Topeka West Student Named Scholar Recipient

Topeka West High school is pleased to announce that senior Carlos Serrano has been named one of the scholar recipients of the 2012-13 National Hispanic Recognition Program by The College Board. Topeka West Principal Jean Carton says, “This is quite an honor for Carlos and we are so proud of his achievement.”
The National Hispanic Recognition Program (NHRP) identifies academically outstanding Hispanic/Latino high school students. Each year, the NHRP honors nearly 5,000 of the highest-scoring students from the approximately 235,000 Hispanic/Latino juniors who take the PSAT/NMSQT®. These students are from the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Mariana Islands and the Marshall Islands, as well as U.S. citizens attending schools abroad. Approximately 200 of the top-scoring PAA™ students from Puerto Rico are also included.
In order to be eligible, a student must meet certain requirements including:
  • Take the PSAT/NMSQT in October of your junior year in high school.
  • Be of at least one-quarter Hispanic/Latino descent.
  • Achieve the minimum required PSAT/NMSQT cutoff score (this index score may vary by state, region and territory each year).
  • Achieve a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher by the end of your junior year.
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident with a valid permanent resident card or passport stamped I-551.

Joe Teeter in Tchaikovsky Competition

Joe Teeter, 16, an eleventh-grader at Topeka High School, will be traveling to Montreux, Switzerland, for an international music competition Sept. 4-16.  The 7th International Tchaikovsky Competition for Young Musicians is the junior division of the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition.  Joe will join 120 other young musicians in the three-stage competition for pianists, violinists, and cellists.  He will join forty-five other cellists from nine countries, including China, South Korea, and Russia.   Musicians must be age 16 years or younger.  Joe was chosen based on an audition tape and recommendations he submitted.  He will be staying in Switzerland with a local family.

This is the official website:

And this is the Facebook page, which lists the contestants and some other information:        click on the Events tab

Students Produce Therapy Dog Video

Some Capital City Schools students have created a video that highlights Gracie, a professional therapy dog.  Gracie was adopted from the Helping Hands Humane Society by Stephanie Avila, a school psychologist with Topeka Public Schools.  Professional therapy dogs are used to teach tolerance, model good behavior, provide stress relief and teach students about responsibility. Gracie is one of five professional therapy dogs in Topeka Public Schools. 
You can view the student produced video at

501 Professional Therapy Dogs Lend a Paw

Did you know Topeka Public Schools “employs” a number of Professional Therapy Dogs? Although their salary is minimal, they are invaluable to their handlers by supporting them in the provision of their duties. These dogs are also highly valued by students as well as staff around the district.
“It isn’t unusual for us to barely sit down at our desks only to receive a phone call
 requesting that a student needs to see Gracie or Presto today”
—Stephanie Avila/Susan Ross at Landon Middle School
Topeka Public Schools currently has five full time Professional Therapy Dogs working alongside their handlers:
·         Stephanie Avila--School Psychologist, Capital City /Landon Middle School,& “Gracie” Australian Blue Heeler, &   “ Ian” German Shepherd, summer school and former Highland Park HS .
·         Deb Hess--Counselor, Meadows & “Cooper”--Welsh Corgi
·         Marilyn Homan--retired Counselor, THS volunteer & “Reward’--Labrador Retriever
·         Beth Robinett--Counselor, French Middle School & “Ryder” –Welsh Corgi
·         Susan Ross--Counselor, Eisenhower/Landon Middle Schools & “Presto”-Golden Retriever; “Herc” retired from Eisenhower, Beagle/Coonhound mix
While professional therapy dogs in the schools may seem like a novel idea, in actuality, Sigmund Freud used his Chow-Chow , Jo Fi,  in all of his therapy sessions. He noticed his dog had a calming effect on clients and could sense their mental state.
Research suggests that dogs lower blood pressure and overall enhance one’s health and well being. The professional therapy dogs that work for TPS have been trained through Canine Assistance Rehabilitation and Educational Services (CARES), Inc., located in Concordia, Kansas. They are dedicated to providing trained service dogs to people all over the world. These professional therapy dogs are trained on the same level as their service dogs. The program utilizes several breeders and also breeds some of their own dogs for service dog purposes.  A variety of breeds are used from Jack Russell Terriers to Mastiffs, even including a small number of rescue dogs. All dogs are tested for temperament, spayed or neutered and must pass health exams.
The service dogs graduate from training programs housed at several Kansas and Colorado correctional facilities. These programs are directed and overseen by C.A.R.E.S., Inc. The dogs are all trained to support people (mobility trained), taught sign language, know 43 basic commands, and are even trained for basic search and rescue.
Once the dogs are certified for their specialty work, they are assigned an owner/handler, who has applied to C.A.R.E.S., Inc., and are then required to complete a rigorous one to two week training program which usually entails a day from 7:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Owners/handlers must pass the public access test with their dogs to be certified as “Assistance Dog Teams.” The exam meets the standards of Assistance Dogs International and is in compliance with Kansas Law (KSA 39-1101 and KSA 39-1113). It is very important to understand that professional therapy dogs are working dogs, not simply pet visitation dogs (which are great too!)  nor, dogs that simply wander around the school. They have a specific job!
Professional Therapy Dog means: a dog which is selected, trained, and tested, to provide specific physical or therapeutic functions under the direction and control of a qualified handler who works with the dog as a team, and is part of the handler’s occupation or profession.
Professional Therapy Dogs are used to:
·         Build reading enhancement programs
·         Teach tolerance
·         Model good behavior
·         Serve as a motivation for students and staff
·         Build rapport
·         Serve as a reward for students
·         Provide stress relief
·         Ease depression
·         Teach students about responsibility
·         Model lifelong learning
Thanks for recognizing TPS’s professional therapy dogs and how they enhance the lives of those they serve. For any additional questions you may have regarding professional therapy dogs and what the package entails, please contact Stephanie Avila at Capital City and/or Susan Ross at Eisenhower/Landon Middle Schools.

Highland Park High Open House

Highland Park High School will hold an open house on August 29 from 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.   Departmental displays, a robotics demonstration, iLitReading Program using i-pads and a presentation on standards based math will be among the exhibits and displays available to those attending the open house.  Communities in Schools and a parent resource center will be open during the open house as well.

TWHS Teacher to Communication Hall of Fame

Melanie Ralston, forensics and public speaking teacher at Topeka West High School, has been selected to the 2012 Kansas Speech Communication Association Hall of Fame.  Induction and Awards will be presented at the annual KSCA conference to be held in Emporia, Kansas on September 7, 2012.  The KSCA recognizes past and present members of the association who have been leaders and pioneers in the fields of speech communication and drama education in the state of Kansas.  Members of this elite group are drawn from the ranks of secondary, high school, college, and university instructors. 

Crawford Receives "Make A Difference Award"

The Board of Education recognized Karen “K.C.”  Crawford at their August 16 meeting for her award from Valeo Behavioral Health Care.  She received the You Make a Difference Award for her outstanding partnership between Topeka Public Schools and Valeo.  She was honored for her involvement in helping individuals with a disability find jobs in Topeka Public Schools.  Karen is the substitute services coordinator for the school district.

Positive Behavior Promoted at Schools

Setting the right expectations in the first few days of school can make all the difference in the world when it comes to student behavior.  School leaders at Meadows Elementary know how true that is.  To kick off their Positive Behavior Intervention System (PBIS), staff held an assembly on August 17 to make sure the kids know what is expected of them when it comes to behavior at school.
The students went wild when Principal Nicole Dial entered the gym driving a mini toy car convertible.  Following closely behind her was Assistant Principal John Litfin.  Meadows students and staff racing to responsibility is the program’s theme.  “We will have a race every week on the primary and secondary side.  They (classrooms) win the race by having the most positive behavior points,” said Meadows counselor Deb Hess.   Principal Nicole Dial gave the students high marks for their behavior the first three days of school and she encouraged them to keep it up through the school year.  “Remember to work hard, show your teachers you are here to learn and treat each other with respect and we will have an outstanding school year,” said Dial.
Thirteen elementary and middle schools along with Capital City Schools use PBIS.

TPS Foundation Presents Nook to Teacher

August is the month annually that the TPS Foundation embarks on an employee capital campaign. This year in addition to the regular employee campaign, the Foundation is placing an emphasis on raising dollars to support a new Foundation fund, Bridges To The Future.

Bridges To The Future provides grants to qualified students served by the TPS Migrant Education Program to reduce the financial burden of attending the Washburn Technical Education program while still in high school.

For the first time the Foundation set up a booth at the TPS employee benefits fair to increase employee awareness of the benefits the Foundation provides to the District and to solicit additional employee contributions.

Left to right: Pamela Johnson-Betts, Dee Ann Seelbach and Bonnie Robles.

As part of the fun, a Nook e-reader was offered in a drawing. The lucky winner was Dee Ann Seelbach an elementary teacher at Ross. Pamela Johnson Betts, Foundation Executive Director and Bonnie Robles, Foundation Board member recently made the presentation to the teacher in her classroom.

Students Return to School

Elementary and some middle and high school students returned to school today after a hot summer vacation.  At the elementary schools, kids waited for the doors to open, excited about seeing their new teacher.  It was extra special at Ross and State Street Elementary Schools, which now have a number of new class rooms due to recent construction projects at the schools.
At the middle schools, only the in-coming 6th grade students were at school today.  For them, it was the first day finding their way around their new school, trying to locate their lockers and going from class to class. 
It was the same story in the high schools where only the freshmen showed up today so that they could also learn how to get around the big schools.  Upper classmen were there to assist each student and make the transition a little easier.
Tomorrow, the 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students will end their summer vacation and return to school.

TPS Benefits Fair Drawing Winners

TPS Benefits Fair Drawing Winners 2012

Rebecca Hackett       
$50 Wally Card                     
Med Trak RX
Kelli Bartow              
Topeka High            
Piggy Bank of Chocolate        
Edward Jones
Rebecca Morrisey      
Golf Package                       
Great Life Fitness
Mary L. Simpson       
$50 Visa Gift Card                
OFG Financial
Kathy Cooney            
Sonic Toothbrush                 
Delta Dental     
Tajinder Jawa            
Topeka West          
Microwave Oven                   
One America
Gail Cox                    
Topeka High            
Barnes/Noble Gift Card       
Kansas Reading Association
Cherylene Lovett      
Topeka West             
Barnes/Noble Gift Card       
Kansas Reading Association
Brooke Cregan          
Barnes/Noble Gift Card         
Kansas Reading Association
Colleen Smith          
Scott Magnet            
Barnes/Noble Gift Card         
Kansas Reading Association
Marcia Newton   
$25 certificate Olive Garden    
Lincoln Financial
Laura Maike     
$25 certificate Olive Garden     
Lincoln Financial
Sarah Meadows  
Scott Magnet   
$25 Gift Card Starbucks Coffee 
Lincoln Financial
Ron Harbaugh    
$25 Gift Card Starbucks Coffee 
Lincoln Financial
Susan Hoge    
$50 Certificate to Longhor
AXA Equitable
Raquel Jackson 
AFLAC bowl duck
Mindy Delorge   
AFLAC Bank Duck
Stephanie Selk  
AFLAC Graduate Duck
Teresa Ackerman 
AFLAC Officer Duck

Schools & Social Agencies Meet to Help Students

Topeka Public Schools provides many services for students both in and out of the classroom.  School psychologists, social workers and counselors work as a team to provide certain services.  Today, those three groups met to form individual school mental health teams and to plan and talk about their common needs when it comes to helping students. 
The school psychologists, social workers and counselors also were involved in a speed networking exercise with representatives of 24 community agencies.  “There’s a variety of people here all the way from the Antioch Family Life Center to pregnancy prevention groups to the public library,” said Stephen Greer, coordinator of social workers for Topeka Public Schools.  “These agencies are giving us information about how their services can benefit our students and families.”

1st Day of School

Wednesday, August 15 - The first day of school for kindergarten through 6th, 9th,  Hope Street and Capital City students.

Thursday, August 16 - The first day of school for 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th grade students.

Golf & Life Lessons To Be Introduced To Students

Many students never have a chance to be exposed to the sport of golf, but a new program being introduced to physical education teachers in Topeka Public Schools could change that.  Representatives from First Tee showed P.E. teachers how to simply golf instruction and how to introduce golf to students today at a meeting at Chase Middle School.
First Tee began in 1997 and is now in nearly 5,000 schools across the country.   The mission of the organization is to impact the lives of young people by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through the game of golf.  Life skill lessons taught include how to manage emotions, how to set goals, how to resolve conflicts and how to communicate with others.  First Tee’s program is geared to elementary students, but older students can also benefit. 
Community Action of Topeka will help find sponsors to fund the programs at schools.  The First Tee program will be introduced to students throughout the new school year.

Pine Ridge Prep Ribbon Cutting

Numerous studies have shown that children who are in a learning environment at an early age are better prepared when they enter kindergarten.  That’s why the opening of Pine Ridge Prep will be so beneficial to some East Topeka families.
Four year olds living in and near the Pine Ridge Housing area of East Topeka will have a spectacular new learning center when they arrive for the first day of school on August 23.  Pine Ridge Prep is described as a demonstration learning community.  That means children from Head Start, special education and the Kansas Preschool Program will learn together in the same classroom.  Sixteen students will attend for three hours in the morning and will receive breakfast and lunch.  Another 16 will attend for three hours in the afternoon and get lunch and a snack.  The children come from families who live in the neighborhood and who meet certain criteria. 
Two certified teachers and two paraprofessionals will be at Pine Ridge Prep to help the youngsters expand their vocabulary, learn good listening skills, learn how to take turns and how to count objects and recognize patterns etc.  The new facility contains books, music, computer stations and art supplies as well as alphabet charts and a writing center.
Today a ribbon cutting was held at Pine Ridge Prep which is located at 1110 SE Highland.   Attending were representatives of Topeka Public Schools and its many partners that made Pine Ridge Prep possible.   One of those partners is the Topeka Housing Authority.

Dr. Frank Ybarra is chairman of the Topeka Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.  “This idea came about two years ago in terms of thinking about something we could do as far as the housing authority and the children we had here.  The school district jumped right into the idea and United Way supported us and two years later we have a program that could be a model for the United States.”  Topeka Public Schools Board of Education President Patrick Woods talked about this being another partnership for the school district.  “You can see the board of education’s philosophy of building partnerships that reap dividends for our students.  It is paying out again with a very rich dividend for early childhood education.”

 Topeka Public Schools' partners in Pine Ridge prep are:  Topeka Housing Authority, United Way of Topeka, Parents as Teachers, Kansas Head Start Association, Community Action Head Start and the Topeka Public Schools Foundation.

TWHS Teacher a Summer Scholar

Connie Jacobson, a teacher at Topeka West high School, was selected as a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Scholar.  She was one of only four Kansas teachers to receive the honor.  She attended a week long program entitled “Crossroads of Conflict:  Contested Visions of Freedom and the Missouri-Kansas Border Wars.”    The program was held at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. 
Participants visited several historic sites including the cities of Lawrence and Lecompton and the site of the Battle of Westport.  They also studied with scholars on the Civil War in Missouri and Kansas.  Jacobson and the other teachers will share their program experiences with students this school year.
The National Endowment for the Humanities is a federal agency that each summer supports Landmarks of American History and Culture workshops so that teachers can study with experts in humanities disciplines.

Topeka Mentoring Challenge - August 16

Former Highland Park High School Principal Dale Cushinberry and Highland Park High School basketball coach Ken Darting are hosting an event with national mentoring experts to guide Topeka's youth to make positive decisions and walk productive paths.

National leadership development organization, L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P. 1st, will present the Topeka Mentoring Leadership Challenge on August 16, 2012, at the Highland Park High School auditorium from 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  The school is located at 2424 SE California.

A panel of local athletes will discuss how young people can successfully transition from different points in life to accomplish their dreams.  "I support this event because it is great for the kids and adults," said Darting.  "It's time to put into action the most important aspect of the community, which is relationships."

The meeting is open to the public and will serve as the first of subsequent mentoring activities in Topeka.

TPS - Employer of the Year

Topeka Public Schools has been chosen as Employer of the Year by Valeo Behavioral Health Care.  The school district was honored today for its willingness to hire and accommodate individuals with a disability by providing them with employment.  “Sometimes all they need is help in getting started and getting over the rough patch of starting their job," said Kristin Farley of Valeo.   "USD 501 has been very helpful in getting them through that transition."
Substitute Services Coordinator for Topeka Public Schools, K.C. Crawford, was guest speaker at the Valeo Awards Ceremony.  She accepted the award on behalf of the school district.  She was joined in the award presentation by Deputy Superintendent Larry Robbins, General Director of Human Resources Carla Nolan and Manager of Certified Personnel Marie Carter of Topeka Public Schools.

Enrollment Day

You know that a new school year is near when enrollment day arrives.  Today, hundreds of elementary and middle school parents visited their child’s school to fill out paperwork, pay fees and pick up information about the upcoming school year.  Students still have a couple of weeks of summer left.  The first day of school for most students is Wednesday, August 15th.  For students in 7th, 8th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades, the first day of school will be Thursday, August 16.

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