District Update

November 2, 2020

Video Recap of November 2 Newsletter

November 2 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.


In the October 26 Board of Education Meeting, the board approved (4-2) the Public Building Commission (PBC) Interlocal Agreement. The Public Building Commission is an agreement between the school district, the rec center and the city which was started a number of years ago. Historically, this group has provided things like turf and other improvements at Fischer Field and improvements to the baseball and softball complexes. The district’s portion of the mill levy was .8 originally. The city approached the district, asking for an increase of .2 mills a piece for all three entities. The increase will cover improvements to the swimming pool and ballfield improvements. It also renewed the agreement for 20 years.



Superintendent Van Ranken also went over a number of Covid-related items. The board approved the yellow mode of operation through November 13. However, if there are huge spikes in the virus, the superintendent reserves the right to reach out to the board and hold a special meeting. The board also approved “remote Wednesdays” for November 18 and December 2 for all buildings except Cooper Early Education Center and Opportunity Academy. This will give teachers a chance to catch up and engage in collaboration. The board also approved paying for aides to get their emergency substitute license to help with the substitute shortage. Cooper Early Education preschool will also be in-person except for red.



For the full board meeting:

October 26 BOE Meeting Part 1
October 26 BOE Meeting Part 2

Facebook Live Q&A


Q:Could you clarify the information discussed at the board meeting about classified staff being able to use sick leave?

A:This idea actually came from our bus drivers when I was talking with them. They wanted to know if they could use sick days for those days they aren’t driving or working or we can’t find something comparable for them to do.


Q:How will teachers collaborate on remote days if they will be meeting with students remotely?

A:They’ll look at this at a building level. However, they will not be in meetings with students all day. Parents don’t want their students to be on a screen all day. It won’t be a day off. It will be a day for them to do some additional planning when they aren’t meeting with their students or collaborating with their colleagues.



For the full Q&A:
Facebook Live Q&A

Superintendent's Corner

The numbers this week taken from logs maintained locally are (as of 10/30/2020):

• Students quarantined: 118

• Staff quarantined: 55

• Cases thus far: 31


Snow Days

This past Monday’s inclement weather day was a time for staff and students to breathe a bit. One thing to keep in the back of your heads is that if we get close to utilizing all built-in snow days, we will have to go remote in order to meet our statutory 1116 hours. If we have to do that, teachers will be allowed to do that from home.


There will be logistical issues on the part of some staff due to Internet access. If that is the case, we might be able to supply hotspots to staff if we have advanced notice, which as you all know might not be the case.


The state BOE is going to consider some guidelines at their next meeting to see if there are

things that we need to do in relation to advanced notice for staff, etc. We would also have to

consider how to provide meals on that day from what I gather, meaning we would have to have

something in place to go that route.




Additional Masks

We had enough masks delivered this past Friday as a part of a state mask giveaway

through the educational service centers (ESSDACK) that we will have enough for each building

to provide an additional one for students. They are white, but very quality masks. They will be

distributed some time next week.


School Transportation Appreciation Day

Wednesday, October 21 was School Transportation Appreciation Day, and the whole week was National School Bus Safety Week. I had the pleasure of talking to most of the drivers and shop personnel as a function of their regular meetings.Thanks to Sheila Zwahlen and her crew for hosting me. I really enjoyed the hour with that team. One individual made a point to state that she previously worked in a different occupation where teamwork was important BUT she felt that the USD 373 team was the most supportive she had ever worked with. Kudos to the transportation department!


Winning Edge

A big thanks to Dr. Decker and his team for the work done this week with the YMCA Winning Edge program. They served over 80 students and families. I was able to get out there a few times and see what was happening. They worked through issues and were really able to do some good things for kids! THANKS!


Weekly Mode of Education Data

We’ve gotten some feedback about the way data is taken and presented to make decisions for the weekly mode of education. Please continue sending that feedback. I’d like to talk through some questions we’ve been getting.


Some individuals expressed that they’d like us to include the students and staff who are in quarantine in the attendance figures. If a student and staff are at home, are not ill and can do their work, we are not including them in that number. This is represented in the management systems that way. Some worry about the accuracy but that is why I include the quarantine and case numbers in the information I give to the board. This decision conserves leave for staff and avoids students being marked as absent


The trend in the two-week county incident rate has been another question. The method we’ve used from the beginning to calculate the incident rate is different from the state’s. To give a fuller picture, we will include both the information from the state’s site as well as the calculation I’ve done on my own.

Important Reminders

Communications Survey

Parents and Guardians,


We wanted to check in to make sure we are communicating with our parents and guardians in the correct ways. Please take a few minutes and fill out the survey that was emailed to you last week. No answers are required, so feel free to answer what you feel comfortable answering. This information is incredibly valuable to our department and our district.


Please note, this is just to get a general idea of what our parents as a whole want, so we can plan accordingly. This will not automatically change your personal settings. This is an anonymous survey.

Latchkey--November 6

USD 373 will be offering all-day latchkey on Friday, November 6. We will be at separate locations again and students will need to bring a sack lunch, water bottle and mask.


You will need to sign up by Wednesday, November 4. You can tell your site supervisor at pick up or email Haleigh Willis at Haleigh.Willis@usd373.org


Click here for more information on the Latchkey program.

Q&A With Mr. Smith

There's a lot going on at Newton High School--a new quarter, a new sports season....

To help answer your questions, we are hosting a Facebook Live Q&A with NHS Principal Mr. Smith on November 5 at 5 p.m. You may email your questions in advance to info@usd373.org or leave them in the comment section during the live.

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

Chisholm Middle School: National Oratory Fellows

Chisholm Middle School Teacher Monty Graber is a member of the Ford’s Theater National Oratory Program. This is an application-based program that gives teachers tools to build oratory skills in classrooms in grades 5-8. Chisholm is the only public school in Kansas to participate in the program.


The program also provides professional development and mentorship and gives teachers specific tools to work with their students. One such tool is warm and cool feedback. This method helps build the ability to give constructive criticism. The program also gives insights on how to deal with public speaking nerves.


In a typical year, Mr. Graber’s membership to the oratory program would allow him to take two students, all expenses paid, to Washington DC for an opportunity to learn and give speeches on the stage of Ford’s theater. However, this year that will not happen due to the pandemic.


Over the summer, Mr. Graber has also participated in the Oratory Program Summer Workshops--War and Peace and Reconstruction. Mr. Graber hopes to bring these teaching methods to other teachers in his building.

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.

Railer Debate

The Railer Debate team has had a lot of success over the past few weeks.


Madi Duncan and Bryttan Adams went undefeated, 4-0, placing 2nd in the top division at the Lyons online debate tournament.


Novice debaters Emily Tolbert/Preston Vicenzi took first place 4-0 at the Wichita East tourney ahead of Dowling Catholic of Iowa and Truman from Missouri. Anahi Sanchez and Jaydn Nash just missed medaling at 3-1.


Varsity debaters Trey Swingle and Miguel Molina Chavez went 3-3 at the JW Patterson Online Invitational hosted by Heritage Hall out of OKC. The tourney hosted 81 schools from 22 different states. They just missed breaking to elim rounds.


Railer novice debaters competed at the Salina South Online Debate Invitational. There were 40 teams from 18 schools in Novice division. Preston Vicenzi and Emily Tolbert went 4-0 taking first overall. Tyson Weber and Jason Beck also went 4-0 also finishing close behind in 2nd. Anahi Sanchez and Jadyn Nash went 3-1 placing 6th.

Railer debate also took home some individual speaking awards at Salina South debate: Preston Vicenzi was 1st speaker. Tyson Weber was 4th and Anahi Sanchez was 6th.

Horizon Award Nominee

Megan Garr was nominated as a 2021 Horizon Award nominee by Sunset Principal Debbie Watson. The Horizon Award goes to educators who have completed and excelled in their first year of teaching. Way to go!

Fall State Qualifiers

Congratulations to all of the teams and individual athletes that qualified for state: Railer Volleyball, Mallory Seirer for golf and Luke Schmidt for cross country.

Kansas Music Educators Association South Central District 56A Jazz Band

Five NHS music students have been selected via audition to be members of the Kansas Music Educators Association South Central District 56A Jazz Band:

Brandon Montgomery, Alto Saxophone

Josh Bergman, Trumpet

Becca Miller, Trumpet

Jonah Schloneger, Piano

John Mark Koontz, Bass

Ryan Ruggiero was named as the alternate Alto Saxophone.


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.

We'd love to give a shout out to Mrs. Crawford (3rd) and Ms. Elliott (2nd) from Northridge. Today is our first day in Hybrid Mode, and they have both knocked it out of the park. Their daily schedules on Canvas have been such a help and their availability to our students is incredible. They are making it possible for students and their working parents to be successful while learning remotely and we couldn't feel more blessed to have them in our corner!


Mrs. Schloneger, 5th-grade orchestra teacher, for her patience and kindness. She works so hard to make sure each of her new orchestra students has a good experience and we could not be more grateful for her dedication.


Shout out to Mrs. Wedel, ELP teacher at Santa Fe, for taking the time to get to know each of her new students and making sure they are well prepared for their new experiences at Santa Fe. Our child looks forward to seeing her each week!


Thank you to Mrs. Regier and Mrs. Klug for helping out at the front door in the morning and letting in students who are tardy. The extra hands are so appreciated!!!


I would like to give a shoutout to Ms. Faythe, English teacher at NHS. She does such a GREAT job of touching base with her students about their social and emotional needs. Her students are very open and really trust her. We are lucky to have her!


Shout out to Bernard Okpe, custodian at NHS. Helping others during this Covid cleaning.


I want to send a shout out to Patrice Olais...She has taught for years, but has adapted to new platforms well and is taking time to call students who need extra encouragement. A student says"Ms. O has never once raised her voice with another student and I feel comfortable and safe in her class"


I would like to give a shout out to Junuen Moreno and Holly Ruth who work in the Sunset 4th grade classroom with me.Both of these ladies continually do a great job daily of seeking out kids that need help, taking care of little things that need to be done in our room without me even mentioning it and being flexible with whatever the day may hold - and they both do it with wonderful positive attitudes! During our week of remote learning, both of them adapted so easily, worked so well with the students online and made my job go so much more smoothly than last spring! I know both of them have had to go above and beyond their job descriptions this year. I cannot express enough gratitude for their help each day! It is a joy to work with them and to see the care they give our students!


I want to give a shout out to our principals at CMS -- Mr. Nulik and Mr. Menninga. They have been so supportive through all of the changes and chaos that this year is throwing at us! They are always working to make sure that teachers have what they need and they have been available to us to discuss concerns, questions, etc. We are so thankful for their hard work and are so grateful for them!


Mrs. Hershberger, 1st grade, has been nothing but absolutely amazing with helping my son with online school while he did hybrid last week.He really misses his awesome teacher!


I would like to shout out to Mrs. Darian Schomaker. She has gone above and beyond with making sure I know how my child's behavior is in the classroom and making sure I feel no less with how my child acts and she is always there to listen to my questions and concerns. Could not appreciate her more with how she makes sure we as parents are involved. I really appreciate that. Thank you!


Coach Dibbens has taught, mentored and coached three of our daughters. We have enjoyed 10 years of amazing volleyball, winning seasons, trips to state. Thank you, Jamie, for all you've given to NHS and to our family.


Ms. Kynda Faythe has been absolutely incredible in helping our son in applying for scholarships. She has gone above and beyond in sending him available scholarships and giving direction in his essays before submittal. We cannot express enough how grateful we are for her care in ensuring our son’s success.


I would love to make a shoutout to DeAnn Creech for working so well with my student. My student loves to come to school and learn and she has a blast in your class.


I would also love to make a shoutout to Ashley Wirtz for working with my student. He has a blast at school, going to school and learning


My daughter's 5th-grade teachers at Santa Fe, Mrs. Artaz and Mrs. May, provided a daily schedule for her last week when they were remote learning. This really helped keep my daughter on track and alleviated the stress of "am I doing what I'm supposed to be doing?". Thank you to them both!


I would like to give a shout-out to Miss Regehr at Sunset Elementary. She has such a passion for teaching, and it shows. I was very concerned about how my son with special needs would be able to transition into the first grade after spending the last few months of kindergarten at home due to Covid. Miss Regehr is always quick to respond to my concerns for my child and is willing to help my child navigate school. She gives me updates when my child is having a good day and works very closely with my son when he is struggling. I was very impressed with how she handled online school this past week as well. Thank you for all you do Miss Regehr! You really are appreciated!


I have a 4th grader at Slate Creek who has some behaviors and other things in her personal situation that I feel Tenae Alfaro as principal as well as Allison Heisler, my student’s teacher, have done well to understand and to be inclusive as a student in their school. I appreciate their communication and willingness to reach out and work together to get her needs met.


My daughter says thanks to Ms. Rickard (Algebra II at NHS) for adapting so well to online and hybrid teaching!


Shout out to Nicki Warzeka. She is really a great teacher. All the USD 373 staff need to be recognized for being heroes. They are there day after day working while surrounded by COVID-19. They are keeping our children safe and in doing so they sometimes have to change plans at the drop of a hat. It can't be easy for the teachers or any of the other staff. They are doing a great job of figuring out how to do this new kind of teaching and dealing with something that we have never had to deal with before.


Shout out to the painting crew- The buildings look so great with fresh paint.


Shout out to Jane Nichols and Fred Van Rankin- Who were caught doing lunchroom duty on Tuesday 10/27. It's wonderful to have leaders who lead by example and are willing to jump in whenever needed.


Shout out to Sam Anderson for her wonderful communication. We are well informed because of her. She is such a great asset to our community.


Shout out to the New Teacher Mentors- they have been such a wonderful source of support for our new teachers. Gail, Kenna and LuAnn continue to inspire even in the midst of the chaos of this year.


Mrs. Dietz at Northridge has gone above and beyond in helping my student. My student is an extremely young first grader and is lacking in his sounds and letter recognition. She has used her personal time to pull him aside to give him extra help. She has worked non stop by coming up with different ideas and ways to help him succeed. She also took the time to call me and enlighten me on his progress and how we as parents can also help. She made him personal flashcards and different activities to help achieve these goals. Having a teacher (that is not even his homeroom teacher) take her time to help my son says wonders about a person. I appreciate her in more ways than words can say. This makes my heart warm and confident that I as a parent can have hope. Hope that my son can succeed and that right here in our hometown there are still people that will go above their criteria. Shout out to Mrs. Deitz and a HUGE thank you!


Mr. Graber took the extra time with my son to check in with him when he was struggling. He also checked in with his other teachers to get a full view of what was going on. It is nice to have a teacher who cares and will go above and beyond to make the students feel cared for.


I would like to have Kelsey Newell from South Breeze recognized for her hard work and dedication. She is always willing to help with whatever we are needing help with. With all this crazy covid stuff going on, She has been there 100% on making sure my daughter has everything she needs while she is home quarantined. She has gone above and beyond by making out schedules online for us to follow and even brought packets to our home for my daughter to work on. She has an amazing heart and really cares for her students.


Shout out to Mrs. Doty who has been our only Chisholm Middle School office staff working in person for the past couple of weeks. She has managed the workload with ease and has done a great job keeping things running smoothly, even though we have been shorthanded.


Shout out to Ms. Jones, our Chisholm Middle School counselor, who has learned an entirely new learning management system and scheduling system this year. She has also spent many hours working to adjust student schedules and accommodate changes for families. In addition to this work, Ms. Jones also gave an Anti-Bully Presentation to all CMS students during Bully Prevention week. She has been a great addition to Chisholm!


Shout out to Mr. Graber, our Chisholm Middle School social studies teacher who trained the staff on Peardeck, put together a Peardeck team of experts and was instrumental in getting the Peardeck resource for our CMS staff. We appreciate his willingness to speak up for staff and take a leadership role in implementing this resource at Chisholm.


Mrs. Ives is such a blessing to my daughter. She is so positive and encouraging. From what little I know about Mrs. Ives, her character and morals are supportive with how we are raising our children. That means a lot to me as a mom. My daughter would like to be a music educator also and Mrs. Ives is a wonderful example and role model for Madsyon to learn from. Thanks, Mrs. Ives.


Jody Hall is such an asset to our district. His knowledge and patience have been vital to implementing Canvas.


Mr. Jerry Epp – He has been encouraging and dedicated to the remote sessions when everyone is in hybrid mode. It has to be challenging for all of the teachers to flip from in person to remote on a week-to-week basis, but he doesn’t let that stress show. My son appreciates him a great deal! Thanks for all you are doing.


Ms. Jessica Crabtree – Last week when everyone was remote, and I heard her tell the students that she thought they needed an extra study period. She knew that this is causing a great amount of stress on the students and also the teachers. Thanks for thinking of what the students are going through and helping them to have time to get their work accomplished.


Jane Nichols is Wonder Woman! She is hiring staff, coordinating subs, attending meetings, leading Operations and subbing for absent staff. She still smiles and has a great attitude!


Shout out to all of the Chisholm Middle School paras who have been awesome at working with students on site and remotely through Google Meet. They have done an amazing job helping students throughout the day and being available to work with everyone who needs extra help. They are rockin' it!


Shout out to Mrs. Penner and Mrs. Gihring who lead the Chisholm Railer Power Hour and Connections after-school programs for students. Even in the midst of COVID, these programs have been available to help students and give them activities to participate in after the school day ends. We appreciate their work in planning and organizing these programs for our students.


Samantha Anderson-Thank you very much for the treats at our staff meeting. We ate nearly everything! You are welcome to come back and present anytime!



Our family would like to give a shout out to Mrs. Criswell. She has made 1st grade at South Breeze so fun for the kids to learn. Thanks for all of your hard work and always smiling!