Friday, August 12, 2016

Ross and Eisenhower Build a Bridge

It was an exciting week at Topeka Public Schools as teachers returned to prepare for the start of the 16-17 school year. One of the highlights of the week was the unveiling of a special project at Ross Signature Music Elementary School and Eisenhower Middle School: The Bridge.

Many people know that the elementary and middle school are connected by a hallway. In the past, that hallway has, at times, had a negative connotation. This summer, Eisenhower principal Leosha Giardina and music teacher Stacy Neumann set out to change that. They gathered volunteers together to implement their vision of a colorful and inviting hallway connecting the two schools, and they named it The Bridge.

Many people worked together to create a fun and welcoming space, including three very special Eisenhower students. Abel Robles, Aldo Tinajero and Isaiah Kinkade tirelessly painted a massive piano mural that pays tribute to the schools’ music focus.

The mural isn’t quite finished yet; Neumann hopes to add silhouettes of students to the walls and a gallery featuring student art work, but the Bridge is already looking like a signature piece for both Ross and Eisehnower.

Thank you to everyone who helped make the Bridge possible:

Diana and Bob Swafford, Colorworks Paint and Supply, for guidance on color and brush selection

Scott Udey, Eisenhower art teacher, for materials, help in painting the silhouettes, and art for the gallery

Chelsea and Ken Neumann, daughter and husband of Stacy Neumann, for their assistance in painting

Jose Tavares, Crystal Southen, Kathy Southen and Jeff Parker for beautifying the floors  

TPS Holds Welcome Back Convocation

On Thursday, August 12th, Topeka Public Schools held the 2016 Welcome Back Convocation for our nearly 2,500 staff members. This was the perfect way to welcome our employees back after a long, hot summer. For some, this was their first opportunity to see new superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson in person... and she didn’t disappoint! With her trademark tennis shoes, she enthusiastically welcomed the excited crowd. School board president Patrick Woods also addressed the audience (and even took a selfie with them!), as did NEA-T president and TPS teacher Stephanie Harsin. Scott Magnet teacher Pat Nash, who was recently inducted into the Kansas Teachers Hall of Fame spoke about her experiences as a teacher in a message that resonated with all. Robinson Middle School art teacher Barbie Atkins was also recognized as a 2016 Horizon Award recipient.

Superintendent Dr. Tiffany Anderson

Assistant Superintendent Tammy Austin

Lastly, Jardine MS 7th grader DeAndre Hicks delivered a moving and uplifting speech about how Topeka Public Schools employees—everyone from custodians to principals to nutrition workers to teachers—have made a difference in his life. The crowd was brought to their feet with applause, and some tears, as he asked them if they would be the one to make a difference in students’ lives. (See his inspiring speech on YouTube at

DeAndre Hicks, Jardine Middle School 7th grader

The event was a fun way to energize and inspire our staff as they begin the new school year, but it was made even better by the many student groups who provided entertainment. We would like to thank the following groups for helping us welcome everyone back to a great school year:

Highland Park High School Cheerleaders (Coach: Deletha Kelly)
Highland Park High School Dance Team (Coach: Monica Augusto)
Highland Park High School JROTC (Teacher: Fernando Adams)
Topeka High School Cheerleaders (Coach: Stacey Bailey)
Topeka High School Dance Team (Coach: Alyssa Schultz)
Topeka High School Drum Line (Director: Sal Cruz)
Topeka High School Step Team (Coach: Teresa Leslie Canty)
Topeka West High School Cheerleaders (Coach: Roberta Freeman)
Topeka West High School Dance Team (Coach: Chelsea Switts)
Topeka West High School Marching Band (Director: Barry Evans)

THS Drumline

TWHS Marching Band

BCBS Donates School Supplies to Ross Elementary

We want to spend a special thank you to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Enrollment Risk/Contract Management Department. They recently collected school supplies for students at Ross Elementary, and BCBS employees Jamie Schnacker, Lisa Amen and Stacey Erdman delivered them to the school yesterday. New backpacks, notebooks, pencil cases and many other items will be waiting for the students when they begin school next week.

Thank you BCBS for your generosity!!

Friday, July 29, 2016

TPS Student Hosts Law Enforcement Breakfast

It’s been a dramatic summer for law enforcement officers across the nation, but one Topeka Public Schools student has found a way to offer some peace and kindness to the district’s SRO’s.

Topeka High School senior Jaide Ramirez-Jennings hosted a breakfast for all of TPS’s School Resource Officers this morning at Burnett Center. She wanted them to know that she—and many others—appreciate all they do for our schools and the community.

“They do a lot for us. They protect us every day and we should give something back to them,” she said.

Jaide has spent much of her young life giving back to others and has been recognized numerous times for her vast community service work. Since she was just six years old Jaide has received the Yahoo! Purple Acts of Kindness award, the Kansan Youth of the Year award, the Martin Luther King Living the Dream youth award, the Golden City Service to Mankind youth award, the Kohl’s Kids Who Care Scholarship, a NAACP youth award, the YOU ROCK award, and a leadership award from AVID.

She will graduate from THS in December, then travel to Newcastle, Australia for a 12-week missionary school program. After that, she will perform missionary work before heading to Manhattan Christian College to major in theology.

Jaide’s generous spirit really touched the hearts of the TPS School Resource Officers who attended this morning’s breakfast.

THS SRO Steve Trembley said, “Things like this validate the reason we chose to work in schools. It shows us that we do make a difference.”

Fellow officer Jeremy Leithoff said students like Jaide “make school a more positive and enjoyable place to be.” He added, “Students like Jaide rejuvenate me.”

THS Principal Rebecca Morrisey was also in attendance and watched as Jaide thanked the officers for their many efforts in the district. “Young ladies and gentlemen like Jaide make school a better place and give us hope for a brighter future. She has taking serving others to a whole new level.”

Jaide was able to host the breakfast thanks to donations and assistance from TPS staff members Dr. Jennifer Gordon, Leosha Giardina, Terri Bailey, Sara Corwin and Rochelle King.

Thank you, Jaide, for all you do for Topeka Public Schools and the Topeka community!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Scott Students Paint Murals

Students enrolled in Scott Dual Language Magnet School's summer school program not only kept up with their language and math skills, they also helped enhance the school with their art skills.

The students all contributed to two new murals in the school, one in a hallway and one in the library. They were guided by local artist Luis Ramirez, who developed the ideas for the murals and outlined them on the walls. The students came together in groups each day to add color to the pieces.

The mural in the school’s hallway appears to be a rendering of the Brown v. Board of Education Historical Site. However, it is actually inspired by a different civil rights case: Mendez v. Westminster. The Mendez v. Westminster case bears striking resemblances to the Brown v. Board case, but it occurred eight years earlier and involved nine-year-old Sylvia Mendez who, like young Linda Brown, sought to attend school with her white counterparts. Attorney Thurgood Marshall represented both Sylvia and Linda in their respective cases and even used some of the same arguments from Mendez to win Brown v. Board of Education. Sylvia Mendez helped pave the way for the Brown v. Board case, and Scott Magnet now boasts a beautiful tribute to this young woman.

For the mural in the library, Ramirez was inspired by award winning Mexican-American poet Francisco Alarcon. Alarcon was a bi-lingual, bi-national and bi-cultural writer… a fitting subject for Scott Magnet, a dual- language school that boasts many students and staff with backgrounds similar to the poet.

Thank you, Mr. Ramirez, for helping our students learn about art, history and poetry this summer!