Superintendent Hawk Gives State Of The District To Board
(Editor's Note: Superintendent Tom Hawk gave this message to the USD 383 Board of Education last Wednesday night.
The Free Press would like to thank Mr. Hawk for providing the message
and other material. The Free Press has given the School Board
and Administration "food for thought" over the last few weeks and Mr. Hawk has been very gracious.)
USD 383 Superintendent’s State of the District Message
By Tom Hawk,
February 7, 2001
This year began for me as one full of hope and optimism, yet tempered
with the reality of the challenges to be
faced. Early on it seemed the biggest challenge I would face would be how to deal with a board of education that
was divided over political and philosophical issues of public education. My appreciation for each individual
member’s perspective and talent quickly took root and that challenge has actually become one of the fun aspects
of this job. (As each of you know, I do like to debate educational issues!!)
The second challenge to face was that of staffing - filling the spots
left by popular and competent educators as
superintendent, associate superintendents, principals and a budget director. Would I be able to lead our staff, and
to tap into their natural talent and ability? I would guess the "jury" is still out on that, but I cannot say enough
about the effort and hard work both at the Education Center and throughout the district. Our staff is focused on
their work and from my visits is continuing our tradition of excellence in their work.
I did not expect the real challenge to become a large loss of students,
but indeed that problem has taken center
stage along with the resulting need to look seriously at least $1 million in budget cuts and likely $2 million in cuts
if the Local Option Budget ultimately fails to pass.
With this as background, I would like to focus my remarks on two major
themes: the challenges that this board
and the administration face yet this spring and a celebration of our successes as reported from our buildings.
First, I want to challenge all of you to high expectations. Joel Barker,
in his book and workshop, The Business of
Paradigms, makes reference to the early scientific work of Thomas Kuhn on perception. It is commonly thought
that "you will believe it when you see it." Quite the opposite is true, "you will see it when you can believe it." In
Dr. Weaver’s work as a physicist, many of the scientific discoveries in his field were not possible until the
researcher changed their expectation, their belief system. Then they were actually able to see the physical
evidence that led to discovery. So it is with our district, it’s programs, and the resources it takes to support them.
For example, if one’s belief is that special education students don’t count as much as other students, as was
reported by a retired pair of teachers in a Topeka newspaper, then they will never see the wonderful teaching I
have seen in this district where our staff gives 110 percent to educate special children. If one believes that this
district is not efficient, one will never see the need for competitive salaries, health insurance for our staff, and a
future for our new hires. Likewise, if one believes that we must always continue to do things the same way, then
one will never see what can be cut and what can be improved. Our biggest challenge as a board, as a staff, and as
a community is to get our perceptions right - to believe that children are important, that times are different, and
that together we can find the resources and the structures to educate our children well.
This district and this community face many challenges. Our enrollment
decline is not a short-term problem and its
solution must be addressed with both a short term plan and a long-term business plan approach. We will continue
to lose students if our town and state does not grow. Our community must face a growing problem with providing
available housing for young families, good jobs with good wages, the economic development necessary to support
quality growth, and a caring attitude of tolerance and acceptance for all segments of our Manhattan/Ogden
Our district has addressed and must continue to address the issues of
improved student achievement, the
alignment of our curriculum and assessments. We must maintain our technology infrastructure and find improved
ways to use this tool to teach better and to help students learn better. We are a safe school district. Our efforts at
providing extra precautions with community cooperation with RCPD and Chief Watson, with our School Resource
Officer, and our Justice Department grants have paid off in a positive climate. We must strive to be both
protective, but not paranoid; we must strive to be sure that no child falls through the cracks - that each child in
our schools is connected and involved with adults and peers. That is our path to true safety and security. Finally,
we must recognize that good schools depend on treating our teachers, administrators and classified staff well. We
are falling behind in both competitive salaries and in benefits for all. We will lose many of our veteran employees
over the next few years. They have been the foundation for the excellence we have known. We must continue to
train and inservice the new staff that will be hired and to instill high expectations for their work as we have in the
Let me now focus on what I see as specific Board challenges. Our staff
and our community is looking to this
board for leadership. The need for extraordinary responsibility is as never before. First, this board must put the
needs of children first and come together in the tasks ahead, for the sake of our children. This board must invest
an inordinate amount of time this spring and early summer. Not only must you hire a new superintendent, but you
must invest in work sessions to understand in great detail our budget and to evaluate the options that must
eventually be picked. This board must also be prepared to be swift, thoughtful, and fair in some very difficult
decisions to come. This board must sell the LOB to our community - it cannot be carried by the administration
alone. To that end, the board needs to find a chair that will organize an LOB campaign to explain the need and
the options to the community. I pledge the support and hard work of our staff to help this effort, but the
leadership must come from the board. And finally, this board needs to sell our problems of budget and declining
enrollment to the legislature. For it is the board that is the representative voice of this community and it is your
voice that should have the most weight with the real financial decision-makers in this state - the Kansas
The challenges ahead for this board and for this district’s staff is
at times overwhelming. Is it worth it? When I
falter a little, I go to a school and I watch our teachers, our principals, our secretaries, our paraeducators and
aides, work with our children. That is where I get my renewed spirit.
In closing, I am proud to have been in this district for 33 years. I
am humbled to have the chance to be
superintendent for one year. Our challenges provide each of us a defining moment - can we overcome our own
fears and anxieties, our own hurt feelings, our own self interest and do what is right for children. I believe we will
do that this spring, that we will make the right decisions, that we will get the resources we need, and that we will
continue on the path of excellence. It will take the best that all of us has to give to make that happen. Let’s do it.
The examples of successes below are a report from our district’s schools
when requested to share two or more
things that have been recent indicators of "good news" in their buildings or departments this year. They illustrate
that great things are happening with our children and our staff deserves the highest respect this community can
give as they treasure our young people.
School Climate Data: In summary data from the past two years prepared
by Dr. Kevin Emery, we have gotten
many positive responses from parents of students in our K-8 schools. In answer to the question "I am happy
(pleased) my child attends this school," 95 percent of the parents responded they agreed, with 59 percent saying
they strongly agreed. On the question "I know my child is safe while attending this school," 89 percent of the
parents agreed with 41 percent strongly agreeing. Parents also agreed to the question "I support the curriculum
used in this school" with an 89 percent rate and 36 percent strongly agreeing.
Eisenhower Middle School: One item that comes to mind as a significant
change at EMS is the introduction of
community service clubs one day of week during homeroom time. These clubs allow students to become
"community contributors," one of the district goals. Examples of some of these clubs include: promoting reading
in the elementaries with book buddies, the use of technology, outreach to the elderly, and writing with pen pals in
On Feb. 6th, the Eisenhower Middle School Science Olympiad competed
against 16 teams in Salina. We placed
third, bringing home a trophy and medals in seven of the 24 events. We will now prepare for the state competition
Anthony Middle School: Special students will be doing a skit on February
22-23 and asked regular students if
they wanted to participate. Fourteen additional students volunteered to be part of this performance of "Grease."
Thirteen Anthony students have been selected as writers for the Manhattan Mercury’s kids page section.
Twenty-six students were selected to be part of the STAR training project on how to keep teens off of tobacco.
Bergman Elementary achieved the building standard of excellence at the
fifth grade level on the Kansas Writing
Assessment in spring 2000.
Bergman had a successful first onsite visit in QPA Cycle II. The visiting
team chairperson said in the state report
that "Bergman meets and exceeds the expectations of the visiting team."
Bergman is piloting a new instructional strategy for reading in grades
one and two. It is called the Block Reading
program and students from six classes are divided among ten teachers for a daily 45 minute developmental
reading period. The Title 1 Reading teachers, the Spanish teacher, and the Special Education teacher participate
in this program to make up the ten groups.
Amanda Arnold Elementary is part of a district pilot program called
the Academy of Reading. This is diagnostic
as well as instructional software being used daily with at-risk students who have shown significant improvement in
reading. We have also been a part of a district wide effort to centralize elementary science supplies and materials
which should provide a significant savings to the district. The district science center is distributing all supplies and
materials necessary for teachers in grades (k-6) to teach science as well provide a place for teacher training.
Bluemont Elementary has successfully launched their Community Learning
Center. Last semester we were able
to serve 189 students with the assistance of 222 volunteers. These folks cumulatively invested 3,103 hours of
their time serving the children of Bluemont!
Countless hours have been invested in planning programs that allow for
enrichment and extra academic
assistance for our students and creates a sense of belonging building on the concept of clubs. Groups like the
SMART club (Science and Math Applied Reasoning and Technology) and "Bobcats Loose in the Lab" extend
the thinking skills of our students. At the same time, kids that need some extra help on homework can be
referred by their teachers to the Bluemont Power Hour where study skill are taught and one on one assistance is
provided by teachers and volunteers in the Bluemont library.
Ogden Elementary’s 21 Century Community Learning Center, along with
the Young Curators program at the
Beach Museum, recently were recognized as one of five exemplary programs by the Department of Education in
a publication titled, ‘How the Arts Can Enhance After-School Programs." The "River Romp Family Resource
Center" is another outstanding program at Ogden.
Manhattan High School’s Night School is working with 9th graders who
failed first semester core classes. We are
trying to "reloop" them at night rather than next year.
Three students were recently named National Merit Finalists in this
prestigious competition. MHS scores on the
SAT and ACT are above state and national standards.
MHS reports having wonderful new principals and teachers who are willing
to get involved. Students and staff
say the addition of a the School Resource Officer is a positive one.
Lee Elementary School’s sixth grade class, with grant money from School
to Careers and Drug Free Schools,
arranged to volunteer at Stoneybrook Retirement Center. Twice a month, these students visit and participate in
activities with the residents.
Fifth grade classes learned about holidays around the world. Each class
hand made about 500 gift boxes
containing pieces of candy and a holiday greeting. Then they took a field trip to the Manhattan Town Center and
passed out the gifts to citizens sitting in the food court. It was a great success and a complete surprise to the
One second grade class and one sixth grade class have been involved
in getting community members to come to
Lee School to give career-based presentations to classes. They have also developed activities in which students
visit different businesses.
Maintenance Department: This year we have started hiring students from
Big Lakes Development Center as
Communications: In our efforts to close the communication gap between
the school district and our public
segments, we’ve utilized two new technologies. With cable television programming on our station, we can
illustrate education today as well as recognize student work. Keeping up with our dot-com world, we utilize our
website to add information useful to parents and community members in a timely fashion. Both ventures continue
to improve as we receive feedback from our publics.
Theodore Roosevelt and Eugene Field Elementary Schools is seeing increased
enrollment from the previous
year. Partnerships with community agencies enhance our schools all year long with partners such as YES!
Foundation, Parks and Rec, and Sunset Zoo, not to mention civic organizations, the banks, and a many
businesses. Site councils provide a ready opportunity to seek parent input and opinions. Their knowledge (after
participating in site council meetings) is invaluable during highly stressful times when we’ve had a chance to
dialogue during quiet times! The partnership with KSU’s College of Education is something we should not take
for granted - from the beginning classroom aide to the student teacher, the children benefit greatly from this
Food Service: Meal participation levels have remained fairly constant
in comparison to last year and are not
reflecting the enrollment decrease.
Curriculum/Staff Development: Hildie Brooks, our Kansas Teacher of the
Year Finalist, is representing our
district throughout the state. Teachers are working hard across the district on the QPA/SIP/NCA process - and
on curriculum work to align our instruction with state and national standards. Alignment of curriculum and state
standards will be complete for language arts, math, social studies and science, along with teacher curriculum
guides and scope/sequence (plus purchased new materials so teachers can adequately teach.) We have two
teachers who are nationally certified and 19 teachers currently working to complete national certification. There
are 62 district teachers receiving formal training on how to build quality teachers through our partnership with
Northview Elementary has a schoolwide Character Education Program with
students working in small grade level
groups guided by all the professionals in the building for a half hour each week. First semester data on discipline
indicates a marked reduction in referrals especially in the intermediate grades. Both teachers and students
report positive results from their weekly lessons.
Grants. In the current round of funding, we applied for more than $150,000 in grants.
Personnel Office: This past year, SB432 became effective July 1. The
bill requires us to finger print all new hires
that have not lived in the state of Kansas for the past 10 consecutive and fixed years. Each finger print
background check is $40.00. We pursued contracting out this duty, costs ranged from $12.00 to $15.00. K-State
police department graciously agreed to "train" the staff in the Personnel Office to do the finger printing. Our
staff was trained and as of December 31, we had finger printed 105 new employees. This has been successful with
only four that we had to redo.
We’ve compiled a full list of substitute teachers, 193 elementary, 169
middle school and 144 high school
To learn more about USD 383, log on to our website at www.usd383.org
or tune to local cable channel 28.