Great Bend USD 428 - News and Highlights

It is the goal of the monthly RELAY to connect our staff with news and highlights from across our schools and community. There are so many successes, positive stories, and (virtual) smiles to share!

We hope you enjoy this brief update. Learn something new, celebrate with a colleague or friend, and take a moment to see the good happening all around you.

In this issue:

  • CTE Month
  • Text Messaging Update
  • Black History Month
  • In the News: School Counselor Week, Feb. 1-5
  • Meet Gabby - BCSS Therapy Dog
  • Let's Celebrate: February Birthdays
  • Community Resources
  • District Highlights

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

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All in for Students - Time to Celebrate our School Counselors

National School Counseling Week 2021, “School Counselors: All in for All Students,” sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), will be celebrated from Feb. 1–5, 2021, to focus public attention on the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems and how students are different as a result of what school counselors do. National School Counseling Week highlights the tremendous impact school counselors can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career.

“This year’s theme really captures the positive and inclusive attitude our school counselors and family support workers exhibit in their support of students,” said John Popp, assistant superintendent for USD 428. “Each day they strive to serve the ‘whole child’ with a mix of social/emotional support, collaboration, and community connections.”

In Great Bend Public Schools, the continuum of support begins in the Pre-K or elementary setting with a Family Support Worker at each elementary building and continues at the middle school and high school with School Counselors. As a student moves through their educational career, family support workers and school counselors are present to support the student’s social/emotional and academic.

“They are champions, advocates, and trusted advisors in our buildings,” said Popp. “They often work in partnership with parents and also serve as a community connector for mental health services, medical services, and basic needs like food, shelter, and transportation.”

Popp explained that each day presents new challenges and new opportunities for these professionals as they focus on positive ways to support students and families. A closer look at each building and the various programs and supports provided illustrates the ability for each school counselor or family support worker to adapt and respond to the changing needs of their students.

“School counselors work with all students to remove barriers to learning by addressing students’ academic concerns, post-secondary options, and social/emotional skills,” said Jill Cook, ASCA executive director. “School counseling programs help to increase student achievement and provide a much-needed resource for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. School counselors are integral to student success.”

Great Bend students receive the support of five school counselors and five family support workers. As part of its celebration for National School Counseling Week, USD 428 encourages the community to reach out and offer encouraging words to the counselors who serve Great Bend’s students. Parents or community members with specific questions or concerns about school counseling programs should contact the school counselors at their local schools. General information can also be found at

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USD 428 School Counselors

  • Kathy Davis, Great Bend High School
  • Kayla Meadows, Great Bend High School
  • Rachel Thexton, Great Bend High School
  • Sheryl Neeland, Great Bend Middle School
  • Brian Williams, Great Bend Middle School

USD 428 Family Support Workers

  • Kelly McClure, Eisenhower Elementary
  • Krystal Woodral, Jefferson Elementary
  • Kylee Graves, Lincoln Elementary
  • Alan Blessing, Park Elementary
  • Michelle Daniel, Riley Elementary

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BCSS grows with services of a furry friend!

The Barton County Special Services Cooperative has added a four-legged friend to their team, a furry friend who will serve the needs of students across the county.

“We started thinking about a therapy dog after a visit from a staff member at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility who works with their therapy dog program,” said Christie Gerdes, director of BCSS. “The trainer and her dog visited some of our classrooms in the 2015-16 school year and the visit made such an impact on some of our students with special needs that we decided to look into a therapy dog for our cooperative.”

While funds were acquired at that time from the Post Rock Jaycees club, a grant from Wal-Mart, and other private donations, BCSS remained on a waiting list but were never matched with a therapy dog. Gerdes also noted the difficulty of finding a “parent” for the dog who can share time with a wide-range of classrooms across the cooperative.

“The idea surfaced again this school year as we work to make connections with students who might feel more isolated and unsure of themselves,” Gerdes said. “Knowing the challenges we faced before, trying to find a match of a mature dog who was already trained, we decided to ‘grow our own.’ This is a concept we’re very familiar with as we often grow passionate staff members into licensed special education professionals to fill teaching positions across the cooperative.”

Gabby (the 12-week-old sheepadoodle with soft, curly black hair) is a “grow their own” therapy dog who is already receiving praise from students and teachers alike.

“Gabby came to us from one of our previous preschool teachers,” said Gerdes. “So far, she has just the right temperament and motivation to work with students with special needs. Gabby’s presence will help students learn how to self-regulate and stay calm, as well as lessons of kindness and caring.”

BCSS staff will begin training with Gabby this week at puppy kindergarten and she will progress through more advanced training as she gets older. As for her “puppy parent,” Gerdes happily assumed the role and Gabby can be found following along at her feet most days.

“It is our plan that she will be able to go into different special education classrooms across the cooperative and visit with students and staff for a day. When she comes up to you and wags her tail (and her whole body), you can’t help but smile and feel a little better about your day,” Gerdes shared.

In her first two weeks at school, Gabby has visited several places as she gets to know the buildings, meeting students at Eisenhower Elementary, Park Elementary (where she was able to meet Rudy, her cohort therapy dog), Helping Hands Preschool, Ellinwood Grade School, and the USD 428 District Education Center.

For more information about the therapy dog program or Barton County Special Services, please contact their office at 620-793-1550.

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Redeem this exclusive USD 428 offer by contacting The Fieldhouse

Redeem this USD 428 offer by contact The Fieldhouse

Phone: (620) 603-8583


Administrative Hours:

  • Monday - Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Fridays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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Christie or Bernie?

Thanks to Christie Gerdes, BCSS Director for providing some laughs!
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