Board to Recognize 25-Year Employees

The Topeka Public Schools Board of Education will host a reception on Thursday, Nov. 17 to honor employees who have given 25 years of service to Topeka Public Schools. The reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Avondale West Elementary, 3229 SW Westview. A recognition ceremony will be held at the beginning of the Board meeting which begins at 6 p.m.

Those to be honored include:

John Barber, School Police
Janet Belknap, Highland Park Central Elementary
Lorie Booher, Topeka West High School
Gerald Boster, Quincy Elementary
Patrick Brewster, Topeka High School
Katherine Davis, Williams Magnet
Christopher Gomez, Service Center
Sandy Hanson, Lundgren Center
Rhonda Hendricks, Lowman Hill Elementary
Rhonda Larscheid, Robinson Middle School
Richard Mariani, Topeka West High School
Martin Moreno, Topeka High School
Michael Patzer, Jardine Middle School
Lori Roenbaugh, Topeka High School
Claudia Shover-Daily, Topeka High School
Julee Smail, Topeka West High School
Lori Spencer, McCarter Elementary
Stephanie Perez, Parents as Teachers
Terry Stanley, Williams Magnet
Mary VanDorn, Quincy Elementary
Lois Waldo, Lundgren Center/Randolph Elementary

Teachers Go Shopping

Don’t be surprised if you see a number of Avondale East Elementary School teachers shopping at Walmart on 37th Street. That’s because the store surprised the teachers by giving eleven of them a $100 gift card last week.

“I was so excited to be able to surprise them with this activity,” said Principal Dr. Jennifer Gordon. “They spend a lot of their own money to get things like snacks and stickers for their students, so this really gives them a boost where they don’t have to take out of their own pocket.”

Third grade teacher Stefanie Carter is one of the teachers who received a Walmart gift card. “I can now have something to last me maybe through the school year, to be able to go and buy different things for my students. I’m really excited.”

The 37th Street Walmart store has given out gift cards to teachers in other Topeka Public Schools, including Linn Elementary School.

Hogan is Employee of the Month

Janice Hogan, who works at the service center, has been chosen Employee of the Month by Key Staffing. The award was presented by Key Staffing owner Patti Bossert and staffing specialist Bethany Swinney. Deputy Superintendent of Operations Larry Robbins represented Topeka Public Schools.

Janice has worked at the service center since February. She does everything from processing and routing periodicals to handling inter-library loan materials to assisting school media specialists. Janice says she was surprised by the honor. “Evidently the district media staff knew about this for several days before it happened. It is always wonderful to be recognized by employers and co-workers and I greatly appreciate everyone’s support.”

Janice is one of several Key Staffing people working for Topeka Public Schools.

Songs Receives Latina Award

Teresa Songs, principal of Chase Middle School, received a 2011 Latina Awards honor from Mana de Topeka in the Education category. At the October 18 awards event, Songs was recognized for improving the educational environment at Chase and endorsing initiatives to build partnerships with parents and in the community. She promised to continue to work to meet the needs of the Latino and Hispanic communities.

Pictured left: Chase Principal Teresa Songs.

French MS Eighth Graders Collecting for Rescue Mission

Each year, the Advisor Base (AB) classes at French Middle School participate in community service projects. This year, all eighth grade AB classes are conducting a food and supplies drive for the Topeka Rescue Mission. The drive will run from November 1 through 21.

The summer of 2011 was a record-setting summer at the Mission. Most nights more than 300 homeless men, women and children sought shelter. This was over 100 more individuals per night than during the summer of 2010. The Mission continues to provide meals and food boxes to the hungry at the highest numbers ever.

AB students will collect the following to donate:

Food Item Suggestions:
Peanut Butter
Macaroni and Cheese
Granulated Sugar
Hamburger/Tuna Helper
Canned Foods
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Pasta Sauce
Coffee Creamer
Pancake Syrup
Any non-perishable food item

Supply Suggestions
Small Tubes Toothpaste
Tooth Brushes
Dental Floss
Small and Large Bottles Shampoo
Household Cleaning Items
Air Freshener/Lysol Spray
Diapers Sizes 4 to 6
Foot Powder
Toilet Paper

Donations may be dropped off at the school and may be designated for a specific AB.

Clothing Bank Serves TPS

Topeka Public Schools has a clothing bank. If you have new or gently used clothing that would be appropriate for school-aged children to wear to school, please consider donating to the bank. Call HPHS Social Worker Fred Willer at 274.6026 or e-mail to set up a pick up or delivery time. As we approach the colder months, your donations will be greatly appreciated.

The bank has an collection of clothing for all school-aged children. Our mission is to connect families with this free resource and to make it as easy as possible to access the clothing bank. If you are interested in free clothing for your children, the only criteria is that they be TPS students. Contact your school counselor or social worker or call Fred Willer, clothing bank director, at 274.6026.

Wittman Publishes First Book

Mary Ann Wittman
Our very own Mary Ann Wittman, TPS Adult Education Coordinator, has written and published her first book, The Little Christmas Tree. In her book, she tells the story of a lonely little tree that has given up hope of being selected for Christmas. That's when surprising events begin to happen. Readers of all ages will enjoy this touching story about acceptance, generosity and the joy of belonging.

Wittman was inspired to write the book after shopping for a Christmas tree one cold, snowy night at Westlake Hardware. "I looked over and saw some small, rather skinny trees and felt somehow sad at the thought that they would probably not get chosen," says Wittman. "It made me think about how it feels to be left out, to be somehow unacceptable, to be lonely. I decided there was a story to be told."

She completed the book in about two months. Once a rough copy was complete, Wittman needed an illustrator. "Originally, I had planned to have my older daughter illustrate the book. However, her time commitment to grad school in distant California prevented this from happening," Wittman says. "I found Andy (the illustrator) kind of by accident. He serves on our Adult Education Center Advisory Council. We were visiting one evening after a meeting and I discovered he is an artist." One thing led to another, and soon local artist Andy Valdivia was on board to illustrate the story. "His illustrations are beautiful and really capture the mood of the story." Valdivia also put her in touch with Jack Cobos, owner of Jack Cobos Design, also in Topeka. Wittman says, "The three of us got together and decided to keep this entirely a local endeavor." The book was printed by Jostens, Inc. in Topeka, and the first copies are now available. The book sells for $10 (tax included) and can be purchased by contacting Mary Ann Wittman at, or her publisher at or business phone 785.266.8787.

Wittman will have a book signing at Above All Books and Gifts, 2607 SW 21st on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 1 p.m., and at Eclective at 900 N. Kansas on December 2 during the First Friday Art Walk. Books will also be available for sale at the Washburn Tech Holiday Fair on Saturday, Nov. 12 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. See the flyer for her book here.

She is presently working on two more children's book for publication in 2012. Wittman has been the Adult Education Coordinator for TPS for the past 14 years.

Vaughn Goes Above & Beyond For HPHS Students

Otto Vaughn wants to make sure that students go to class and do the right thing. For more than 20 years, he has been spreading that message to the students of Highland Park High School where he volunteers several days a week. It is also why Otto is the latest Above & Beyond Award winner.

Vaughn knows that if students see you and get to know you, they are more likely to listen to what you have to say. “I try to encourage them to go to class and do the things that are going to help them in life,” said Vaughn. Besides being a familiar site in the lunch room, Vaughn can be found at school assemblies and at sporting events.

Highland Park High School Principal Dr. Beryl New appreciates the time that Vaughn spends with the students at her school. “He shares a wealth of wisdom and life experiences with students who may lack the support of a wise father or grandfather,” said New. Vaughn serves on the SITE team and participates on the Elders Council at HPHS.

If you know of a person who goes above and beyond in serving our students, nominate them for the monthly Above & Beyond Award. You’ll find a nomination form on the district website under staff/forms for staff/district program forms.

Author Visits HPHS

Award winning author Chris Crutcher was at Highland Park High School this morning talking to students about writing and being an author. He has written 13 books, 10 novels, two short story collections and an autobiography. All sophomores in the school district will be reading Crutcher’s novel, Iron Man, this year. Students from Chase Middle School and Shawnee Heights High School were also at Highland Park to hear and meet Crutcher.

TPS Foundation Awards $33,940 in Grants

The Topeka Public Schools Foundation Grant Patrol visited several District classrooms this morning to inform educators they have been awarded funds for projects in their school or classroom.
The TPSF grant allocations committee recently reviewed grants submitted by educators from Topeka Public Schools. Twenty-seven grants were approved for funding, totaling $33,940.
Grants are for classroom/school/district-wide innovative projects and provide opportunities for students that may not otherwise be possible. Pamela Johnson-Betts, Foundation executive director said, “The Foundation looks forward to this annual event and is delighted to award the funds that assist Topeka Public Schools by helping educators to meet their goals of giving TPS students exceptional learning opportunities.”

Sheldon Receives Award

Sheldon Child Development Center received the Award for Collaborative Excellence Award 2011, along with Child Care Aware (formerly ERC) and Family Service and Guidance Center,from Community Action. The award was for Sheldon's participation in the HHS Mentor Coach National Demonstration Project.

Sheldon staff and Community Action Head Start staff have been working collaboratively since last school year with coaches on staff development and coaching to enhance instruction to best serve Head Start children in the two programs.

The Award was presented at the Community Action annual Awards dinner on Thursday, October 13. Accepting on behalf of Sheldon and USD 501 were Scott Henson, Sheldon Director, Heather Appenfeller, Sheldon Education Coordinator, and Karen Rogenmoser, TPS Early Childhood Literacy Coach.

ShareFest Gives Schools New Look

More than 1,200 volunteers painted playground equipment, trimmed bushes and spread mulch during the annual ShareFest event on October 15. Many of the volunteers came from local churches. They were joined by students and staff of Topeka Public Schools.

The volunteers spent the morning working at Avondale West, McCarter, Meadows, Stout and Whitson Elementary Schools as well as at Landon and Robinson Middle Schools and Capital City and Topeka High Schools.

Topeka Public Schools wants to thank the ShareFest volunteers for making a difference in our school district.

TPS Receives Award of Excellence

Topeka Public Schools was awarded the Community Resources Council Award of Excellence at a luncheon at the Ramada Inn today. The district won in the government category. Interim Superintendent Dr. Julie Ford, Board of Education President Patrick Woods along with other board members and administrators accepted the award.

More than 60 individuals, businesses, non-profits and government agencies were nominated for the awards which honors those who make a difference in the Topeka community.

Topeka West Graduate Hall of Fame

Topeka West High School is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. As part of the celebration, the school inducted the first class of the newly formed Topeka West Graduate Hall of Fame. Inducted in ceremonies held at the school on October 16 were:

Bob Davis (class of 1962). Bob Davis does the play by play for the University of Kansas football and basketball games. He also broadcasts for the Kansas City Royals. He has won numerous awards during his sports broadcasting career.

Duane Fager (class of 1964). Duane Fager is a respected member of the Topeka business community and the president and CEO of Core First Bank and Trust. Core First employees over 400 people and has over $1.2 billion in assets.

Rev. Barry Feaker (class of 1974). The Reverend Barry Feaker has been the executive director of the Topeka Rescue Mission since 1986. He has presided over several expansions of the mission facilities and has been instrumental in providing the necessities of life for thousands of individuals and families in the Topeka area.

Members of the rock band Kansas: The four listed below are original members of the band. The group recorded its first album in 1974 and subsequently recorded eight gold albums, three sextuple platinum albums and such hits as Dust in the Wind, Point of No Return and Carry on My Wayward Son.
Kerry Livgren (class of 1967)
Phil Ehart (class of 1968)
Dave Hope (class of 1968)
Richard Williams (class of 1968)

Dr Owen Henson, the first principal at Topeka West High School, was inducted as the first recipient of the Distinguished Staff Award named in his honor. The award was presented to him by his son, Scott Henson, who is principal at Sheldon Child Development Center.

Signature Schools Groundbreaking

Topeka Public Schools broke ground for two construction projects today that will create the first PreK-8 Signature Schools in Topeka. The construction will connect Ross Elementary School (1400 SE 34th) with Eisenhower Middle School (3305 SE Minnesota) and State Street Elementary School (500 NE Sumner) with Chase Middle School (2250 NE State). All four schools are located on the east side of the city.

The two construction projects, totaling $11.5 million, will be among the largest in Topeka and Shawnee County this year. Local companies will do the work which will create 180 jobs. The projects are expected to be finished in time for the beginning of school in August 2012.

The signature schools will provide many opportunities for students that they have not had before. The signature for Ross-Eisenhower will be developed around music, including band, orchestra and vocal. Three new music rooms will be added at Ross along with 23 other classrooms.

The signature for State Street-Chase will be developed around the performing arts. State Street already has a beautiful stage/auditorium. A new performing arts, black box theater, will be added to State Street providing ample opportunities for students to get involved in the performing arts. Twelve classrooms will be added to State Street.
The new additions to the schools will allow for expanded pre-school and make available more classroom space for the growing pre-k programs in Topeka Public Schools.

“I think history will judge this historic commitment that will greatly benefit the students of Topeka Public Schools. From expanded opportunities for early childhood to signature schools that highlight music and the performing arts. Students will have opportunities they’ve never had before,” said Board of Education President Patrick Woods.

Prairie Band Supports TPS Indian Education Program

The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation continues its support of Topeka Public Schools. Recently, the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation made a donation of $1,500 to the Indian Education Program in the school district. The donation was accepted by Karen Shanks at the Charitable Contribution Awards Ceremony. The Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation is a federally recognized sovereign nation with almost 5,000 tribal members.

Schools Make Standard of Excellence

The Kansas State Department of Education today released a list of Kansas schools achieving the State Standard of Excellence. Schools making the list include Shaner Elementary, Linn Elementary, Bishop Elementary, McCarter Elementary, Meadows Elementary, Randolph Elementary, Stout Elementary and Williams Magnet School.

To receive a Standard of Excellence in reading for grades 3-6, at least 25% of students must be in the exemplary category on the state assessment. To receive the same standard in math for grades 3-6, at least 25% of students must also be in the exemplary category on state testing. For a grade or building to receive a Standard of Excellence in reading or math, the building must make AYP in the “All Students” group.

Listed below are the schools, the subject they received the Standard of Excellence in and the grade or building level.

Shaner Elementary, Math, 4th grade
Linn Elementary, Reading 5th grade
Bishop Elementary, Math, 5th grade
McCarter Elementary, Reading, 5th grade
McCarter Elementary, Math, 5th grade
McCarter, Math, Building-Wide
Meadows Elementary, Reading, 4th grade
Randolph Elementary, Reading, 3rd grade
Randolph Elementary, Reading, Building-Wide
Randolph Elementary, Math, 4th grade
Randolph Elementary, Math, 5th grade
Randolph Elementary, Math, Building-Wide
Stout Elementary, Reading, 4th grade
Stout Elementary, Reading, Building-Wide
Stout Elementary, Math, 4th grade
Stout Elementary, Math, Building-Wide
Williams Magnet, Math, 5th grade

New Way to Figure Graduation Rates

October 11, 2011

Graduation Rates Changing

When high school graduation rates come out, you may be surprised to see they have dropped across the state. It is not that fewer students are receiving a diploma, but rather the result of a new way of figuring graduation rates in Kansas.
The 2010-2011 school year is the first year in which the U.S. Department of Education’s mandated four year adjusted cohort calculation method takes effect in all states. The mandate is an attempt to standardize graduation rate calculations across the country.

So what has changed? The new calculation tracks the movement of all students entering high school in a given year and determines how many graduate with a regular high school diploma four years later. The calculation adjusts the number of students who transfer in and out of the cohort during those four years. Previously, the graduation rate in Kansas looked only at the total number of graduates as compared to the number of graduates plus students who had dropped out in during their freshmen to senior year of high school.

The new four year adjusted cohort counts many students as “non-graduates” who would have factored into the graduation rate before. Those new non-graduates include students who do not graduate in four years, even if they are still enrolled in school, and students who transfer to a home school or private school that is not accredited by the state.

Since the way graduation from high school is calculated has changed, trying to compare this year’s graduation rate to last year’s would be like comparing apples to oranges. The 2010-2011 school year will be the base upon which future graduation rates can be compared. So don’t be surprised if the graduation rate at your high school is down, when actually it is just a new way of figuring graduation.

Ron Harbaugh
Communications Director
Topeka Public Schools

State Street Teacher Receives Surprise from OfficeMax

State Street Elementary teacher Erin Cay had a fabulous day on October 4. She was surprised with $1,000 worth of office supplies from OfficeMax during an all-school assembly. Through the "A Day Made Better" program, OfficeMax associates visited 1,000 classrooms across the country to surprise a deserving teacher; Ms. Cay was one of the winners! State Street adminstrative assistant Bonnie Strobel nominated Ms. Cay for the recognition and prizes. "She is a young, strong teacher who is respected by her peers and the parents of the students in her classroom," Strobel says.

In addition, the Topeka OfficeMax donated another $3,000 in supplies to State Street Elementary, including classroom supplies, book shelves, paper and more. Thanks OfficeMax!

Topeka West 50th Anniversary Homecoming Activities

Topeka West High School is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Many activities surrounding homecoming involve 50th anniversary events. Listed below are the homecoming activities.

Thursday, October 13th, 2:00 pm, Homecoming Parade
The entire Topeka West student body and staff will march in a parade for the 2011 Spirit Spectacular Homecoming. Chargers will leave the east parking lot at 2:00 pm, go south of Fairlawn to 21st St, west on 21st to Belle, and north on Belle to end in the west parking lot of the school. This year the Grand Marshal of the parade will be Dr. Owen Henson, the first principal at Topeka West High School.
6:00 PM, Topeka West Athletic Hall of Fame reception, 6:00 pm, cafeteria
7:00 PM, Topeka West Athletic Hall of Fame Induction, auditorium

Friday, October 14th
12:00 Noon, Former Topeka West Staff Reception, cafeteria
5:00 PM, Tailgate event (Hummer, EAST parking lot)
6:30 pm, Homecoming Royalty Crowning, Hummer field
7:00 pm, Football game v Seaman Vikings
Recognition of Westsider Alumni

Saturday, October 15th
7:00 am - Noon, Band Pancake Feed, cafeteria
8:00 am - Classic Car Show
5:00 pm - Alumni Concert (TW Singers, Orchestra)

Sunday, October 16th
2:00 pm - TW Graduate Hall of Fame and Distinguished Staff Award Reception
3:00 pm - TW Graduate Hall of Fame Induction, auditorium

Featured Post

Neighborhood Veteran Volunteers to Help Keep Kids Safe: September Above & Beyond Award

On a rainy Wednesday morning, Matthew Davis is found in a neon yellow jumpsuit and army boots directing school buses, cars and students safe...