In the Gardner Edgerton School District, day-to-day instruction and operations occur at a rapid pace. Annually, goals are set at the school and district level to ensure continued progress. As we continue to excel as a District it is important to take time to reflect on the progress made over the past year. Let’s review some of the highlights of the past year in USD 231.
In April, 2013, The Kansas City Business Journal (KCBJ) ranked the area’s top school districts. Rankings were determined using an index, which attempts to quantify qualities that educators and parents associate with high-performing schools. The index is based on student performance on standardized exams at various grade levels, district-wide student-teacher ratios and graduation rates, using the most recent data available for each district. USD 231 was ranked 3rd in all metro schools including Kansas and Missouri school systems.
During the summer months of 2013, the District Technology Team worked diligently to replace more than 2000 aging desktop and laptop computer systems as well as complete a system-wide update to Windows 7 in order to improve access to information, research and instructional resources for all students and staff. Along with the computer upgrades, the District updated other vital communication systems including telephone, email and district and school websites. The new websites provide consistent and simple navigation to information for students, parents and patrons, as well as easily updated content for all school sites.
We began the 2013-14 school year with the opening of Grand Star Elementary School; the 7th elementary building in USD 231. Grand Star opened the year serving 370 students with outstanding staff, enthusiastic students and a supportive parent community. Construction is on schedule for the completion of Trail Ridge Middle School, the District’s 3rd middle school located on the same campus as Grand Star Elementary. Completion of the Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC) addition to the Gardner Edgerton High School is also on schedule for this summer. With these building additions, the District was able to exceed our commitment not to raise taxes the first two years of the 2012 bond and provided a mill levy tax reduction for our patrons.
The start of the school year also witnessed an expansion of a District program serving students aged 18-21 with special needs. The Transition Readiness and Independent Living Skills (TRAILS) program is a community-based transition program designed to assist in the progression from school to adult life. The program is a collaborative effort between the young adults, parents, Gardner Edgerton School District, and adult service providers. The goal of TRAILS is to promote the development of increased independence for all program participants.
The Educational Services Team continues to review and update local District curriculum and instructional resources. The District purchased new Math curriculum materials for grades 2-5 in the spring of 2013 and will continue to evaluate and update the math materials at the remaining grade levels this spring.
Celebration of recent news provided by the Kansas Department of Education included the recognition of 5 schools as Governor’s Achievement Award winners. The schools: Edgerton Elementary, Madison Elementary, Nike Elementary, Sunflower Elementary and Wheatridge Middle School performed in the Top 5 Percent of Kansas schools based on the 2013 Kansas Assessments. District elementary schools represented 4 of 42 recognized Governor’s Achievement Award winners. Wheatridge Middle School was 1 of 10 middle schools recognized this year. Since the beginning of the recognition in 2006, USD 231 Schools have earned 32 of these prestigious awards. Reaching the Top 5 percent of Kansas schools is a true testament to the high expectations, hard work, dedication and motivation of outstanding students, faculty, families and administration working together in our community.
A new District instructional initiative began in 2013 with Gardner Edgerton High School students, teachers and administration embarking on a pilot project; Bring Your Own Device, or BYOD, at the school. Students and staff are supported with internet connectivity for personal learning devices which may include smart phones, tablets or laptops. Following discussion with the GEHS Site Council in the spring of 2013, a committee was formed to review the possibilities and parameters for the project. Students, teachers, parents, building and district administration and former students served on the committee to provide guidance and feedback on developing a set of expectations as well as fine tuning the instructional resources to support the project. This project compliments a common online instructional management system used by many GEHS teachers, called Schoology, in providing class resources and assignments to students. Regardless of what device a student uses for research, homework or managing a schedule, Schoology allows them to connect to the resources they need when they need them to support their personal learning.
The BYOD project is part of a national movement in schools to provide students with expanded access to electronic resources. For students who are without a device, laptops are available for checkout via teachers and may be brought into class learning activities as needed. BYOD allows for expanded access to technology by allowing students to bring whatever they have and are comfortable using, thus expanding access to technology for students. In December of 2013, BYOD access was expanded to all district staff in phase 2 of the project.
The district continues to experience growth in enrollment at a moderate pace. This school year, we welcomed 483 kindergarteners and look forward to celebrating the graduation of 325 Seniors. Gardner Edgerton High School continues to garner outstanding recognition based on the achievements of students and staff. According to US News and World Report’s Best Kansas High Schools Rankings, Gardner Edgerton High School has moved up from No. 8 in 2012, to No. 6 overall in the state of Kansas.
The district mission, “Empower all students to meet the challenges of the future” is truly alive in USD 231. Officals continue to strive for excellence in all that they do to meet the needs of students, staff and community not only now but ensuring that educational programming, resources and facilities will be well in place for the future.