District Update

February 24, 2021

Video Recap of February 24 Newsletter

February 24 Newsletter Recap

Board of Education Recap Article

This is not a full recap of all issues discussed at the Board of Education meeting. These are not official minutes. For more information on the Board of Education meeting, click here.

The board didn’t spend too much time on this subject, but it is important to remember that all students in flexible (not remote) will be going on-site starting March 1. This was a decision made in a previous board meeting. Some reasons for that decision is the positive trend in the numbers. Over the past few weeks, the district would have been on-site. Quarantine and covid cases are both down. Staff members are also getting vaccinated as well as symptomatic and asymptomatic testing in the district.

The 2021-2022 a draft of the student attendance calendar. This calendar will look more like the calendars of previous years than the 2020-2021 calendar. School will officially start on August 12 and will end on May 17.

Full Board Meeting:

2.22 BOE Meeting

Facebook Live Q&A

Facebook Live Q&A February 23

Superintendent's Corner

The numbers this week taken from logs maintained locally are:

● Students quarantined: 30 on 2/18/21 (46 on 2/11/21)

● Staff quarantined: 4 on 2/18/2021 (6 on 2/11/2021)

● Active cases: 3 active cases on 2/19/2021, including 2 student and 1 staff (4 active cases the morning of 2/12/2021, including 3 student and 1 staff)

Staff Vaccines

The Harvey County Health Department reached out to us on Tuesday of this past week and indicated that they have been through all three levels of the list we provided for vaccines for staff. Some did ask to be put on this list this past week and those names have been submitted as well. Kudos to them for taking care of USD 373 staff! Let them know on social media when you get the chance.

Cold Weather and Heating Systems

The cold weather a few weeks ago has been tremendously hard on all systems. It has put quite a strain on parts of our aging HVAC systems. We may have to consider more cycling as has been done pre-Covid in order to give the system a break. If we do this, it will be off-hours as also has been a pre-Covid cost-savings measure.

We did almost have to go to remote at the high school due to a boiler being offline. There are two that generally cycle with one developing a leak. Then the functional one began to leak a bit. Ron Henrich and his team were able to work some magic to allow enough function to keep kids in school.

I DO want to put out a special THANKS to the maintenance, custodial, and transportation crews this past week for being on-point and getting things cleared, keeping them running, and with the buses and other forms of transportation, getting them running. Many of you saw the photos on our social media page. Please thank them for their dedication.

We are obviously VERY concerned about our February utility bill, especially natural gas. I know that this is being addressed at the local, state and federal levels in terms of how charges will be passed down to consumers.

Quarantine Guidance For Vaccinated Staff

The KDHE has updated quarantine guidance for staff who have been vaccinated. Below is a portion of an email from the HCHD regarding that updated guidance and how they will enforce it within the county.

KDHE is updating their guidance for quarantining after COVID19 vaccination(s). The state and local health departments will follow the new guidance from CDC. KDHE documents will be updated soon. This change is being implemented immediately by the Harvey County Health Department. Three criteria exist for individuals who have received their full doses of COVID19 vaccine to be exempt from quarantine . (These criteria are used for the current complete 2-dose vaccines and the potential of a 1-dose vaccine.)

1) 2 weeks or greater after the receipt of the 2nd dose (or final dose),

2) Within 3-months (90 days) of the 2 weeks post vaccine date, and

3) Individual remains asymptomatic.

New Information

New Normal :Student Perspective

If we had a dollar for every time someone has said "unprecedented times" over the past year (including us), we'd have enough money for a mask for every day of the year. However, these are, well, unprecedented times. And we thought it was important to document them and show what life is like in our schools and for the people in them. This video will be the first of our "New Normal" series where we talk with students and staff about what the last year has been like for them. If you would like to share your school-related story you can email samantha.anderson@usd373.org.
Student Perspective: Chisholm Middle School

Important Reminders

Family Engagement Survey

USD 373 Families,

We need your opinions to help improve USD 373. Please fill out the Family Engagement Survey posted on our of our school websites!

The Family Engagement Survey is an online survey designed to inform district and building leaders about their district/building’s success at engaging parents in the education of the children. When used in conjunction with other data, the Family Engagement Survey provides administrators and educators the opportunity to recognize strengths in their family engagement practices and create strategies for improvement.

Please fill it out today!

Question and Feedback Form

Question and Feedback Form

On all of our district and school websites, you will see a Questions & Feedback button on the home screen. This will lead you to a new form that you can use to get your questions answered more quickly and make sure your feedback goes to the correct person. Please use this form for any emails or questions. You’ll notice a few dropdown menus. If you choose general district, a dropdown menu with a variety of topics will appear for you to choose from. If you select school specific, a dropdown menu will appear with a list of schools for you to choose from.

District Features

Santa Fe: Biomes, Ecosystems and Food Webs, Oh My!

Ms. Ramey’s class combined different subjects to create a presentation on biomes, ecosystems, food webs and the roles they play in keeping the earth balanced. Students chose a biome like a tundra or desert and studied one organism in that biome. From there, they created a food chain and hypothesized what would happen if that organism was removed from the biome. They predicted how it would impact the other living things in the biome.

While this project taught students about science, critical thinking and research, it also presented opportunities to grow in other areas. The students used art to create a model of the organism they studied in depth. They also got the opportunity to work on their speech skills when they presented their biome and their findings to their peers. Students expanded their computer skills as they navigated search engines to research, explore their biomes in virtual reality and put the powerpoint for their presentation together.

The students did a great job using the knowledge they gained to make well-thought out-hypotheses on their food chains.

Slate Creek: Recreating Landmarks

Mrs. Heisler and Mr. Briley’s fourth-grade classes at Slate Creek Elementary participated in a special Valentine’s Day project this month.

Students learned about the five regions of the United States as part of their fourth-grade curriculum. One of the topics they covered was famous landmarks. The students were even able to participate in a special Valentine’s project related to landmarks.

Mrs. Heisler introduced the project by asking the students how they could create a United States landmark Valentine’s box to teach others about a landmark. Each student chooses a landmark--there cannot be any repeats.

Then, the students used class time to research and plan. Students started with the information piece that was displayed on the box. Then they moved onto design and construction. They could work on it at school, but they also could work on it at home if they wanted to surprise their peers with their work. After the boxes are complete, they were displayed with the information sheet so others could learn about landmarks in the country they live in.

Each box is judged on the following criteria by special judges on Valentine’s day:

  • Creativity/Originality

  • Craftsmanship/Material Application

  • Relevance/Accuracy of Information

  • Organization

  • Effort

This year’s winners were:

1st place- Alcatraz by Patrick Boyle

2nd place- Old Faithful by Shanda Wylie

3rd place-Space Needle- by Alyana Aguilar

Railer Recognition

This is to recognize the accomplishments of USD 373 staff or students. If you know of a student or staff that should be recognized, please email info@usd373.org.

Souper Bowl

Newton High School had a "souper bowl" contest this month. Students brought canned soup or other nonperishable food items to school. The seminar class with the most items donated will get a catered lunch from Applebees. The food that is collected was sorted and put in the "Little Free Pantries" around the community. They had 1176 cans donated.

"Schrag and Bartel" came in first with 308 cans donated.

Railer Swimming At State

Congratulations to all of the swimmers who qualified for state--Andrew Barron, Creed Eckerberg, Simon Hodge, Luke Schmidt, Justin Franz, Otis Musser, and Kaden Anderson.

The Newton Boys Swim Team finished 16th as a team at 5-1A State on Saturday. Individual/Team Race Places:

200 Medley Relay - 11th

200 Freestyle Relay - 10th

400 Freestyle Relay - 16th

Andrew Barron - 8th in 100 Backstroke

Creed Eckerberg - 23rd in 100 Breaststroke

Railer Wrestlers Going To State

Congratulations to all of our Railer Wrestlers who qualified for State this week at Hartman Arena by finishing in the top 4 at Sub-State:

Jaymie Murry (155) - 4th

Colin Bybee (120) - 3rd

Logan Buchanan (195) - 3rd

Nick Treaster (106) - 1st

Rio Gomez (285) - 1st.

Athletic Signings

Congratulations to Elijah Edwards for signing his Letter of Intent to run Cross Country and Track at the University of Saint Mary next year!

Congratulations to Maylee Edwards for signing her Letter of Intent to wrestle at William Penn University next year!

Scholars Bowl At State

Congratulations to the Railer Scholar’s bowl team for taking fourth at state in their first trip since 2012!

KSPA Award

Ann Pomeroy at Newton High School took first place in photo illustration in the KSPA Online’s monthly contest.

NHS Students National Merit Finalist

On Wednesday, February 10 the National Merit Scholarship Corporation announced the names of the 15,000 finalists in the 66th annual National Merit Scholarship Program. Newton High School had two semifinalists, Jakob Graber and Elise Jantz. More than 1.5 million juniors entered the program by taking the Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (PSAT/NMSQT).

According to the National Merit website, to become a finalist, the semifinalist and a high school official had to submit an application with information on their academic records, honors and awards received. The student also wrote an essay. The National Merit Scholarship winners will be selected from the finalists based on their skills, accomplishments and potential for success in college studies. The winners are selected from the pool of finalists based on their abilities, skills and accomplishments as well as the students’ PSAT/NMSQT Selection Index scores, the high school officials’ written recommendations and the finalists’ own essays.

Both Graber and Jantz are seniors this year. Graber’s goal would be to attend college at MIT and study engineering. He is involved in the RaileRobotics team at Newton High.

Jantz is also involved in RaileRobotics as well as gymnastics, Scholar’s Bowl and orchestra. She also participates in piano competitions. Jantz wants to enter into the field of science.

Both students shared that this scholarship would help them with their goals.

“I’m excited,” Jantz said. “This is great for scholarships and stuff so that is nice.”

“I’ve gotten a lot of offers from colleges saying if you are selected as a finalist, here’s what you can get.” Graber said. “Pretty excited for it.”

According to the website, about 7,600 National Merit Scholarships will be given. There are three different types, National Merit® $2,500 Scholarships, corporate-sponsored Merit Scholarship and college-sponsored Merit Scholarship.

HR Director Named Honoree For HR Awards

USD 373 Human Resources Director Jane Nichols was named an honoree for the 2021 HR Business Professional Awards by the Wichita Business Journal. Nichols, her family and her coworkers are invited to a virtual award ceremony on April 8.

Nichols has been the director of human resources for Newton Public Schools since the summer of 2017. She worked her way up in the district, starting out with a job in the business office in 2008. She was also the district treasurer from September 2008 to September 2014 and an administrative assistant in human resources from October 2014 to 2017 when she got the director job. Jane also has experience in banking as an assistant banking center manager and other positions with Bank of America. Nichols said it was the employees that led her to her eventual shift to human resources.

“Human resources is about supporting employees,” Nichols said. “I have the opportunity to build relationships with staff and help them as needed.”

Nichols also has her bachelor’s of business from Friends University and her master’s of business administration from Pittsburg State University. She is involved with the local chamber of commerce and is a secretary for the Kansas Association of School Personnel Administrators.

Nichols has a daughter who is currently studying music education at Baker University.

According to the Wichita Business Journal website, there were 22 honorees selected this year.

Featured Performers at the 2021 Virtual Convention of KMEA

Two Newton High School ensembles featured at the 2021 [virtual] convention of the Kansas Music Educators Association. Performing groups at the "KMEA ISW" were chosen through an audition process last summer, and it is quite an honor to be selected. It is unusual for a high school to have two groups featured in the same year.

Following are the webinar links to watch the concerts "live" during the KMEA ISW. You can register to watch the concert with the links below.

Thursday - February 25

Newton High School Jazz Ensemble 1 - 3:20 PM - 3:50 PM


Saturday - February 27

Newton High School Jazz Combo 10:20 AM - 10:50 AM


FFA Awards

Congratulations to the FFA Meat Judging Team for placing 4th in the South Central District Meat Judging Contest.

Congratulations to the FFA Vet Science Team for placing 3rd in the South Central District Vet Science Contest.

NHS Students Of The Week

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The Railer Gallery

This is a new section of our newsletter. These are pieces of art, poetry or other projects students have worked on. If you have any student pieces to submit, email samantha.anderson@usd373.org.

Cooper Early Education Center: Raindrops For The Letter Rr--Aden Hernandez

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Cooper Early Education Center: Rosalie Thompson--The "Lady"bug

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CMS--Dear Annie--Anne Koontz

Dear Ani in the future.

I have thought about you a lot,

where do you live?

what’s your job?

who are your friends?

my list goes on…

I hope you are well.

how is your state of mind?

is the city everything I’ve hoped and dreamed of?

are you in the city?

I spend so much time thinking about you.

My mind will wander to you whenever I feel like kansas is eating me whole.

the sky is so large that it could just swallow me

but the sunsets…

there are no hills, it is as flat as a table

but biking is so easy…

the wind will make you want to go insane

but I feel infinite as I run with it at my back…

I just keep thinking about you when times get tough

I fall asleep to the thought that someday

I’ll fall asleep to the sound of cars rushing below my apartment

I look out my window and don’t see the beauty of Kansas,

But long for the view from an apartment on the 22nd floor

I go on a run and instead of enjoying the nature around me,

I picture how many people I would see if I were to do this in the city

You run through my head and you are all I can think about

When I take a test, the pressure is on because if I fail,

You don’t get to be where you are right now

When I turn in a final product, the pressure is on because if I get below a 5,

You don’t get to be where you are right now.

Everything I do, I do for you

Everything I want, I want for you

I wonder while I watch the window when I will wander away

What a blessing it is to have you as my goal

Or is it

The sunsets are so beautiful, why can’t I see those?

Biking is so easy with no hills, why can’t I appreciate that?

Running is so infinite when the wind is at your back, why can’t I feel that?

You block my vision of the sunsets

You block my hearing of the sounds that are going on around me at night time.

You block my feeling of the wind at my back as I run.

I need to get away from you

I must be a participant of the world around me

For when I think about you, it takes over my life

I am me, and what happens in the future will happen

But this time that I’m spending thinking about you will never come back to me.

I need to start living my life for me

and not for you

Love Always,


NHS--Dementia--Ashton Castro

Dementia slowly inhales my brain

Evolving, advancing, enlarging

My mind is gradually filling with fog, my memories growing dimmer

Eating my sanity, slowly turning deranged

Never entirely understanding my personal logic

Thoughts, my personal thoughts - I can’t seem to grasp them

Imagining the other world, knowing I’ll be there soon

All is well when you hear those bells, I gently close my eyes, crossing the border into a better


South Breeze--First Grade

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Staff Shout Outs

Have a staff member go above and beyond for your student? Did a coworker go the extra mile to make a difference? Let us know and they'll be featured here! Please email info@usd373.org with the information.

I want to recognize Jeff Swaffard, aka our snow shoveling elf! The school day after the past two snow events, as I pulled up to work Jeff was in our back parking area clearing paths for us to follow. He not only cleared off our entrance areas, he also made a point to shovel from our parking spaces to the doors, allowing us to walk a cleared path into our building. This morning as I was walking up to the door I had my hands full and was fumbling for my keys. Jeff stopped what he was doing to unlock and open the door for me. I really appreciate not only him, but all of our maintenance staff who brave the cold to get our facilities cleared of snow and who take extra efforts every day to make our District a better place! Thanks Jeff!

Shout Out to Mr. Greg Bergman and the NHS Wind Ensemble! My classes worked in the library this week and were serenaded each morning by amazing concert music during the 1st hour. These students (and their directors) work hard, and it shows!

I'm proud to have Mr. Carson Matile as a colleague! Mr. Matile has handled everything that Remote teaching has thrown at us without lowering his standards for himself or his students. He knows how each of his students is doing at any given moment and he can tell you which students have missed class or assignments AND what personal challenges they are facing because he has checked in with each of them. All this while tackling a new teaching assignment mid-pandemic! NHS is lucky to have him!

Shout Out to the NHS office staff! Casandra Carrion, Pauline Salas, Betty Schmidtberger, Verlene Keazer, and Lorisa Harder have helped students, parents, and staff shift from hybrid to remote to onsite and all the shifts in between! We literally could not do it without them!

Drew Rachel has been a great addition to the NHS library! Mr. Rachel and Mrs. Henning can handle any request and will drop everything to help students and staff.

Rebbecca Walters- Rebecca is an evening custodian at Walton and Cooper, these two schools are so lucky to have her! She does so much work behind the scenes, it is so nice to come to the buildings in the morning and have them be squeaky clean!

Chelsi Entz- Mrs. Entz is the bee’s knees!! She goes above and beyond for each student, she also subs often and never complains! We are so lucky to have Mrs. Entz at Walton

Lee Llamas - Great balls of fire- Mrs. Llamas is AWESOME!!! She meets the social-emotional needs and academic needs of so many of our students. You can also always count on her to have some kind of sweet treat in her bag! We are grateful for everything that Mrs. Llamas brings to the team.

Cheryl Nash- Holy cow, I can't say enough about how great Mrs. Nash is!! She has had so many curve balls thrown her way and has had a new student join her class almost every other week! She is able to make each student feel loved and like they have a place in her classroom! Any student would be lucky to call Mrs. Nash their teacher!

I'd like to give a shout out to our custodian Gabby Gomez. She does a great job at Sunset - cleaning up some pretty bad messes at times! She is always so cheerful and helpful!

I am grateful for her!

Shout Out to the crossing guards and traffic directors at Santa Fe! Corbin Berner, Alexa White and Cyndi Fielder are the first smiling faces to greet the kids each day, and they help direct traffic in the drop-off zone. This is an extremely COLD job this week, and I appreciate their commitment to the safety of our students.

Amy Crawford, Marcey Cornejo, Brenda Krueger, Keely Clipper, Drew Eron and Mindy Arreguin, this group is totally awesome. They work in the IDD room at Newton High School. They go out of their ways to make sure things are done and that the students are having fun while also learning the assignments on hand. This group also always has an open ear to listen and the mouths to voice their much-needed opinions.

Caleb Smith--Even though it is his first year at NHS, he is doing a great job making staff and students are taken care of. He has a lot on his plate and he handles in very well. Great job, Caleb!

RJ Stewart--He is a good second-shift lead. If any of us have an issue, we can go to him. If he can, he will resolve it. He also has a lot on his plate but he handles it well for being young.

Giving a big shout-out for all the maintenance crew that cleaned all the sidewalks at the schools this week--excellent jobs.

Ms. Kim Powell - She was nominated as our very first I AM NEWTON CTE awardee! She was nominated for going above and beyond to support our CTE students. Whether it is helping cater food for the masses or teaching students how to bake for the first time, Ms. Powell does it all. We are so grateful to have her as a part of our Rialer Family! #RailerCTE

Kelsey Miller is amazing! She has stepped up in so many roles as we have been short-staffed. She works hard to make sure everything runs smoothly at Northridge. Thank you for everything you do, Kelsey!

I would like to give a shout-out to Mr. Dennis for always being a friendly and positive presence in the lives of our students. He has also been working really hard to help one of our remote students be successful.

Shout out to Ms. Rende for setting up an incentive for finishing power focus areas. Our students are really excited to watch a movie during class!

Mrs. Gihring has gone out of her way to contact parents of students in the past couple of weeks. I am grateful for her dedication to our students!

Ms. Jones is such a great counselor here at CMS. She keeps our building running and our kids safe and stable! Thanks for all you do.

Mrs. Tate always finds ways to help all of our students be successful. She makes math fun and accessible for everybody. She is a strong leader for our team and we are SO grateful!

Mr. Joynes is great at building relationships with our students. They really look up to him and have great respect. Thanks for always being a positive role model for our students!

Mrs. Smith really goes the extra mile for our SPED program here at CMS. She knows her kids and their accommodations so well, and really puts in work to make sure the teachers feel supported too. Her paras, Ms. Kornfeld and Mrs. Pulkrabek are so wonderful with our students too. They are willing to go out of their way for the success of our students and are always there to lend a hand. Thanks for all that all three of you do!!!

Mrs. Fisher, Mrs. Pracht, and Mrs. Waltrip, Thank you for a wonderful, wonderful IEP meeting today! I walked away extremely confident that my daughter is in excellent hands and improving in her skills.

Mrs. Fisher, thank you for your preparation and detail in regards to my daughter's IEP. It was nice to see us agree on where she is at academically and emotionally. It is evident to me that you are involved with her. Thank you for doing such a great job!

Mrs. Pracht, the relationship that you have developed with my daughter goes above and beyond what is expected. Your ability to foster substance-related relationships coupled with an uncanny ability to teach such a challenging age group is above reproach. Thank you for investing in my daughter. I sing your praises whenever I talk about my daughter's fifth-grade experience.

Officer Josh Hulse, needs the biggest SHOUT OUT ever. He greets every student and shows attention to everyone. Officer Hulse makes the time to visit with and answer any students' questions, even the repeated "did you eat breakfast" question. He makes the time to go out of his way to greet not just 1 student but them all, even when he has something else he needs to do he always visits and has a smile under the mask on. He just makes a certain student's day from the IDD classroom that much more special when he comes up to them calling them by name and asks "how's your day?" IDD at the high school just loves Office Hulse!!!

A HUGE shout out to maintenance. While we were all safe at home they were out working in the bitter cold to get district parking lots and sidewalks cleaned off. How nice it is to come to work and be able to walk safely into buildings without slipping and sliding around. They are rockstars and I appreciate all their hard work to keep us all safe!

I want to thank Misty Bartel in Payroll for all of her communication and proactiveness in dealing with the unemployment fraud cases that have added to her workload. I appreciated her reaching out about suspected fraud in a quick manner so it could be dealt with in a timely manner saving me many additional hours of follow-up.

Steve Hammersky was playing soccer with the Sante Fe kids at recess. He deserves a big “PAT ON THE BACK”.

Mr. Roger Junke is an excellent teacher, and, no matter the issue, he goes above and beyond. Mr. Junke enjoys teaching his students and sharing laughter and fun in the classroom or in meetings.

Shoutout to Mike McConnell and the work he's doing out in Welding. What he does goes WAY beyond teaching students how to weld. He is shaping students into productive citizens and teaching them the importance of taking responsibility and ownership for their lives.

Shout out to Greg Dietz for his hard work and many extra hours of preparation to put on ACT and Work Keys testing.

Mr. Wedel makes math fun and explains it so I can understand. I actually like math now!

I want to send a shout out to Counselor Flickner! In these exceptionally trying times, she has worked hard to be flexible and meet all the needs of the kids on her roster, so that their education continues to be meaningful and purposeful. Thank you!