Custodians Honored for Clean Schools

Keeping schools clean is the primary job of custodians in Topeka Public Schools. This morning, three custodians were recognized for the outstanding job they are doing. Linda Palmore of Lundgren Elementary School, Scott Larsen of Landon Middle School and Fernando Borrego of the Lucinda Todd Educational Center were each given a trophy. The traveling trophy can be displayed in their school this coming school year.

Chris Albert, general director of central services and facilities, started the award program this year. Janitors are given points for each area of their school that meets district standards. A trophy is given in the elementary school, middle school and high school category.

Deputy Superintendent of Operations Larry Robbins handed out the trophies to the winners. He recognized them for the tremendous improvement in the look of our schools this year. “You play a very important role in the success of Topeka Public Schools and this trophy is just one small way for us to recognize you,” said Robbins.

Burnett Center Summer Hours

The Burnett Administrative Center will begin its summer hours on June 6th. The building will be open to the public Monday-Thursday from 7:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. The Burnett Center will be closed on Fridays. The summer schedule ends on July 29th.

Principal Changes for 2011-12

There will be several new principals and assistant principals in place when the 2011-2012 school year begins. The names of the principals and their new schools are listed below.

New Principals

Avondale West Elementary: Christine Saunders will be the new principal. She was assistant principal at Scott Magnet School this school year.

Avondale East Elementary: Dr. Jennifer Gordon will be the new principal. She was the principal at Quinton Heights and Linn Elementary Schools this year. Both of those schools are closing due to budget cuts.

Eisenhower Middle School: Rebecca Morrisey will be the new principal. She has been an assistant principal at Topeka High School.

State Street Elementary: The new principal will be Sarah Sharp. Sarah served as assistant principal at William Magnet this school year.

Stout Elementary: General Director of Student Services Jeff Litfin will be the new principal at Stout. Jeff is a former principal at McCarter and Whitson Elementary Schools.

New Assistant Principals

Meadows Elementary: The new assistant principal is John Litfin. He was assistant principal at Robinson Middle School.

Williams Magnet: Sarah Lucero has been named assistant principal. She taught 2nd grade at Whitson Elementary School this year.

Robotics Program at HPHS

Highland Park High School will be the location for an advance automation robotics program this coming school year. The Board of Education of Topeka Public Schools approved a contract with Go Topeka to make the course a reality. The course will be available to students in all high schools in Topeka Public Schools. An adult education course will also be offered.

“With this particular course, we have an opportunity to support what is happening through our local chamber of commerce in recruiting outside business and it provides our students and our adult population with some job ready skills,” said Larry Robbins, Deputy Superintendent of Operations.

School board member Peg McCarthy said kids are always saying why do I need to know this. “They will get to apply the science, the math and reading skills they are learning and something that is immediately going to turn around into employment. I think it is fantastic,” said McCarthy

Students or adults who complete the robotics course will be eligible for industry certification with the job ready title of technician, operator or basic programmer. Hallmark Cards already uses robotics in its Topeka facility. Frito Lay expects to be using robotics in the near future.

Go Topeka is involved through its Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development Program. Go Topeka will fund $250,000 of the program with Topeka Public Schools matching it with money from the School Improvement Grant which Highland Park received this year.

Farewell to Linn & Quinton Heights Schools

There were plenty of hugs, pictures and goodbyes said among students and staff at Quinton Heights and Linn Elementary Schools today. The two schools, along with Lundgren Elementary, are closing due to budget cuts.

Rainy weather forced school closing ceremonies to move inside at both schools. At Quinton Heights, Principal Dr. Jennifer Gordon was presented a rose plant and a picture of students in front of the school. The gesture brought tears to her eyes as she thanked the staff and students for a good year.

At Linn, students and staff wore white t-shirts that had been signed by other students and staff. Dr. Gordon was presented a quilt with pictures of the students on it. Gordon talked about all of the good times she has had at the school and she thanked the students and staff for all they had done. As students left the school for the final time, they were given balloons to help them remember their good times at Linn.

Dr. Gordon has been principal at Linn for five years and at Quinton Heights for two years. With both schools closing, she will become principal at Avondale East Elementary School.

May 24th Cancellations

School program/activities canceled for May 24th (as of 5:30 p.m. )

Highland Park Central 5th grade promotion postponed and moved to tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. at HPC

Linn Elementary 5th grade promotion postponed tonight and moved to 10:00 a.m. tomorrow

McClure Elementary 5th grade recognition postponed tonight and moved to 9:30 a.m. tomorrow

McEachron Elementary 5th grade promotion postponed tonight and moved to 7:00 p.m. tomorrow

Quinton Heights Elementary 5th grade promotion moved to tomorrow at 8:30 a.m.

Shaner Elementary 5th grade promotion postponed and moved to tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.

Williams Magnet 5th grade promotion postponed tonight and moved to tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

Bishop Elementary 5th grade promotion postponed and moved to tomorrow at 7:00 p.m.

State Street Elementary 5th grade promotion postponed and moved to tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.

Randolph Elementarty 5th grade promotion postponed tonight

Lowman Hill Elementary 5th grade promotion postponed and moved to tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.
Avondale West – Willy Wonka Night will be held this evening as scheduled

Dicus Sets State Swimming Record

Emily Dicus, who graduated from Topeka West High School a week ago, was named swimmer of the year after a record setting performance at the class 5A State Swimming and Diving Championships. Dicus set two new records last Friday in the 100 and 200 freestyle at the Capital Federal Natatorium at Hummer Sports Park

She broke her record in the 100 freestyle a day later and became the first female to swim the 100 freestyle in less than 50 seconds. Dicus now holds four state swimming records in class 5A.

Students Donate to Japan Earthquake Relief

America’s attention has been focused recently on the outbreak of tornados and the flooding along the Mississippi River, but Lowman Hill Elementary students haven’t forgotten the people of Japan. That country continues to deal with the misery caused by an earthquake and tsunami that struck in March.

“We had boxes in each home room and the kids donated pennies, nickels and dimes since the earthquake in Japan,” said Lowman Hill Principal Russ Hutchins. Today, Joselyn Villalobos, student body president, presented a representative of the Red Cross a check for $83.53 to be used to help the people of Japan.

Student Summer Activities Encouraged

Summer is a great time to be active out of doors. This summer, students can be rewarded for being active. Shawnee Summer Scorecard is a program to encourage students ages 8 to 15 to be active at least 60 minutes each weekday. For each week of activity a young person completes, he or she will be eligible to enter a grand prize drawing. Just for participating, a student receives a t-shirt, a backpack, a water bottle and a wristband once they turn in their scorecard.

Scorecards can be picked up at the three YMCA branches as well as all city parks and recreation centers. A scorecard can also be downloaded at More information about the program is also available at the website.

Shawnee Summer Scorecard is sponsored by the K-State Research and Extension Office, the YMCA, Heartland Healthy Neighborhoods and the Junior League of Topeka.

Eisenhower Students Give Back to Community

Students at Eisenhower Middle School were busy today giving back to the community. The event was tied to the positive action program. This is the first year for the positive action curriculum at the school. Positive action is aimed at improving a student’s self-esteem and in helping them make good choices.

Students fanned out in the neighborhoods surrounding the school collecting trash, helping people in their yards, planting flowers at nearby churches and doing some landscaping at a retirement home. Other students helped clean up the inside of the school and did some painting outside the school.

A school spokesman said the event helps get the kids involved in positive things and helps them instill pride in their community.

Students Portray Famous People

There were a lot of famous people at McCarter Elementary School this week. Historic characters like George Washington and Ethan Allen.

The famous people were actually McCarter 5th grade students. They had researched information about the famous people. When another student or parent lined up in front of them, they would recite or read information about their character.

The wax museum as it is called is a yearly event at McCarter.

Students Win Cash From Local Bank

Two TPS students were recently rewarded for A's on their report cards. French Middle School student Devin Locke and Bishop Elementary student Logan Gage were presented with $10 for each A on their report card by Sunflower Bank President Bob Fletcher. The check presentation was part of the Bank's ABC Program. Students take their report card to the Bank prior to April 1 to be eligible for a drawing. French Middle School and Bishop Elementary School will also receive checks matching the amounts given to the two students.

Sunflower Bank, working through the Topeka Public Schools Foundation, has three programs available to schools and students through the ABC program. More information can be found at

Pictured left to right: Bishop student Logan Gage, Sunflower Bank President Bob Fletcher
and French Middle School student Devin Locke.

Farewell Reception for Dr. Kevin Singer

Date: Monday, May 23
Time: 4:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Place: Burnett Center Board Room

You'll have a chance to visit with Dr. Singer and enjoy some refreshments. This is open to all TPS staff as well as the public. Please join us for this special event.

Trojan Weightlifting Teams Wins 6A State Title

Congratulations to the Topeka High School weightlifting team for winning the 6A state title for the second year in a row. Topeka High scored 124 points. The second place team had 68 points. Seventeen teams were involved in the weightlifting competition.

2011 Commencement

More than 780 high school seniors received their diplomas during commencement of Topeka High School, Highland Park High School and Topeka West High School on May 14th. The ceremony was held at Landon Arena at the Kansas ExpoCentre. Several thousand family members and friends attend the ceremonies. Below is information about the schools. The video of the three high school graduations will be shown on Cox Cable channel 14.

Topeka High School: 368 graduates
Commencement Speaker - Stacie Kossoy (THS ’01). She is the principal of the KIPP DC Grow Academy in Washington D.C. It is an early childhood school with 100 pre-kindergarten students.

Highland Park High School: 186 graduates
Commencement Speaker – Dale Cushinberry. He is the former principal of Highland Park High School

Topeka West High School: 228 graduates
Commencement Speaker – Christine Sturgis. She teaches world history at Topeka West High School.

Farewell Open House at Lundgren Elementary

Several hundred people walked the halls of Lundgren Elementary School Sunday and talked about the memories they had of the school. Lundgren is one of three elementary schools closing this summer.

A number of former teachers and a former principal recalled their days at Lundgren which opened in 1949. Parents who attended Lundgren were also among those who visited their former classrooms. In each room was a large piece of paper where people could write their memories about the events that took place in the room. In the gymnasium tables were set up with books and pictures from the different decades of the schools.

With Lundgren closing, students who live in the area will attend State Street Elementary when school resumes in August.

Miller to Attend Shakespeare Summer Festival

Matthew Miller, a junior at Highland Park High School, has been accepted into the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Summer Seminar. He is one of a select few students from across the country to be chosen for this honor. Matthew will spend two weeks this summer in Ashland, Oregon, participating in a wide range of activities designed to introduce students to professional theater.

Graduation at Hope Street Academy

Hope Street Academy held its graduation on May 12th. Fifty two students received their diploma from board of education members. Superintendent Dr. Kevin Singer addressed the graduates as did Principal Dale Noll.

HPHS Theater Group to Scotland

Highland Park High School’s Scots Theatre, under the direction of Mr. Scott Kickhaefer has been selected to perform in the world’s largest and most prestigious arts festival as part of the American High School Theatre Festival (AHSTF). Each August, Edinburgh, Scotland becomes the most magical and exciting place on earth as performing artists from all over the world come to take part in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The whole city becomes a stage, and visitors can view performances everywhere: from playgrounds and conference rooms, to city parks and churches. The Fringe Festival includes over 1,800 performances of music, theatre, dance and comedy during its three week run. Highland Park’s performance will be showcased at the AHSTF venue in Edinburgh.

Scots Theatre, long recognized for its entertaining and innovative productions, was selected by the AHSTF Board of Advisors to represent the United States as part of the 2012 AHSTF program. The Board reviews all completed applications and identifies the top high schools based on their most recent bodies of work, awards, community involvement, philosophies, and recommendations.

While in Scotland, AHSTF’s professional technical team ensures that the company’s lighting, sound, and property needs are addressed. WorldStrides of Charlottesville, Virginia, the nation’s oldest and largest student travel company will be planning the travel arrangements for each high school group.

As you can imagine, Highland Park High School drama students, their parents, and teachers will be heavily involved in fundraising activities to finance their two-week adventure to Scotland and England. Contributions and donations are welcome. For more information, call Scott Kickhaefer, Head of Theatre at Highland Park High School at (785) 274-6119, or email him at

Hedstrom a Woman of Excellence

McClure Elementary School Principal Nancy Hedstorm was the Topeka Public Schools’ nominee for the YWCA Women of Excellence Award. She and other women were honored at a banquet May 5th at the Capital Plaza Hotel. The women were nominated by their employer for making significant contributions to the Topeka community.

Future leaders were also recognized at the luncheon. They included Susy Alvarez from Hope Street Academy, Emily Dicus from Topeka West High School, Aliyah Durant from Highland Park High School and Lauren Gernon from Topeka High School.

NOTO Arts Center Grand Opening

Superintendent Dr. Kevin Singer was among the dignitaries who spoke at the grand opening of the NOTO Arts Center on May 6th. The arts center, at 922 North Kansas Avenue, is the result of a partnership between Topeka Public Schools, the Mulvane Art Museum at Washburn University and Heartland Visioning.

The Topeka High Drum line put on a demonstration on the street outside the arts center, much to the delight of several hundred people who gathered to watch the grand opening. McCarter Elementary School 3rd grade student Kaya Beitz and Sammie Stuart, a junior at Hope Street, cut the ribbon before the crowd was invited inside for cake and to see the student art on display.

Art classes will begin in the near future for people of all ages from elementary to adult.

New Title For Robbins

Executive Director of Operations Larry Robbins has a new title. The Bord of Education voted last night to change his title to depty superintendent of operations.

Robbins has played a major role in helping the school district cut more than $10 million from its budget. He is involved in a number of major projects for the school district.

The title change comes as the board begins a search for an interim superintendent to replace current Superintendent Dr. Kevin Singer. After three years in Topeka, Singer is leaving to take a position with an educational service agency in Pennsylvania.

BOE Approves School Closings

The Board of Education tonight voted 7-0 to close three elementary schools at the end of this school year. The three to be closed are Quinton Heights, Lundgren and Linn. The three have the smallest enrollment of any schools in the district and rank among the highest in cost per student to operate.

The three schools were recommended to be closed after an 18 month study by a community based facilities committee. Last month, community conversation meetings were held at each of the three schools to explain in detail the reasons behind the possible closing of the schools. A number of listening tours were held last spring to explain the districts’ financial challenges due to a dramatic drop in state funding. Topeka Public Schools has already cut more than $10 million from its budget since 2009. The district is facing an additional $4.4 million cuts in the 2011-12 school year. It’s estimated that the closing of one elementary school will save $500,000.

Here is where students from the closing schools will attend class in 2011-12.

Quinton Heights - Students will be moved to Meadows, Williams, Highland Park Central or Stout

Lundgren - Students will attend State Street Elementary. Fifth grade students will attend Chase Middle School.

Linn – Students will attend Avondale East Elementary. Fifth grade students from Linn and from Avondale East will attend Ross Elementary.

Teacher Appreciation Week

May 2-6 is Teacher Appreciation Week. Each year during this week, Educational Credit Union delivers a small token of appreciation to educators. On Monday, Dan Wiggs, marketing specialist for ECU, stopped at Quinton Heights Elementary to give Principal Jennifer Gordon a bag of heavy duty magnetic clips for teachers. In past years, teachers have received lanyards, water bottles and apples from Educational Credit Union.

Young Artists of the Year Awards

Several Topeka Public Schools’ students have been selected as Young Artist of the Year award winners by the Topeka Performing Arts Center. The Young Artist of the Year Awards program recognizes high school juniors in Shawnee County who have excelled in the fine arts. Scholarships are awarded to the eight highest scorers based on the artist’s work. The following are TPS winners.

Dramatic Theater – Stephanie Baxter (Topeka West High School)
Instrumental Music – Emily Wagemaker (Topeka High School)
Musical Theater – William Kenefake (Topeka High School)
Visual Arts – Tyler Quintin (Topeka West High School)

Scholarship Winners:
Instrumental Music – Emily Wagemaker (Topeka High School)
Dramatic Theater – Stephanie Baxter (Topeka West High School)
Visual Arts – Tyler Quintin (Topeka West High School)

Teachers Score District Writing Assessments

Learning how to write properly continues to be important, even more so in this age of texting and twitter. Pre-Kindergarten through 11th grade students in Topeka Public Schools recently were involved in a writing performance assessment. Teachers in the district then scored, or evaluated, the student’s performance on the writing assessments. More than 13,000 papers were scored.

The papers were scored on six traits: ideas/content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency and conversations. “We were really pleased how our teachers across all curricular areas have increased their focus on writing,” said Dr. Steve Burkholder, Executive Director of Instruction. Certain grades have had written assessments for a number of years. This is the second year for all grade levels of student performance assessment writing in Topeka Public Schools.

Flash Workout at French Middle School

French Middle School students were dancing to the music of Beyonce during a nation-wide Let’s Move Flash Workout today. The National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation, which sponsored the workout, chose French to represent Topeka. French and middle schools across the nation did the workout at the same time.

The NABEF will create a viral video of the workouts that will be shared on You Tube, School Tube and other social media. The workout was in support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative to help curb childhood obesity.

Teeter Named Presidential Scholar

Sam Teeter, a senior at Topeka High School, has been named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. Sam is one of only four Presidential Scholars in Kansas this year. The Presidential Scholars Program recognizes and honors some of the nation’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. He will accept his medal during a ceremony at the White House next month. All of the Scholars in the Arts will perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

Scholars get to designate a teacher to be honored. Sam will honor his 5th grade teacher at Williams Magnet School, Kimberly Buchanan.

Sam is Topeka High School’s third Presidential Scholar. His mother, Board of Education member Peg McCarthy, was a Presidential Scholar at Topeka West High School.

Ross Teacher Writes Book for Children

Vanessa Ferguson, a kindergarten teacher at Ross Elementary School, has co-authored a book for children. It is called Let's Be Friends. It is a book about acceptance and showing respect to others who are different.

A Meet the Authors event and book signing will take place on May 4th from 4:15 p.m. -5:15 p.m. at the Abbott Community Center and on May 21st from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. at the Hillcrest Community Center.

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