KSD Moves to Improve Services and Increase Compensation

Shifts will decrease staff levels by 4 positions and increase efficiency

Kearney, Mo., May 27, 2021: Kearney School District is making systemic changes in order to ensure that we continue to meet and exceed the educational needs of our students.

Superintendent Matthew Miller and his leadership team shared several important staff additions and changes during the Board of Education meeting Wednesday evening, May 19 at the KSD Central Office. These adjustments join other important moves from earlier in the year that will make the school district more efficient.

KSD has actually decreased the number of staff by four full-time-equivalent positions. The cost-savings will be used to provide increased compensation for employees, according to Dr. Miller.

“We’ve changed staff allocations to areas of high-need and reduced our overall staff,” he said. “This will allow us to improve our salary structure in order to recruit and retain high-quality team members.”

These staff and program changes ensure progress toward one of the Board’s key goals, which is to recruit and retain top-flight staff.

District-Level Changes

Assistant Superintendent of Academic Service

Jennifer Kopp will move to the position of Assistant Superintendent of Academic Services. Mrs. Kopp was the department director before this change was approved by the school board. Her new title reflects exemplary service and the fact that her responsibilities have expanded significantly over the last several years. Kopp’s duties now include overseeing counselors, curriculum and instruction, library media specialists, Real World Learning, Project Based Learning and professional development, among many others.

Elementary Curriculum Coordinator

KSD Reading Interventionist Allison Stewart will become the new Elementary Curriculum Coordinator starting on August 1. Since joining the district in 2014, Mrs. Stewart has helped transform our reading program, which has resulted in KSD being among the top schools in the state on reading assessments. This position replaces Instructional Technology Coach Ashley Weaver, who is moving back into a teaching post at Kearney Middle School.

“I loved getting to help teachers across our district as the Instructional Technology Coach,” Mrs. Weaver said. “But my passion has always been to work directly with students and I’m excited to move back into the classroom!”

Stewart will focus on supporting elementary curriculum needs, with Kopp focusing on providing curriculum support for the secondary schools.

Help Desk Technician

Jillian Torrence will join the Technology Department on June 3 as an additional Help Desk Technician. This move was prompted by KSD’s initiative to equip every student with a digital device for learning and the associated technical support needed to support such an initiative, according to Director of Technology Ryan Blankenship. Ms. Torrence will assist with repairing student devices and help improve technical support response times across all our schools.

Special Programs Department Reorganization

Director of Special Programs Heather Guilkey has overseen a wide-ranging reorganization of her department. The district has experienced a 339 percent increase since 2015 in the number of students with Individual Education Plans (IEP). This has led to staff changes and additions in order to meet the demand for services.

Process Coordinator

These shifts in Dr. Guilkey’s team include hiring Sara Owen as an additional Process Coordinator. She will help guide families, teachers and school leaders through the complex steps necessary when a student requires special education services.

Director of Childcare and Early Learning

Holly Wilmes has been named the Director of Childcare and Early Learning. In addition to her responsibilities in overseeing Kids Club, the district’s before- and after-school childcare program, Ms. Wilmes will also oversee Parents as Teachers and the Puppy Pound program at the Early Education Center. Ms. Wilmes will report to Dr. Guilkey.

Secondary Special Education Team Leads

The Special Programs department is also adding three Secondary Special Education Team Leads, one for each of KSD’s three secondary schools. These staff members will serve as valuable resources for teachers and students in those buildings.

“They will provide a lot of support, including making observations and providing guidance for students in classes,” Dr. Guilkey said. “Teachers can’t always see everything that’s happening in a classroom that may impact student behavior and growth. Sometimes, a new set of eyes makes all the difference. That’s just one of the ways these new team leads will be helping.”

BEST Program Expansion

KSD is also expanding its Behavior and Emotional Support Team (BEST) program to Kearney Middle School. The program was started a couple of years ago at the elementary level and the results have been very positive, according to Guilkey. It helps students learn self-regulation techniques and other critical skills needed for success in school and a career. The program’s expansion was necessary both to meet the needs of students moving up to the middle school and to comply with federal and state regulations.

School-Level Changes

Early Education Certified Staff Leadership

Kearney Elementary School Principal Mitch Masker is adding a new role as the academic supervisor for Early Education Center certified staff. This will include leading teachers in five classrooms in the Acorn Patch and Forest Friends programs at the center.

Elementary School Assistant Principals

The school board approved the hiring of Bryson Travis as the new assistant principal for Dogwood Elementary School. Mr. Travis joins KSD after a dozen years of service with Excelsior Springs School District, where he rose from being an elementary school teacher to serving as their middle school instructional coach for five years.

Travis’ move to KSD will allow Kirsten Timchak to become the full-time assistant principal at Southview Elementary School. She previously split her time between Dogwood and Southview.

LENS Expansion & Classroom Right-Sizing

The Learning and Exploring through Nature and Science (LENS) school will be adding three classes for students in grades three, four and five. LENS will have six total classes with approximately 140 students starting this fall, according to Principal Rebecca Parks. Current KSD teachers are being reassigned to meet the classroom staffing needs.

Education at LENS revolves around innovative hands-on, immersive experiences. Expanding the school gives more students those opportunities and also allows KSD to ensure consistent class sizes at the other elementary schools.

New students were selected for LENS based on district demographics and the need to balance enrollment so that elementary classes typically have 20 to 25 students. Before this move, a school might have a fifth-grade class with as few as 15 students, while a class of fifth-graders in another school might have close to 30.

Equalizing class sizes by expanding LENS will also free up space in the other elementary schools for academic support services, Dr. Parks explained during the May 19 school board meeting.

“This is going to mean increased opportunities for students and more space for support staff,” she said. “Some of our support staff will move out of what are intended to be closets. It’s a win-win.”