community for feedback. Once they have feedback, final plans will be made and presented to the BOE. 

Where are we now? - The Educational Spec Teams have finished. The Educational Planning Teams have made a long list of potential ideas. Those ideas are now being presented to the District Steering Team. It looks like all the ideas will be on the table by the end of May. After that, we need to decide how to proceed throughout the summer and next fall. 

Please understand that we are very much in the idea stage right now and no decisions have been made nor will be made. I'd predict detailed, behind the scene analysis by the architects this summer and then a lot of activity in Fall 2016 around potential options with final decisions made at that time.

At the end of the process, the goal is to have a strategic plan for our facilities for 5, 10 and maybe even 15 years. Then we can begin working the plan. Don't hesitate to let me know if you have questions. It is exciting to dream about the future! 

Have a great week!

Greg




April 29, 2016

Update to Staff

Greetings everyone, I hope you had a great week. Amazing it is almost May and we are all busy with end of the year activities. Make sure to enjoy all the busyness!

  • Congrats to the Riedys (Brent, Asst. Principal AHS and Amber, ELP teacher) on the birth of daughter, Jensen Claire.
  • Congrats to the AHS Theatre Department for 13 Jester Award nominations for their fall performance of Aida! Outstanding!
  • Thanks to Shanda Seibel and Ellen Schwartzbeck, 5th grade teachers at Prairie Creek, for inviting me to judge your engineering/business plan competition. The student teams did an outstanding job of preparing and presenting! 

We had some interesting weather on Tuesday and I'd like to thank all of you for calm, thoughtful way you went through the process of communication and dismissal. Those situations test all of us and as it turned out, we were fortunate. In many ways, it was a good drill! Special thanks to our transportation staff for delivering our students safely home while the storm built all around us. Nice job everyone!

With all the recent news about Wichita’s budget challenges, several of you have asked about our financial situation. Will we let school out early or implement other cost saving measures? What is the likelihood of a school “shutdown” on July 1 because the Legislature may not fix the funding formula as directed by the Kansas Supreme Court? Here are some talking points for you:

  • The state budget crisis is causing a great deal of uncertainty with all state programs, including education. I encourage you to contact your local Legislators. Ask them to address the state's budget uncertainty and restore some predictability to our school budget process.

  • Our district budget is very tight, we are "doing more with less" than ever before, but at this point, we are not planning on any significant budget cuts nor ending school early because we proactively planned for this a year ago.

    • We made our budget cuts in spring 2015. If you recall, because of the two year Block Grant, we anticipated budget challenges and went through an extensive budget process. At that time we made recommendations for a TWO-year budget. (2015-16 and 2016-17). Our recommendations included $650,000 in spending reductions (2%) and $300,000 in fee increases. These changes netted approximately $950,000, which we have put to good use to manage the budget uncertainty. More information can be found at these links. Budget Process Homepage and 2015-16 Budget Process

    • Also in spring 2015, via negotiations, we agreed on a two year contract with our employees. This allowed us to plan ahead and manage our salary costs and has been very helpful.

  • Just like next year’s budget, a July 1 school shut down is difficult to predict, but we should know more before school is out. The Court is hearing the case May 10 and we anticipate a quick opinion. Until then, we are doing our best to proactively plan ahead without letting it dominate our conversation. It is important to remember that this is the third time in recent history that a “shutdown” has been threatened and they worked it out in both 1992 and 2005. I fully expect them to do the same this year.
  • We encourage our Governor and Legislature to address the revenue shortfall and fully fund K-12 education in Kansas. You can make a difference by making sure you are A) Registered to Vote and B) Vote in the Primary Election August. 2.and again in the General Election November 8. You can apply for an advance ballot by visiting www.usd385.org/vote and downloading your application today. Now more than ever it’s vital that we exercise our rights to vote and let our voices be heard. --- 80% of Kansas elections are decided in the August primary so don't miss your opportunity!

Let me end by simply saying, Andover is and will continue to be the best school district in Kansas because people like you continue to focus on what is most important, our students. No matter what challenges come our way, we will persevere. This quote comes to mind. "It is not what happens to you but how you react to it that matters." We can only do so much to control what happens in Topeka, but we can sure control our response and our attitude! Please do just that!

Thank you and have a great weekend!

Greg

PS -- Several Reminders!

  • The Prairie Fire Run is this weekend and our district will be represented well. Thanks to so many of you for participating in both the Saturday night meal (5:30-7:30 at ACHS) and the actual event on Sunday morning! Wear your Andover shirt with PRIDE! :-)
  • Andover Advantage will hold their 2nd Annual "The Truck Stops Here" food and drink event on Sunday from 12:00-3:00. Follow this link for more information. I hope you will all go out to support our Foundation as they try to support us!! We are fortunate to have such a dedicated group to support our efforts!
  • Finally, the BOE Outstanding Service Awards and Retirement Celebration on Monday, May 2 - 7:00 p.m. at ACMS. As always, we have many outstanding individuals who have dedicated many hours to make Andover a great place. I hope you will stop by to recognize and thank them!



April 11, 2016

Update to Staff

Greetings All, I hope you had a nice weekend. This time of the year gets so busy with spring activities that it seems to fly by. School will be over before we know it. Enjoy the ride!

Last week, KSDE announced that Wheatland Elementary was a recipient of  the Governor's Achievement Award. Congrats to the WES staff, students and parents. That is a nice acknowledgement of all your hard work.

On Wednesday I had the privilege of attending the Kansas Master Teacher Awards in Emporia to see Ray Linville be recognized for all his accomplishments. Congrats Ray, you represented us well! It made it even more special that his wife Julie is also a teacher in our district. Thanks for all you do to promote excellence in Andover.

For more examples of Andover Excellence, follow this link to articles about Julie Calabro, Doug Carr and Brett White. Congrats to each of them!!

Later today, if all goes as planned, Brett White will announce the hiring of our new Meadowlark principal. I'd like to publicly thank Jody Baker for 16 years of outstanding service to the students, parents and community of Andover. We are a much better place because of the impact she has made and I wish her all the best in retirement! Thanks Jody, job well done!! 

The Board of Education meets tonight and will discuss several topics of interest. I am out of town and want to thank Brett White for filling in for me at the BOE table.

  • Our copier/printer lease with Xerox is expiring this summer and we are proposing a switch to Konia Minolta. It will be nice to upgrade our machines with some of the latest technologies and document sharing software.
  • In January I mentioned we were considering a warranty replacement offer from FieldTurf to replace the field at District Stadium. After another several months of research, we are recommending to move forward with the project this summer.
  • Our girls' swimming program continues to grow and because of that, this year we split from a single district team into two teams representing each high school. With the addition of the YMCA and their youth swimming program, interest in high school boys' swimming is now strong enough to form a team. Tonight we are recommending to add one, district wide, boys' swim team to our high school program beginning next school year. 

Now that the Governor has signed the proposed school finance bill for next year only, several of you have asked if I think the Supreme Court will accept it and what that means for Andover. 

  • It is hard to say regarding the Court. Several weeks ago I would have said yes, the Court will approve this as a one year fix while the Legislature works on a new funding formula for the 2017-18 but now I'm not so sure. Many "experts" believe it isn't enough to satisfy the Court. That is a long answer to say, no one really knows. 
  • If passed, what does it mean for Andover? That too is difficult to project but if the court accepts the current proposal, we have several options that should not negatively impact our overall budget. 

At this point, it looks like we won't know the outcome of the case until at least the middle of May. In the mean time, I encourage all of us to keep our focus on ending the year strong. What is happening in Topeka is somewhat out of our control, there are too many unknown factors and "what ifs" to even speculate on an outcome. What I would encourage you to do is make sure you are registered to vote, request an advanced ballot if appropriate and VOTE in theAugust 2 primary! That is how we can make our voices heard. Follow this link for more information.

Have a great week and thank you for continuing to do such outstanding work for our students and our community. 

Regards, Greg




March 7, 2016

Update to Staff - March 4

Greetings Everyone! It is Friday!! Hope you have plans for a great weekend. Several things of potential interest:

This afternoon, Jody Baker, Principal of Meadowlark Elementary, announced to her staff that she was retiring at the end of this school year. Jody has been in education for 32 years and in Andover for 16. Jody's list of accomplishments is too long to mention here, so let me just say she has been very successful and her leadership has helped Meadowlark become one of the best elementary schools in the state. Personally, Jody was my son's principal several years ago and a mentor for me as I transitioned to Andover. I've learned a lot from her. She has been a tremendous asset to Andover and will be missed! Congrats on a well-deserved retirement Jody! Thank you. 

In a recent update I mentioned the recent Kansas Supreme Court ruling. Several of you have asked "what happens if the Legislature doesn't address the ruling by June 30, 2016 and our schools have to close"?  I've visited with area superintendents and with Kansas school board association staff and no one has a great answer to that question. This is unprecedented. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say they will work something out. My advice for all of us would be to keep on keeping on, continue to advocate for public education, register to vote and then vote in both the primary (August 2) and general election (November 8). In the mean time, behind the scene, we will work on contingency plans for any disruption in service. I'll keep you posted if things change.

Because of the recent announcement that the State of Kansas is short on money, I've also been asked about potential budget cuts for this year and next year. Please remember, unless things change significantly, Andover is in a solid financial position. That being said, we are keeping a careful eye on activities in Topeka. I'll keep you posted as things continue to unfold.

Speaking of voting, in the near future you will hear more from the district and AEA about our voter registration drive. We want to make it as easy as possible for our community to get registered, request advanced ballots, if desired, and to get out and vote! 

Congrats to Ray Linville for being named a Kansas Master Teacher! He joins a long list of Andover teachers to win this prestigious award!! Way to go Mr. Linville! We are proud of you.

Congrats also to Nicole Kallenbach, ACHS and Janie Hachen, Cottonwood for being selected as the district's representatives for Kansas Teacher of the Year! Way to go ladies!

It is cool to see and hear so much about the wellness program! I'm glad so many of you are participating! Have a nice weekend and please don't hesitate to let me know if you have comments or questions!




February 26, 2016

Update to Staff

Greetings All, hope you had a nice week. This is a busy time of year but I hope through all the busyness, you are taking time to appreciate and enjoy all the great things we are accomplishing. The list of student and adult accomplishments goes on and on. For instance:

  • Last Friday, Kelly McMains, PCES 1st grade, was honored as a New Horizon Award winner in Topeka.
  • The ACHS Scholar's Bowl team won the State Championship
  • AHS Thespians won the Gold Honor Troupe Award for the 2nd year in a row
  • Our young artists were displayed at the Butler County Art Show
  • The Trojan Children's Choir is scheduled to sing at the Kansas Music Educators Conference on Saturday.
  • ACHS and AHS have a large group of wrestlers going to State this weekend.
  • Andover had ALL the top ten finalists in the Butler County Spelling Bee

 

I could go on!! Our challenge is not finding outstanding accomplishments, but remembering to recognize the many people who are doing great things! Having such a high level of excellence means that EVERYONE is doing their part to educate our students. 

With all the interesting things coming out of Topeka, it sometimes makes me wonder how important public education really is to our elected leaders. You will see in an upcoming Andover Update (mailed district newsletter) that I speak to my concern about the tone coming from Topeka and calling for a renewed sense of collaboration between elected officials and public school advocates. Thank you for cutting through all the noise and focusing on what really matters, our students. You are indeed professionals and Andover is fortunate to have you.

Last week, Butler Community College announced a new free tuition program called "General Education Tuition Waiver". Beginning in Fall 2016, any high school student in Butler County can take many of the current BCC dual credit courses tuition free (20 courses in all). This is a significant investment in the students of Butler County. 

Next week you may begin hearing about the comprehensive facilities study project led by the architectural firm of Shaefer, Johnson, Cox and Frey. The goal is to develop a long-range vision for our facilities. As part of this process, committees are forming, a survey to select staff is being prepared and school site visits, including interviews with staff, are being planned. More as things unfold, but wanted you to know it was in the works. 

It is great to see so much participation in our new wellness program! Many of you are competing on a team competition counting steps, exercise minutes and weight loss! Keep it up. We will all benefit in the long run. If you haven't signed up for the Prairie Fire race on May 1, you still have time! Have a great weekend! 


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