TPS Board Approves Local Option Budget Resolution

The TPS Board of Education tonight voted 7-0 on a resolution which would allow the board of education to adopt a continuous and permanent local option budget of up to 33% of the general fund budget, with voter approval. The local option budget (LOB) is currently at 30%.
The special board meeting to consider a local option budget resolution came about after the topic was raised at community meetings this week.  In order to have the issue on the June 16th mail ballot election, a decision had to be made no later than tomorrow or wait for another two years.

In light of recent budget cuts to Topeka Public Schools that will total nearly $3.6 million over this year and the next two school years and the uncertainty over future cuts, the board voted to let school patrons voters weigh in on whether to increase the local LOB.

Major Saver

At the April 16th Topeka Public Schools Board of Education meeting, a representative from Major Saver presented the Topeka Public Schools Foundation with a check for $56,767.50. This money was raised during the recent Major Saver restaurant value card fund raiser and will be used in classrooms throughout the district.

Thank you to all those who purchased the value card--- your contributions make a real difference!!!

Topeka West JROTC Awards Ceremony

The Topeka West Junior ROTC held a National Awards Ceremony on April 17th.  At the event, ROTC cadets received awards for their academics and physical fitness achievements.  The Topeka High JROTC was also recognized for their drill team, air rifle team and Raiders group.  Several national fraternal and service organizations were on hand to honor superior ROTC cadets for their achievements.  The ceremony is an opportunity to showcase the many good things that Topeka West ROTC cadets do throughout the year for their school and the community.

Community Meetings on Budget

April 21, 2015

Dear Families, Patrons and Staff of Topeka Public Schools,

Our state is experiencing revenue problems which are creating budget challenges for public education and other governmental entities across Kansas.  We have already taken a $1,619,679 cut for the 2014-2015 school year with only a fourth of the fiscal year still remaining.  Next year, we will lose an additional $1,310,867 and the following year our loss will be $664,879. The total loss for the three years is $3,595,425. The latest revenue estimates that came out yesterday indicate an additional $200 million shortfall in revenue which could translate to even more funding cuts this spring and next year.
The Topeka Public Schools Board of Education has decided to hold three community meetings next week to share information and get input on budget priorities.  These will take place:

                             Monday, April 27 at 6:00 p.m. in the Topeka High School cafeteria
                             Tuesday, April 28 at 6:00 p.m. in the Topeka West High School choir room
                            Wednesday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m. in the Highland Park High School cafeteria

The purpose of the meetings is to share information on the Kansas budget situation, Topeka Public Schools allotment with block grants, an opportunity to rank budget priorities (What does our community want to preserve in our school district?), and meet with board members to share your suggestions.
The Kansas Association of School Boards has prepared spread sheets on the impact of the block grant funding law on all Kansas school districts.  Click on the link below and in the upper right corner you will see a drop down menu.  Click on the menu and scroll down until you find USD 501 Topeka Public Schools.  There you can see the funding amounts for USD 501 the previous two years, current year and the next two years.  You will see that any significant increase in funding is for KPERS pension contributions and not for school operating expenses.
Please direct your attention to the line labeled State Operating Aid plus the Local Operating Revenue raised.  Again, this is a time to find out about our state’s revenue challenges and how they will impact Topeka Public Schools and to give your input.

Dr. Julie Ford

High School Students Learn About STEM Skills

About 200 high school students from Topeka Public Schools and Auburn Washburn Schools visited Washburn University today. There, they met with representatives from Westar, AT&T and Bartlett and West to explore math and science related careers and education paths as part of the state’s first Junior Achievement Skills to Achieve Symposium.
“Employers are having difficulty finding staff with the right skills, and that shortage is impacting their ability to serve their clients and customers,” said Junior Achievement of Kansas President Amy Burns. “The Skills to Achieve Symposium is an opportunity to connect students directly to employers at a critical time in their education. These students can make important course choices now that will position them for success in college and beyond.”

Washburn professors gave brief introductions to the world of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Students then broke into three groups to see demonstrations from representatives from Westar, AT&T and Bartlett and West. The students also had the opportunity to enjoy lunch with local executives and have questions answered by area business people. After lunch, the kids received a tour of the Washburn University campus with special focus on science, math, engineering and technology departments.

25 Year Staff Receive Student Made Gift

Topeka Public Schools recognized staff members who have served the district for 25 years at last week’s Board of Education meeting. The staff members were treated to a reception in their honor, then were formally recognized by the school board. Each of the 30 staff members reaching the 25 year milestone received a certificate and a plaque signifying their achievement. The plaques were each custom made by the students in teacher Steve Greene’s woods class at Capital City Schools. Several of the students-- Diamond, Cameron and Timothy-- attended the Board of Education meeting and helped pass out plaques they created to the honorees.

The following staff members were recognized for their long commitment to Topeka Public Schools:

Robin Allen, Ross Elementary School
Dwight Almond, Linn Education Center
Ann Aubert, Meadows Elementary School
Janet Boos, Landon Middle School
Fernando Borrego, Hope Street Academy
Meg Braun, Lundgren/Holland Education Center
Janet Campbell, Robinson Middle School
Marc Garcia, Robinson Middle School
James Grosdidier, Topeka High School
Tamara Hurd, Eisenhower Middle School
Lenore Jefferson, Avondale West
Thomas King, Highland Park High School
Teresa Lind-White, Quincy Elementary School
John Marr, Information Technology
Susan Martin, Sheldon Child Development Center
Sheila McDonald, Lundgren/Holland Education Center
Onecia Mercer, Jardine Middle School
Teri Moormann, Highland Park High School
Sherry Perry, Capital City Schools
Julie Riphan, Topeka High School
Danny Rome, Topeka High School
Monica Schrag, Scott Magnet School
Dee Ann Seelbach, Ross Elementary School
Brad Snyder, Jardine Middle School
Brenda Soldani, Chase Middle School
Corrie Stanley, Shaner Elementary School
Jennifer Stadler, Highland Park High School
Anita Starbuck, Southard Building
Carla Tegethoff, Highland Park Central Elementary School
Joann Walker, Highland Park High School

Friends of Education

At the April 16th Topeka Public Schools Board of Education meeting the 2015 Friends of Education honorees were recognized.

Robert Maxwell was honored for his work as a school volunteer. For about the past ten years Mr. Maxwell has donated his time and talent to students throughout the district. He began by volunteering at Quincy Elementary through the Big Brothers Big Sisters and Junior Achievement organizations. He was also instrumental in introducing the Bringing Up Grades program to Quincy, Meadows Elementary and Hope Street Academy. This program recognizes students for academic improvement, not just academic excellence. Through Mr. Maxwell’s work with the Kiwanis organization, he has also been able to introduce the Builder’s Club to both French Middle School and Landon Middle School. The Builder’s Club promotes community service and focuses on character building, acceptance and leadership. Additionally, Mr. Maxwell is Quincy Elementary’s contact representative for Lowman Methodist Church and Kaw Valley Bank. Thanks to his efforts, both organizations regularly donate volunteers and funds to the school. Topeka Public Schools is fortunate to have many volunteers and even more fortunate that Robert Maxwell is one of them. Mr. Maxwell, on behalf of Topeka Public Schools, thank you for all you do for the children of this district and for being a Friend of Education.
Topeka Housing Authority was honored for their work with the district through an ongoing partnership. This partnership began at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year when Topeka Housing Authority’s then executive director, John Johnston, approached Topeka Public Schools then superintendent, Dr. Kevin Singer, about a property the agency wanted to offer the district. Through the efforts of Johnston and Singer, and with the approval of the Board of Education, that property became a satellite Parents as Teachers program in the Pine Ridge neighborhood. The new location filled a void in the community but more was needed. After discussions between the district and Johnston, Topeka Housing Authority generously offered another property- completely renovated and ready for use- which became Pine Ridge Prep. This new early childhood education center opened its doors in the fall of 2012 to 32 four-year-olds for half-day pre-school sessions. Neighborhood parents were so receptive to the school that an expansion of the program became necessary. Once again, Topeka Housing Authority stepped up, donating and renovating an additional property. Now 50 children in the Pine Ridge community have access to a quality full-day early childhood education center.

Thanks to the generosity of Topeka Housing Authority, former THA Executive Director John Johnston, and current Executive Director Sophie George, who continues to support the program, the children of the Pine Ridge community have a Parents as Teachers center and a pre-school program they can be proud of. The benefit to the students, their families and the community is far-reaching and long-lasting and is why Topeka Public Schools is honored to call Topeka Housing Authority a Friend of Education.

HPHS Teacher Honored as Outstanding Educator

Congratulations to Highland Park High School science teacher Gabriel Dalton! In a ceremony held yesterday, he received the Outstanding Secondary Science Educator Award from the KSU chapter of Sigma Xi (a scientific research society and publisher of American Scientist). He was honored for his innovative classes in the areas of biotechnology and biomedicine. He was also selected because of his stellar efforts to connect students with practicing health professionals, and to provide them with real world experience. Nominated for the award by HPHS principal Dr. Beryl New, Mr. Dalton was one of only two winners this year.
“Thank you for your steadfast faith in the goals we have set for our students. Our program is the sum of all of the working parts and none of this could be done without amazing administrative leadership at the building level and we are fortunate to have that at HPHS. This is such an honor and I’m very humbled by your appreciation and support,” Dalton said.
This is the second consecutive year that a Topeka Public Schools teacher has won this award; Hope Street Academy science teacher Miranda Forgey was honored last year.

Congratulations, Mr. Dalton, and thank you for your dedication to the students of Highland Park High School!

Scott Students Welcome Miss Kansas

Miss Kansas Amanda Sasek paid a visit to the students of Scott Magnet recently. The beauty queen talked to the children about appreciating diversity, being respectful toward others and never giving up on their dreams. She told the students about how she was raised by a single mother who struggled to pay the bills and about how she overcame childhood bullying about her weight. Sasek also shared that, even though she is now Miss Kansas, it took some work to achieve her dream; she competed for the title for four years before she was finally crowned Miss Kansas.
In addition to speaking to the students, Sasek also sang for them (a talent that helped her become Miss Kansas) and answered the children’s questions about being a beauty queen.

Thank you, Miss Kansas, for spending time with the students of Scott Magnet!!

Saral Lucero Named Woman of Excellence in Education

Congratulations to Scott Dual Language Magnet School Principal Sarah Lucero for being named
the YWCA Woman of Excellence in the Education Category. Sarah won the award for being a
leader in the transformation of Scott as it becomes a totally dual language school. This is the third year in a row that the nominee from Topeka Public Schools has won in the education category. Highland Park High School Principal Dr. Beryl New won last year and Topeka High School Principal Dr. Linda Wiley won in the education category in 2013.

Jennifer Coker Goes Above & Beyond

“The purchasing department, the business office and the school district would not run properly without Jennifer Coker.” Those were the comments from Teri Burress, who nominated Jennifer for the Above and Beyond Award. Teri told of one example of Jennifer going above and beyond. “The postage meter quit functioning recently and we had mail to get out,” said Burress. “Jennifer went to the post office, purchased stamps and spent nearly two hours applying the stamps to make sure t...he mail got out.” That’s the kind of dedication and commitment Jennifer Coker has to this

Jennifer is assistant buyer at the Burnett Center. She handles requisitions, purchase orders and travel for district staff. She’s been an important part of the school district for the past eight years. When told she was the April Above and Beyond winner, she was very surprised. “It’s kind of exciting, actually,” she said.
Thank you for your continued dedication to Topeka Public Schools, Jennifer!

Highland Park Central Elementary Ribbon Cutting

A ribbon cutting was held recently for the first completed school project funded by the school bond approved by voters last year.  The project was at Highland Park Central Elementary School.  Before the project, the youngest student’s classroom opened to the outdoors, thus students had to go outside to re-enter the school for music and lunch.  Now those students exit their classroom into a new hallway that provides security and protecting from the elements.  The new construction also provided a more aesthetically-pleasing entrance for the school.  On hand for the ribbon cutting were members of the Topeka Public Schools Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Julie Ford, Highland Park Central Principal Kelley Norman, Mayor Larry Wolgast, Chamber President Doug Kinsinger and the Chamber Ambassadors. 

Topeka High MALE Goup

Last year, Topeka High School Assistant Principal Rodney Johnson launched a new program for young men called the MALE Group. MALE stands for “Men Achieving Lifelong Education” and the boys involved meet weekly to learn how they can improve their lives and reach their goals. The MALE group was based on the book, “Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life,” by Baruti Kafele and is operated by Johnson, THS Social Worker Rene Valdivia, THS Paraprofessional Jeremy Palubinski and MALE Student President, senior Jeron Caraway.

One way the boys work to reach their goals is by dressing up once a week*. A dress shirt and tie helps the kids see themselves in the role of successful, accomplished young men. They also spend time covering various issues relevant to teen boys. They discuss ways to reach their goals and factors that may interfere with achievement. Right now the MALE group is learning more about etiquette, manners and conducting themselves like gentlemen.

Johnson encourages the young men to look within themselves to reach their goals. In fact, he has even placed a mirror in their meeting room to illustrate to the kids that success starts with themselves. “Be the best that you can be and try to grow each and every day. Then you’ll become who you always wanted to become. Whoever you see yourself as in the future, you have the tools right here at Topeka High to get there,” Johnson said.

Johnson also stressed the importance of choosing positive influences to achieve success and shared with the boys his own story of growing up. Before he graduated from high school, he became a father. Hanging around with boys who were headed nowhere (and, indeed, they did find themselves incarcerated as adults), Johnson’s single mother gave him an ultimatum: join the military or go to college. Intelligent, ambitious and motivated to support his young son, Johnson chose the latter, worked hard and eventually became a teacher and later an administrator at Topeka High. Now, he’s trying to help his students realize their potential.
But the boys at Topeka High School aren’t the only ones focused on their goals. This year, Leo Cangiani, Community Liaison at Scott Magnet, also formed a MALE group for the boys at his school. Twelve young men signed up and they meet weekly to discuss different topics, such as respect and treating others kindly. They also dress up every week.

This week the MALE group from Scott visited the MALE group at Topeka High. The older boys took the younger ones on a tour of the school and THS Football Coach Walt Alexander talked to the whole group about the importance of working hard in everything they do. A visit from THS Principal Dr. Linda Wiley and a snack of fresh-baked cookies capped off the morning.
School leaders who go the extra mile to help their students-- and students diligently working toward self-improvement-- make Topeka Public Schools a great place to be!!

*Note: If you would like to donate gently used boys and young men-sized dress clothes to the MALE group at Scott or THS, please message us

Distinguished Staff Awards

The 26th annual Distinguished Staff Awards ceremony took place recently at the Topeka and Shawnee County Library. On Wednesday, April 1st, thirteen of Topeka Public Schools certified and classified employees were honored for their outstanding work in the district. They were each nominated by their peers and selected by a 19-person committee made up of employees from throughout the district. If you see one of these Distinguished Staff members, be sure to congratulate them on their accomplishment!

Patricia Adolphson, Eisenhower Middle School, Food Service category
Barbie Atkins, Robinson Middle School, First Year Teacher- Secondary category
Amber Bagwell, Lowman Hill, First Year Teacher- Elementary category
Brady Dean, Burnett Center, Administrator category
Angela Dick, Burnett Center, Certified Support Staff category
Adriane Evans, Quincy Elementary, Pre-K-5th Educator category
Carleen Lister, Burnett Center, Office Personnel category
Laura Maike, Burnett Center, Classified Support Staff category
Ron Morehead, Service Center, Operations and Maintenance category
Erich Singer, Topeka High School, High School Educator category
Julie Smoot, Eisenhower Middle School, Paraprofessional category
Catherin Southern, Highland Park Central, Custodial category
Lynette Stueve, French Middle School, Middle School Educator category

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