Archive for Thursday, December 29, 2005

Accomplishments plentiful in 2005 for Lansing schools

December 29, 2005

Lansing school district had several accomplishments to brag about in 2005, from high test scores to increased teacher salaries to the passing of a school bond issue.

"There were so many noteworthy events that took place in the district within the past year," said Shelly Gowdy, Lansing school board vice president.

But Gowdy said the district's success came from more than just a few highlights.

"I believe that thing that is most significant and impressive is the educational, community and parent support of our students at all levels," she said. She noted the district's teachers, support staff, site councils, community members and the city of Lansing leadership, as well as "tremendous educational leadership from our superintendent," all were instrumental in helping to bring about the schools' achievements this year.

The school board, she said, would continue to help the district strive for excellence in the future.

"I believe that the board of education is committed to supporting objectives that empower our students and prepare them for the next step in their educational journeys," Gowdy said. "As the board expects increasing test scores for all of our students, and a focusing of efforts on improving the test scores of those who are not meeting the level of proficient in tested subjects, we are asking for accountability from our educators and being accountable to our patrons and parents by wisely using the tax dollars that support our schools to invest in programs that will help to close the achievement gap while challenging students who are high achievers and those in who are in the middle."

Gowdy, Lansing schools superintendent Randal Bagby and school board president Brian Bode noted a few specific district highlights from 2005:

¢ In February, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was keynote speaker for the first Lansing Educational Foundation Fund breakfast. The foundation formed last year to provide financial support to Lansing schools. Bode said while "it was nice to have the governor there," he thought the real highlight was "community leaders coming together in an effort to help the schools."

"I think the establishment and viability of the foundation fund is a great accomplishment of the community," he said.

¢ Voters in April approved a $23.6 million bond issue, 1,727 votes to 1,361, to build a new elementary school on West Mary Street and an auditorium at Lansing High School.

"That was a critical juncture, a critical vote," Bode said. "It's an investment in the future of the entire city."

Bagby said the positive outcome for the district was accomplished by dedicated patrons.

"The community worked very hard together to pass a much-needed referendum for the students," he said.

¢ Also in the April election, voters selected three new school board members, Beth Stevenson, Gary Courtney and Rob Nicholas, and voted to retain Karalin Alsdurf, who was appointed in August 2004 to fill an unexpired term of a board member who moved out of the district.

¢ On May 21, 142 students graduated from Lansing High School in a ceremony at Frank Graham Stadium, the first outdoor ceremony in four years. Class of 2005 valedictorian was Gwyndolyn Jones, salutatorian was Katie Lowe and class president was Micah White.

¢ In June, seven members of the Future Business Leaders of America club at LHS traveled to the FBLA national competition in Orlando, Fla., where senior Stephen Fischer competed in business calculations. Fischer unexpectedly qualified for nationals at the state competition, where he placed first. The club formed at LHS in the fall of 2004 and competed only at the state competition before heading to nationals.

¢ Lansing school board selected Bode as its new president in July, replacing Gowdy, who declined to take the position again.

"It's an honor, it's a great responsibility, it's something I enjoy," said Bode, who was previously board vice president.

¢ The district received a boon in July when the Kansas Legislature appropriated $637,993 to Lansing school district as part of the $290 million increase in the state's education budget this year. The Legislature originally added only $142 million to the budget, but the Kansas Supreme Court mandated that more money be spent on public education.

Bode said the extra money provided the district with more flexibility in spending.

"That was critical in our ability to provide more in health care," he said. "Without it, none of those things may have happened."

¢ Lansing teachers received a 5.4 percent pay raise in August. With additional funding granted to the district by the Kansas Legislature, the district raised teacher salaries an additional 1 percent over the 4.4 percent raise negotiated with Lansing Educational Association in June. The district also put the additional money toward employee health insurance, more than doubling its contribution to employee health insurance plans. Bagby called the moves "a critical step to attracting and retaining highly qualified teachers." Bode agreed, saying the increased funding allowed the district to make health insurance more affordable for its employees.

"I think that was a very significant event this year," he said. "I think it was a good year on our negotiated agreement."

¢ Lansing High School students in 2004-05 posted the highest cumulative average on the ACT assessment since 1997 with a composite score of 22.6 from sophomores, juniors and seniors taking the test. The score was higher than the state average of 21.7 and the national average of 29.9. In 1997, LHS' score was 22.7. ACT scores are used as college admissions criteria. The highest attainable score on the test is 36; the highest score at LHS in 2004-05 was 34. The results were announced in August.

¢ Also in August, the school board approved adding a seventh fourth-grade teacher to keep class sizes down.

"We're growing," Bode said. "We're going to have those things happen."

¢ Official results of the Kansas state assessments were announced in September, showing that seven out of 12 grades taking the tests in March in Lansing schools achieved the Building Standard of Excellence. Meeting the standard were students tested in fourth-grade math and science, sixth-grade social studies, seventh-grade math and science and eighth-grade reading and social studies. Students tested in fifth-grade reading, 10th-grade math and science and 11th-grade reading and social studies did not reach the standard.

¢ The board in October approved plans to name the LHS gym Earl W. Johnsmeyer Gymnasium, in honor of Johnsmeyer, a former teacher and coach at the school, who, with his wife, Irene, also started a scholarship fund for graduating seniors. Dedication of the gym will be Jan. 6, 2006.

¢ Two principals from Kaifeng No. 5 Middle School in China visited Lansing in October to complete negotiations on an exchange program between LHS and the Kaifeng school. Bagby said the principals' visit was "the first of several collaborative efforts to share culture and learn from each other."

Eight Lansing students were selected to participate in the exchange program in March 2006: seniors Stefan Dumlao, Jason Gibson and Lindsey Piper; juniors Natalie Hall, Michael Nielsen and Rachel Schifferle; sophomore Rita Edmonds; and freshman Jennifer Simpson. LHS teachers Linda Leffler, Mary Alice Schroeger and Debra Hutton will accompany the students.

¢ Members of the Lansing Educational Foundation fund distributed the group's first Educate the Pride grants to nine Lansing teachers. The organization provided seven grants for a total of $3,000 for technology and other classroom resources that teachers had applied for during the summer.

¢ In December, the school board approved design changes to bond issue projects, the new elementary school and high school auditorium, proposed by Wilson and Co., Engineers and Architects. Bode said the new plans reflected a design that better addresses safety and control issues. He said he hoped bidding could start on the projects in January.

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