From the KASB President

Rod Stewart
Washington County USD 108 
Board Vice-President

Welcome back! Come to a Fall Summit

I hope that your school year has gotten off to a great start! The beginning of school is always an exciting time, whether you are entering your first year of school or your last, your first days on the job, or your first year in the leadership chair of the board of education. We’re all involved in something very important – public education!

In my role as president of KASB, I have the opportunity to attend many workshops and meetings, some on the national level, and some closer to home. Do you know what I see everywhere I go? I see hard-working, dedicated individuals wanting to do what’s best for kids. I also see some groups who seem to want to discredit public education and weaken our system. What we are doing is too important to let them succeed.

A few weeks ago, KASB hosted a meeting of about 80 individuals representing many organizations and groups, including legislators, state board members, KNEA, state administrator groups and PTA. We spent the day discussing how our education goals based on the Rose capacities align with initiatives at the post-secondary, K-12 and early childhood levels, and what policies or decisions need to be made to move our schools forward. It was an exciting, energizing day, and I couldn’t help but wish every school board in every community across our state could have a similar conversation.

In fact, I believe everyone should have this conversation. Public schools and school funding will be on the agenda once the 2015 Legislative Session roles around in January. Before the state can decide how much money is needed to reach the Rose capacities – which is the new test for school funding decided by the Supreme Court last March – we have to find agreement on what the standards mean and how to assess whether or not students are meeting them. The education community should be ready to tell our legislators what needs to change and what resources are needed. This will only happen if we start talking now.

Fall SummitsA great first step is to come to the KASB Fall Summits coming up the end of September and first part of October. You’ll get to hear similar information to what I heard this summer, and you’ll get to discuss what that means for your local community. I encourage every school district to bring a team of board members, staff and community members. There are a number of education-related agencies and organizations working to help our state and school districts understand and connect the new standards to the current public education system in Kansas. But this is a conversation for every community and every school board in Kansas. To see a detailed agenda and location information for the Fall Summits click here now.

If you have any questions or comments, I hope you will reach out and let me know!

Where will you be August 5?

In less than four weeks, Kansans will have the opportunity to substantially shape the future of our state for several years to come. If this seems like an overstatement, think about the policies and laws passed in the last few years by both our elected state board of education and our Kansas legislators. Their actions have a direct impact on our local communities and our local public schools.

The primary election August 5 has a number of key races, both for state board and for the state legislature. Election season has always been marked by an increase in mail, phone calls and advertising. You add in social media, and it becomes even more tempting to just tune it all out. KASB created an election tracker to provide information that can help clarify who is running for what seat.

But it is important to listen to what candidates are saying (or not saying!) during this election cycle, and it is even more important to do your own research and find out if they are “walking their talk.” Find out if their voting records and actions align with the direction you believe we must head.

The reality is that many races are already decided or will be decided on August 5. If candidates are running with no general election opponent, their election to the office is essentially decided. If two candidates from the same party are the only candidates, then whoever wins on August 5 has won the election. Independent candidates have until noon on August 4 to file, but this kind of challenger is almost never successful.

Whatever your political affiliation, whether or not you are happy or troubled by the direction our state is going, your vote matters. And it matters that you model the importance of voting and going to the polls on Election Day for your children, grandchildren, friends and colleagues.

Washington County USD 108 board member starts term as President of KASB

Rod Stewart, Washington County USD 108 board of education vice president, took over as president of the Kansas Association of School Boards July 1. Stewart has served as president-elect this past year.

"It is truly an honor to begin my term as president of KASB. I believe KASB is in a position to take the lead on a number of critical issues facing our state, and I ask my fellow board members to remain informed and involved,” he said.

KASB provides service and support to governing boards for unified school districts, community colleges, area vocational-technical schools and cooperatives, interlocals and regional service centers.  The association serves a diverse membership base of close to 5,000 board members and educational leaders.

“KASB members have unique challenges and opportunities, but we are united in a common cause,” Stewart said. “We all want our students to be prepared for success, to accomplish their dreams and to become responsible citizens.”

Stewart has held numerous leadership positions at the local level. He served on the USD 222 board of education, president of the consolidation transition board, and is now in his second term on the Washington County USD 108 board, serving terms as president and vice president. He has been involved in the district’s negotiation committee, the superintendent selection committee, the curriculum committee and a several facilities planning and construction committees.

In addition to local leadership, Stewart served two terms on the KASB board of directors as regional vice-president. His involvement with KASB has included numerous committees for the association, including the convention credentials committee and the executive director interview committee.  Stewart has been an active participant in both the KASB Governmental Relations and the Federal Relations networks.

Stewart holds a bachelor of science in agriculture education and a master of science in adult and occupational education, both from Kansas State University.  He is a member of the Washington County Schools Booster Club and the school’s agriculture science department’s advisory committee. He is a member of the National Corn Growers Association, Kansas Soybean Association, National FFA Alumni Association, K-State Alumni Life Member and both the First United Methodist Church and the Washington County Historical Society.

Stewart begins his leadership of KASB at a time of renewed emphasis on local control brought about by recent legislative decisions.

“We must remain focused on and committed to what’s really important, and always ask ourselves ‘what is in the best interest of the students?' If we, both on our local boards and as KASB, will keep that as a guide, we can provide the kind of leadership our communities and state require.”


Reflections on Brown v Board

By Frank Henderson, Jr.
KASB Past President
May 2014

On May 17 we will join with many across the nation as we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of Brown v. Topeka Board of Education. This landmark decision by the United States Supreme Court declared "separate but equal" was not sufficient and all children have the right to equal access to quality public education.

As a life-long Kansan and the first African-American to serve as President of the Kansas Association of School Boards, I am overjoyed!  I acknowledge, had it not been for Justice Thurgood Marshall, the plaintiffs and others who were willing to take a stand for what was the obvious, I would not be in this position today, nor would I have enjoyed the professional and personal successes I have known.

How fitting that Kansas, a state that played such a pivotal role in the issue of slavery, and later became a destination of hope following the Civil War during the Reconstruction Period, was now laying the foundation for a sound, thorough and complete education for all children through our public schools. My ancestors migrated to Kansas as Exodusters because Kansas was touted as the "Land of Opportunity."   Homesteading land provided the hope for a level playing field, where descendants of slaves could own land, produce crops and become independent.

On the wall of my office hangs a large painting, depicting my children holding books and standing in back of the Monroe Elementary School. It was created by one of their teachers, Steve Denny. When I gaze upon it each morning as I arrive at work, I am reminded of May 17 and the fact every child deserves access to a first-rate education, regardless of the color of their skin, their race, religion, ethnic background, economic circumstance or where they live.  Education is the foundation that levels the playing field, provides hope, and allows each child to dream of what they would like to become.  Education provides the means to build strong individuals, strong citizens and, in return, a strong Kansas.

However, I must also add that my joy is lacking. I am deeply saddened to think, prior to 1954, little black children were not thought of as equal to little white children. It is sad and shameful that it took a Supreme Court decision to remind people we are all created equal with certain unalienable rights.

But, 60 years later, I have to ask, "Is Kansas still the Land of Opportunity for everyone?"  "Have we succeeded at providing equal access to a quality education for every child in Kansas?"  "Why does a large achievement gap exist between White and Black and Hispanic children?"  “Does racism or poverty play a role in the way children are educated in Kansas?”

Many people might prefer not to acknowledge the covert racism in the decisions made that impact our children, but perhaps the ramifications of many of these decisions are not fully realized. Allow me to share a few thoughts to ponder:

Research has suggested that a significant indicator for young children experiencing future academic success is contingent upon the background knowledge they bring to school.

Economically disadvantaged students require much greater resources than middle-class white students to be successful in school. High quality early childhood programs, after-school programs and summer programs are all essentials.

Disadvantaged students also need higher skilled teachers and smaller class sizes to increase achievement by allowing more individualized instruction.

What can we do to live out the intent of Brown v. Board of Education 60 years later? We must ensure every child is given a full opportunity to receive quality of education to achieve to his or her God-given potential. This means adequate funding to be used toward needed programs and resources for all children. This means having appropriate class sizes so excellent teachers can have the time to provide each child with the individualized attention they need to be successful.

And last but not least, this means school board members, administrators, teachers, parents and concerned Kansans – who all love this state – must become a bold voice, just as the plaintiffs were in this historic case, and ask "How can we do it better today, for a better tomorrow, a better Kansas?"

Click here for the Resolution adopted by the Kansas Association of School Boards on March 8, 2014, commemorating the 60th Anniversary of Brown v, Board of Education.

**Henderson picture used with permission. All rights reserved. 

We’ve let other voices talk for too long

By Frank Henderson, Jr.
KASB Past President
April 2014

I believe that our state’s vision for public education, supported by our state’s constitution, requires a constant state of improvement. It is a vision for a public education system that continues to develop, just as the state, the country and the nation evolves. It is a vision not satisfied with status quo.

But it seems clear that public education is under attack in Kansas. Every day you can read of critics who are quick to undermine the great work that is being done in public education today. Properly funding our schools should be a priority of every Kansan, instead of looking for ways to reduce school revenue. Ensuring our students are equipped and prepared to lead in the decades ahead should be recognized as the most significant investment we can make in our future. Kansans should be looking for ways to expand the opportunities for achievement for our 475,000 students.

I believe with all my heart that the casualties of this attack on public education will be an entire generation of students unless there are some drastic changes in the attitudes and actions of some of our lawmakers.

We’ve let other voices – louder voices – talk for too long. It’s our American Dream, our schools, our children. We have to create opportunities and ways for Kansans to speak up for Kansas public education, to get involved in keeping the dream alive.

We all should be involved in raising standards and creating opportunities for all children. And we should all be involved in holding our legislators accountable for decisions that impact our local schools.

Is the American Dream at Risk in Kansas?

By Frank Henderson, Jr.
KASB Past President
April 2014

I was raised in Western Kansas, in a small community called Sharon Springs. It’s like if you were going to go to Colorado for vacation, and you’re driving and you’re driving, and it’s like “are we there yet?” No, you’re not there yet. And you drive some more and you’re probably in Sharon Springs.
My ancestors migrated to Kansas following the Civil War, during the Reconstruction period. They were part of what has been termed the Exoduster Movement. And the reason they did this was because there was a gentleman called Pat Singleton and he stood on the banks of the Mississippi with a sign that said, “Go to Kansas! Go to Kansas! Kansas is the land of Opportunity.”
And what that American Dream meant for folks, my ancestors and many others, was the opportunity to become a landowner, to homestead land and achieve that American Dream. And the American Dream they held was to put them on the same level playing field as someone who was a plantation owner, who owned land and could work for themselves. So that was the American Dream that brought my ancestors out to Western Kansas. 
Now, being raised in a farming community, you spend a lot of time driving tractors and doing all those sort of things. And, when you’re sitting on a tractor for 12 hours a day, my generation had lots of time to think and think and think, and dream about what we would like to do – what our American Dream was.
There wasn’t any doubt that education became the key for us to be able to achieve our version of the American Dream. Education was the factor that would level the playing field. Regardless of who you were, or where you came from, education became the element that would help you achieve the American Dream in Kansas.
So, is the American Dream at risk in Kansas? Every child who walks through the doors of our school buildings has the right to dream. And public schools still continue to be the keeper of that dream. We need to protect the vision our forefathers had for Kansas public education, governed by a locally-elected Board of Education.