RELAY - June 2020

Great Bend USD 428 - News and Highlights

School's OUT, Summer's IN!

The 2019-2020 school year is officially a wrap! Your work and dedication to the students of USD 428 is noticed and appreciated. As we look to the weeks ahead, we're proud of the leaders across USD 428 who are preparing to bring students back to their buildings this month for Summer School.

In this issue:

  • 2020 Retirement Recognition
  • Teacher clarity in unclear times
  • Summer Birthdays
  • Birth Announcements
  • In loving memory, Kathy Goad

Keep up the great work and keep it safe, 428!

Clarity in unclear times

In the final quarter of the school year, learning for students across the country required teachers to evaluate their curriculum, delivery methods and pivot like never before seen. Continuing in the vein of reinvention, teachers in USD 428 are preparing for a four-week summer school program scheduled to begin on June 1 for Great Bend High School, and June 8 for Great Bend Middle School and elementary buildings.

Based on revised guidelines from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, as well as Governor Kelly’s reopening plan, summer school in USD 428 will be held in June, providing competency-based instruction for students who are invited to patriciate. Each building will have limited enrollment to ensure the program adheres to public health and safety guidelines from the CDC, KDHE and the Barton County Health Department.

“At the elementary and secondary level, summer school will serve as a bridge from the last quarter to the start of the school year next fall,” said Tricia Reiser, director of teaching and learning for USD 428.

Scheduled for June 8 – July 2, all elementary buildings will offer a half-day summer school program limited to 90 students and staff. Great Bend Middle School will host a summer school program for incoming 7th and 8th-grade students, and Great Bend High School will have offerings as well. Different from the other buildings, Great Bend High School’s summer school program will run from June 1 – June 26 with morning and afternoon sessions daily.

“Clarity is key, especially in these uncertain times,” Reiser. “Planning for both the short-term and long-term, our teaching staff has been working for two years to study our state standards and prioritize the critical skills our students need to know. The process is three-fold, knowing what to teach, determining the appropriate level of rigor, and initiating learning in the correct order.”

Teachers in USD 428 are in year two, of a five-year journey on the topics of “Teacher Clarity and Visible Learning.” Led by Kristin Anderson, a master trainer, author and researcher on the topic, teachers are working to unpack state standards and examine their lesson content and delivery even in this time of distance learning. Over the course of two days in early May, USD 428 and Anderson hosted 13 Zoom meetings within various content areas and grade-level groups to discuss the present reality and the importance of Priority Standards when school resumes after roughly 5-6 months where students have been out of the classroom.

“I am so incredibly proud of the work that has taken place in Great Bend Public School District over the past few years,” said Anderson. “This system is fierce, and they are strongly committed to providing a world-class education for every child in their care. In education, it is rare to work with a group that involves every stakeholder on a multi-year journey of focusing on a few essential practices deeply. Great Bend has identified a five-year plan that will ensure not only an upward trajectory in student achievement, but the long-term empowerment of this strong and resilient community.”

In response to the current reality of distance learning, Anderson commented, “whether students are learning in the classroom or at home, mastering an essential set of skills is critical to ensuring no time is wasted and that our learners build tool kits they can carry with them in any situation they face as a continued student or employee.”

As USD 428 looks to summer programs as well as next year’s instruction, Reiser shared that “developing the academic and competency based content will truly be a craft. Teachers will determine what students know, and move on to what they don’t know to ensure growth in essential skills.”

Kristin Anderson is an educator and researcher, as well as founder and CEO of The Brilliance Project. For over 20 years Anderson has helped thousands of educators, leaders and aspiring world-changers transform their potential through the lens of education. In recent years, Anderson has collaborated with global leaders to design, implement, and evaluate professional learning frameworks, leading large scale development initiatives for sustainable impact through education. Anderson resides in Thousand Oaks, California with her family. More information about the program can be found at

For more information about USD 428’s Teaching and Learning initiatives, please contact the District Education Center at 620-793-1500. Information about Summer School is available at the building level; please contact the attendance centers directly Monday – Friday from 8 am – 3 pm.

USD 428 celebrates 2020 retirees

With the retirement of 15 teachers and staff in the 2019-2020 school year, USD 428 celebrated a cumulative 325 years of service to the students and families of Great Bend Schools.

While Covid-19 disrupted plans for the traditional recognition banquet, the hard work and dedication of these individuals was marked with a special video tribute as well as each retiree receiving a red apple award and a Great Bend Chamber gift certificate intended to treat retirees to ‘dinner for two’ at a local restaurant.

“This isn't exactly the way I thought my career in education would end,” said Janelle Foote, retiring teacher from Jefferson Elementary. “It has taught many of us patience and persistence, something we strive to teach the students.”

With 23 years of classroom experience, Foote has many anecdotes and memories, but her fondest thoughts and feelings center around the relationships she has created.

“Jefferson staff has become my second family,” said Foote. “The saying goes ‘it takes a village to raise children,’ I feel like our Jefferson staff and USD 428 is a great village.”

Lincoln Elementary Kindergarten Teacher Marla Davidson has worked for 25 years in USD 428.

“The greatest and most humbling compliments have been when graduating seniors take time from their last days of school to return to their kindergarten classroom and thank me for a great start to their public education,” said Davidson.

Debbie Koelsch spent 25 years in USD 428, 13 years as a 5th-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary and the last 12 years as a counselor at Great Bend High School.

As Koelsch embarks on her next chapter of life, she shared, “Both my elementary and high school co-workers have made a positive impact on my life - I will miss that daily interaction, and I absolutely treasure those relationships.”

In recounting a favorite memory, Koelsch spoke of advice she received from her 5th-grade students on how to be a high school counselor. Her wise students said, “do not wear your footed pajamas on pajama day, the high school students might make fun of you. And do not wear your KSU shirt - wear Great Bend Panthers!”

Retiring staff members include Joel Wilson, bus driver and grounds (34 years); Rhonda Snyder, secretary at Great Bend High School (30 years); Suzie Muth, paraprofessional at Eisenhower Elementary (29 years); Lana Kephart, paraprofessional at Hoisington Middle School (25 years); Donna Zimmerman, secretary at Riley Elementary (21 years); Susan Brown, paraprofessional at Great Bend Middle School (20 years); Sandra Martin, paraprofessional at Hoisington Middle School (20 years); Trina Rector, teacher assistant at Great Bend Middle School (19 years); Sherri Kennedy, payroll assistant at District Education Center (16 years); Willie Reed, paraprofessional at Great Bend High School (16 years); Vera Reed, food service (16 years); Veronica Stoddard, food service.

“This class of retirees is very special,” said Khris Thexton USD 428 superintendent. “From countless hours of classroom instruction and support, thousands of miles behind the wheel of a bus, or hundreds of meals prepared by steady hands each week, we applaud the dedication of our 2020 retirees and thank them for lending their talents to our students and community. We wish our retirees the very best in this next chapter of life.”

Great Bend USD 428 - 2020 Retirement Recognition
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Koelsch named Counselor of the Year

Debbie Koelsch was awarded North Central Kansas Counselor of the Year 2020 by the Kansas Counseling Association. Before the interruptions of Covid-19 this spring, she was scheduled to receive the award at the KCA convention at the end of March. This honor tops-off Koelsch's 25-year career in USD 428 and 12 years working as a counselor at Great Bend High School.