In the ongoing effort to provided the best academic program to equip students for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century, USD 410 was one of 21 school districts in Kansas selected to take part in the Gemini Project, a facet of the Kansans Can School Redesign Project initiated by the Kansas State Department of Education.
Superintendent Max Heinrichs calls the program “a total redesign of education.” The decision to move in that direction required processing the change at various levels.
“It’s a process because the board had to be out there with a public vote, which we did at a board meeting,” Heinrichs said. “It’s a process where we have to have 80 percent of our teachers say yes to it. I think we ended up with 91 (percent). I felt pretty good about that.”
The union representing USD 410 teachers had to had to write a letter in support of the change, as well.
Timing was part of the challenge. The district learned about the program last July and had to have the application completed and back to KDHE by Aug. 1.
“Teachers weren’t on duty yet, so a lot of this was done online,” Heinrichs said. “We used our electronic messaging system and sent surveys. I was very proud of our teachers and our board for making that decision because it’s a tough decision.
Heinrichs said making the change wasn’t because USD 410 was lacking in its educational approach.
“We’ve done pretty well here at Hillsboro,” he said. “When we look at our report card from the state of Kansas, we would be in the top 10 percent. But it’s not where the commissioner of education wants us to be. We’re still about 5-6 points below that.”
In October, the board identified three of USD 410’s greatest opportunities during its goal-setting session:
◼ Commitment to our learners (staff and students) that we will provide the tools and training necessary to allow each learner to succeed.
◼ Each student must be able to read by the third grade.
◼ To be social and emotional learners, teaching our students empathy, compassion and giving back to help them become great human beings.
“They’re all great goals,” Heinrichs said. “I was very happy with what they came up with.
As participants in the Gemini redesign, USD 410 will seek to develop curriculum driven by each individual student.
“Our goal would be to try to make our education more student-centered, and not like a mass-production line like we do,” Heinrichs said. “We want to do more for the individual, so we can engage the individual.”
He added: “What we have found in all the things we have done in the last 10 or 12 years, if we have a student involved in something they really have passion for, we don’t have to demand rigor. They give us the rigor they want and they will drive it.
“Every student has a passion somewhere. So we have to figure out how to get our curriculum into it—how to get the things they need to be successful.”
Making the change begins with resourcing, training and preparing teachers to be able to deliver those goals, Heinrichs said.
“We have to get creative. We’ll have to sit down and redirect our budget for next year, and put our money toward our priorities and goals,” he said.
Adding to the challenge
Addressing the board’s goals for empathy and compassion will add to the challenge.
“The board did a good job of recognizing 21st century skills, but they asked us to teach our kids empathy, too,” Heinrichs said. “Now, that’s scary, that’s tough. But we’re going to look at ways of doing that.
“We have started this prior to this goal,” he said. “When you think of our kids going to Parkside to work with residents—we want to engage our students with the community because they’re a part of it and we want them to give back, civically.”
Recently, a USD 410 delegation that included Heinrichs, building principals and five teachers, spent a day in Topeka looking at a model of individualizes learning.
“There were some great exercises there,” Heinrichs said. “We’re going to go back, and they’re going to tell us whether we fit into their formula. We need to tell them if we want to be in their formula, too.
Two other concepts the district aims to address is to become trauma-informed schools, and to add rigor to learning.
“We’re going to look at being trauma-informed schools so we can recognize where kids are coming from—their parents are having a fight, they’re traumatized. Instead of saying, ‘get to work,’ we want to recognize it, help them diffuse it, and then get them back to learning.”
Heinrichs said the key to increasing rigor isn’t making things harder.
“Let the students find their passion and drive it to some place we would have never even thought of,” he said.
Superintendent Max Heinrichs provided highlights in Hillsboro schools during 2017.
◼ January: Catch It Kansas ranked the Hillsboro Middle/High School student sections one of the top 10 student sections in Kansas.
Marion County schools started their training with Skyward for installing a new business software. By doing this together as a group, it saved county schools more than $100,000.
◼ February: Sara Diener and Jenna Hinerman competed at the Regional Piano Festival.
The Scholars Bowl team qualified for state competition. Jonathan Hinerman, Mark Reeh, Sonja Jost, Breanna Dittert, Callie Meisinger and Dylans Wiens finished third out of 14 teams.
Senora Filipak and Katie Rempel represented USD 410 at the Marion County Spelling Bee.
◼ March: HES and HMHS dedicated a Flint Hills map and had a guest speaker give us some insight into the history of the Flint Hills.
Robert Rempel won the KIAA District 1 Athletic Director of the Year Award.
◼ April: Terry Bebermeyer resigned as high school Spanish teacher and middle school English teacher.
Doug Dick resigned as an HES classroom teacher.
Kyle Unruh received $1,500 for placing third in an essay contest.
◼ May: The HMHS restroom was remodeled. The HES building received new cable.
◼ June: New lights were installed at HES in the south wing and the north-south hallway. HES gym and hallways received new paint. HMHS installed four tank-less water heaters.
◼ July: HES repaired the north wall in the south wing in Eleanor Jost and Julie Linnens classrooms.
Kathy Klein accepted the HMHS administrative assistant position vacated by Lisa Mayfield’s resignation.
◼ August: The USD 410 parking lots were sealed and painted.
USD 410 was selected to become a part of the Gemini Redesign Pilot by KSDE.
Jesse Hiebert of the Hillsboro Police Department trained faculty and staff in the A.L.I.C.E. Crisis Management plan.
Enrollment numbers stood at: HES K-5, 283 students; HMHS 6-12, 294 students for a total of 577 students.
◼ September: HMHS fed 57 HHS alumni who signed up to eat in the cafeteria and participate with students in relevant hands-on education at HMHS. Activities included: escape room, yearbook, art project (rock painting), robotics, archery, choir.
USD 410 was informed it will be in the 1A classification for football the next two years.
◼ October: The USD 410 Wellness program will be led by teacher Lenna Knoll. Seventy-seven staff and employees signed up.
◼ November: HMHS presented the fall musical, “Oklahoma!”
The HMHS Canstruction project resulted in gathering 952 cans (867 pounds) of food for the Main Street Ministries Food Bank. Hillsboro Community Foundation contributed $500 to the project, which was created by teacher Dustin Dalke and his students.
◼ December: Fire alarms in the USD 410 auditorium have been replaced at a cost of around $35,000.
The HES fifth-grade class participated in the Kansas Starbase program in Salina.
Darlene Bartel had her eighth-grade science classes participate in a video conference live with HHS alumna Emily (Ratzlaff) Arnold from her research project in Antarctica, where she was measuring the thickness of the ice sheet.