Drumming for the Drum Major

Come cheer your favorite school at Drumming for the Drum Major at the Topeka Performing Arts Center on January 12th at 7:00 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Living the Dream Inc. Drum lines from local high schools including Topeka High, Topeka West and Highland Park will be performing in Drumming for the Drum Major.

Admission is $2 or one infant care item donation for the Links to Bright Beginnings Program. Items needed include sets of baby bottles, wash cloths, bottle brushes, socks, booties, baby powder, baby lotion, baby toys etc.

For more information on the "50 Bright Beginning Program: or more of a selection of baby items, go to www.itdtopeka.com.

Santa Visits Scott Magnet School

Students at Scott Magnet School got an early Christmas present today from Santa Claus. He and his helpers brought 550 gifts to the school, one for each student. The students were excited to see Santa and even more excited when they opened their gifts to find games of all kinds and sizes. The kids will take their gifts home today as they begin their winter recess. Students will return to the classroom for the second half of the school year on January 4th.

Migrant Families Receive Holiday Cheer

About 150 people showed up to enjoy a winter party sponsored by the Migrant Program of Topeka Public Schools. Migrant families from throughout the school district were invited to the December 20th event held at East Topeka United Methodist Church. Students and their families enjoyed an evening of food, fun and entertainment. Each family attending received a free family portrait. The Migrant Program holds two family gathering a year for migrant families.

TPS Celebrates School Board Leaders in January

January is School Board Recognition Month, and Topeka Public Schools is joining school districts across the state to thank these community volunteers for their untiring dedication to public education.

"Being a school board member is sometimes described as one of the toughest volunteer jobs in America. Yet, Kansas public school board members dedicate countless hours to attending meetings, school functions, and hours of preparation for the decisions they make," said Superintendent Dr. Julie Ford. "They participate in professional development to stay on top of the the ever changing education landscape and issues relating to education. Our schools and community are better because of these individuals."

It is an exciting yet challenging time in public education. TPS school board members develop policies and make tough decisions to help shape the future of the education system. They bear responsibility and oversight for an annual budget, for the students and employees and for the buildings.

Thank a board member today. More information about TPS board members can be found here http://www.topekapublicschools.net/board-members/.

Community Conversations - Avondale East

A community conversations meeting will be held at Avondale East Elementary School (455 SE Golf Park) on January 17th beginning at 6:00 p.m. There will be information and discussion about the possible closing of the school at the end of the 2011-2012 school year.

Jones Organizes Gift to Rescue Mission

Cheryl Jones (far left) and her granddaughter, Alexis Warren,  presented 413 scarves to Barry Feaker (far right) and staff at the Rescue Mission.

Title I office paraprofessional Cheryl Jones has been busy for the past year. She set a goal of providing 200 hand-made scarves to the Rescue Mission during the holiday season. Since that's a lot for one person to make, she began looking for others to help. Through contacts with co-workers, friends and her church she got to work. As word spread, two other churches joined in the cause. The three churches who contributed were  Sacred Heart, St. Joseph and First Congregational Church.

Cheryl has taken donations to the Rescue Mission before and she wanted to do more. "I started out by asking a few people to help me reach my goal. I was overwhelmed by the all the support I received; we more than doubled my goal of 200!" 

When the final tally was made, Cheryl had inspired 413 handmade items, including the 25 she made herself. Most of the items were scarves, but there were also some hats. The delivery to the Rescue Mission was made on November 11.

She plans to continue the tradition for next year and welcomes the help of anyone who would like to contribute.

Sharing the Music

First grade students at McEachron Elementary Schools listened as students from French Middle School strings group played their musical instruments recently. The French students, who were visiting McEachron, then let the younger ones try their hand at playing their musical instruments. McEachron Principal Vic Williams said hearing the music was great, but giving his students a chance to play an instrument and having the instrument in their hands was priceless.

Students Collect Record Amount of Food

Robinson Middle School students have set a new school record for collecting food items. The students collected 517 cans and packages of food this holiday season. Four students brought more than 100 food items to school. For their effort, Sarah Large, Cyrus Kincade, Billy Wagemaker and Darious Kincade were able to help deliver the food to Doorstep. Assistant Principal Todd Berry and teacher Donald Larscheid were also involved in getting the food items to Doorstep.

Tetuan Named Head Football Coach at Topeka West

Topeka West High School has named John Tetuan as its new head football coach. Tetuan is a well know local athlete who lead Hayden High School to a state football championship in 1988. He played baseball for the Colorado Rockies for four years.

Teutan was assistant football coach at Topeka West last year. He is currently the head coach of the Topeka West Charger baseball team.

Students Debate at Kansas Statehouse

Students in Dustin Rimmey’s AP government class at Topeka High School got a unique opportunity this week. Students have been researching influential Supreme Court cases. In class, the students have been debating each other to determine what they believe is the most influential court case of all time.

Yesterday, students traveled to the Kansas Statehouse to continue their debates in a room that has seen many such debates over the years. The students did their dueling presentations in the old Kansas Supreme Court Chambers. “I feel this is an awesome way for the students to end their semester of studying government by discussing the actions of our court system at the capitol building,” said Rimmey.

Topeka State Senator Anthony Hensley, who has served in the Kansas legislature for 35years, joined Rimmey and the students in the discussion of the cases.

Topeka South Rotary Provides Shoes For Students

It may not seem like much, but having a good pair of shoes is important when you go to school. Some students in Topeka Public Schools can thank the Topeka South Rotary Club for putting new shoes on their feet. Each month, club members provide a small number of students from Scott Magnet and Quincy Elementary School with shoes.

The students are chosen by the principal or counselor depending upon their need for a new pair of shoes. The school gets the parents approval. The kids are then taken to a local Payless ShoeSource where a club member assist a student in selecting new shoes that fit. They also help them pick out socks. “We are real honored to have had the rotary club come to us and provide this necessary piece for our kids,” said Quincy Principal Val Patterson.

The shoe program is funded by members of the Topeka South Rotary Club and is one of the club’s many service projects in the community.

TPS & Stormont-Vail Form Partnership

The Board of Education of Topeka Public Schools today approved the sale of 10.3 acres of the Kanza Education and Science Park to Stormont-Vail HealthCare. The agreement calls for Stormont-Vail to partner with Topeka Public Schools to establish a health care career pathway for students in the school district.

Under the career pathway programs, elementary students would focus on an awareness of health careers. Middle school students would explore careers in the health care field as well as having the opportunity to volunteer in a hospital. At the high school level, students would focus on academic and health related skills that would prepare them for a job in the health care industry.

Stormont-Vail will also provide up to $7,500 per semester or $75,000 over the course of the program for students who graduate from Topeka Public Schools and who meet entry criteria and are accepted to the junior and senior year at the Baker University School of Nursing. The funds will be made available for the sole purpose of paying tuition at Baker School of Nursing. The scholarship program will begin in the fall 2012 semester.


This represents yet another community partnership that Topeka Public Schools is forging on behalf of our students. It is far more than the sale of property. The collaboration in strengthening our health science curriculum, the guaranteed internships, the guaranteed scholarships for TPS students pursuing careers in the health field are the positive dividends of our partnership with Stormont-Vail HealthCare. This is just the latest example of this district’s philosophy of forming partnerships in our community to benefit our students.

Patrick Woods, President Board of Education of Topeka Public Schools

We are thrilled with our partnership with Stormont Vail to create a career pathway for health in Topeka Public Schools. This will prepare our students for jobs in the medical field including doctors, nurses, medical records, radiology and other careers that will be needed in the future. There will be opportunities for students to earn certificates in high school that will enhance their opportunity to earn in the future! We also are thrilled with the scholarship opportunities that will be provided to students of Topeka Public Schools to continue their education at the Baker School of Nursing!

Dr. Julie Ford, Topeka Public Schools Superintendent

We are very excited to have the opportunity to have access to property that will allow for future expansion to meet the growing needs of our community. This property is an especially good fit because of its close proximity to our main health center campus where our roots began more than 127 years ago. Everything we do at Stormont-Vail and Cotton-O'Neil centers around providing the highest quality care and the best patient experience.

This purchase also aligns Stormont-Vail with the efforts of Topeka 501 and Go Topeka's to promote this Health, Research and Technology Park.

Maynard Oliverius, Stormont-Vail HealthCare President & CEO

As we continue to recruit new doctors and health care professionals to meet the needs of our community, space is always a concern. This is a great location - close to the hospital - with easy access and good parking for our patients. This property will provide new options as we plan for our future growth so that we are prepared to care for the patients of northeast Kansas and their children and grandchildren.

Dr. Kent Palmberg, Stormont-Vail HealthCare Senior Vice President & Chief Medical Officer

It is certainly more than a real estate transaction. What I look at is how it benefits our students. This is an agreement that provides a partnership between Topeka Public Schools and one of the leading health care providers in Kansas. It helps us start down the road to making sure our students are both post secondary and career ready.

Larry Robbins, Deputy Superintendent of Operations


Stormont Vail will purchase the land for $675,000. The sale comes two weeks after Topeka Public Schools sold three acres of land to Valeo Behavorial Health Care and formed a partnership that will have Valeo employees volunteering and helping students in Topeka Public Schools.

HPHS Honored For Beautification Work

Highland Park High School was honored at the 58th annual Keep America Beautiful National Conference in New Orleans. The school took second place in the youth category for beautification. HPHS was recognized for the beautification of three properties across the street from the school using the crime prevention through environmental design method. The school was also honored for its jeans recycling effort in partnership with Aeropostale, planting a community garden and school recycling.

Philicia McKee, Executive Director of Keep American Beautiful for Topeka/Shawnee County said, “I want to congratulate Highland Park High School for their hard work and dedication to the mission of improving our community.”

Leadership Academy Begins

The first Topeka Public Schools’ Leadership Academy held its first activity December 6th. That’s when ten current teachers signed a two year commitment to the academy that will end with them receiving a Masters Degree in Educational Leadership from Kansas State University. The following teachers have been selected to participate in the first annual TPS Leadership Academy:  Heather Calvert (Meadows), Rebecca Hackett (McClure), Shandy Hayes (Whitson), Brenda Joyal (Shaner), Tara Martin (Bishop), Pilar Mejia (Quinton Heights), Gary Richmond (Jardine), Carrie Rohr (Stout),  Angela Soper (French/Eisenhower), and Courtney Yeoman (Jardine). 

Topeka Public Schools pays for books and a mentor and provides a place to meet in Topeka. The leadership academy will be lead by KSU Professor Dr. Mary Devin.

Executive Director of Administration Tammy Austin said, “The TPS leadership Academy is designed though a partnership with Kansas State University to cultivate teacher leaders. Empowering teachers with the knowledge and skills to be effective leaders is critical for our district’s success in retaining and recruiting new professionals, moving our strategic plan forward and grooming teachers for new leadership roles. We must build leadership capacity to ensure that our educational mission is carried out and ultimately, our students are provided with a world class education.”

Teachers Nominated for Statewide Recognition

Topeka West social studies teacher Lorie Booher and McClure Elementary teacher Karen Manhart have been named TPS nominees for the 2013 Teacher of the Year Award sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education. Robinson teacher Kimberly Sonnich has been selected as the TPS nominee for the 2012 Master Teacher Award sponsored by Emporia State University.

Lorie  Booher began her career with TPS in 1986 at Jardine Middle School. In 2001, she began teaching and coaching at Topeka West High School where she currently serves as the social studies department chair. She also serves on the district social studies curriculum and assessment team. Topeka West Principal Jeanne Carton says, "Ms. Booher has numerous educational accomplishments and contributions. She is a model teacher--always positive, collegial and accountable to everything she does."

Karen Manhart began teaching at Shaner Elementary in 1991. Since 1993, she has taught at McClure Elementary. McClure Principal Nancy Hedstrom says, " Karen is a fantastic teacher. She meets the needs of each and every child who walks through her classroom door and takes them beyond what they think they can achieve."

Kimberly Sonnich has taught language arts at Robinson Middle School since 2003. Robinson Principal Tammy Hazelton says, "Ms. Sonnich is loved by her students. Her classroom is filled with high expectations, high engagement and lessons that provide life relevance."

The three nominees will prepare portfolios to submit for state-level judging. Master Teacher winners are announced in late spring. Teacher of the Year finalists will be announced next fall.

Educators Honored for Possibilities in Action Partner Award

The School Psychologists from Topeka Public Schools announced that Greta Johnston, Pam Kobbeman, Linda O’Keeffe, Lori Roenbaugh, Susan Ross, and Deborah Sidwell were honored with the Possibilities in Action Partner Award at the Topeka Public Schools December 1st school board meeting at Burnett Center. Greta Johnston is a Speech Language Pathologist, Pam Kobbeman is a McEachron Special Education Teacher, Linda O’Keeffe is the Records Coordinator, Lori Roenbaugh is the Topeka High School Special Education Chairperson, Susan Ross is a Landon/Eisenhower Middle School Counselor, and Deborah Sidwell is the Scott Elementary Principal.

The Possibilities in Action Partner Program is part of National Association of School Psychologists’ ongoing effort to help school psychologists promote children’s success in school and life, to improve collaboration within the school community, and to help highlight the education community’s exceptional efforts to educate and support the development of all children. School psychology partners are people who, either through their own efforts or by encouraging the efforts of others, make an exceptional difference in the lives of students and families.

In general, the Possibilities in Actions Partner award winners possess the following attributes:

• Extraordinary personal or professional dedication to improving outcomes for students
• Outstanding professional functioning and effectiveness
• Effective advocacy for public policy that supports needed services for children and families
• Commitment to effective collaboration with school psychologists and other student services staff
• Long-term dedication to advocacy on behalf of individual students

Distinguished Staff Award Winners - Certified

The Distinguished Staff Award winners in the certified category have been named. They will join other DSA winners at a reception in April.

High School – Lesley Brancaccio – Topeka High School
Middle School – Alaire Long – Robinson Middle School
Elementary – Amy Ketterman - Lowman Hill Elementary
Administration – Teresa Songs – Chase Middle School
Certified Support Staff – Kelley Norman – Robinson Middle School

Students Collect Food for the Rescue Mission

Eisenhower Middle School students are doing their part to make sure people don’t go hungry in our community. Recently, some of the students delivered hundreds and hundreds of canned goods and food items to the Topeka Rescue Mission. The food was the result of a two week food drive which challenged 6th, 7th and 8th grade students to see which grade could collect the most food. The 7th grade was the winner collecting nearly half of the food.

TPS & Valeo Partnership

The Board of Education of Topeka Public Schools tonight approved the sale of three acres of land to Valeo Behavioral Health Care. The property is located on the west side of Hummer Sports Park and is adjacent to the current Valeo facility at 330 Oakley.

“The board of directors of Valeo is very excited about this opportunity to work with Topeka Public Schools,” said Valeo Chairman of the Board Allan Towle. “We have been looking for some time at the need to expand our services. Clearly there is a need in the community. We are busting at the seams in our facilities. Frankly, this property fits perfect for what we are looking for. It is right next door to what we are doing, so it is very easy access to our clientele as well as allows us to build a facility that will meet our needs and the needs to come for the Topeka community.”

Board of Education President Patrick Woods said of the agreement, “This represents yet another partnership here in Topeka. Through benefits such as the expanded opportunities for Valeo professionals to establish mentor and volunteer relationship with our schools, this deal will yield positive returns for our students and the community.”

“We are looking forward to partnering with Topeka Public Schools and the benefits it provides for the behavioral health side of the community. This will allow us to increase services to the adult population in Shawnee County, many of whom have children in Topeka Public Schools. This will enhance the quality of life for children,” said Valeo Chief Executive Officer Glea Ashley.

This transaction is more than just a real estate deal, according to Deputy Superintendent Larry Robbins. “It’s another means for us to look for ways to improve educational opportunities for our students. We plan to use the property at Kanza to help fulfill our educational mission and to create business partnerships linking them to Topeka Public Schools. We are always going to be very alert to pursue ventures such as this that will benefit our students.”

Allan Towle says there is another way Valeo will partner with Topeka Public Schools. “I think there are some really good opportunities for us to work directly with Topeka Public Schools when there are sports activities going on at Hummer Sports Park. We are going to make sure there is availability for the parking of buses for the visiting teams. We are also looking at other places where we can partner with Topeka Public Schools to find ways we can share our knowledge with students in a manner that is appropriate, which allows them to learn how to run a business in Topeka.”

The purchase price of the land is $431,000. The cost includes the demolition of West Hall which now stands on the property. Valeo plans to expand its crisis unit and build a 27-bed facility at the location within two years. That would be in addition to the 17 bed facility now located at 2401 SW 6th Street. The partnership between the two organizations also encourages Valeo staff to volunteer in Topeka Public Schools.

Valeo Behavorial Health Care is a private non-profit organization which has provided mental health and substance abuse treatment services in Topeka since 1967. It is the designated mental health authority for public mental health, serving adults in Shawnee County. Valeo offers community-based care in the areas of crisis, outpatient psychotherapy and medical, community support services, substance and gambling addiction treatment and residential programs at eight locations throughout Topeka. Valeo employs approximately 330 people.

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