Falcon Drive at French Middle School

When French Middle School students arrive at school, most will get there via Falcon Drive. As of today, that’s the official name of the drive that goes in front of the school. French School Resource Officer Mark Hilt thought it would be a great way to honor the school and the students by naming the driveway.

This morning, Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten, Police Chief Ron Miller, district administrators and other invited guests attended a ceremony in which the sign was unveiled to students and school staff. Principal Kelli Hoffman praised Hilt for being the "best SRO in the school district" and for his efforts in the getting Falcon Drive named.

PAT Gets Grant For Fatherhood Program

Parents as Teachers got a big financial boost for their Fatherhood Program today when PAT officials accepted a $3,500 Venture Grant from Joe and Janet Aleshire. The money will enable PAT to continue to provide a meal at their weekly meeting for fathers for the next year and to pay for a parent educator.

Leslie Petty says any family which resides within the USD 501 school district can be a part of the Parents as Teachers Fatherhood Program. “Not only dads, but sometimes uncles come, grandfathers or a boyfriend that’s involved with the family.” Any male with a child from age birth to five is welcome at the meetings which are held each Thursday at 6:00 p.m. at Quinton Heights at 2331 SW Topeka Boulevard. After dinner, the fathers can visit while their children play. “A lot of times dads come and have a problem and learn that other dads are facing the same issues,” said Petty.

Students from Washburn University’s Leadership Institute helped play a role in getting the Venture Grant to Parents as Teachers. As part of a project, the students helped develop a grant process which lead to the financial gift from the Aleshire’s to Parents as Teachers.

Flash Mob at French Middle School

French Middle School students received a surprise during their lunch period today. As they were eating, members of the Topeka West High School Singers stepped out from behind a curtain and began to sing on the stage. They were joined by the 7th and 8th grade chorus at French. The students of choir director Tina Goodrich then strolled through the lunch room waving their hands and singing as part of a surprise flash mob.

HPHS Yearbook Selected as National Sample

Highland Park High School journalism teacher Heather Hooper was recently notified that the 2012 Highlander yearbook has been selected by publisher Balfour as a national sample. The book was flagged as outstanding based on the first 30 pages submitted to the company.

Balfour will print extra copies of the yearbook and share it with sales representatives and other high school staffs across the county. It was also be represented as a sample at the JEA National Conference in San Antonio next year. Only four percent of books are chosen for this honor. The last Kansas school to receive this distinction was Shawnee Mission North.

Congratulations to the yearbook staff: Karri Fulton (editor), Taylor Schley (editor), Erin Gigger, Jessica Spaulding, Cierra Sommers-Lunkins, Shantae' Talbert, Shanise Brooks, Antwanique Peppers, Delores Smith and Breanne Douglas.

Distinguished Staff Award Winners 2012

The Distinguished Staff Award winners for 2012 have been named. The TPS Board of Education will recognize distinguished staff at a ceremony on April 26 at the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library. A reception will begin at 6 p.m. and a formal recognition will begin at 6:30.

Certified Winners
High School Educator: Lesley Brancaccio, Topeka High School
Middle School Educator: Alaire Long, Robinson Middle School
Elementary Educator: Amy Ketterman, Lowman Hill Elementary
Administration: Teresa Songs, Chase Middle School
Certified Support Staff: Kelley Norman, Robinson Middle School

Classified Winners
Office Personnel: Vickie Chaffee, Burnett Center
Paraprofessional: Stepfon Cunningham, Meadows Elementary
Classified Support: Perry Hartman, Service Center
Food Service: Jim Pierce, Sheldon Child Development Center
Custodial: Colleen Riggs, Robinson Middle School
Operations/Maintenance: Luz Nixon, Service Center

First Year Teacher Winners
Secondary: Angela Rhoades, Jardine Middle School
Elementary: Michelle Johnson, Stout Elementary

Legislators Hear About College & Career Programs

Superintendent Dr. Julie Ford and representatives from Highland Park High School and Topeka High School spoke before the House Education Committee today. Committee members heard some of the educational opportunities being offered by school districts across the state to prepare students for college and careers.

Dr. Ford introduced HPHS robotics instructor Bruce Babin. He showed video of the robot he is using to teach Highland Park students about robotics. The robotics program is new this year and is a partnership between the school district, Go Topeka’s Entrepreneurial and Minority Business Development Plan and Washburn Institute of Technology. Students who complete the robotics course can receive a certification with the job ready title of technician, operator or basic programmer.

Dustin Rimmey talked about the International Studies Program at Topeka High School. It is also new this year. The International Studies Program, or ISP, is a cross-curricular approach to providing students with a more global education. ISP encompasses 20 language classes and 20 elective classes and ends with a senior capstone project.

KS Notable Events Unveiled at Topeka High School

Topeka High School forensics students this morning helped Governor Sam Brownback unveil the top 12 notable events in Kansas history. The event, held at Topeka High School, comes at the end of a year-long celebration of the Kansas sesquicentennial.

The twelve events are, in chronological order:

September 1, 1821 – First party leaves Missouri headed for Mexico on the Santa Fe Trail

November 4, 1838 – Potawatomi Trail of death ends in Kansas

May 30, 1854 – Kansas-Nebraska Act signed into law by President Franklin Pierce

February 11, 1859 – The Santa Fe Railway is chartered by the Kansas Territorial Legislature

July 5, 1859 – Women’s rights included in discussions of Wyandotte Constitution

March 5, 1862 – The Kansas Legislature formed the Kansas Agricultural Society

September 5, 1867 – The first load of cattle is shipped via rail from Kansas

January 1, 1881 – Kansas adopts prohibition as part of the state’s constitution

January 26, 1925 – Travel Air Manufacturing Company established in Wichita

April 14, 1935 – A massive front darkens the entire Midwest in clouds of dust on Black Sunday

April 1, 1938 – Rural electrification reaches Kansas

May 17, 1954 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules on Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

You can learn more about these events at kansapedia.org

Students Lift Off to Learn

About twenty third, fourth and fifth graders from Stout Elementary had a unique experience this morning. As part of a transportation unit, students and accompanying staff had the chance to fly in a small Cessna at Billard Airport. Pilot Dean Forbes works for the Kansas Air Center as a flight instructor and agreed to take the students up two at a time with one adult each trip. 
Pilot Forbes and students Jordan Rainer and Gerald Mann.

The first students to go up were third graders Jordan Rainer and Gerald Mann. TPS speech/language pathologist Melissa Hulsing was the first adult passenger to take off. “It’s wonderful up there,” says Hulsing. “Gerald got to experience controlling the plane and Jordan sat in the back with a big smile on his face. It was my first time up in a small plane and I would do it again!”

The activity was funded through an educational grant provided by the Topeka Public Schools Foundation. TPS speech/language pathologists Melissa Hulsing and Diana Zimmerman requested the funds in order to provide an enrichment activity for students, allowing them to venture outside the school environment to apply knowledge related to transportation they acquired in the classroom. For the past few months, students have been studying different types of transportation and learning vocabulary related to transportation. The culminating activities for this unit of study included the trip to Billard Airport, a trip to the Great Overland Station and a bus ride with Topeka Metro.
Student Jeshua Mills prepares to exit the plane.

To finish the project, students will put together a scrap book. They will reflect upon and write about their experiences. Stout fifth grader Jeshua Mills said the best part about the flight was “looking down at all the cars. They looked like toys.” Said Mills, “It was fun, I want to do it again!”

Lopez Assists Grandmother in Need

TPS electrician Mike Lopez works on classroom lighting.

TPS electrician Michael Lopez is the January Above and Beyond winner. Lopez has worked as an electrician for Topeka Public Schools for the past 12 years.

He was nominated by TPS attendance/truancy clerk Jerome Plunkett for an act of kindness. "Last month, I was speaking to a grandmother who is trying to raise her grandchildren. She informed me her motorized wheel chair was not working and she could not make it to an IEP meeting. Mr. Lopez found out about the situation and went to work on the wheel chair after he got off duty. That is way above and beyond," says Plunkett.

"I went over and checked out the lady's wheel chair. It took a few days to get the job done.It was something she needed and I was glad I could help," says Lopez.

TPS Computer Store

ATTENTION District Staff, Students/Student Families

Computers for sale at The Computer Store located at the USD 501 Service Center at
125 SE 27th Street

Used computer packages will be offered for sale by sealed bid only at the Service Center each week. Sealed bids will be accepted Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. until 4:25 p.m. (sharp) and Fridays from 7:30 a.m. until 12:00 noon. To view the available computers and to complete your sealed bid form, stop by the Service Center front office. Sealed bids will not be accepted after 12:00 noon on Friday. The highest bidder for each computer package will be notified each Friday afternoon. All computers packages will be sold “as is” and must be paid in full and removed from the computer store within 2 business days.

Teeter Youngest Member of Topeka Symphony Orchestra

Topeka High School sophomore Joe Teeter performed a cello solo, the first movement of Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor, at the Topeka Symphony Orchestra concert on January 14. He earned the solo spot by winning the 2011-12 Youth Talent Audition in the Strings Division and was also the overall winner. Teeter is the youngest cellist to be accepted as a full-time Topeka Symphony Orchestra member.

Public Comment on Avondale East Elementary

JANUARY 17, 2012
(Response of school board members and school administrators is in italics)

• If a music theme is adopted, does that mean we do not have to use the equipment we have used for over 20 years? That will be a priority for our signature schools.

• It appears the decision to close AE has already been made; people don’t have a say. It has actually been a long process, taking comments and concerns into consideration. We will put it all together to make the best possible educational opportunity for the kids.

• Have you expanded home economics or shop classes? They are combined into other programs based on progression in how those programs have changed over the decades. The district wants to expand on career pathways within the district.

• People make multiple occupational changes over the course of careers. Need to consider if all of our high schools need to be focused on college bound.

• How many improvements have been made in this building (Avondale East) over the years? The only improvements have been to maintain. Not to expand technology or improve the building.

Career pathways that start in the elementary schools are planned. For example the career pathway partnerships with Stormont Vail and Weststar. Currently doing career exploration with students. The robotics program has been designed and implemented at Highland Park. These are good examples of the changes.

• Are you planning on intertwining the nursing program with a college program? Yes, Washburn Tech is interested and is working with us. Anticipate a stronger partnership with Washburn Tech going forward.

• We live in the neighborhood and own a home. Why can’t you talk about what the plans are before you close Avondale East? The actual decision to close the building has not been decided, so, if we do vote to close, we will meet to discuss repurposing.

• Where do you stand on closing this school? If I were to vote tonight, I would vote to close Avondale East. Cost to operate and maintain is high.

• Where will the kids go? Ross/Eisenhower.

• How will the kids get to Ross? Adams is busy and it is 2 mi away. Any student that lives a mile or more away will be able to ride the bus. We are concerned about student safety. Another consideration is how rich is the education program for kids.

• I don’t understand why things have happened the way they have. I found out about this last summer. Don’t read the paper or watch the news, don’t have school age children, so concerned about my neighbors that have children and about the neighborhood. Good education is everything. Would like to see a President of the US come from our neighborhood some day. The school is the hub of the neighborhood. It is possible the police department could set up a satellite? You don’t live here but we do. We are concerned and want to maintain the neighborhood. I am very involved in the neighborhood and concerned about it. Response: We will be mindful of the neighborhood. We do care about the neighborhood.

• The school on Western – Sumner. There is a lot of damage. The district let it go and it has not been maintained. We won’t let that happen again. This conversation will continue. We care about the neighborhood and what happens.

• Would prefer to have had the chance to address questions in the main meeting. This gives everyone an opportunity to have questions addressed.

• I wrote a letter to the editor about this. We are committed to the district and the neighborhood.

• Back when the lottery started they said the money would be used for schools and that didn’t happen. Not in favor of the lottery in the first place but they said we would never have to worry about the funding for our schools, yet the money never came to the schools. Politics should not have so much to do with schools. Providing education is written into the state constitution.

• Feel people have not used grants properly.

• I hope you care because the future of the neighborhood is in your hands.

• Could the building be use for vocational education? Would love to see something like that occur in this area. People could restore the abandon houses in the area.

• It would be wonderful to have the police here or another education program.

• Antioch Life Center took over one of the closed schools. Day care, afterschool, food program, cloths distribution. Kids were planting flowers.

• Hope you will work something out for this building if it has to close.

• Something like Corner Stone would be nice.

• This has been taking place since 2008 and this neighborhood did not know anything about it. No one talked to the NIA. I did a quorum request and asked if any administrator or board member came to the community and it was not done.

• I heard the comments about Ross. I used to work at Ross and we had no problem tearing down the lunch room for PE. No problem conducting PE. To say you are tearing down the building because of PE is ridiculous.

• To take the statistics about falling numbers as a reason to close the building is not fair. Took the 5th graders and moved them to Ross then used the reduced enrollment is unfair.

• When we got done with that presentation I think the board has already made up its mind. You better make sure you understand the statutes on making up your mind prior to getting public input. This is the biggest NIA in the area and no one bothered to talk to them. Why was that not done? You talked about collaboration but you didn’t do it.

• This school serves a big need for these kids. Can walk to school. Test scores are going up. Why shut down a school that is improving? Because they can progress faster. Research shows PreK-8 programs help improve results. I don’t think it will change things.

• Need more support, experienced @ Ross to be able to understand community resources

• Experienced counselors need to come to Ross

• At-Risk students thrive off relationships

• Keep the community involved in schools, so families can feel secure and have relationships.

• Community in Schools – transition with students

• Say we put dollars into school, but taking staff away at Avondale East

• Need teachers working with At-Risk students as students transition to Ross

• IEP Students without support at Avondale East (now moving –transition to Ross)
Make sure support is available for IEP’s.

• Administrator Staffing…consideration
• Reasons why USD501 is choosing to close this school?

• Children will fall through the performance cracks.

• Economically challenged families will be those most impacted by this closure.

• Use the school for before and after school programs, parent engagement programs, summer programs, child care, recreation center type activities. Focus on low income families and “this” neighborhood (community/recreation center concept). Use of the building by Topeka Police department; expansion of the Parents as Teachers program(s) into this building.

• Has there been a decision made? No, not without a community meeting. We have spent time studying to be sure what we recommend makes sense.

• Will Avondale East students stay together? Advantage, getting to know the children, planning activities, know enrollment numbers.

• What are the staffing levels? More services, full-time staff. There would be a full-time media tech, nurse, librarian, etc. so children have full services.

• It would be nice if neighborhood schools had a dual language program – that would keep children in their home schools.

• How will a sick child be transported home during the school day? Other schools have the same problem and it is a decision made by the school principal. There are several ways it could be handled.

• How much will it cost to transport Avondale East students to Ross?
It would add one additional bus at a cost of approximately $30,000.

Because of its’ proximity to Ross Elementary and the co-campus possibilities with Eisenhower Middle School.

We will continue to invest in academics, while infusing extra-curricular activities (such as music) in order to engage students in school. There would be more resources available to the student.

• Concerned that after-school programs will leave a gap in the neighborhood.
Programs will be consolidated and more robust programs offered.

The Board of Education will discuss the issue at their January 19th meeting and a public hearing could be held sometime after that.

• Parents won’t be able to go to meetings at Ross.

• Understand transportation for students, but how about the parents? They would have to ride the bus all the way downtown to get to Ross.

• I don’t have a car. This is going to hurt the neighborhood. The money you are putting in there could be used here. What is this going to do for the kids?

• Have we looked at having a police station here and keeping the school open?

• What about the kids? What about the neighborhood, the parents?

• What did you consider about the con involving students? Concern about music being the theme at Ross? Why not dual language or something that will help the kids excel? Music is not that program that will prepare kids for the future.

• Were parents invited to give input on music theme for Ross?

• East Topeka has reputation. To make music the center piece, it is misguided. Music is a great tool for learning, but to make it the central issue is moving us away from the basic education of our kids.

• You are familiar with Brown. They don’t understand the dynamics of this thing. How many kids are being bused on the west side? Now, we are talking about more busing. How much time will kids spend on the bus? You take kids out of school of 200 where they have been ….. to a much larger school.

• Where can I find information about who you have talked to about moving into Avondale East?

• There are several things this building could be used for.

• Ross has a gym and cafeteria, when would the time line for this new addition be completed?

• I have concerns with the police setting up in the school. We have been trying to change the perception of the area. Are these things being thought through?

• If repurpose school with sub –station, we should pair it with sub-station on the west side.

• Recommendations I would make, some kind of diversity. Maybe some kind of fun activity to ease transition and buy in to the music program and to help parents understand there will be some help with transportation.

Patzer is Horizon Award Winner

This morning, Kansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Diane DeBacker announced that Topeka High strings and mathematics teacher Kenya Patzer has been selected as a 2012 Kansas Horizon Award winner. Each year the program, sponsored by the Kansas State Department of Education, recognizes exemplary first-year teachers who perform in a way that distinguishes them as outstanding. Novice teachers who have successfully completed their first year of teaching are eligible to be recognized. 

Patzer began teaching at THS in the fall of 2010 and completed her first year of teaching last May, making her eligible for this year’s Horizon Award. Topeka Public Schools is allowed to nominate one elementary first year teacher and one secondary first year teacher for the Horizon Award program each year. The first year teachers selected as district Distinguished Staff Award winners in the spring become Horizon Award nominees in the fall.
“Your superintendent, your principal, your colleagues, your school district saw in you, last year, something they don’t always see in every first year teacher and that is tremendous excellence and the ability to reach kids when others can’t,” says DeBacker. Topeka High principal Dr. Linda Wiley says, “I see in Kenya lots of things that don’t often come along in the same package. She’s a teacher that can do just about anything she wants to do. She is very capable and so dedicated. She’s phenomenal.”

The Kansas Horizon Award program is a regional competition. The regions correspond to the state’s four U.S. congressional districts. The Kansas State Department of Education appoints  regional selection committees responsible for reviewing the nomination forms and selecting four elementary classroom teachers and four secondary classroom teachers per region for a total of 32 teachers.

All of the 2012 Kansas Horizon Award recipients will be recognized at a special luncheon during the Kansas Exemplary Educator Network (KEEN) State Education Conference in February.

TPS Living the Dream Contest Winners

TPS students participated in various contests and activities this month. Here are the Living the Dream contest winners:

Essay Contest Winners

First-Second Grade
1st Place – Lorraine De La Isla, Randolph Elementary
2nd Place – Anthony Reed, Scott Magnet
3rd Place – Brooklyn Fanning, Meadows Elementary

Third-Fourth Grade
1st Place – Jorge Soto, Scott Magnet
2nd Place – Francisco Ventura-Cruz, Whitson Elementary

Eleventh-Twelfth Grade
2nd Place – Jasmine Colvin, Topeka West High School

Poetry Contest Winners

Fifth-Sixth Grade
1st Place – Levi Braun, Whitson Elementary
2nd Place – Hall Harrison, Whitson Elementary
3rd Place – Gregory Van Dyke, Jr. – Whitson Elementary

Eleventh-Twelfth Grade
1st Place – Byron Lewis, IV, Topeka High School

Art Contest Winners

Third-Fourth Grade
1st Place – Humphry Isiah De Castillo, Avondale West Elementary
1st Place – Ruth Providence Hockenbarger, Whitson Elementary

Fifth-Sixth Grade
1st Place – Jolie Regnier, Robinson Middle School
3rd Place – Tory Blosser, Whitson Elementary

Eleventh-Twelfth Grade
2nd Place – Alessandra Politi, Topeka High School
3rd Place – Hilary Rosacker, Topeka High School

MLK Ceremonial March at Topeka High School

Temperatures in the teens shortened today’s ceremonial march of the Governor’s Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. The Topeka High School ROTC color guard and drum line lead Governor Sam Brownback and marchers from a parking lot west of the school to the school’s auditorium. With students watching, the governor welcomed those attending the event. The keynote address was given by Dr. Derrick Darby, who teaches in the college of liberal arts and sciences and the school of law at the University of Kansas.

Grant Awarded for "Daddy and Me" Playgroup

Parents as Teachers recently received a grant from the Joe and Janet Aleshire Venture Grant Program for $3,500. This grant will help support PAT staff to facilitate the "Daddy and Me" playgroup. The weekly playgroup is a unique opportunity for fathers to build positive and strong relationships with their children in a learning environment that is relaxed and fun. A key component of the playgroup is the dinner that is served each week giving fathers and children an have opportunity to socialize with other families and to learn about the importance of family meal times.

Army JROTC Hosting Chili Feed, Bingo, Prizes on January 14

The TWHS Army JROTC Parent Support Group is supporting a chili feed this Saturday, Jan. 14. Proceeds are used to provide the AJROTC students with funds for drill meets, raider meets, uniform items, awards, classroom needs.

Dinner runs from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the school cafeteria, 2001 SW Fairlawn Road. Chili, hotdogs, chips & beverages are included in the $5 donation per person. Cinnamon rolls available at additional cost.

Bingo runs from 5:45 – 7:45. Several items will be auctioned, with the auction ending at 7:45. Your ticket stub is your door prize entry – Grand prize is a $300 certificate for the Chateau Avalon at Legends in Kansas City, KS. Need not be present to win; additional tickets are available while supplies last.

Former Student Retraces Freedom Riders Route

In 1961, a group of civil rights activists rode buses from Washington D.C. into the southern states to challenge local laws that enforced segregation. The group was known as the Freedom Riders. In May of 2011, Topeka High graduate Will Dale retraced the route of the original freedom riders. He was one of 40 college students chosen for the bus trip.

Seventh grade students in BJ Mays' class were studying the Freedom Riders, so she invited Dale, a former student, to come share his experiences with her students. He said the bus trip was intended for college students to explore the state of civic engagement today and how civic activism and advocacy had changed since the 1960’s.

Dale is now a student at the University of Kansas majoring in English and American Studies with a concentration in race and ethnicity.

After-School Music Program Begins Soon

Topeka Public Schools will be offering an after-school music program for 4th graders again this year. To announce the program, the Washburn University Faculty Sextet performed their music at 17 elementary schools in the district. Information about the starting date and how to apply for the after-school program will be announced soon.

TPS Takes Part in Living the Dream, Inc. Activities

For more than twenty-five years, Living the Dream, Inc. has been committed to spreading the message of Martin Luther King, Jr. throughout the Topeka community. TPS students and staff will be involved in many Living the Dream activities during the next few weeks.

Click here for January, 2012 activities.

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