Additional Benefits Available for Eligible Students

The federal Child Nutrition Program allows schools to provide school lunch and other meals to children who are eligible free or at a reduced cost.  When you apply for this benefit, we are required to keep information about your student’s eligibility for free or reduced lunch programs confidential.  This information can be released to others only with your consent, except in limited circumstances.
We recently discovered information about eligibility was available to some school employees who should not have had access.  We have fully investigated this problem and are working to ensure breaches of this nature will not occur in the future.
At the same time, we do not want your child to miss out on other benefits for which they may qualify.  A child who is eligible for free or reduced lunch prices may also qualify for programs or reduction or waiver of other fees and costs.  To ensure your child does not miss out on these opportunities, we have added benefits to the Child Nutrition Program Waiver of Confidentiality form. 
When this form was provided to you at enrollment time, there were only three program benefits, those that apply to all eligible students on the waiver. We’ve just recently increased those benefits to a total of seven for secondary students in our district.  The program benefit options will allow families who qualify for free or reduced lunches to also qualify for these programs or waiver or reduction of accompanying fees for the following:

All Students:                                                                      Secondary Students:
1 – Textbooks and Supplemental Fees                   4 – Post-Secondary Preparatory Classes & Exams;
                                                                                   for example, ACT, SAT, and PSAT testing
2 – Musical Instruments                                         5 – Post-Secondary Registration & Class Materials Fees
3 – Summer School Tuition/Books                         6 – AP Testing Fees
                                                                             7 – Post-Secondary School Application Fees

By signing the waiver, you are giving the TPS Nutrition Office Staff permission to share your lunch eligibility status with these other specific programs for which your children may qualify.  Your information will be shared only with the programs you check.  Topeka Public Schools staff who will use this information to help your child with these opportunities will be trained in confidentiality and will be required to sign off that they will not misuse the information. 
In order for your children to be considered for all seven benefits, we encourage you to check the “yes” box and all seven options on the enclosed waiver form.  It is very important that the Waiver of Confidentiality form be completed and mailed back to the TPS Child Nutrition Office in the self-addressed, stamped envelope provided as soon as possible.  Several programs your children may qualify for will occur in September, 2014.  

The Waiver of Confidentiality can be found at
We appreciate your consideration and if you have any questions/concerns, please contact Nicole Jahnke at 785-295-3037. 

Stormont-Vail HealthCare Breaks Ground at Kanza

Stormont-Vail HealthCare broke ground on its new surgery center located at Topeka Public Schools’ Kanza Education and Science Park on Tuesday, September 26th. The building, which is expected to open in the fall of 2015, will be a three-story, 87,657 square-foot, state-of-the-art building costing about $20 million to construct. 

According to Randy Peterson, president and CEO of Stormont-Vail, the building will house orthopedic and single-day surgery departments, as well as physical, occupational and speech therapy facilities. The building will also have doctor’s offices and two X-ray rooms.
This building, and all the amenities it will offer, is especially exciting to Topeka Public Schools. Through a partnership with Stormont-Vail HealthCare, TPS students will have many opportunities to learn about careers in the medical field and will be able to expand on their science education at the new facility. TPS deputy superintendent Larry Robbins is excited about the possibilities that will become available to the district’s students through this innovative partnership. “When you look at our healthcare pathway, we couldn’t ask for a better partner than Stormont-Vail HealthCare. They will have a hand in designing a curriculum around healthcare and will also provide scholarship opportunities to TPS graduates who wish to pursue nursing careers after high school.”
Robbins is also looking forward to the physical presence of Stormont-Vail on the Kanza property. “Stormont-Vail’s medical complex, along with the Westar Energy Substation, makes a wonderful visual statement about the importance Topeka Public Schools is placing on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education.” 

Why is STEM education so important? Because a curriculum heavy in science, technology, engineering and math prepares students for the careers of the future. Topeka Public Schools gives students the tools they need to be successful in school and in life. Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet School embodies the district’s philosophy that a quality science education is essential to our students’ futures. At Williams, students are provided with regular opportunities for hands-on learning to enhance the science curriculum. We hope the skills taught to students throughout the district will inspire them to continue their science education beyond their time at Topeka Public Schools.

The Securing our Future: Educate, Innovate and Protect bond initiative that was approved by voters last April will provide for the remodeling of science classrooms in all middle and high schools across the district. The classrooms will be state-of-the-art, meeting 21st century science standards. These facilities, paired with partnerships we are establishing with local corporations like Stormont-Vail HealthCare and Westar Energy will ensure the students of Topeka Public Schools are well prepared for their futures.

Capitol Federal Partners with Highland Park Central for 18th Year

For the 18th consecutive year, Capitol Federal has partnered with Highland Park Central Elementary to provide mentors and volunteers to work with students. Since 1996, Capitol Federal employees have volunteered to read with students and tutor them in various subjects through the Partner in Education agreement. The volunteers also help with other school events throughout the year, making them a vital part of the HPC family.
On Wednesday, August 27th Capitol Federal Chairman, President and CEO John B. Dicus and Highland Park Central Principal Kelley Norman signed the agreement with students, staff and volunteer representatives on hand to witness the event. 

“Each year, our Capitol Federal employees are excited to begin the school year with their students. Mentoring their Highland Park Central students is an honor and a privilege,” said Dicus. “It reflects Capitol Federal’s commitment to higher education, and helping our Highland Park Central students build a solid foundation toward that goal is vital to their future and the future of our Topeka community. We are happy to be a part of the success of our students.”

Norman expressed her gratitude to Capitol Federal and its employees. “I’m very excited to have Capitol Federal as Highland Park Central’s Partner in Education. The commitment CapFed’s volunteers have toward our students and their educational progress is incredibly valuable. They are wonderful role models for our students, and we truly appreciate all Capitol Federal does for our school and our community. This will be a great year.”

If you would like to volunteer in a TPS school, a Volunteer Application Form can be found at:
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Topeka is also seeking volunteers for their Bigs in Schools program. Just 30 minutes once a week can make a real difference in a child’s life. Call Big Brothers Big Sisters of Topeka at 234-5524 for more information.

Actor Antwayn Hopper Visits Topeka West

Actor and 2003 Topeka West High School graduate Antwayn Hopper took time out of his busy schedule to visit the students at his alma mater today. Hopper, who has appeared in “Hair” on Broadway and currently has a recurring role on Cinemax’s “The Knick,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, has been in nearby Overland Park this summer performing in “Smokey Joe’s CafĂ©.” His calendar has been full of performances since he got his “big break” in the Whoopi Goldberg-produced play “White Noise.”
 (Photo credit:

However, as Antwayn explained to the eager students in his audience, he was not always in such high demand; it took a lot of hard work. After years of dedication to theater, and with the support of his parents and his drama teachers at TWHS, he auditioned against 2,000 other young hopefuls for one of just ten spots at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He wowed the judges with his ability and potential, earning a full scholarship to study musical theater. 

Just one day after graduating from college in 2007, he moved- with a mere $350- to New York City. His degree from the elite Carnegie Mellon helped him obtain an agent and manager, but securing acting jobs was still up to him. Like many young people trying to “make it” in showbiz, Antwayn got a day job waiting tables at Bubba Gump’s in Times Square. He worked hard and kept dreaming of the day when he’d see his name in lights on Broadway. His talent, experience and education meant that he wouldn’t have to wait long, though; he was soon cast in the play, “White Noise.” From there, his career took off and he is now a regular on “The Knick,” (Cinemax, Fridays at 8:00 pm, CST).

Despite his success, or perhaps because of it, Antwayn took several hours out of his day to visit the Topeka West Players and the students in the school’s Concert Choir class. Unable to hide his passion for theater, he told the kids how he achieved his dream. “Take pride in what you do and take advantage of these four years. Be involved in everything you can,” he said. He also expressed to them how lucky they are to attend a school that values and supports the arts. “You come from a rich pedigree here at Topeka West. I thank God for this school---it did so much for me, especially Concert Choir, TW Players and TW Singers…. I’m very proud to be from this school!” Antwayn also encouraged the students to reach their own dreams, even if it means taking chances. “Don’t get stuck. Know you can go beyond Kansas if that’s what you want to do,” he said.

Students weren’t the only ones hanging on his every word; his parents- clearly his biggest fans- were also in attendance.  His mother, Lillian Hopper, beamed with pride as he spoke. Later she reflected on raising a talented kid with big dreams. “As he grew up, he was just bound and determined to do it. He kept God first and he stood up for what he believed in. We always told him, if he ever falls down, get back up, wipe yourself off and try again.” She also credited the TWHS staff with helping him nurture his dreams and hone his skills. “The administrators and teachers at the time, they never gave up on him and therefore, he believed in himself. He proved that no matter where you are or who you are, your dreams are reachable and they can come true.”

Antwayn, while achieving success few actors ever experience, was humble, gracious and personable. The passion he feels for his craft and the messages he had for the students was inspiring to everyone who was fortunate enough to hear him speak. Thank you, Antwayn, for sharing your time with our students and for being a wonderful ambassador of Topeka Public Schools!

NEA-T and TPS Reach Teacher Contract Agreement

NEA-T and Topeka Public Schools have completed interest based bargaining and reached agreement on a contract for certified staff for the 2014-2015 school year.  Interest based bargaining is a collaborative form of negotiations where both sides look to resolve interests rather than the traditional form of positional bargaining.   Members of NEA-T have ratified the agreement.  The Board of Education took action on the agreement at its August 21 meeting.

The agreement adds $680 to the base salary of certified staff as well as step movement both vertical and horizontal.  Certified staff will see no increase in insurance rates.  “Our health insurance premiums have not increased for four consecutive years,” said Deputy Superintendent Larry Robbins.  “Single coverage health insurance with a $1,000 deductible, prescription drug coverage, dental care and $10,000 in life insurance costs an employee $20 a month.”

The agreement includes enhancements for longevity pay with the intent being to help retain experienced teachers already in the district. “We previously had three levels or intervals for awarding longevity increases.  This agreement increases the number to six levels for different intervals of longevity pay adjustments, with the maximum being $1,000 annually,”said Robbins.  NEA-T representative Richard Bolejack agreed, “As teachers, we feel the district is interested in retaining good, quality, veteran teachers.” 

The Board of Education is interested in both retaining high quality teaching staff and recruiting the best instructional staff available.  By adding $680 to the base, the starting salary for a new teacher graduating from college is now $37,120 per year.

Due process rights were not part of negotiations because it is already included in the professional agreement and has been since the 1990’s according to Bolejack.


Both sides are pleased with how the interest based bargaining process went.  “Teachers across the district are very happy with the agreement that was reached,” said Bolejack.  Robbins said, “I think both sides are happy with the fact that we were able to reach agreement on a package that is mutually beneficial for both the school district and our certified staff.”


District Tests Bullet-Resistant Glass

Student safety is a top priority at Topeka Public Schools, and we have been working to improve security measures since last April's successful bond initiative. This morning, Ron Brown, Director of School Safety, oversaw demonstrations testing the capabilities of different grades of bullet-resistant film at the Topeka Police Department's firing range.
"Our intent was to see a visual demonstration of how the glass works, and make a determination as a district as to whether this is the product we want to purchase. We're trying to be good stewards of taxpayer money because we are going to spend a lot of money on this. We also want to be able to provide first-hand accounts of what we saw to our principals and our PTO's to tell them what the capabilities of this window film are," Brown explained. 
Using old doors and windows from the district, Soward's Glass applied the bullet-resistant film for testing and set up the demonstration.

Brown said, "We don't believe that the glass is going to stop a bullet, but we tell our teachers and principals that the intent is to slow down a potential adversary until the police can arrive. We're hoping that's what today's demonstration will tell us." Brown made reference to the Sandy Hook school shooting, where the gunman was able to enter the school by shooting through the glass foyer doors. Bullet-resistant film would make such an intrusion far less likely and allow schools to enter into lock-down mode and call for help.
The glass was tested with tools typically used to gain entry into a building: a fist and foot (to see if the glass could be punched out), a baseball bat and a log (items commonly used to break glass and easily found near a school), a .9 mm handgun and a .223 gun.

As the pictures illustrate, the bullet-resistant film withstood numerous tests. Brown hopes to move quickly to have it installed at schools throughout the district.

THS Grad Receives NEA Award

Recent Topeka High School grad Jack Hishmeh received the SuAnn Big Crow Memorial Award at the National Education Association's Human and Civil Rights awards ceremony in Denver last month. Click on the link below to watch the video documenting his incredible accomplishments and gracious acceptance speech.

We are so proud of this young man, and appreciate all he has done for Topeka High School, Topeka Public Schools, and most importantly, his fellow students.

Congratulations, Jack--- you're truly an inspiration!

McClure Hosts Super Hero Leadership Academy

Twenty-six 3rd, 4th and 5th graders at McClure Elementary took part in the school's annual Super Heroes Training Camp. The camp serves as a youth leadership academy for students who want to become role models in their school. 

Superhero trainer Dr. Lloyd Hackley helped students choose a super hero name, design a costume and logo, and learn about real-life super heroes. The students also took part in fitness testing and learned ways they can continue to make McClure a fun and safe place to learn. 

Dr. Hackley was assisted by four soon-to-be TPS high school freshmen, who generously sacrificed their last day of summer break to mentor the kids. 

Working together as an education community is just one more reason Topeka Public Schools is a great place to be!

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