District Update

December 21, 2020

Video Recap of December 21 Newsletter

December 21 Newsletter Recap

Board of Education Information

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.

After looking at the data, the board decided 5-2 to return to school after break in yellow mode for two weeks. This means Pre-K-6 will be on site and 7-12 will be in hybrid. The reasoning behind making the decision now was to give parents and staff some certainty of what school will look like after break so they can plan accordingly. If the numbers change drastically, the board would have a special meeting to reassess. To help the numbers stay down, please wear masks, social distance and practice good hygiene.

The board also approved the KSHSAA guidance in relation to spectator allowance at events hosted by USD 373, with consideration needed to be allowed for certain activities based upon capacity limitations, up through the orange mode of learning. This means we will allow two parents or guardians per participant to attend events as long as the space allows this to happen safely. KSHSAA did later clarify a parent could take an infant child with them as well. They also clarified that if you have more than one child on a team or one in varsity and one in junior varsity, that doesn’t mean you get two tickets per game or student. These regulations apply to all events or activities so things like concerts and plays as well.

The board approved a new audio-visual system for the board room that will support better streaming with better video and sound. The total cost of the project is $29,212.77, which will be submitted to SPARKS for reimbursement.

The board also approved a staff recognition of $150 added to all staff members’ December paycheck. SPARKS funds paid for $92,000 of this stipend. The district will have to come up with $17,000.

Jennifer Budde resigned from the board at the end of the meeting so USD 373 is looking for a board member to fill her position. If you are interested, please submit your resume and a brief statement on why you want to serve and what you can bring to the Board of Education. Applications should be mailed to Joni Jantz at USD 373, 308 E 1st, Newton, KS 67114 or e-mailed to joni.jantz@usd373.org by Friday, January 1. If you applied during the last vacancy in the summer, you do not have to fill out another application. Just let Joni Jantz know you are still interested. The board will have a special meeting to select the new board member on January 6 at 7 p.m.

Video of the full board meeting:

December 14 BOE Meeting Part 2

Facebook Live Q&A

December 14 Board of Education Recap

Superintendent's Corner

The numbers this week taken from logs maintained locally are (as of the evening of


• Students quarantined: 148 students on December 17 (139 students on December 10)

• Staff quarantined: 27 staff (62 staff on December 10)

• Active cases: 24 active cases including 17 students and 7 staff (26 active cases including 18 student and 8 staff on December 10).

District Cash Balances

I am including a link to a legislative post-audit that was conducted on cash balances for school districts at the request of the legislature. For several years we have had some groups after schools regarding their cash balances, especially when economic conditions lead to questions or concerns.

USD 373 has been VERY fiscally responsible historically from what I am able to observe in my short time here with enough cash balances, including contingency funds, to account for general issues that arise (boiler, etc.). That is a testament to the previous district office staff and BOE’s for their management of those funds.

The biggest increases were in ten funds, the highest being in bond and interest and contingency B and I is partially a result of the changes in the law surrounding reduced state aid in funding bond projects and increased costs. Contingency goes back to the days when the state was late in sending payments to districts, which had implications for payroll, etc. Many of us veterans remember those days and have tried to account for such issues, hence some increases in contingency funds.

In the end, the legislative post-audit had NO recommendations for school cash balances. That is a positive. It will not keep some groups from trying to cut school funding but might blunt the effects of those groups a bit in Topeka. You can download the full report at the link below.



NHS Principal’s Council

I had the luxury of meeting with the High School Principal’s Council. Mr. Smith has done a great job of assembling a diverse group of student leaders to represent Newton High School. I posed some questions to the group, which responded with some great recommendations and input for us as a system moving forward.

Those included:

1. Creating intentional opportunities for them to get together during class online in breakout rooms to collaborate

2. Stay in a mode for as long a period as possible. They also do want to be on site if possible, at least in the hybrid mode, as they can get together with their peers.

3. Have some sort of a setup or mechanism where students who are struggling can reach out more easily if not to an adult, perhaps to a peer.

4. Send more reminders via social media about things like Internet access and the need for hotspots, social distancing, masking, etc. to the students. We are sending a lot of information to parents but if we start tapping into some social media outlets they access (or emailing-which I am sure happens), we might reach a few more.

These were just a few things discussed. I will meet with them a couple more times this year (if Mr. Smith lets me!). We will also be hosting a second student advisory group sometime in January with a different set of leaders. Stay tuned.

More Masks!

There was another opportunity to get a shipment of white masks for students through a state program. I have requested enough to provide at least one for each student in the district and should have some left over for staff. These are shipped to the service centers. When they arrive, my office will divvy them up and have them sent to the buildings.

KSBOE Gating Guidance

As most of you are aware, the KSBOE adopted some new gating guidance for modes of learning. The biggest change relates to PreK-5 students and keeping them onsite as much as possible as transmission rates within that population of students across the state and

nationally are very small (although NOT zero). As you can see from the pic below, even up through Red they are encouraging those levels to be on site in some form or fashion.

It is important to note that these changes are not recommendations from administrators nor are they from KSBOE members, they are coming from the health professionals that aided in creating this guidance in the first place.

Big picture

Staff Stipend

I wanted to point out that I greatly appreciate the approval of the $150 per staff member “stipend”, especially considering the fact that staff raises will be/are limited this year due to fiscal concerns. I also want to thank the people in the payroll department for their work in getting this amount included on the December checks. Things like this are never simple operations… We plan to bring the classified package to the BOE in January. We will do what we can in that area.

New Information

K-6 Pods

In order to keep our students and staff safe, we are introducing pods into our K-6 classes at USD 373. One of the biggest challenges we’ve faced with on-site learning in the younger grades is that we cannot socially distance. One recommendation from the KSBOE was to think about “pods.” These pods are made up of no more than five students in a pod with each pod six feet away from the next pod and any teaching station or setting. We decided this was a good idea for a number of reasons:

  • Transmission in that age group is low. While there is always a risk, the data reflects a much lower rate within that age group.

  • We cannot social distance in the current on site or hybrid model at the elementary level.

  • We believe this will help keep staff and students in buildings and out of quarantine.

We know this may not be a perfect solution but we do believe it is a better alternative. It mitigates some of the risk with not much change in the learning model for parents, students and teachers.

Just to clarify, all of the other safety measures will still be in play including masks, handwashing and sanitation.

Murder Mystery

Are you interested in thrilling tales, putting together clues, and solving murders--all from the safety of your own living room? HAVE WE GOT AN OFFER FOR YOU!!! NHS Thespians is holding a virtual murder mystery experience! For $25, you'll be given both digital clues and a box of evidence that will help you solve this horrible crime. Can YOU help us figure out WHO KILLED HEIDRICK?? More information can be found on our website.


You’ll need to sign up by January 15 to get a box!

Boxes will be delivered on January 22 in a covid-aware fashion.

Please note: this was created to be family-friendly. There is fake blood, however.

Important Reminders

Technology Reminder

Important Reminder for Students During the Break

  • Charge the Chromebook every night and leave it plugged in until you need to use it again. If the Chromebook battery goes lower than 5% it may not turn back on.

  • This is especially important during the weekend and breaks. If the Chromebook is not plugged in to charge and left plugged in until you need to use it then the battery gets critically low and may not turn back on. If that happens, a tech will need to fix it.

Hiring Bonus

Looking for a job? Know someone who is? We have good news! Some jobs at USD 373 come with a hiring bonus:

Eligible Positions and Amount of Cash Bonus:

  • 2020-2021 Certified Teachers ($600)

  • Transportation ($600)

  • Food Services ($600)

  • Facilities and Maintenance ($600)

  • Aides/Para Educators ($300)

The one-time bonus is paid out in two installments. The first, $200, will be paid as part of the first payroll of employment. The second installment, $400, will be paid in the sixth payroll as long as the employee is still working for the district.

Current district employees may also be eligible to receive a referral bonus of $300 if the individual they refer is hired and completes three months of service. The referral must be noted in the formal employment application. Learn more about what it is like to be a bus driver in this video:

We're Hiring--Bus Drivers

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 Feature


When Chisholm Middle School went remote, seventh-grade science teacher Kiley Preheim had to get creative. Her classes were working on a unit on earthquakes and the school made the switch just in time for the big experiment. Students were going to build earthquake-proof houses using the engineering design process and test them on a shake table. Preheim was able to send the students home with some supplies. However, students were resourceful and found additional “house-building” materials at home including hair ties, legos and kabob skewers!

These houses were the capstone of a large project. Leading up to the big experiment, students studied tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanoes and how humans can predict and prepare for natural disasters. Students also picked a natural hazard of their choice and worked on a mini-research project to practice their research skills.

The project is more than destroying student-made structures. Students will learn the engineering design process, as well as certain factors that affect a location's risk for earthquakes such as tectonic plate geography and a location's history of dangerous earthquakes.

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.

Football Honors

Congratulations to Senior Offensive Lineman Aiden Kendall and Senior Wide Receiver Peyton Maxwell on their Kansas Football Coaches Association All-State Honors!

Soccer Honors

Congratulations to Senior Defender Alex Sanchez-Cortinas on his First Team All-State Honors and Senior Forward Santiago Fernandez on his Second Team All-State Honors!

Band Honors

Josh Bergman placed 2nd in the Wichita Symphony Orchestra Youth Talent Auditions. In addition to earning a cash prize, Josh will perform his trumpet solo with the Youth Repertory Orchestra at their spring concert. He also the Hutchinson Symphony named him an Anderson Concerto winner.

National Debate Qualifiers

Josue Coy Dick and Emily Tolbert qualified for the Nationals debate tournament in June. They placed 2nd overall at the West KS NSDA District tournament. Miguel Molina Chavez and Preston Vicenzi placed 4th and are 2nd alternates to the online (at this time) national tournament in June.

KMEA State Choir

Congratulations to Mackenzie Glasmann, Madyson Groves, Madison Hershberger, and Jenna Teichler for making the KMEA State Choirs!!!

Kansas Scholastic Press Association Honors

Congratulations to our high school journalists who were recognized for their submissions to the Kansas Scholastic Press Association:

Junior Daniel (Danny) Gonzalez-Arevalo received 2nd place recognition for his entry for Infographics.

Senior Matt Olson received 1st place for Political Opinion Writing. His submission was an opinion story regarding the most recently appointed Supreme Court judge.

Junior Ann Pomeroy was awarded 1st place for Photo Illustration. Her entry was the Photo Essay published in the Fall 2020 issue of The Newtonian.

NHS Students Of The Week

Big picture
Big picture

A Look Around The District

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 would like to give a shout out to Mrs. Fryhover. She was teaching her students at school as well as her remote kids from home over google meet. My daughter was on the meet from home so I could hear as Mrs. Fryhover was instructing. She does an amazing job handling the stress of both parents and students during these sessions. Even when parents themselves become dysregulated, she never raises her voice or becomes defensive.

Mrs. Schloneger, for 8th-grade orchestra first period, is consistently upbeat and welcoming first thing in the morning. She greets each student by name as they come online. Of course, we wish school was in-person, but she makes the absolute best out of a miserable situation. My son really looks forward to starting each day in her class, remote or F2F!

I would like to give a shout out to Art Friesen the custodian from South Breeze! He was out shoveling and salting sidewalks at 6 AM today before other staff and students arrived in the building!

The computer tech people have been so helpful to me. Since moving to the hybrid mode, there have been more tech needs than usual. They reply quickly with suggestions or solutions to our tech issues. Keep up the amazing work!

I appreciate Joni Jantz and Andi Saenz for their help with a mailing project that needed done. It was at the end of the day, and they both were more than willing to help me complete the job. They are both so willing to help out anytime I need something.

I want to shout out to Deana Waltrip for being the world’s best administrator!

Val Phanestiel is one of the best teachers in the world! She communicates with parents and students and holds kids to a high standard! I am grateful for all of her hard work!

Nick Sisson is a bright, guiding light in our school! Without his knowledge and experience, we would be lost!

Jennifer Duncan works so hard to make things happen!

Kim Fischer works over and beyond to make sure her students get the support they need but also challenges them so they do not get learned helplessness!

Jessica May is a beautiful and thoughtful teacher! She brightens the life of everyone she is around!

Mrs. Scwindt is such a caring teacher and coworker!

Kelly Alexander goes over and beyond to ensure learning with her students! She is a happy member of our group!

Kathy Archer and her team really work hard to teach the appropriate standard! I was amazed by seeing the positive environment!

Carol Haigler is an awesome teacher! She specialized her education and makes learning come alive!

Hold on to your hats, folks! Ashley Nottingham blows into the classroom and spreads happiness and responsibility around! She is a bright light in the year of Covid!

Shannon Kirtly is a blessing to have in our school! She builds amazing relationships with kids and gives them such encouragement that will last a lifetime! She has a beautiful heart of gold! I like how she makes things right when there has been a misunderstanding!

Michelle Regier is wonderful! She is such a caring and nurturing educator!

Janine Clayton has a heart filled with love and compassion! She is a lifetime learner and also teaches a love of learning to her students! She is so positive and caring! I have seen her being uplifting in many ways!

Lauren Atraz cares about others and is an uplifting spirit! She puts in the extra work to be magnificent!

Corbin Berner is a great addition to the Santa Fe team!

Angela Dorekson is such a nice gal!

Michael Kirkpatrick is a knowledgeable social studies teacher with a mind full of great ideas! He is a blessing to have in our school!

I cannot express enough appreciation for Jody Hall. He is prompt with answering questions, listens and clarifies during conversations extremely well and is so willing to help solve problems and create new solutions to make IC life easier! Thank you, Jody, for doing this and more WITH a smile and welcome attitude.

Shoutout to Katie Honeyman and Lacie Fair at NHS. They have both stepped into new roles in our ag department and are crushing it! Our students are getting a really great experience.

Mollie Mills-Weis does such a wonderful job with students during remote learning. She works tirelessly with students who need extra help and goes above and beyond with her seminar students!

Brian Skinner has worked really hard with our very successful Scholars Bowl team and hosted an awesome tournament at NHS.

NHS Social Worker Jeanne Harper has been such a strong advocate for students and their needs. She tirelessly fights for our students’ best interests. Turns out, she is even great at helping students with their government homework!

Thank you, Kristen Reber, for helping out at Hesston with speech needs. Thank you for participating on the Autism Consult call and sharing your knowledge. Thank you for being part of the Autism Team. I appreciate you!

Thank you to Johannah Hein for allowing new teachers to observe and learn from you. You are a wealth of special education knowledge. They have all come back with ideas and enthusiasm.

Thank you, Dawn Franz, for helping with extra speech needs. It's been a roller coaster, but you hang on for the ride! Thank you also for being part of the Autism Team. Your experiences and access to the 0-3 kids are so important.

Alexandra McCartney always takes the time to listen and talk with her students and other staff members. She has great relationships with all of her students and she lets them know that she cares and is always there for them. In addition to great relationships with her students, she works hard to build relationships with other staff members. She is always very nice and respectful to all the staff at CMS and shows respect to everyone.

Allison Baumgartner is an awesome teacher! I hear students saying great things about her all the time. She clearly has a passion for teaching and social studies. Allison also isn't afraid to lead and help wherever she can! She is a great fit for CMS and we are lucky to have her here!

A big Shout Out to Coleen Werner for arranging the Giving Tree and deliveries! She does this every year and every year it is a huge success. It wouldn't be a success without our generous SC Staff, who selected kids and families to help out this Christmas. Man, I sure do love my people!

I would like to give a shout out to Deb Hardey, Sandi Helsper and Valerie Garver for being the most flexible and amazing team. They are always willing to go the extra mile to make sure that all students are able to make academic, functional and behavioral growth. You ladies are amazing!

Shout out to Al Montano and Jake Torres, our Transportation Service Technicians. Both Al and Jake are stepping up and running double duty with aiding or driving while continuing their mechanical duties. This morning they ran hectic as we had no power to our buses with the weather being cold, we had several buses not start that were plugged in. They got everything going and were still able to help out driving or run as an aide. They are very much appreciated for all they do to keep our buses running.

I would like to acknowledge Caitlin Naylor She has been an amazing teacher through this whole home school transition. She deserves HUGE KUDOS!

I would like to give a shout out to Mr. Swalley, Mrs. Ronda and Mrs. Robin at opportunity academy. They have been such a blessing, and I love the way they show their dedication to my son everyday. Thank you.

Shout out to Brooke Pickerill for the joy she brings to her students. She is always finding new and exciting ways to bring the curriculum alive.

Shout out to Beth Burns for the nurturing, calming, and empowering environment she brings to her students. She is always finding ways to help students overcome fears and teaches ways to self regulate.

Shout out to Brian Postier for finding innovative ways to engage and empower students both in-person and digitally. He is modeling how to be a lifelong learner in the midst of a pandemic.

Shout out to Caleb Smith for bringing positive and encouraging energy to the Newton District.

Shout out to David Decker for organizing the Toys for Tots event. It was a huge success due to all of his work and planning!

Shout out to the Sunshine Squad at NHS for continuing to bring love and laughter to the halls of NHS. This year it has been much appreciated and much needed.

Shout out to Samantha Anderson for keeping us all informed. She does a wonderful job ensuring that information is shared.

I would like to thank all the staff in the district for all the hard work they put in day in and day out.

Shout out to Toni Mitchelle: She is always coming up with creative ways to help her students pass their classes.

I would like to give a shout out to Haleigh Willis - Latchkey Director. While working at South Breeze in the mornings, she gladly jumps in and helps with breakfast kiddos. She has been known to pass out hand sanitizer, assist with opening things for the young ones and if the bell has rung and I need to get to class to aid the teacher or sub, she volunteers to stick around and help. She is a true Team Player! Thanks, Haleigh.

Kim Fischer is an amazing teacher. Every time I walk into her room I am inspired. She provides her students with a safe, loving, caring, and respectful place to learn and be themselves. Equally so, she shows her coworkers respect, care, and concern for their wellbeing. I am so glad to have her at Santa Fe!

When our family was in quarantine and our internet couldn't keep up with three kids and an adult all doing their work from home, Blake Smith took it upon himself to deliver what we needed to get up and going again. He brought it and left it on our porch for us. This was so greatly appreciated!!! Thank you, Blake!

Shoutout to Jennifer Stenzil and Denise Hayes! They are awesome at helping students in our classroom and helping to keep our classroom running smoothly. They are always looking for ways to help students and jump in whenever necessary. They are a true joy to work with!

Dennis Wedel at NHS does a great job coordinating and communicating with staff, students and parents. He has a positive attitude and a great sense of humor. Dennis is very organized, meets deadlines and is a team player.

I have a shout out to my daughter's Pre-K teacher. She really has helped us get through this year’s remote schooling and really cares about all of her students. Thank you, Mrs. Perkins

Mrs. Huxman was super nice and brought to our door my son’s work as we were all under quarantine and could not go pick it up from school. We appreciate what she did and we are very thankful for teachers like her. She is also a great teacher to our son, she is always responding to my son in a very quick manner to all his questions.

Mrs. Nikki Warzeka has done an awesome job with her class. My son was struggling with hybrid mode due to part of it being three days off and only two days in school. My son needs consistent routine, especially with his IEP. She was able to work out where they are able to go five days a week still but cut the time in half. Instead of going a full day, they would go half days. With that consistency of being in school every day is still giving him that part of that structured routine which he so needs. I am very grateful for what she has done for her classroom and for her kiddos. She is always on hand ready to answer questions and concerns. She puts her best foot forward every day!

I would like to give a staff shout out to Kara Tann who always goes above and beyond to take care of students and parents in the district. She is a positive influence on her orchestra students!

I feel really proud of the things going on in our district, and Megan Nagel is definitely one of the reasons why. Keep up the great work Megan, we appreciate you!

Mr. Skinner is amazing. He has always gone above and beyond for my student. He has stood out in the rain and had me sign papers and dropped off work for Alexis. It's nice to know that I am not the only one who cares about her education. He is truly an advocate for her as well.

I want to give a shout-out to Samantha Anderson. She has done an amazing job, especially considering all of the extra challenges we've faced during this pandemic. Sam has made sure families, staff and the community know what they need to know 24-7, thank you, Sam!!!

I want to commend the educator Dmitri Bucklin at CMS. He is assigned to my student. He consistently goes over and above, and his support of my student exceeds what I receive for my other students. He is proactive, kind, thoughtful, an excellent communicator, a problem-solver. I have seen him extend kindness and understanding to my student. I truly appreciate him as an educator.

I vote Mrs. Black, second-grade teacher at Walton Rural Life Center for helping my son and treating him like he is more than a student with ADHD and needs “meds”. She has always been kind and helpful with alternatives.

Lorisa Harder does a ton of work behind the scenes for our administrators, teachers and counselors. We appreciate all she does here at NHS!

Tom Derstine has worked so hard for us at Newton High School. He does amazing work and we are blessed to have him on our team. He does the work that should take about 5 people! Great person too!

I would like to give Esther Koontz, a math teacher at Newton High School, a shout out. Esther

focuses not only on the content being taught but also on the students. She has a caring attitude towards her students, and she is always ready to support those who are having problems. She also understands that sometimes unforeseen problems can derail students from completing their homework on time and is willing to support them. She is a phenomenal teacher and a fantastic person. We are blessed to have her at NHS.

Thank you to Resa Davenport, Suhelen Cazares, Joana Campos and Kelly Grosse for scraping snow and ice off all the cars in Cooper's parking lot last night.

Lorisa Harder took the time to send us marked-up screenshots along with some extra tips explaining exactly how to modify an ad hoc query in InfiniteCampus that was causing some issues. Her extra effort to make sure we were getting the most accurate data was very much appreciated!

John Arreguin, NHS Custodian, deserves a shout out for always being positive. He greets all staff and students in a friendly manner and is very polite. John consistently checks in with staff to ask if he can help in any way. He keeps everyone updated and is always willing to help.

Greg Dietz is an amazing administrator at NHS. He consistently explores ways to help students succeed. Greg always remains calm during crisis situations and helps lead the team. He has great knowledge and experience as an Admin and will be greatly missed!

Stacy Fetters is a first-year NHS SpEd Teacher. She was the ED para for the past two years, and the transition to a teaching role has been beneficial to our students due to Stacy building connections as a para. She is very organized and does a great job of being prepared for and facilitating IEP meetings. We are lucky to have Stacy as a part of the SpEd team!

My two daughters are sending the compliments below about NHS teachers:

1)Thank you to Ms. Quispe (art) for being so accommodating and helpful with projects during remote learning.

2) Thank you to Mr. Page (journalism) for doing so well with online teaching and always taking the time to explain things.

The art teachers are working harder than most of us realize. They get supplies together for remote/quarantined kids, make instructional videos, do live art sessions over google, constantly change their curriculum to meet the needs of kids at home, and some of them even juggle working in different schools. A special recognition to the art teachers who personally impact me the most: Sarah Kaufman and LaDonna Voth. Thank you!

Brooke Bowman is the Sante Fe staff cheerleader because she goes out of her way to encourage staff members each and every day. Every school needs someone like Mrs. Bowman!

Jenny Young and Deb Gehring work hard to meet the speech needs of about 50 kids at Santa Fe. That's a huge caseload! They have had to work around some pretty crazy schedules and changes in schedules, but they always have a smile and are so kind to everyone they meet. Our students are lucky to be able to work with such wonderful speech teachers.

A parent of a remote student gave a nice compliment to Dom Roberson - she said he has done a fantastic job, and her daughter has had a great experience!

I would like to recognize Angie Voth: Angie has the very difficult task of helping manage all of the intricacies of our CTE program. This year has been an extra challenge to keep track of attendance for students from 10 different high schools. Always without complaining, she communicates and tracks student/school needs with teachers to assist in the process of helping students remain engaged even while spending time in quarantine. Each day brings a new challenge, but Angie takes it head-on and is the pillar of our operation. We could not do it without her!

November 23 BOE Meeting