Classified Distinguished Staff Selected

Topeka Public Schools is proud to announce the winners of the 2013-2014 Classified Distinguished Staff Awards:
Office Personnel: Jacquetta “Nikki” Ramirez-Jennings (Jardine Middle School)
Paraprofessional: Raymond “Ray” Jefferson (Topeka West High School)
Custodial: Dennis Watson (Topeka High School)
Classified Support Staff: Lorie Weakly (Information Technology)
Operations and Maintenance: John Nesbitt (Service Center)
Food Service: Pamela Grimes (Topeka High School)

Many highly qualified and very dedicated employees were nominated, making the selection process a difficult one. We would like to thank everyone who was nominated for their participation in the process, and we would like to offer our congratulations to this year’s winners.

Next month, selection of the Certified Distinguished Staff will take place. All those chosen to win this prestigious award will be honored in a special ceremony in April.

Topeka High School Announces Opening of Trojan Mart

Communities In Schools, in conjunction with Topeka Public Schools Foundation, Let’s Help, Harvester’s, and other local sponsors, held a grand opening ceremony on November 25th to celebrate the opening of Trojan Mart at Topeka High School. The store, which is located in the foyer of the school’s Chester Woodward Library, operates on a ticket referral system instead of cash. Students are given tickets by teachers or administrators to “purchase” needed items such as school supplies, personal hygiene items, food, and even art supplies. Susan Ortega, site coordinator for Communities In Schools at Topeka High School said “(Unmet needs) can wear on our students and hinder their ability to give 100% in class. By offering a free, on-site solution we hope they are able to put their best foot forward every day at school.”  

Graduation Rates Increase in Topeka Public Schools

Graduation rates in Topeka Public Schools increased by 4.5% in 2012, the latest year of reported graduation rates.  That’s what Board of Education members heard at their November 21st meeting.  Director of Demographics Aaron Kipp added that the graduation rate of special education students and English Language Learner students was up significantly.  “The trend of increased graduation rates for our special education and ELL students is a testament to the hard work our teachers and staff have put in with these groups,” said Kipp

 In another report, board members heard from Bob Winkler, assessment and evaluation consultant.  He told board members that the percentage of schools in the district meeting state criteria in reading and math more than doubled.  While the percent of students scoring proficient at the district and state levels is lower this year than in 2012 for reading mathematics and science, the state reported larger declines than Topeka Public Schools in reading and math.  That means the gap between the state and the school district scores narrowed in those two subjects.   Three subgroups increased the percent scoring proficient in reading while no subgroups did so in mathematics.

Topeka Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Julie Ford said, “Our assessment results reflect the trend in Kansas this past year.  We continue to focus on literacy, Kansas College and Career Standards and early intervention systems to target early interventions to guarantee academic success and graduation from high school." 

Shirley Johannsen Celebrates 50 Years at State Street Elementary

The year is 1964. She wakes up to the Beatles crooning “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” arranges her hair in a tidy beehive, hops into her Chevy Corvair and drives to work with fuel that set her back 30 cents a gallon. She is Shirley Johannsen and she is on her way to her first day of teaching at State Street Elementary School.
For many teachers, this story would end with a retirement reception in about 1989… a perfectly respectable length of time for the career of a dedicated professional. However, in 1989, Shirley Johannsen was just halfway through what has turned out to be a 50-year career in the teaching profession. As if that weren’t impressive enough, Ms. Johannsen has spent every one of those years at State Street Elementary, impacting the lives of thousands of Topeka Public School’s students- and adults- along the way.
One would think that Shirley Johannsen felt completely satisfied in her generous contribution of educating young minds, but for the incomparable “Miss J,” even that was not enough. Through the decades she also devoted her spare time to guiding students in extra-curricular activities, from athletics to the arts. Additionally, she took on the seemingly insurmountable task of restoring the school’s art-deco-style auditorium. Numerous hours were spent painting the historic theatre and refurbishing the aging fixtures. For Shirley, a “summer vacation” was merely another opportunity to do even more for State Street Elementary.
In a show of what can only be described as admiration and gratitude, a surprise ceremony was held for Miss Johannsen on Wednesday, November 20. Not only did the entire school and district administration come together for the event, but congratulatory letters poured in from dignitaries ranging from Governor Brownback to KU Basketball Coach Bill Self to Vice President Joe Biden. A video chronicling her years of service was produced, and State Street students spent weeks preparing a song they performed in her honor. Local media outlets arrived to capture the moment.
Finally, in a fitting tribute to the beloved teacher, State Street principal Sarah Sharp announced that the auditorium- the one that Miss J spent so many hours restoring- would be named in her honor. While there is no way to adequately thank Shirley Johannsen for all she has done for the children of State Street, her name and legacy will forever remain a fixture in the school she cared for so passionately. But, more importantly, her tireless dedication will never be forgotten by the thousands of students who were lucky enough to call her their teacher.
And to think it all started one morning in 1964.

Five Schools Receive Challenge Award

Topeka Public Schools is proud to have five schools receive Challenge Awards this year from The Confidence in Kansas Public Education Task Force. Highland Park Central, Randolph Elementary, Chase Middle School, Avondale West and State Street all received awards at a special ceremony on November 13th in Junction City. Using state reading and math assessment results, the award recognizes Kansas schools that are making a significant difference in achievement despite facing challenges in the school population. Congratulations to the students and staff at these schools!

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