Success stories in the public education system are some of the best kept secrets in Kansas.
For USD 408 Marion-Florence, those kinds of successes are happening daily because of the partnerships and shared responsibilities needed in helping students achieve their goals, according to Superintendent Lee Leiker
USD 408 Superintendent Lee Leiker, now in his sixth year, said teachers, students, parents and the community in general deserve credit for the district?s many accomplishments in 2009.
Among those accomplishments, Leiker said, was the ?tremendous honor? for the district when Grant Thierolf was named Class 3A ?Cross-Country and Track and Field Coach of the Year? in Kansas.
Leiker said the recognition speaks volumes about the coaches and young athletes in the district.
?Another success has been our Construction Technology class, covering all aspects of home construction,? Leiker said.
Class members are busy finishing up their second house, which is located about a block from the school?s football stadium.
?It is a wonderful house,? Leiker said, ?and one of the neat features incorporated (into the house) is the geo-thermal heating and cooling system from Flaming?s (Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning Inc. in Marion).?
The program also enhances vocational curriculum by involving students in drawing plans for the house and recruiting assistance from skilled people in a variety of professions, including electrical and plumbing.
Leiker said another satisfying component of the program is the opportunity to offer it to students beyond the USD 408 boundaries.
?We have two students from the Hillsboro school district in the program,? said Leiker. He commended Lucas King, who teaches the course and oversees the building project.
When finished, the 1,500-square-foot house will go on the market. A selling price has not been determined yet, but Leiker said the district does not intend to make a financial profit from the sale.
Leiker said another ?real positive for our district? has been the purchase in April of a 49-passenger touring bus for school activities. The bus makes traveling long distances more comfortable, and has significant storage space for equipment and supplies.
?We got a great deal on it, and we needed something like this for sports and any other high school activities,? Leiker said.
Meanwhile, the music program and fine arts continue to be a positive influence in the community and at the schools. The district?s 2-year-old Performing Arts Center provides an atmosphere that benefits students in many ways.
?We have two students who qualified for the 2009-10 (Kansas Music Educators Association) 1A through 4A state band,? Leiker said.
Sarah Guetersloh was selected for third chair in the trombone section and Landon Leiker achieved first-chair honors in the trumpet section.
The district?s $8 million Sports & Wellness Center is starting to pay dividends to the community.
The facility was used for a sub-state basketball tournament last winter, the first Marion Classic early-season basketball tournament in December, and in less than two weeks, the district will be hosting a regional wrestling tournament.
?What makes this a positive is that prior to the new sports facility, there was not enough seating space (to host large athletic events),? he said.
With seating now for 2,000 people and six locker rooms available, Leiker said it?s a ?great facility.?
?We host an event for every varsity sport in our district,? he said.
Another plus is that the complex is available for everyone to use. A walking track, aquatic center and various water aerobic classes are open to the public.
Part of the physical education program, he said, makes use of the sports complex, while the auditorium hosts competitive events county-wide.
Collaboration with other districts is also an important step in improving education, Leiker said.
One way that is being done is through Technology Excellence in Education Network In-Services, which includes Marion, Hillsboro, Herington, Centre and Peabody school districts.
The in-service, an annual event, is hosted by staff members and teachers who talk about how technology is being used in their respective districts, he said.
In 2009, the event was hosted in Marion. ?It was a great day and great in-service,? he said.
Meanwhile, the district?s declining enrollment continued to be a challenge in 2009. Combined with cuts in state funding, not many new things have been added to the USD 408 program.
Yet Leiker said he and others in the district are confident that with every event or activity the district is able to host at the new facilities will make a positive impact on the entire community.
?The center is great for our students and the community,? Leiker said. ?It?s been money well-spent.?