Destry Brown, in his fourth year as superintendent at Pittsburg Community Schools USD 250, is a finalist for the 2013 Kansas Superintendent of the Year award.
The five finalists were announced Thursday by the Kansas School Superintendents’ Association. The award program, affiliated with the AASA National Superintendent of the Year Program, honors the contributions and leadership of public school superintendents.
Joining Brown on the finalists list are Sue Givens, El Dorado USD 490; Bill Wilson, Scott County USD 466; Marlin Berry, Olathe USD 233; and Chuck Schmidt, Independence USD 446.
Brown said he is honored to be among this year’s finalists.
“There are many great superintendents in our state,” Brown said, “and I am flattered to be one of the finalists for this year’s award. I think this is a reflection of the district and the people with whom I work. I am fortunate to work with an outstanding faculty and staff, and it is because of them that I am a finalist for this high honor.”
Superintendent of the year candidates may be nominated by colleagues, community leaders or local board members. Candidates participate in a rigorous application process and are interviewed by a distinguished panel of former Kansas superintendents of the year. Each superintendent is evaluated against the following criteria:
· Leadership for learning – creativity in successfully meeting the needs of students in the school system.
· Communication – strength in both personal and organizational communication.
· Professionalism – constant improvement of administrative knowledge and skills, while providing professional development opportunities and motivation to others on the education team.
· Community involvement – active participation in local community activities and an understanding of regional, national and international issues.
"Each finalist was identified as a leader and visionary in the profession and as an individual who advocates for children and education in Kansas," Don Wells, KSSA Executive Director, said.
In recognition of this honor, each finalist will receive $500 from Ogden Financial Services to be used for a student scholarship in their district. The Kansas Superintendent of the Year will be recognized at the KSSA Awards and Recognition breakfast during the USA|Kansas annual convention in January 2013, and will go on to compete in the National Superintendent of the Year program. In addition, Kansas Truck provides a $1,000 scholarship to a high school senior selected by the Kansas Superintendent of the Year.
Various USD 250 programs received funding through the Pritchett Trust this year, and those awards were distributed during an awards ceremony earlier this month.
Elm Acres Youth and Family Services: $2,540 -- Funding for the Elm Acres "Meal Time" project, to replace the existing worn tables and chairs at Elm Acres girls residential house.
Meadowlark Elementary School: $656 -- To purchase specialized music therapy instruments.
Pittsburg High School Performing Arts: $2,185 -- To purchase choral microphones for the auditorium and two suspended choral microphones.
Pittsburg High School Instrumental Music: $30,000 -- To purchase new sousaphones, a new concert tuba, new keyboard percussion instruments and new string instruments and bows.
Pittsburg High School: $50,000 -- This is the second installment of a $100,000 grant in support of the PHS soccer field and track project.
When it comes to USD 250 and the Dragons, the only color that usually matters is purple.
This week, however, our schools are proudly boasting a Gorilla shade of red as we join with Pittsburg State University, the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the entire community in celebrating Paint the Town Red.
The staff and students -- former and future Gorillas -- at our four elementary schools had a fantastic time decking their halls with red and gold. While we greatly enjoy participating in the Chamber's PTTR School Decorating Competition, the main reason we go all out for this annual event is to show our support for PSU and the Gorillas.
Many of our outstanding teachers are PSU graduates, and we all understand and respect the unique partnership shared between USD 250 and PSU. It's with great pride and appreciation that we crash some waves of red into our sea of purple this week.
Go get 'em this weekend, Gorillas!
During a DECA competition last fall, students at Pittsburg High School noticed something about the host school that not only drew their attention but also sparked an idea.
“Blue Valley Northwest had a school store,” Isis Ruiz, PHS senior, said. “We thought that was really cool, and we started thinking about wanting one at our school.”
After months of brainstorming, planning and strategizing, that idea has become a reality.
The Dragon Gear online store – “Your source for Purple Dragons merchandise”-- went live at the start of the 2012-2013 school year. Products range from mugs and license plates to mouse pads and spirit sleeves.
The web address is www.dragongear.co.
The products are designed and printed by students at PHS. They can be shipped to the customers or picked up at the school. All transactions are conducted via PayPal.
Ruiz, who serves as the store manager, said the online store has many benefits for the students and the school.
“This is a great way to draw attention to the school,” Ruiz said. “We would love to see more Purple Dragons stuff out in the community, and this is a great way to help accomplish that. It’s also a positive in that it helps raise money for DECA.”
Amanda Mitchell, 2012 DECA president, said running the store is also a “great learning experience.”
“It’s one thing to learn about the business world and hear about how it’s done,” she said, “but it’s another when you actually do it. Having this store is giving us real-world experience, and it’s teaching us a lot about how things work.”
Linda Garrow, marketing teacher and DECA adviser, said she is proud of the students’ excitement for and dedication to the store.
“One of the main things you want to do as a teacher is motivate students to work hard and do their best,” Garrow said. “With this store, the students are already motivated to succeed. The inspiration is already there, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. It’s exciting to come to class and watch these students work.”
Ruiz said the store continues to grow and more products will be available as it expands.
“This is just like any other business,” she said. “We have the same goals and the same expectations as any other business. This may be a school store, but it’s a real thing and something we take very seriously.
“We’re hoping,” Ruiz said, “that our students, staff and alumni will get excited about this and get excited about having more Purple Dragons merchandise. This could really get bigger than any of us originally anticipated, which would be wonderful.”
Jon Bishop, PHS principal, is already excited about the store. He purchased more than 200 T-shirts and gave them as gifts to every member of the PHS staff.
“This is a great thing for PHS and for USD 250,” Bishop said. “I love seeing Purple Dragons shirts and mugs and flags all throughout the community, and this will put even more of those items around town. The students should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished and the impact this store will have on school pride.”
There is no feeling quite like the beginning of a new school year.
There is a freshness in the air. There is new life, new energy in the schools. There is an anxious excitement among the staff, from the administration to the teachers to the support staff. We're all ready to get rolling again.
On few occasions is that excitement more evident than during the Welcome Back Breakfast & Assembly, which took place Wednesday morning. All of our outstanding teachers gathered at Pittsburg High School for breakfast, which always leads to great conversations about the summer and about plans for the upcoming school year. After breakfast, Superintendent Destry Brown and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brian Biermann addressed the staff in the PHS auditorium. They spoke of past achievements, current challenges and goals for the future.
The annual event is the perfect start to a new school year. By the time it's finished, the staff is even more excited to get back to work.
In a few days, our students will return, and the 2012-2013 school year will be off and running. The halls will be busy. The lunchrooms will be noisy. The parking lots will be full. There will be football and volleyball and science fairs and homework and recess and robotics and computers and books and iPads. Above all else, however, there will be dreams.
Dreams of success. Dreams of knowledge. Dreams of progress.
And with every day, every class, every hour, there will be men and women, boys and girls, giving their all to reach for the stars and to capture those dreams.
Another school year. Another fall. Another chance to make a difference and to make this world a better place.
Superintendent Brown posed this question to the staff this morning: What does it mean to be a Purple Dragon?
Our community is about to find out.
Have a wonderful year, Dragons!
Before entering Pittsburg High School last fall, Joel Garcia knew approximately 20 English words.
Garcia, a sophomore at PHS, is one of hundreds of Spanish-speaking USD 250 students who are learning English through the district's English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program. He is also one of approximately 40 USD 250 ESOL students participating in this summer's ESOL Summer School at Meadowlark Elementary School.
Nine months after his first formal education in the English langauge, Garcia can now carry on fluent conversations with his friends and teachers.
"The progress I've seen him make is amazing," Elizabeth Sandell, an ESOL paraeducator who spends most of her day with Garcia, said. "Learning another language is a long, slow process, but he has really picked it up much quicker than would most students his age."
Garcia admits that he still has much to learn, and that there are some English words that continue to give him trouble.
"I think pronounciation is the hardest part," he said, "but I know this is good for me. Learning English has helped me a lot, and it's important to learn."
While Garcia isn't alone on his journey to master the English language, his story is unique. Most students in the ESOL program begin in elementary school, a time when the language lessons are more simple and easier to grasp. Starting at the high school level can be more difficult, as the vocabulary is expanded and many concepts are more complex.
"In high school, the English language lessons are more intensive," Sandell said. "It's a time when the students are expected to understand more abstract concepts. It's easier for those students who began learning the language at a young age, but for students like Joel, who didn't begin until high school, it can be quite difficult at times to grasp it all."
Garcia's story is also unique in that, without the need to learn English, he most likely would not be a PHS student. His family resides in Mulberry, which places them in the Northeast USD 246 district. However, because the USD 250 ESOL program is a necessity for his educational progress, Garcia attends PHS.
"I need to learn English because it's what everyone else is speaking, and it will help me get a job after school is over," Garcia said. "As I learn English, communicating with others becomes much easier."
Garcia, who rides and works with horses in his spare time, said he would like to continue to work with animals as a career when his school days are complete.
More than 150 Pittsburg Community Schools elementary students are getting a “boost” on their academics this month by taking part in USD 250’s enhanced summer school program.
The Summer Boost Academy, which runs 8 to 11:30 a.m. from July 2 to Aug. 3 at Meadowlark Elementary School, combines classroom instruction in reading and math with a variety of enrichment, wellness and team-building activities. The program is funded by the 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant and through USD 250 ESOL and at-risk funds.
The program is coordinated by USD 250 educators Michelle Casey and Tricia Harrell.
“Summer programs are important to a student’s education, as they help avoid what many refer to as the ‘summer slump,’” Casey said. “During the summer, students run the risk of losing some of the knowledge they attained during the previous school year, and programs like the Summer Boost Academy help ensure that they retain much of that knowledge. It also gives them a little bit of a head start for the upcoming school year.”
Through a partnership with Save the Children, an independent organization dedicated to improving the lives of the world’s youth, USD 250 was able to include into its summer program various enrichment activities.
“Our involvement with Save the Children allowed us to add health and wellness activities to our summer program, as well as several other enrichment and team-building exercises,” Dr. Brian Biermann, USD 250 assistant superintendent, said. “In some sessions, students will work with LEGO Education robotics, while others will be doing jumping jacks and learning about the importance of healthy eating.”
The USD 250 ESOL Summer School is also taking place at Meadowlark during the month of July. The program is for students in kindergarten through 12th grade, and is aimed at providing additional instruction for students learning English as their second language.
“English can be a very difficult language to learn, especially for students who don’t have English speakers in their families,” Monica LaForte, USD 250 Migrant/ESOL Education director, said. “Giving them this additional summertime instruction is important for their education because it keeps them practicing speaking, reading and writing in English. There is nothing more important than continuous practice when you’re trying to learn a second language.”
The halls of Pittsburg High School aren't filled with students this summer, but they are nowhere close to empty.
The contents of a dozen classrooms have been removed to the hallways as the USD 250 maintenance staff works to replace the rooms' original flooring. Some rooms are receiving new carpet, while others are receiving new vinyl tile.
"For most of the classrooms, this is the first time they've had new flooring since the building was first constructed," Maintenance Director Jim Newell said.
Four bathrooms in PHS are also being remodeled this summer, the continuation of a project that began at this time last year.
"We remodeled some of the bathrooms last summer," Newell said, "and now we're getting to four more. They're getting new flooring, new ceramic tile and new stalls."
Aimed at providing students the opportunity for physical fitness activities during summer break, Pittsburg Community Schools USD 250 this year relaunched the Youth Wellness Camp for third, fourth and fifth-grade students.
Conducted at Pittsburg Community Middle School from June 2 to 22, the YWC combines a variety of fitness activities in the school's two gymnasiums with enrichment sessions in the classroom. The purpose of the camp is to teach students about the importance of health and wellness while also giving them the chance to "get the blood flowing."
"Physical activity is very important for everyone, especially kids this age," Sharon Sisk, YWC coordinator, said. "We may be on summer break, but we still need to provide these opportunities for exercise and fun. We want the kids to keep their bodies and minds active during the summer."
The camp begins with breakfast at 8 a.m. Activities begin at 8:30 a.m., and the camp concludes with lunch with at noon. The YWC is funded by a grant from the United States Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers program.
"We had camps like this in the past, but the money ran out," Sisk said. "When we were awarded the 21st Century grant, the YWC was one of the programs we felt was important to bring back."
Approximately 80 students signed up for the camp.
Kylie Smith, who is preparing to enter 5th grade at Lakeside Elementary School, said she enjoys the morning exercise.
"I like being here because it's fun, and it gives me a good reason to get out of bed during the summer," she said. "I look forward to coming to camp every day. Plus, I like being around my friends."