Publications Receive Award of Excellence

Two Topeka Public Schools publications have been named Award of Excellence winners in the 2011 KASB/KanSPRA Publications Contest. The TPS Website and the Overview received the Award of Excellence distinction.

Each fall, the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB) and the Kansas School Public Relations Association (KanSPRA) conduct a publications and electronic media contest.School districts may submit publications in 16 categories. Publications are judged by School Public Relations Association members from another state.

The TPS Website design and function was created by a technology committee. Content is managed by TPS Communications Specialist Bret Greenwood and the Communications Department. The monthly district staff newsletter, the Overview, is edited by TPS Communications Specialist Angela Locke.

Other publications received a Certificate of Merit in the contest.Certificates of Merit were awarded to:

2011 State Assessment Results (Annual Report), Bob Winkler
Welcome to Highland Park Central, (Booklets), McShell Clark and Bret Greenwood
Biotechnology Course of Studies (Brochures and Pamphlets), Tiffany Pryor
Updates from the Park (School Newsletter), Beryl New
Hawk Highlights (School Newsletter), Christine Saunders
Capital View (School Newsletter), Loretta Dade
Avondale West Handbook (Handbook), Christine Saunders
Grant Patrol Photo (Photo), Angela Locke
TPS Achievements (PR Video), Dave Uhler
Capital City Staff Calendar (Calendar), Loretta Dade
Family Fitness Fun Night (Special Events), Bret Greenwood
Strategic Plan (Strategic PR Program), Ron Harbaugh and Bret Greenwood


Bob Gay Honored by County Commissioners

Chase Middle School Assistant Principal Bob Gay was recognized by the Shawnee County Commission last week for his role in getting Topeka Public Schools teachers trained to deal with emergencies.  Through Gay’s efforts, a number of teachers received Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training that included disaster preparedness, triage and disaster psychology, fire safety, hazmat and light search and rescue.  Because of Gay, there is now at least one teacher in each of the district’s schools that has CERT training.

McClure Elementary Wins Award

Last month, Meadows Elementary won the school award for recycling.  Now, McClure Elementary has been honored for collecting the most canned goods and donations for Harvesters.  At a ceremony yesterday, Jannett Wiens of Harvesters presented a trophy to McClure Principal Nancy Hedstrom. 
Students and staff collected 682 pounds food to give to Harvesters to feed hungry people in Shawnee County.  Each student received a certificate for free ice cream from Spangles.  Carmen Booth’s class collected the most food.  For their efforts, students in her class will get a tour of Spangles along with lunch.

Girls Donate Hair to Help Others

Hair is very important to 12 and 13 year old girls.  To cut off a good part of your hair and give it to someone else can be a sacrifice.  Six girls from Jardine Middle School made that sacrifice as they traveled to B Street Hair Academy to have their hair cut for Locks of Love.  Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from long-term medical hair loss.
Sixth grader Alia Espinoza had her hair cut for Locks of Love because that is what her older brother Paul had done.  “Tomorrow is his birthday, so it is like a surprise birthday showing him how much I want to be like him and how much I love him,” said Alia.
P.E. and health teacher Bridge Remer came up with the idea of having students donate some of their hair to others.  “I am very proud of these girls because as 6th and 7th graders, it’s a big deal to have that hair,” said Remer.

All That Jazz

Elementary school students don’t get much exposure to jazz, but they did yesterday at Williams Magnet School.  Carlos Martinez works at the school.   He and members of the New, New Orleans Jazz Band put on a short concert for the youngsters.  Carlos has done this in the past, but this time it was different according to Williams’ teacher Judy Coder.  “The Jazz Foundation of America asked Carlos to move it up to the next level, instead of performing for the kids, to involve the kids in the performance.”  That’s exactly what happened.  Coder helped her 4th grade string players learn two songs which they performed along with the jazz band.  Coder said when the kids were told they would be performing with the jazz band, their response was “awesome.”

2012 Commencement Schedule

                                                2012 Commencement Schedule
                                                       Topeka Public Schools

Hope Street Academy
May 16 at 10:00 a.m. at Hope Street Academy- 1900 SW Hope

Topeka West High School
May 19 at 10:30 a.m. at the Kansas ExpoCentre- Landon Arena

Highland Park High School
May 19 at 1:30 p.m. at the Kansas ExpoCentre – Landon Arena

Topeka High School
May 19 at 4:30 p.m. at the Kansas ExpoCentre – Landon Arena

If you can’t make it to one of Topeka Public Schools’ graduation ceremonies this week, you’ll be able to watch it on the school district’s television channel.  Graduation from Topeka High, Topeka West, Highland Park and Hope Street Academy will be videotaped and shown on Cox Cable channel 14 beginning the last week of May and through the first half of June.  The channel 14 program schedule will list the dates and times that the graduation programs will air.  You can find the schedule on the school district’s website,  Look on the right side of the page under Stay Connected.

Evans is Above and Beyond Winner

Williams Magnet paraprofessional Brandon Evans is the Above and Beyond winner for the month of April. He was nominated by Williams Magnet staff and students for the inspiration he provides each day.
Evans has been a reading para at Williams since January of 2008. He is a graduate of Topeka West High School.
As a paraprofessional, Evans provides support in the classroom and leads daily small group instruction. He works with behavior issues and helps students solve peer conflicts. Williams teacher Jessica Arndt says, "He serves as a positive male role model. He comes up with creative ideas that not only help students achieve, but help staff to accomplish their goals as well." Monika Adame-Blocker is also a teacher at Williams who works with Evans. She says, I have never seen a more dedicated, caring and compassionate person than Brandon. He shows our students that through hard work and determination anything is possible. He doesn't let them quit."
Evans also serves as director of an after-school program at Abbott Community Center. He is a caring individual who makes a monthly food donation in the community. The Topeka Capital-Journal recently published a story about Evans. The story can be found here

Hope Street Students Win Wind Turbine Competition, Again

On Friday April 20, 2012, Hope Street Academy Teachers Scott Schwarz and Thomas Fulbright took 8 students (4 teams) to K-State University to compete in their Wind Turbine competition.  Teams from all over the State brought in model wind turbines; the goal was for the turbines to generate electricity.  Teams with the highest amount of electricity were awarded winners.  Hope Street took 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th among the wind turbines.  You could say they "blew away" the competition and swept the contest.  Hope Street students also took 1st place in the poster contest which explained the design of the turbine. This is the second year Hope Street has competed. Last year with only one team Hope Street took 1st place in the wind turbines and 1st place in the poster contest. We congratulate the following students on their performance. 

Marjorie Baker
Shellie Smith
Audrienna Robles
Kaitlyn Roesch
Justin Hoops
Reymundo Blanco
Colby Patterson
Amber Cohagen

Reality U at Highland Park High School

Some Highland Park High School students were introduced to the “real world” by taking part in Reality U yesterday. The program, sponsored by Communities in Schools, introduces students to the financial reality of being an adult. Students fill out a form indicating the profession they would like after high school. They then are told a yearly salary for the job. Students visit various tables to find out what it costs for housing, child care, food, utilities, transportation etc. Many discover that the salary doesn’t go far once you begin paying the monthly bills. Reality U. is a program that has been used at several schools in the district.

Bishop Holds Blockwalk Activity

Students, staff, parents and neighborhood residents put on their walking shoes yesterday to participate in Bishop Elementary Schools’ first Blockwalk Wellness Activity. Walkers of all ages took off from the school at 3601 SW 31st and walked a path around the neighborhood five times or nearly three miles.

Participants were asked to bring non-perishable food items which will be given to Project Topeka. A raffle was also held with money raised going to Project Topeka. More than 300 people took part in the walk.

Wind Turbine at Kanza Park Completed

“You look at this wind turbine going up and think what are the possibilities for students in our district to learn about energy.” Those words from Topeka Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Julie Ford yesterday as she watched the blades being attached to a 100 kilowatt wind turbine at the school district’s Kanza Education and Science Park.

The 160 foot tall structure will not only produce energy for Topeka Public Schools, but will serve as an education tool for students according to Brad Loveless of Westar Energy. “It will provide a chance for kids to get up close and see the wind turbine inside and see the output of the turbine. That’s where the real education comes,” said Loveless.

The wind turbine is the result of a partnership between Topeka Public Schools and Westar Energy. The turbine is just the first visible step in creating a renewable energy learning center for students and families. The learning center will be located in an old milk barn just east of the wind turbine. Westar plans to build a new state of the art sub-station near the energy center. The three will be tied together providing an exciting learning atmosphere for students.

Topeka Public Schools Deputy Superintendent of Operations Larry Robbins hopes the energy learning center will become an educational destination. “Whether you are an educator, not only from this community but across the state, if you are looking for a destination for an educational activity, this is going to be it,” said Robbins.

The blades of the wind turbine, which are visible from Interstate-70, should be turning and producing energy within a few days.

Highland Park Alumni Honored

Highland Park High School officials honored five alumni of the school April 13th. Honored were Larry Robbins, Valarie Patterson, Cyndi Hermocillo-Legg, Bette Gies and Jack Gies. Inducted into the Highland Park High School Hall of Fame was Dick Patterson.

Larry Robbins and Val Patterson currently work for Topeka Public Schools. Robbins is Deputy Superintendent of Operations and Patterson is principal at Quincy Elementary School. Cyndi Hermocillo-Legg was instrumental in getting the robotics program at Highland Park High School. Bette Gies was a long time secretary in Topeka Public Schools and along with her husband Jack helped establish the HPHS Alumni Association. Jack was also a teacher and principal in Topeka Public Schools.

Summer Driving School Enrollment

Topeka Public Schools summer driver education enrollment is May 7th from 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. at Hope Street Academy at 1900 SW Hope, For more information, call 272-1961.

TPS Reports Crime Program Begins

Topeka Public Schools has taken many initiatives to make sure students are safe while at school, now the school district is hoping to make Topeka a safer community. This morning, the school district announced its TPS Reports Crime Program. “Topeka Public Schools has a large number of drivers on the streets every day from bus drivers to delivery drivers to administrators visiting schools,” said TPS Director of School Safety Ron Brown. "They will receive training on what to look for and how to report crimes they see". Soon, many of the school district’s vehicles will have stickers saying Topeka Public Schools Reports Crime along with a phone number to call. “The stickers will serve as a visual reminder that Topeka Public Schools is committed to crime reduction to make Topeka the safest capital city in America,” said Brown.

The TPS Reports Crime initiative is a partnership that involves Crime Stoppers, SafeStreets and the Topeka Police Department.

Younger Students Learn about Robotics

Robotics is not just for high school students according to Bruce Babin, the robotics instructor at Highland Park High School. Babin is in his first year teaching robotics at HPHS. He knows that younger students are interested, that’s why he recently visited with some 5th grade students in the elementary gifted education program. Babin brought a couple of robotics program simulators for the kids to try out. He told them, “This isn’t a robot that rolls on the floor, beeps and turns on lights. These robots weld things, put together complicated circuit cards and paint something.” He talked about what he teaches in his high school class and how his students learn to program the robots. The younger kids can identify with that since they have been studying robots and have used a computer to program lego robots. The youngsters had all kinds of interesting questions for Babin about robots. He has visited several schools this year talking about the robotics program at Highland Park High School.

Magna Award Recognizes Topeka Public Schools

Topeka Public Schools has been named an honorable mention recipient in the American School Board Journal’s 18th annual Magna Awards program. Topeka Public Schools was honored for its program to keep pre-truant and truant students in school. Topeka Public Schools and the Topeka Police Department partnered together for the program.

The program involved visits to homes of truant students by school officials and police officers. Transportation was expanded through district busing and city bus passes to help students get to school. There was also increased interaction with parents of trurant students. As a result of the program, the school district’s truancy rate decreased significantly.

The Magna Awards recognize school districts across the country for outstanding programs that advance student learning and encourage community involvement in schools.

TPS Foundation Earns Record with Major Saver

TPSF Executive Director Pamela Johnson-Betts presented the
Major Saver check at the April 5 BOE meeting.

The Topeka Public Schools Foundation announced the success of its recent Major Saver Discount Card Campaign. The 2012 campaign set a new record raising $58,175 for Topeka Public Schools.

Angelo Balisteri of Major Saver, Inc. presented a check to the TPS Board of Directors and Foundation on April 5, 2012. In his presentation, Balisteri noted the record breaking amount of cards sold and money raised.

Since 2009, over $215,000 has been raised through Major Saver for the benefit of the TPS School District. Pamela Johnson-Betts, Foundation Executive Director, noted "the funds raised through the partnership with Major Saver have been invaluable in carrying out the Foundation mission to support the District"

Since its inception in 1986, the Foundation has made a difference in student learning contributing over $850,000 through its Educational Grant Program, annual Win Tidwell Golf Tournament, Fall Foundation Community Breakfast and overseeing scholarships awarded to TPS seniors.

Board of Education members acknowledged and thanked parents, students and local businesses who participated in the 2012 discount program. Local business sponsors included: Cici's Pizza, Hanover Pancake House, Baker's Dozen, Jersey Mike's, Casa, Sonic, LaFuentes, Papa Johns's, El Maguey, Dickey's, Jason's Deli, Quizno's Sub, Gage Bowl, Sheridan's and Chili's.

Westar Energy Partners with TPS

Topeka Public Schools and Westar Energy have entered into a partnership that will provide college and career pathway opportunities for students. The agreement was signed by both groups during a break in tonight’s school board meeting.

The agreement calls for Topeka Public Schools and Westar Energy to work together to design a program for students of Topeka Public Schools focused on engineering (energy), environmental science and technical careers. At the elementary level, the program will focus on career exploration. At the middle school level, the program will focus on career awareness. At the high school level, the program will create a pathway for students to work toward a technical career or a career in the engineering or environmental science fields.

The agreement also calls for expanding TPS’s Youth Entrepreneurs of Kansas offerings to additional high schools and increase Westar involvement in the program, provide students the opportunity to job shadow in the Westar “Electrify Your Future” program and the creation of a scholarship fund for post-secondary engineering, environmental science or business degrees for TPS graduates.

Avondale West Receives Lowe's Grant

Avondale West Elementary School has been awarded a $4,890 Toolbox for Education grant from Lowe’s Charitable and Educational Foundation. The money is awarded for parent-initiated school improvement projects that benefit K-12 public education across the United States. Avondale West Principal Christine Saunders said, “This grant from Lowes will allow us to partner with school and community volunteers to complete several building projects that will paint a fresh face on Avondale West.”

On April 14, a school beautification day will be held at Avondale West with school staff, PTO, Lowe’s and community agencies spending part of the day working on several projects including creating an outdoor classroom area where parents can wait after school for their children. Other projects include painting an interior hallway, organizing PTO and drama club items and creating a useable multi-purpose space in a room previously used for storage.

Lowe’s Toolbox for Education program has provided nearly $30 million in grants since 2006.

Gentry Recognized by TARC

Stout special education teacher Denise Gentry  recently received the Mark Miller Award from TARC (Topeka Association for Retarded Citizens). The award, given annually, recognizes an educator who supports inclusion of children with developmental disabilities, not only in the school setting, but also the community. Gentry has taught special education at Stout Elementary since 2002.

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