Community Updates



Proctor, Ben 
Superintendent
620-327-4931 (office)
ben.proctor@usd460.org 
@benproctor1977 (twitter)


From the superintendent's desk...

November 22, 2017

"Thanksgiving"
 
We have officially reached Thanksgiving Break for the 2017-18 school year!  

We have had 66 total school attendance days so far this year which accounts for just short of 40% of the entire school year.  Needless to say, time certainly flies and the upcoming stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always one of the busiest and most enjoyable parts of the school year.  

Thanksgiving provides each of us with an opportunity to reflect on the things that truly matter in life, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share just a bit on why I am so incredibly thankful to be a part of this school district and community.  

Everyday in every one of our buildings across our district, there are countless examples of all of the things that are right in our educational system.  Our staff cares about our kids.  There is a degree of professionalism in this district that is remarkable and a commitment to the development of young people that gives all of us reason to believe in our future generations to make the world a better place.  Whether it be through academic development or growth in character, the USD 460 staff believes in the potential of each of our students.  Every child is blessed with talents and abilities that they have yet to comprehend or grasp, and our staff is dedicated to helping each child find these qualities in themselves.  I am incredibly thankful and blessed to work alongside this talented, dedicated, professional, and caring team!

Without question, the best part of working in any school setting is the ability to interact with young people on a daily basis.  In Hesston, we have 810 kindergartners through 12th graders who represent the future of our community and our society.  They are all blessed with this great potential to accomplish anything they set their mind to, and it is amazing what they have to say when we truly listen to them.  There is such important purpose in the role we have to educate our young people, and I am thankful for the opportunity to help guide them to a future that can be so full of promise.  This community loves its kids and has created an environment where each of them can find success with the support of all of our community resources behind them.

Hesston, KS is a special place to live and to learn.  It is a unique community that offers incredible support to the schools that work with our youth each day.  I am so thankful to be a part of this place and look forward to what the future holds for all of us and especially our kids.  We are beginning to take tremendous steps in our growth as a school district to make something that is already really good into something that is truly great.  Our kids and our community deserve the very best this school district has to offer, and we are well on our way to providing that.  

Happy Thanksgiving to all and please do not hesitate to contact me anytime should you have any thoughts or questions about anything we do as a school district.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


November 1, 2017

"HES Parking Lot"

Over the past six months, we have seen a great deal of progress on the Hesston Recreation Project with many new and upgraded facilities around our campus.  One of the aspects of the project that is nearing completion is the parking lot at Hesston Elementary School, and we wanted to take this opportunity to share some information as we open up the parking lot very soon.

We experienced a few early challenges with the parking lot which resulted in a later opening date than we had originally planned.  We are thankful that our general contractor in charge of the Hesston Recreation Project, Key Construction, worked hard to correct these initial issues.  As of today, the parking lot is in good physical condition and has been striped.  Later this week, we will see the temporary construction fences moved away from the parking lot and the official first day of use for dropping off and picking up students will be Monday, November 6.

In addition to the new parking lot, there will also be a new crosswalk location where students will cross Ridge Rd.  The current crosswalk located at the intersection of Amos and Ridge will move north to the entrance of the parking lot and away from that busy intersection.  Our staff at HES will be working with our students this week to utilize this new crosswalk and will spend time practicing during school hours.  The sidewalk that runs just south of the parking lot along Amos will be removed along with the current crosswalk signal at Amos and Ridge.

As we transition to the new parking lot and crosswalk, we will have additional personnel supervising this area in the mornings prior to school and in the afternoons after school as everyone gets used to the new routes and parking facilities.  Here are a few important points to consider if you are dropping off or picking up students at HES beginning on the morning of November 6:

- In addition to utilizing the new parking lot, we will continue to utilize the front of the building for drop-off and pick-up as we normally do.

- We ask that you use your best judgement based on traffic flow as to whether you will drop-off in the front of the building or in the new parking lot.

- Staff will utilize the new parking lot each day to park, and we ask that all visitors and guests utilize the lot in front of the school for parking unless it is full.

- As a safety measure for the first several weeks the new parking lot is utilized for drop-off and pick-up, we will have large orange cones set up and ask that you please drop-off your child only when you are between the cones.

We are looking forward to having our new parking lot available to us on Monday, November 6.  This will be a great resource not only on a daily basis but during some of our larger family and community events as well.  We appreciate everyone's patience as the new lot was constructed and please do not hesitate to contact Alisa Krehbiel or Ben Proctor if you have any questions about the details of this note.  

Respectfully,

Ben Proctor
Superintendent




 October 6, 2017

The Supreme Court ruled that the current school finance formula, Senate Bill 19 which was developed and approved during the 2017 legislative session, is not constitutional based on both the adequacy and equity standard. That means the Court has interpreted the law to mean that there is not enough money provided in Senate Bill 19 to provide a suitable education for all students and the money is not allocated equitably.  

The Supreme Court issued a stay on Senate Bill 19 meaning that all school districts in Kansas will operate on this funding formula for the remainder of the 2017-18 fiscal year which will end on June 30.  The legislature will need to remedy the deficiencies in this formula by that time in order for schools to continue normal operations after June 30, 2018.  According to the language used in the ruling, it seems evident that the Kansas Supreme Court expects the legislature to address the adequacy and equity concern by the deadline and that the Court's patience is running thin after years of school finance debates and lawsuits.

For our school district and others around the state, we will continue to live with some uncertainty about the future of school funding in our state.  The coming legislative session will once again be critical, and it seems from its ruling the Court will not compromise anymore.  The difficult job of the Legislature is how to meet the constitutional obligations according to the standard in the ruling while balancing a desire to keep tax rates as low as possible.  Our district leadership will be paying close attention to the work being done by the legislature between now and June 30, 2018.

As always, if you have any questions or thoughts about this topic or any other matter related to Hesston schools, please do not hesitate to contact me.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


September 4, 2017

"KESA and USD 460"

School districts around the state of Kansas are learning all about a new acronym, KESA, which stands for Kansas Education Systems Accreditation.  This is the new model in which school districts around the state will be accredited, and that process begins this year.  In the past, our accreditation was tied mostly to standardized test scores and school districts were judged primarily on student results in math and reading.  This new model is intended to ensure school districts have a plan to help all students become successful high school graduates.  The definition of success includes academic preparation, cognitive preparation, technical skill development, employability skill development, and civic engagement.

USD 460 is well-prepared and excited for this new accreditation model.  We believe our Good to Great Framework, which communicates our shared purpose, beliefs and practices, indicators of success, and our outcomes, is a plan for continuous improvement that addresses all aspects of the Kansans Can Vision.  Although the development of our framework began about three years ago, we are now in a position where our district is seeing real progress in so many key areas.  This document now serves as a vision for our district with a role for every member of our school community.

One of the key components of the accreditation model is the practice of setting goals, monitoring these goals, and making adjustments when goals are not being achieved at the level we intend.  In our district, we refer to this idea as being a highly reliable organization.  That means that we do what we say we are going to do and we view this as part of our practice of alignment.  As we set goals around our indicators of success, whether they be academic, leadership and post-secondary, or community engagement, we want to ensure that ultimately we are seeking to develop students who are ready for life after high school.

An exciting new measure the state of Kansas has developed over the past few months is a post-secondary measure through data provided by the National Clearinghouse.  Research shows that by the year 2020, 70-75% of jobs in our country will need some type of post-secondary degree or industry recognized certification.  In connecting how schools can better prepare for our changing world, we are now being measured on how many of our graduates go on and pursue a degree or certification after high school.  This includes not only the enrollment of our students in a post-secondary institution, but also their retention after their first full year of graduation.  

You can find the USD 460-Hesston post secondary report by clicking here.  In this report, you will find our graduation rate, success rate, effective rate, and predicted effective rate.  The definitions for each measure are as follows:

Graduation Rate: The 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate is the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma divided by the number of students who entered high school as 9th graders four years earlier (adjusting for transfers in and out).

Success Rate:A student must meet one of the four following outcomes within two years of High School graduation.

  1. Student earned an industry recognized certification while in high school 
  2. Student earned a postsecondary certification
  3. Student earned a postsecondary degree
  4. Student enrolled in postsecondary in both the first and second year following high school graduation

Effective Rate: The calculated Graduation Rate multiplied by the calculated Success Rate.

As our district goes through the KESA process and continues to pursue the vision we are developing, this post-secondary measure will continue to be an important gage of how we are doing as an entire school district.  The data is not perfect as there are institutions that are not included in the numbers, but that is why our focus is going to be on names not numbers.  We want to know what our students go on and do after graduation and in order to do that, we must take our emphasis of relationships to a new level.  Much more on that to come in future updates.

As always, please holler anytime if you have any thoughts, questions, or concerns about the information contained in this update or anythings else we do as a school district.  Our office number is 620-327-4931, my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org and our address is 150 N Ridge Road, located on the south end of the football stadium.


August 26, 2017


"Back to School"

Things start happening very quickly during the early stages of the school year, and we have seen a very busy start to 2017-18.  It seems like a blur since staff reported a few weeks ago, and we already have two weeks under our belt with students.  It has been so much fun seeing our students and staff make the adjustments to new classrooms, grade levels, and buildings.  I cannot remember a better start to a school year than what we have had so far this year.

As we settle into our new routines, our district is actively pursuing a model for continuous improvement.  We call this our Good to Great Framework and you can access our guiding document by clicking here.  The outcomes, beliefs and practices, pillars, indicators of success, and our shared purpose represent the vision for USD 460.  Within that vision is a role for every member of our school community as we ultimately pursue our shared purpose which is to provide every single student with the opportunity to find who they are and who they can become.

It is an exciting time of year as we have many activities beginning with the onset of the fall season.  One of our indicators of success is our activity participation and we are seeing great numbers in our athletic programs and our clubs and organizations.  Our staff is also working hard to strengthen our connections with the community as we provide job shadowing opportunities for our secondary students along with increased access to career exploration.  We have already seen some changes in how we engage with parents through our open house opportunities and we will continue to do everything we can to strengthen the partnership between school and home.

Hesston schools have an incredible tradition of excellence and innovation, and there has never been a better time to be a Swather.  We have incredible teachers and support staff everywhere, and these professionals are not only extremely skilled, they also love and care for our kids as individuals.  I am so excited to see what 2017-18 has in store for our school district and our students.  

We are poised for great things, and as always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about anything we do in USD 460.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.  Of course, I love sitting down and visiting with people most of all so feel free to swing by our district office at 150 N Ridge Rd (at the football stadium) if you ever want to know more about our vision for Hesston schools.


August 18, 2017

We will be hosting our first Parent Advisory Team meeting of the 2017-18 school year on Tuesday, August 22 from 7:00-8:30 pm in the Hesston High School commons area.  Parent Advisory is open to all parents and guardians of K-12 students in USD 460.  We will have four total sessions throughout the school year focused on district-wide and building specific topics.

On August 22, we will spend time discussing the new post-secondary success measure developed by the Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas State Board of Education over the past year.  This measure includes data from our recent graduating classes and the progress these students have made through post-secondary institutions since graduating high school.  

On Monday, we will go through our district's data which includes the following specific measures:
- 5 Year Graduation Rate
- 5 Year "Success Average"
- 5 Year "Effective Average"

During this session, we will discuss what each of these numbers represents and how our district can successfully set and meet our goals related to this important success measure.

In addition, there will be time for each building principal to meet on specific topics of interest related to a particular building.  

We hope you are able to attend this meeting and others throughout the school year.  If you plan to attend on August 22, please send me an email or give me a call.  Our district office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


August 14, 2017

"First Day of School"

USD 460 has its first day with students on Tuesday, August 15, and this will be a half day with dismissal at noon.  

Due to our community recreation project, there is quite a bit of construction going on around campus, and we want to share a bit of information with our parents and students to make sure everyone is aware of the safest routes to school.

For most of the summer, the sidewalk that runs north and south on the east side of Ridge has been closed at the new entrance to the aquatic center.  There is now a temporary sidewalk that will be accessible where the sidewalk was previously closed.  The temporary sidewalk runs near the construction fencing which will ensure that students who are walking north and south along Ridge stay away from the street, and have a path to safely cross this area.  

In addition, another sidewalk which has been closed for several months from Ridge Rd to the high school will be open as the temporary construction fence is set back allowing direct access all the way from Ridge to HHS.  

We are going to hold off on using our new parking lot at the elementary school for the first couple of weeks of school.  There is still work remaining in this area as we install a new crosswalk and signal at the parking lot entrance, and once all of this is ready, we will send out a notification.  

Finally, our new school playground at HES is scheduled for installation in late August and we hope to have it ready to go by the first full week in September barring any weather delays or other unforeseen scheduling concerns.  This means our staff will be providing recess opportunities for our students by utilizing other spaces on campus and within a short walking distance.  

Due to the construction occurring on campus, we will have increased staff presence along Ridge Rd as students arrive to and leave from school each day for the first couple of weeks.  We want to ensure that all students are clear on the temporary routes and then eventually the permanent routes to each school.   Once construction is complete with the new walking and parking areas, we will communicate with everyone at that time.

As always, please call, email, or stop by our central office anytime if you have questions or concerns about this topic or any other school district matter.  Our office number is 620-327-4931, and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


August 8, 2017

"Parent Advisory Team"

Over the past two years, USD 460 has developed a Parent Advisory Team which meets periodically in conjunction with our Building Site Councils to share and discuss ideas on how our district can continue to grow and improve.  This year our goal is to continue to provide this opportunity for all interested parents and guardians of K-12 students in Hesston schools.

The dates we have chosen for our Parent Advisory Team and Site Council in 2017-18 are as follows:
- Tuesday, August 22 
- Tuesday, November 7
- Thursday, January 18
- Tuesday, March 13

All meetings will be from 7:00-8:30 pm and the meetings will be located in the Hesston High School commons area.  The format of the meetings will include a time for us to share as an entire district, and we will also have time for individual buildings to discuss items specific to those grade levels.

Our first meeting is coming up quickly, and one of the key areas of focus for us will be the new post-secondary success measure that has been introduced by the Kansas State Board of Education.  Other topics we will discuss throughout the year include our District Improvement Framework, parent and community engagement, and the Kansans Can Vision for public schools in our state.

All parents are invited to attend, and we will provide a detailed agenda for our sessions the week prior to each meeting.  We also encourage parents to share ideas and topics that would be of interest.
  
Ultimately, our goal is to grow our connection between school and home to maximize the opportunities for success for each of our students.  We want to ensure that our parents and families are informed, involved, empowered, and ultimately our partners in learning.  We know that this partnership is critical as we pursue our shared purpose.

As always, please contact our office anytime should you have questions or thoughts you would like to share on this topic or any other.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


July 20, 2017

"School Finance Update"

This past Tuesday, the Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments on school finance in Kansas, specifically the new school finance formula signed into law after the most recent legislative session, Senate Bill 19.  This new formula raised the base state aid per pupil amount in the general fund from $3852, which it has been the past three school budget years, to $4006 for the 17-18 school year.  This new formula would then raise base state aid per pupil to $4128 in 18-19, and it would then be adjusted to reflect increases in the consumer price index beginning in 19-20.

The Court spent Tuesday morning listening to and asking questions of the attorneys for the schools represented in the school funding lawsuit and the attorneys for the State of Kansas.  KASB representatives Donna Whiteman and Mark Tallman have a video conference review of the hearing analyzing the details and you can access that video by clicking here.

At this time, Kansas school districts are in a waiting game until the Supreme Court issues a ruling on the constitutionality of Senate Bill 19.  Normally, we have completed our budget by this time in the summer, but at this time, we have not even begun this process.  If Senate Bill 19 becomes law, we know that this will generate additional dollars in our general fund.  We also know that we would see a slight dip in our local option budget, and there would be no impact in our capital outlay state aid.

Our district office staff is eager to begin the budgeting process, and our hope is that we are able to do so within the next week or two.  Until that time, we will continue to do as much planning as possible for the new school year as we make projections as to what our budget will be and how we pursue our resources in the most efficient manner possible.  

As is always the case, please do not hesitate to contact our office anytime should you have any thoughts, questions or concerns.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


July 5, 2017


"Summer Updates"

It has been a busy summer around campus!


The Hesston Recreation Project is in full swing, and there is noticeable change along Ridge Road and along Randall Street.  The new ball fields are beginning to take shape, and the swimming pool has been excavated.  We are now seeing foundation work for our new structures including restroom and concession facilities, dugouts for the ball fields, and the new bath house at the aquatic center.  Progress is right on track as much of the project work will be completed this fall with the fields ready for play in the spring of 2018.  The aquatic center is on schedule to open for the summer of 2018.

There are also a number of other changes happening around campus with the normal summer maintenance, cleaning, and painting.  We have also recently replaced our boilers at the elementary school, remodeled a portion of our multi-purpose room at the middle school to create on-campus storage, and upgraded our entryway to the middle school.  We are currently planning our capital projects for the new fiscal year, and those priorities will be finalized in August.

In addition to the many facility upgrades happening this summer, we are also busy planning for the new school year.  There is still some level of uncertainty with our budget for 2017-18.  Although a new school finance formula was developed during the 2017 legislative session, this law is pending review by the Kansas Supreme Court.  This hearing will occur on July 18 and we should have some direction from the Court sometime after that date.  Until that time, we are unable to conduct our budget preparations as we normally would in early July.  Despite the uncertainty related to our budgeting timeline, school districts around the state are confident that we will see some increases in our base state aid per pupil as we transition to back to a formula that calculates state aid based on enrollment.

We continue to develop our District Improvement Framework and there has been a great deal of work with our teachers this summer on curriculum and instruction.  Our Building Leadership Teams have all spent time discussing specific improvements we are seeking in each school.  As is always the case, our new staff will be receiving cooperative learning and Responsibility Centered Discipline training this summer.

We hope everyone is enjoying the summer months, and we are looking forward to our preparations for the new school year.  As is always the case, please holler anytime if you have any questions, thoughts or concerns.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.  You can also stop by and visit as we are located at 150 N Ridge Rd just on the south end of the football stadium.


June 21, 2017


"School Finance"

The regular session for the Kansas Legislature has come and gone and there was a great deal of hard work done related to school finance and the state budget this spring.  When all the dust settled, both the House and Senate passed a school finance plan and a budget to fund it.  Last week, Governor Brownback signed the school finance formula and the next step is a review by the Kansas Supreme Court to ensure this plan is constitutional based on the standard of adequacy and equity.

The Court had initially given the legislature a deadline of June 30 to develop a new formula, and there has been some speculation throughout the spring that failure to get something to the Court by June 30 could result in the shutdown of public school across Kansas.  We learned earlier this week, school districts will operate on Senate Bill 19 (the new formula) until the Court has had time to review and issue a ruling.  Therefore, there is no immediate threat of a shutdown of school services.

If Senate Bill 19 is ruled constitutional, there will be a net positive impact on the budget of USD 460.  Because the base state aid per pupil amount will increase from $3852 under the block grant to $4006 for the 2018 budget year, USD 460 will see an increase of approximately $160,000 in our general fund under this plan.  In 2019, the per pupil amount in our general fund would increase to $4128 and then would be adjusted based on the consumer price index in future years.  

Additional funding for Kansas schools carries with it a responsibility to ensure we are positively impacting our students, especially in areas related to the Kansans Can outcomes.  As we progress through the summer and get closer to the 2017-18 school year, much more information will be shared on our budget and plans to provide every child with the opportunity to find success in USD 460.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact our office anytime should you have any questions, concerns, or thoughts about any district or state matters.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.
 

May 4, 2017

"Infinite Campus Text Notification"

We want to make all of our families aware of a new feature available to us through our Infinite Campus student information system.  For a number of years, we have utilized our IC Messenger feature which allows our schools and the district to send out email notifications with a variety of updates about events, activities, newsletters, etc.  This email notification system will continue just as it has in the past, but below you will see information on a new means of communication coming next school year.

Beginning with the 2017-18 school year, we will begin utilizing the text messaging feature of Infinite Campus in addition to using our existing means of communication.  There are two primary purposes for which this new text messaging feature will be utilized.  First, it will allow our school and district offices to immediately communicate with our parents and guardians in any type of emergency situation.  The second purpose, will be to text any information we deem to be a priority notification. This would include non-emergency situations involving information that is needed in a very timely manner.  

In order to access and utilize this feature, we need all parents and guardians, who wish to receive texts, to log into their Parent Portal through Infinite Campus.  You can access that link by going to hesstonschools.org and clicking on the IC Parent Portal link under the Parents heading and following these steps:

  • Login with your username and password
  • Under User Account on the left side of the screen, click on Contact Preferences
  • Find the phone number(s) through which you wish to receive text messages
  • Click the Emergency and Priority Notification boxes for that number
  • Do not click the other text boxes because texts will not be sent concerning those areas
  • Click Save

You will also notice there is a Voice option to click as well.  This is something that our district may use, but likely very sparingly.  Feel free to click this box in the event we choose to record a voice message to send out over the phone in an emergency or priority situation.  Our first choice, however, will be to send a text message instead of a voice message for something of an immediate nature.  Please keep in mind that text and data rates through your cellular carrier may apply when receiving our text messages.

Our hope is to get this notification out this spring so that as many of our families as possible have this feature activated going into the 2017-18 school year.  We will have information available for all families on this feature at enrollment in August.  A station will be available where parents can login to their IC Parent Portal and activate the feature during Enrollment Day.  However, we encourage you to go ahead and activate it sooner, than that if possible keeping in mind that it is your choice to receive these text messages. 

As always, with this topic or any other of a school district matter, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.



April 27, 2017

"Post-Secondary Success Measure"

Within the past several weeks, our Commissioner of Education, Dr. Randy Watson, has shared a new measure of student success with school districts around the state.  This measure specifically accounts for the enrollment and retention of high school graduates in post-secondary institutions within their first two years of high school graduation.

The categories on this measure include graduation rates, success rates, and effective rates.  The graduation rate includes the percentage of students entering 9th grade who go on and graduate from high school.  The success rate includes those graduates who go on to a post-secondary institution including a two or four year college or university, a trade or technical school, or the military.  The measure takes into account the percentage of students who enter one of these post-secondary institutions and either graduate or return for a second year.  The effective rate then multiplies the graduation rate and success rate.

In addition, part of this measure will include factors that impact school and student success, referred to as at-risk factors.  There are seven at-risk factors including:  cumulative poverty, chronic absenteeism, suspension and expulsion, mobility, english language learner population, disabled student population, and percentage of new teachers.  These factors are considered as this new measure of success is eventually utilized as a way of gaging school success related to post-secondary enrollment and retention.  The formula allows schools to be measured on their effective rates with these at-risk factors considered.  This tells school districts as to whether they are performing above, at, or below where they should be based on these factors.  All of this information comes from the National Clearinghouse data that is available to all schools.

Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at our numbers in Hesston USD 460 and determining our strengths and challenges related to this data.  We are also discussing how the goals the state has for graduation rates, success rates, and effective rates are possible for our students.  Currently, USD 460 ranks 44th in the state out of 286 school districts in our effective rate when at-risk factors are considered.  We have a graduation rate of 94% which is just one point below the state goal of 95% by 2020.  Our effective rate is 64% and the 2020 goal is 70-75%.  Our standard deviation level is +1 meaning our school district performs better than it would be predicted to perform based on our risk factors.  This is all positive news for us, but we certainly are not satisfied with where our numbers currently stand.

As we continue to analyze this new measure and discuss what it means for us, we look forward to bringing this conversation to our entire school community.  Although not perfect, we believe in this type of success measure.  It is a high standard and it is supported by our District Improvement Framework.  Much more to come on this topic, but for the time being, you can access our state post-secondary report and additional clearinghouse numbers by clicking here


April 24, 2017

"Legislative Session"

On Monday, May 1, the legislative session resumes in Topeka, and there is a lot of important work to do in the short time left during this session.  Two of the big items related to schools, and specifically related to finance, include the approval of a new school finance formula for 2017-18, and a revenue plan that will fund the new formula.

There has been a great deal of committee work since January to develop a school finance formula for both the House and Senate to look at as the session resumes.  The formula closely resembles the formula that was in place prior to the block grant funding that was instituted beginning with the 2015-16 school year.  

The main premise of this new finance bill, known as House Bill 2410, includes a return to the base state aid per pupil mechanism of funding our general fund.  Under 2410 as it is written currently, the amount per pupil will begin gradually increasing next year and beyond from what it was prior to the block grant.  In addition to this change with our general fund, HB 2410 also keeps the local option budget the same as current and many other features of the old school finance formula remain in place under this plan.

Although the current school finance bill, developed by the K-12 House School Finance Committee, shows favorably for Hesston in 2017-18, there is the question of how it will be funded.  Current shortfalls with the prospect of growing shortfalls in coming years would mean that a revenue plan will have to be developed and approved during this session for this type of school funding formula to be put into place and fully funded.  

The final piece of the puzzle beyond just the approval of a new school funding formula by the legislature and a long-term revenue plan is that the formula must meet the Kansas Supreme Court's standard of constitutionality based on both equity and adequacy.  This review will need to be completed and approved by the Court no later than June 30, 2017 in order for there to be a legal funding mechanism in place for schools across Kansas.

There is a lot of work to do, and we will be paying very close attention to the conversation from Topeka beginning on Monday.  We will also continue to provide updates as the work progresses and decisions are made.  As always, please call, email or swing by our office should you have any thoughts or questions about anything we do in USD 460.  Our office number is 620-327-4931, my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org and our address is 150 N Ridge Road (located on the south end of Hobbs Field).


April 21, 2017

Last week, I was fortunate enough to participate in the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) instructor certification training at Wabaunsee High School in Alma, KS.  This past summer, we had two of our staff member, Ty Rhodes and Les Guhr, certified in this same training and our goal is to continue to build our capacity to ensure all of our students and staff members are knowledgeable of best practices related to active shooter or aggressive intruder scenarios.

The ALICE approach to this type of situation is a focus for all Harvey County school districts including Newton, Halstead, Burrton, and Sedgwick.  We are all working together to develop common practices and a consistent approach to training and implementation.  As we progress in our understanding and response through information and drills, our goal is to continue to update and inform all community stakeholder groups.  In addition, we continue to work with our local Police Department and our Harvey County Emergency Management Team.

It goes without saying that this is the type of training and situation that we are hopeful we never have to use.  Our purpose is to ensure that we are creating the safest learning environment possible, and in any type of emergency situation, we want to be best prepared.  The ALICE approach allows us to best prepared.

If you should have any questions about this topic or any other related to USD 460, please do not hesitate to call, email, or stop by.  Our office number is 620-327-4931, and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.
 

March 8, 2017

The spring is always a busy time in school districts, but this spring might be one of the busier in recent memory.  Here are just a few things that are happening around the district and state:

Hesston Recreation Project:
This project is over two years in the making, and we are getting very close to construction beginning.  Over the next couple of weeks, the Public Building Commission will make a decision on approving a general contractor to begin work on the project.  Once that approval is given, then mobilization will occur along with sequencing the development o fate new facilities as the school year closes out and summer arrives.  This is all very exciting for our community and we look forward to having many of these new facilities operational within the next year.

School Finance:
This has been a busy spring in Topeka as our legislature has worked on various bills that have had potential impact on school funding.  Back in January, the Governor released his recommended budget.  Since that time, we have seen a tax plan that passed through the House and Senate before being vetoed by the Governor.  This veto was overridden by the House but failed a Senate override by three votes.  A revenue plan would have potentially helped to provide some stability to our state budget which could have allowed the legislature to begin progressing towards a new school funding formula.  This work is ongoing in our legislature at this time.

In addition to the work of the legislature, last week the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling on the constitutional requirement for an adequate school finance formula.  Currently, school districts across Kansas are funded under a block grant formula based on the same general fund amount received in the 2014-15 school year.  This formula was ruled unconstitutional based on equity last year, and this year the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the block grant did not meet the adequacy requirement either.  The Court has given the legislature until June 30 to meet this requirement with a different funding mechanism.  The general consensus seems to be that the best way to meet this adequacy requirement is to increase the base state aid per pupil amount that would go into a district's general fund.

Student & School Safety
Since early January, our district has embraced our new approach to active shooter and aggressive intruder emergency situations.  We have coordinated this closely with our local police department and Chief Doug Schroeder.  In mid January and early February, we conducted classroom visits to discuss our new procedures related to the ALICE protocol that we have adopted as a district.  These classroom discussions went very well, and since that time, we have begun administering drill situations with students and staff in order to better understand our new procedures and the options available to us.  We will continue to prepare our people in the very best way possible in all areas of emergency preparedness including human threats and natural disaster stations.  




January 3, 2017

Alice Parent Letter

Over the past 10 months there have been a series of county-wide conversations in Harvey County on the topic of active shooters and aggressive intruders.  These conversations have included leaders in public education and college administration, law enforcement leaders, medical professionals, city and county officials, and other key stakeholder groups in Harvey County.  

Beginning in July of 2016, one area of particular focus for this group was to begin training and plan implementation for a new, research-based policy and procedure for responding to this type of human threat.  In USD 460, our first step in transitioning our policy and procedures was to send two staff members to ALICE training at Hesston College in late July.  The purpose of this training was to provide these two staff members with the necessary background and expertise to help train all staff in the fall of 2016.

This past October, through the leadership of our Hesston Police Department and Chief Doug Schroeder, we began training every staff member in USD 460 in the ALICE Active Shooter Response.  As of today, we have 99% of our certified and classified staff trained in this system.  You can read more about ALICE and what it stands for by going to www.alicetraining.com.

Research has shown us that the traditional "lockdown," where we have trained our staff and students to hide and shelter in place, is not best practice in a situation involving an armed intruder.  This new approach provides our people with options to respond based on information that is available to them.  This includes the ability to evacuate or escape a dangerous situation if that is the best option available.  

The topic of an armed intruder is a scary one for all of us, especially for the students in our care.  Therefore, we want to be very intentional about the way we communicate our new policy and procedures to our students as to avoid unnecessary stress to them at school.  Beginning in late January, our plan is to have a member of the Hesston Police Department join our principals and counselors in all three buildings to have individual classroom discussions with all of our students in small groups.  These conversations will take into account the variety of age groups in each building and will be a time where students can hear about ALICE protocol in an age-appropriate way, and also ask questions to our police officers and school leaders.

This topic gets to the heart of what is most important to the people who work in our schools, and that is the safety of our children.  We want to ensure we are best prepared for any situation that may arise, and although our hope is that we absolutely never have to use this type of procedure, we also know that we should always ensure we are prepared for the worst even though our hope is always for the best.  

As always, please call, email, or schedule a time to come into the district office to visit about this or any other topic of a district matter.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.



December 21, 2016

Over the past 10 months there have been a series of county-wide conversations in Harvey County on the topic of active shooters and aggressive intruders.  These conversations have included leaders in K-12 public education and college administration, law enforcement leaders, medical professionals, city and county officials, and other key stakeholder groups in Harvey County.  

Beginning in July of 2016, one area of particular focus for this group was to begin training and plan implementation for a new, research-based policy and procedure for responding to this type of human threat.  In USD 460, our first step in transitioning our policy and procedures was to send two staff members to ALICE training at Hesston College in late July.  The purpose of this training was to provide these two staff members with the necessary background and expertise to help train all staff in the fall of 2016.

Beginning this past October, through the leadership of our Hesston Police Department and Chief Doug Schroeder, we began training every staff member in USD 460 in the ALICE Active Shooter Response.  As of today, we have 99% of our certified and classified staff trained in this system.  You can read more about ALICE and what it stands for by clicking here.

Research has shown us that the traditional "lockdown" where we have trained our staff and students to hide and shelter in place is not best practice in a situation involving an armed intruder.  This new approach provides our people with options to respond based on information that is available to them.  This includes the ability to evacuate or escape a dangerous situation if that is the best option available.  

The topic of an armed intruder is a scary one for all of us, especially for the students in our care.  Therefore, we want to be very intentional about the way we communicate our new policy and procedures to our students as to not create unnecessary stress to them at school.  Beginning in late January, our plan is to have a member of the Hesston Police Department join our principals and counselors in all three buildings to have individual classroom discussions with all of our students in small groups.  These conversations will take into account the variety of age groups in each building and will be a time where students can hear about ALICE protocol in an age-appropriate way, and also ask questions to our police officers and school leaders.

This topic gets to the heart of what is most important to the people who work in our schools and that is the safety of our children.  We want to ensure that we are best prepared for any situation that may arise, and although our hope is that we absolutely never have to use this type of procedure, we know that we should always ensure that we are prepared for the worst even though our hope is always for the best.  

As always, please call, email, or schedule a time to come into the district office to visit about this or any other topic of a district matter.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.



November 2, 2016
 
USD 460 is committed to a model of continuous improvement and growth.  This is best illustrated by our District Improvement Framework which is a one page visual that includes the following components:

- Student Success Outcomes
- Shared Purpose
- Indicators of Success
- Building and Classroom Practices
- Student Characteristics
- Accelerators and Maximizers

This improvement framework is still in draft form.  Our staff continues to develop our vision and work is currently ongoing with the Board of Education and other stakeholder groups in our community including our Parent Advisory Team which is open to any parent/guardian of a k-12 student in USD 460.

Ultimately, we want to further develop our focus on giving every single child every opportunity to become the very best of which he or she is capable.  To make that more than just words on a page is our challenge, and we have many of the foundational elements in place to ensure we are progressing towards success in each of our classrooms, across our buildings, and throughout our entire district.

We are still about one year away from taking our draft form of this District Improvement Framework to making it a formal vision for our district.  So, there is an opportunity for feedback and analysis of our goals and plan.  As is always the case, please contact me anytime should you have any questions or thoughts about this topic or anything we do as a school district in Hesston.


November 1, 2016

We will hold our second Parent Advisory Team meeting of the school year on Tuesday, November 15 at 6:30 pm in the Hesston Middle School library.  Our first meeting was held on October 17 and we discussed a variety of topics that will carry over to our conversation on November 15.  

We invite any parent/guardian of a k-12 student in Hesston schools to attend.  As we get closer to the meeting date, we will share specific topics that will be shared on November 15, and we certainly welcome any and all ideas from our P.A.T. participants for topics of discussion.  

We would ask that you notify us by calling 620-327-4931 or emailing ben.proctor@usd460.org to let us know if you will be in attendance so that we can plan for numbers.

Our Parent Advisory Team exists so that we can create a stronger partnership with those who are most invested in the success of our kids.  Hope to see you on the 15th.
 

September 14, 2016


There is a lot of power in asking "why"?

Over the past couple of days, I had the opportunity to attend the first annual Kansas Can Symposium in Manhattan, KS.  This conference was kicked off with a powerful presentation from our State Commissioner of Education, Dr. Randy Watson.  I have had the opportunity to listen to Dr. Watson many times over the past year or so, and although he has a consistent message, there is always something new to take away.  In addition to Dr. Watson, the symposium hosted many "breakout sessions" that focused on the state's five outcomes related to our new vision.  These outcomes include:  kindergarten readiness, post-secondary success, graduation, individual plans of study, and social and emotional growth.

As I have reflected on what I learned during this two-day session, the question of always analyzing why we do what we do keeps coming to mind.  

Over the past several years, our district has worked to analyze our purpose and to commit to becoming more purposeful in everything we do.  With this intention in mind, we have developed a guide to ensure we continue to move in that more purposeful direction.  We call it our District Improvement Framework and it is currently in the developmental stages.  The value of the framework is that it allows us to communicate why our schools exist, what our core values are, how we measure success, and the actions it will take to ultimately achieve our defined outcomes.  The beauty of this framework is that it all lies on one page of paper.  It is intended to be simple yet powerful, and ultimately a way for us to stay focused no matter who our leaders are.

There is much work still to do as we move towards the development of a more purposeful school community.  We believe this commitment is going to ultimately lead us to provide the very best opportunities for our kids to be everything they are capable of becoming.  This mission takes time, but more importantly, it takes a commitment from everyone invested in the success of our kids.  Over the next month, our administrative team will be doing some "final" analysis of our framework and in October our Board of Education will be discussing our district's core values.

We invite our community to share thoughts on the direction our schools are going.  We are currently developing several surveys that will allow feedback on not only our framework and purpose, but also our day-to-day work with our kids.  In addition, we will be resuming our Parent Advisory Team meetings in October with an emphasis on those topics that are most important to our families.  We hope you take advantage of these opportunities to share ideas on how we can best meet the needs of our students.

As always, please give me a call or shoot me an email anytime if you have any thoughts or questions on this topic or anything else we do as a school district.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 or my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


August 24, 2016

"Welcome to 2016-17"

It has been a terrific start to the 2016-17 school year in all of Hesston Schools.  Over the past week, we have seen a lot of smiling faces coming into our buildings each day, and although it is sometimes difficult to adjust to the new schedule of the school year, it has been a very smooth, efficient, and productive first week.

It continues to be so evident that we have great people in USD 460.  Our staff is incredibly committed to the success of each of our kids, and they combine this student-centered approach with incredible talent, knowledge, and a work ethic that is second to none.  The people that work in our district make Hesston Schools such a special place for kids and a true point of pride for our entire community.

As we begin this school year, our school district will continue to develop our District Improvement Framework which was first introduced about one year ago.  This framework is in the construction phase, but we have made a great deal of progress over the past year.  This year, we intend to create greater opportunities for stakeholder engagement including:  parents and families, students, business leaders and professionals, social service providers, retirement community, district staff, and others.  

As we move forward in the development of our framework, one of the big areas of emphasis as we engage our stakeholders is in the establishment of specific measures of success.  By many measures, whether they are academic or non-academic, Hesston Schools typically stack up pretty well with state and national averages.  Whether or not we are above average or better than most cannot be our standard.  So, our staff is committed to creating a culture which is "hostile towards complacency" and ultimately creates a culture that is focused on continuous and intentional improvement.  

There is a lot of work to do, but we are off to a great start on creating this vision and action plan for USD 460.  We invite anyone in our community that is committed to the success of our students to engage with us in this effort.  There is much more to come on this topic as we move further into this new school year and we have specific goals that we want to accomplish before 2017-18.  As always, do not hesitate to contact me should you have any thoughts or questions related to this topic or any other district or state matters.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


August 11, 2016

"Back to School"

Sometimes it seems as though the summer may last forever, but all of sudden, the new school year is now upon us.  One of the awesome things about being an educator is the opportunity for a fresh start each August as our kids come back excited about a new year.  This year is no exception as our district is poised for great things in 2016-17.

In recent years, Hesston Schools have embraced a more purposeful approach to creating a model of continuous improvement.  This
 endeavor has led to the development of a our District Improvement Framework, and we have adopted the mindset of moving our district from Good to Great.  Much of our framework is based on those fundamental practices in education that make the greatest difference in student success, and this year presents an opportunity to further expand this framework to include specific measures for our students and our schools.

Our goal in 2016-17 is to engage our stakeholders in conversations and actions around student success measures which will be true indicators of the success of our district.  Some of these measures will be academic in nature and will include core fundamental skills in reading, writing, thinking, speaking, and listening.  We define this particular outcome by using the term "authentic literacy" with the idea that we want our students to receive world-class instruction in these five areas.

Other student outcomes we want to continue to explore and further develop are related to civic engagement and an individual approach to our students and their skills and passions.  This includes embedding those employability and soft skills into everything we do in our schools.

By committing to an instructional program devoted to core academic skills and embedding critical soft skills into all we do, we will be providing every opportunity for our kids to become the very best of which they are capable.  That's a big goal but we feel that is the track we are on, and it will take a strong partnership between our schools and our whole community to make all of this a reality.


It is going to be a great year in Hesston Schools, and our plan is to provide opportunities for everyone in our community to share thoughts as we further develop our overall district improvement plan.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or thoughts on anything we do as a school district.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.

June 24, 2016

Yesterday the Kansas legislature reconvened for a special legislative session to address the Supreme Court ruling that the current school funding law does not satisfy the equity mandate based on the Kansas Constitution.  The timeline is growing shorter by the day as the Supreme Court has ruled that if the legislature cannot develop an equitable funding formula by July 1 then school districts across our state will face closure.  Although there is still uncertainty surrounding what a school closure actually looks like, we know without a doubt that it would be damaging to our schools, our people, and our state.

On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to drive up to Topeka and meet with other superintendents around Kansas to
hear what options might be put on the table by various groups in the legislature.  We were told there are three plans, one from the democrats, one from the republicans, and one from the moderates.  Each of these plans had a common element and that is to put $38 million into the Local Option Budget formula that is the agreed upon dollar amount that will fix the equity portion of the current school funding law.  The difference in the plans is  in where the $38 million comes from. 

Several committees met yesterday with both the Senate and House Ways and Means Committees focused on the school funding bill.  Both committees looked specifically at only one of the bills and that was the one from the GOP which received approval from both committees and will now go before the legislative body.  That plan would pull funds from every school district's general fund to help collect the necessary $38 million to put into LOB.  The total amount taken from the general fund would be $13 million which makes up half of one percent of the overall general fund for school districts and this would mean a cut of approximately $22,000 for Hesston.  Other funds that would be impacted include:  virtual school funding ($3 million); Temporary Assistance for Need Families fund ($4.1 million); extraordinary needs funding ($10 million); and "new money from the state" ($10 million).

It has been reported that many superintendents across Kansas are "supporting" or at least "not opposing" this particular bill as a best option when there are only bad options.  Although some school district leaders have expressed no opposition for this bill, there are many who are opposed  especially as it takes money from the general fund to redistribute.  There are really two main concerns with that.  First and foremost, there are questions about whether pulling dollars from every school district in Kansas will "run afoul" with the adequacy requirement of any school funding law.  The court has stated that in order to develop equity, the funding formula must not "run afoul" with adequacy.  Many feel that reducing the general fund will do just that and therefore the court will strike this bill down just as it did before. 

The second concern with a cut to the general fund is that school districts were promised at the beginning of 2015-16 that we would have
two years of flat funding (no increase or decrease) while a new long-term plan was developed.  For Hesston, we would lose a combined $69,000 with $22,000 coming from our general fund and $47,000 from LOB for this coming year under this plan.  These numbers are available through KSDE and can be found by clicking hereIt is important to note that there are other options that the legislature could look at where the general state aid for school districts is untouched.  Those plans are organized and available to our lawmakers, but it is unclear if they are being considered at this time. 

The reality is our state i
s in very poor financial health.  When it comes to funding schools there are not a lot of good options for the legislature to look at in the short term, and school districts are starting to disagree to some degree on what the best options are when there seems to be no good options.  In many ways, we are in unprecedented times, but we also must remember what our focus must be.  In August we will have 800 young people from our community between 5 and 18 years of age who are ready to learn, and we must be ready to provide the very best we have to each of our kidsI believe we are poised for great things in our school district and although the troubles in Topeka can be disheartening and force us into difficult decisions, now is the time for leaders to lead because the future of our community and our state depends on it. 

W
e will continue to advocate for funding that allows our schools to provide the very best to our kids each day.  After spending a year managing our school district budget, I can say with certainty that our commitment is to efficiency and impact with ongoing analysis of our entire budget and the purposeful development of priorities based on specific student success measures that we are very close to establishing.  Although financial uncertainty is challenging, I am excited about what the future holds for Hesston Schools and the year ahead.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime should you have questions about this topic or any other related to school district and state matters.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org. 


May 31, 2016


For over a year now, there has been a committee comprised of individuals from the Hesston City Council, Hesston Recreation Commission, USD 460 Board of Education, the Hesston City Administrator, Recreation Director, and a team from Hesston Schools planning a recreation facilities project to improve the overall quality of life in Hesston. 

This process has been documented in the Hesston Record over the past few months and the committee is now prepared to present this project to the community in a public setting.  There are three events scheduled over the next few weeks that will allow anyone in our community to come and hear information related to the project as well as ask any questions you may have.

The following dates and locations have been chosen for these informational events:
- Sunday, June 5 at 6:30 pm at the Hesston High Auditorium
- Sunday, June 12 at 2:00 pm at the Hesston Elementary 1-2 Commons
- Wednesday, June 15 at 6:30 pm at the Hesston Golf Course

The scope of this project includes the following:
- a new swimming pool located west of Hesston High School
- renovation of the current HHS softball field, converting it to a baseball field
- construction of a new softball field on the HES grounds
- construction of a new t-ball field on the HES grounds
- construction of two new soccer fields on the HES grounds
- construction of a restroom/concession facility on the HES grounds
- construction of a new playground at HES
- construction of a new parking lot in the open lot east of HES

The total cost of this project will be approximately $5.8 million and this will be financed using tax-exempt bonds and the finance term will be 20 years.  This equates to approximately 9.5 additional mills that the recreation commission would need to assess, and we are currently exploring fundraising possibilities to help alleviate some of the mill increase to keep it as low as possible. 

Keep in mind that the 9.5 mills is if there are no fundraising dollars brought in and does include yearly maintenance costs.  You can view a table of how a 9.5 mill increase would impact various property values in USD 460 based on current valuation amounts:


Appraised Value     
    Annual        Monthly

$100,000                      $109.25        $9.10

$150,000                      $163.88        $13.66

$200,000                      $218.50        $18.21

$250,000                      $273.13        $22.76

$300,000                      $327.75        $27.31

$350,000                      $382.38        $31.86

$400,000                      $437.00        $36.42

This project is very exciting and the overall feel from the community is a positive one based on the feedback the committee has received thus far.  Our committee wants to continue to be transparent as we get closer to making the new facilities a reality for the community and encourage anyone who wants to learn more or share thoughts to attend one of the events listed above.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime should you have any thoughts, questions or concerns about this topic or any other state or district matter.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.



May 11, 2016

Earlier this week the Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the latest school finance case.  This is in response to the new school finance plan the governor signed into law earlier this year that applied the capital outlay formula to the local option budget.  For USD 460, this plan would mean a small increase in our capital outlay state aid, a significant reduction in LOB, and the difference would be made up in "hold harmless" funds that would go into our general fund.  The Supreme Court's task is to determine if this new funding formula meets the constitutional requirement for equitable funding for Kansas school districts.  

When the long-standing school funding formula was replaced by the block grant in 2015, the courts ruled that the block grant violated the equitable funding mandate of the Kansas Constitution.  The Kansas Supreme Court ultimately gave the legislature a mandate to create a funding mechanism that would pass the equity standard and in their ruling stated that failure to do so would result in the closure of Kansas schools.

In recent days and weeks there have been many media reports on what school closure actually means.  One of the difficult parts of this entire situation is that there are still so many unknowns.  It is unknown if schools will actually close on July 1.  It is also unknown as to what a school shutdown actually looks like.  USD 460 has made no projection on what a shutdown means because we simply do not know.   

There is a high likelihood that if the Court rules the school finance formula unconstitutional based on equity, then the Court will also state clearly what a school shutdown looks like if they follow-through on that ultimatum.  In addition, we have heard from our local representatives that the likely move from the legislature would be to reconvene to address the ruling of the Court if necessary.  

In many ways we are in unchartered waters, at least in recent times.  The idea of school districts in Kansas shutting down, even temporarily, seems pretty scary, but sadly it is a reality that has been put on the table due to the challenging times our state is currently facing.  

We hope that the Supreme Court is able to rule as quickly as possible as the sooner we know what is going to happen, the quicker we can prepare for the next school year.  As we learn more, we will certainly pass that information on to our staff and community.  Please do not hesitate to contact our office anytime you have questions or need any additional information on state or district matters.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.

April 28, 2016

The purpose of this letter is to inform you of our school district’s intent to end the 2015-16 school year on Friday, May 20 at noon adjusted from our originally planned last day of school which had been set for Tuesday, May 24 with a noon dismissal.  The USD 460 Board of Education approved this change at a special meeting held on Wednesday, April 27.

You may have seen or read recently of a number of area school districts which have decided to end their school year early to save on expenses.  Although we are in the same situation in terms of budgetary challenges as many other districts in Kansas, the purpose of Hesston Schools ending early is to recognize the hard work of our staff and students this year.  We see this as a way of saying thank you to our people.  For that reason, all employees will be paid for the work they would do on the one and a half days we have eliminated from this year’s calendar.

As our Board of Education considered this as an option to show appreciation for our people, there were several things considered.  We looked at the number of student contact hours required by law to ensure ending the year early would keep us above this threshold for all students.  We also recognized the fact that we had no inclement weather days for the 2015-16 school year.  We discussed any other logistical challenges this change could cause and all of those have been addressed including adjustments to our high school finals schedule and the 8th grade promotion date which will remain on Monday, May 23 at 7:00 pm.

One of our primary concerns is that this change in plans will create hardships for some families to find childcare on Monday, May 23 and in the morning on Tuesday, May 24.  Our hope is that this early notification will allow everyone an opportunity to make arrangements for their children.

We have had a great year in Hesston Schools and we look forward to even greater things in the future.  On behalf of the entire staff in USD 460, it is an incredible honor to work with each child in our care, and we appreciate the relationship we have with our families in this wonderful community of Hesston.  As is always the case, please call or email anytime if you have any questions about this topic or anything else we do as a school district.


March 25, 2016

I wanted to provide just a brief update in light of yesterday’s House and Senate hearings on school funding as the regular legislative session closed out with a bang.  Both bodies debated the same school funding bill and both passed.  Without going into all the nitty-gritty details of these bills, an important aspect of this finance plan is that there is a “hold harmless clause” that would essentially freeze funding and keep us the same as we are this year in terms of net funding.

Now, you may be thinking that is what the block grant did so why did they need to make this adjustment to get to the same end.  Well, this is where the Kansas Supreme Court ruling came into play.  The Court said that the block grant was not constitutional based on equity in state aid in the Local Option Budget and Capital Outlay funds.  Therefore, the legislature had to address that issue, or according to the Court, district operations would be shut down at the beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1.  That is why this plan was developed and approved.

So, is this the same as what the block grant (in its original form) provided since the funding will be the same with the hold harmless monies? Not really because the money comes into the district in a different way and into different funds.  Therefore decisions will have to be made in how those funds will be used in order to offset cuts in certain funds such as LOB where we are set to lose a significant amount of money while making up that same amount in our general fund minus what we will be gaining in capital outlay state aid. 

Another critical aspect of this plan is that the Kansas Supreme Court will determine if it meets the constitutional obligation for equitable funding.  As of now, there is no known timeline as to when that determination will be made, and everything mentioned above hinges on that decision.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime about this topic or any other related to district or state matters.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.



March 11, 2016


The legislative session has been a busy one and public education has once again been a hot topic in Topeka.  Since January, there have been many bills come and go related to school finance, curriculum, consolidation, and student support services. 

I thought I would take just a moment to provide an update on one bill that could impact Hesston Schools and other districts across Kansas.  Earlier this school year, a firm was hired by the State of Kansas to conduct an efficiency study of all government functions including education.  One of the recommendations of this firm was to set a threshold on unencumbered cash balances of school districts as these balances relate to total operating budgets for a given year. 

According to Senate Bill 505, this threshold has been set at 15% meaning that districts who carry more than 15% of their yearly operational costs within their unencumbered balances could potentially lose funding in future years.  I believe the thinking on this is that districts are able to bank money and yet receive more and more each year.  The argument schools would make is that these reserves are needed due to the unstable economic environment in our state with little hope of more security in the future.

As for Hesston, based on our best estimates, we would be slightly above 15% in our balances compared to operating budget.  Therefore, as things sit right now, we would not lose a substantial amount of future funding through this bill.  Now that being said, we have worked hard to remain conservative in our spending so there is a possibility of increased reserves at the end of this fiscal year as we prepare for future expenditures such as classroom resources, pay increases for staff, facility upgrades, technology device replacement, and many other priorities that promote and maximize student success.

Over the next few weeks, my focus will be to continue to provide updates on some of the bills and potential legislation that could impact our school district.  There are many topics being discussed in Topeka currently that we will want to keep an eye on.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime you should have thoughts, questions or concerns about district and state matters.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


March 7, 2016

We held our first Parent Advisory Team meeting on Thursday, February 18, and we had over 20 total participants.  We spent time discussing the new vision for public education in Kansas, the USD 460 improvement framework, and ideas on how we can format the Parent Advisory Team moving forward into the 2016-17 school year. 

In April, we will be hosting a follow-up meeting of the Parent Advisory Team and would like to, once again, make this opportunity available to any parent or guardian of a current USD 460 student.  This meeting will be held on Monday, April 4 in the Hesston Elementary School 1-2 Commons and will go from 6:30-7:30 pm.

The focus of this meeting will be to explore specific topics that are most relevant to parents of students in K-12, to discuss how USD 460 should measure student success, and to create a calendar of Parent Advisory Team meetings for the 2016-17 school year.  We would ask that if you are interested in attending this meeting, please notify our office by calling 620-327-4931 or emailing ben.proctor@usd460.org.



March 2, 2016


The past week has been a difficult time in the community of Hesston, and we have paid special attention to the needs of our children in recent days.  From the decision to hold school this past Friday to now, the focus of our staff in USD 460 has been to care for and love each child as we do each and everyday.  Our intent has been to create normalcy for all students and staff, and it has been incredible to see the strength and resolve of our entire community.

As we move forward from the tragic events of last week, we will continue to provide all supports possible to our students and staff.  Our schools will work to be a point of pride for our entire community as we continue to recover and grow stronger than ever.  We encourage our families to share anytime there is any concern for a child as we are just a phone call away.  Thank you as always for entrusting our wonderful staff for the care of the children of Hesston, and we are proud to say we are Hesston Strong.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime you have any questions or concerns about any district, local, or state matters.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.

Ben


February 15, 2016

"Parent Advisory Team"

This week we will be continuing our efforts to engage our school community by hosting an organizational meeting for our new Parent Advisory Team.  The purpose of this team is to create an opportunity for our schools and our parents/guardians to collaborate in an ongoing and intentional way as we build a more purposeful school community.  We know the parents we serve are the most invested stakeholder group we have in terms of a desire to see students find success.

The Parent Advisory Team will meet on Thursday, February 18 from 6:30-7:30 pm in the Hesston High School Commons.  The focus of this initial meeting will be to collaborate on the following topics:  new vision for K-12 public education in Kansas; the USD 460 District Improvement Framework; ideas on how to grow the relationship between our schools and the parents/guardians we serve through the development of the Parent Advisory Team.  This meeting is open to any parent/guardian of a current and/or future k-12 student in USD 460.

As we continue through the spring semester, our district will remain committed to engaging our school community as we are planning several more opportunities for our stakeholders to collaborate with us.  These groups include:  our service industry leaders, retirement community, student groups, our city officials, and our staff.

Our intent is to begin the fall of 2016 having purposeful partnerships at all levels in the community of Hesston.  We want this to be an ongoing and continuous process centered on strong relationships and partnerships that will ultimately lead to higher levels of success for our kids.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime should you have any questions about anything we do in Hesston Schools.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


February 12, 2106

Today, we hosted a School Improvement Day for the certified staff of USD 460.  Our district has remained committed to providing these opportunities for professional growth through the years and sharing the areas of focus with our school community is important as we work to create a more purposeful partnership with those we serve. 

During the morning session, our focus was twofold.  First, we spent some time connecting with one another through an activity called #whyiteach.  The intent was to share ideas on why each of us are teachers and what makes the job such an important one.  We then spent some time looking at state and district matters with general updates on current happenings.  The bulk of the morning was focused on the instructional practice of asking purposeful questions, especially those that are text-dependent and promote higher levels of thinking from our students.

The afternoon session consisted of each building working on specific activities related to their school improvement plans.  This included activities such as writing across the content areas, technology integration plans, curriculum mapping, and efforts to strengthen the culture of our school district.  These professional days continue to be a very valuable resource for our staff, and we are appreciative of the support we have from our community as we continue to provide opportunities for learning and growth.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime you should have any questions or thoughts related to what we do as a school district.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


February 8, 2016


There is certainly a lot happening around USD 460 and across Kansas this February.  Thanks to everyone who has taken interest in the current legislative session especially as it relates to HB 2504, the "school district consolidation" bill.  Board of Education Members Brenda Nebel and Susan Lamb joined me in heading to Topeka last Wednesday afternoon for the House Education Committee hearing on this bill, and at least for the moment, it appears that this bill will not be pursued further by the Education Committee.  This does not mean HB 2504 or others like it will not come again, as there are likely to be more efforts to consolidate school districts in the future. 

I also wanted to quickly remind our parents/guardians of students in Hesston Schools that we are hosting an organizational meeting for a new Parent Advisory Team we wish to begin in our district.  This meeting will be held on Thursday, February 18, from 6:30-7:30 pm in the Hesston High School Commons.  The purpose of this meeting and for the Parent Advisory Team is to look at ways we can create a stronger and more purposeful partnership with the parents/guardians we serve. 

You can view more information on the Parent Advisory Team meeting including the original notification letter that went out on January 18, 2016 and an agenda for the meeting by clicking here.  If you are interested in attending this meeting or being a part of the Parent Advisory Team in the future, please call our office at 620-327-4931 or email ben.proctor@usd460.org to let us know.

As always, do not hesitate to contact me anytime about this topic or any other related to state/district matters.  It is an incredible blessing to serve this community as superintendent of schools, and I am excited about what the future holds for USD 460.  In order to achieve our goals moving forward, there is no question that one of the most important things we can do is develop an even stronger relationship with all aspects of our wonderful community, the most important of which is our parents/guardians. 


February 1, 2016

Kansas House Bill 2504

The purpose of this notification is to inform members of the Hesston Community about House Bill 2504 which has become known as the school "reconfiguration" bill.  On Wednesday,  February 3, the House Education Committee will hold a hearing on this bill beginning at 1:30 pm in Topeka.  Although there are many questions to be answered as this bill is discussed and debated, we wanted to share a few thoughts on the potential impact HB 2504 could have on Hesston Schools and Harvey County if it were to become law.

Loss of Local Control

Although it is not specified in the bill, general thinking is that it would diminish local Board of Education authority within our community.  A likely scenario would be the establishment of a Harvey County Board of Education and representation would be based on enrollment.  This would likely mean one representative on a county board from Hesston.  Again, the bill does not specify what this would look like exactly, but it is difficult to imagine a Board of Education operating in Hesston without any type of central office administrative services being provided in Hesston as the district office would shift to Newton.  

The Kansas Association of School Boards has recently released a statement on House Bill 2504.  KASB and other educational leaders around Kansas believe that this bill could lead not only to the immediate loss of local control, but also to the closure of school buildings and disruption to the success of our students across the state.

Loss of Administrative Support

This is one of the biggest unknowns associated with HB 2504.  One definite outcome of the bill is the reduction of district and (possibly) building level administrative roles in our community.  The bill states that administration cannot exceed 120% of the current administrative roles in the largest district in the county which would be Newton for Harvey County.  We do know for certain that there would not be a central district office in Hesston as the county would have one superintendent that would operate out of an office in our largest community.  

Under this scenario, if it were decided to maintain the current administrative support provided in the county’s largest district of Newton, then we would split as little as 3 or 4 total administrative positions across the communities of Halstead, Sedgwick, Burrton, and Hesston.  This will be a very important point of clarification to be addressed as this bill is discussed and debated as it is unclear what positions exactly constitute administration and supervisory service employees. 

Viewpoints and Ways to Communicate

As a school district, we are concerned about this bill and other consolidation efforts that do not take into account the best interests of our students, our staff, and our community.  We have an obligation to always look for ways to be most efficient with our tax dollars and we will continue to explore any and all ways to do this.  We simply do not feel that forced consolidation as called for in HB 2504 is good for us.  If you would like further information on this or anything we do in Hesston Schools, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime at 620-327-4931 (USD 460 Central Office) or ben.proctor@usd460.org.

If you would like to share your thoughts with our local and state representatives, you will find a list of relevant contacts below.  You can also read HB 2504 in its entirety by clicking here and following the links provided on the page.

Respectfully,

Ben Proctor

Hesston Schools


State Legislature Information


January 29, 2016

This past week, HB 2504 was introduced by Representative John Bradford (R) - Lansing.  This bill has become known as the school consolidation bill and will be discussed by the Education Committee on Wednesday, February 3 beginning at 1:30 pm.  

 HB 2504 has received a great deal of media attention over the past few days, and the premise behind the bill is the reduction of administrative costs associated with district administrators and supervisors as well as consolidation of the provided services.  This would mean not only a reduction/elimination of superintendents in Kansas but also key district level staff that support the functions of our school districts.  Essentially, in Harvey County, our district office would be in Newton and there would be no district level leadership in our community of Hesston.

In addition to potentially cutting many leadership and director positions, it also will likely lead to a significant reduction in the local control we have over our school district.  Although it is not specified in the bill, the general thinking is that it would lead us to a county wide school board and based on enrollment, Hesston would have one voting member of that board.  Any loss of local control would have negative short and long-term effects for our kids, staff, and community.  

There are many questions that will hopefully be answered soon related to this bill, but we want to make sure our community is informed as this could drastically change the makeup of our school system in Hesston.  We certainly encourage anyone who has concerns about this bill to share thoughts with any or all of the following local representatives (along with the author of the bill) in our Kansas Legislature.

Senator Carolyn McGinn:  carolyn.mcginn@senate.ks.gov
Representative Don Schroeder:  don.schroeder@house.ks.gov
Representative John Bradford (HB 2504 Author):  john.bradford@house.ks.gov


January 15, 2016

On Thursday, January 14 our school district hosted a gathering of area industrial and manufacturing leaders in an effort to initiate a stronger partnership as we develop new and exciting opportunities for our students and staff.  We were very blessed to have Dr. Randy Watson, KS Commissioner of Education, as our keynote speaker.  Dr. Watson's focus was to share the new vision for public education in Kansas and how our business leaders are such a vital part of the success of our schools and students.  

Next we had a panel of educators including counselors, career and technical education facilitators, and principals who shared about some of those things we currently do to promote career readiness in our secondary students.  We wrapped up our morning with a working lunch that included discussions between school officials and these business leaders as we brainstormed next steps and measures for success as we move forward.

This event was the first in a series of efforts we will be making this semester to engage our community in a new and purposeful way.  As we move through the winter and spring, we will have opportunities for our parents and guardians, professional and service industries, students, college and university officials, area seniors, and our staff to engage in discussions about what success means for our schools and our students.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime you have any questions or thoughts about anything related to our school district.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


December 8, 2015

This has been an exciting semester for k-12 education in Kansas as Dr. Randy Watson, KSDE Commissioner of Education, has worked with the Kansas State Board of Education on developing a new vision for public education in our state.  For many years, state assessments and minimum proficiency levels have driven so much of what we have done in our schools.  Success and failure were wrapped up in one single academic measure under No Child Left Behind, and the current work of our educational leaders in Kansas is moving us towards a new set of outcomes that will allow schools to better prepare our children for a future beyond high school.

As changes are made in Topeka, it is always important for our school district to discuss and envision what these changes will mean for our kids and our community.  As we have evaluated this new vision, one of the components we are excited about is creating new and stronger partnerships with our area business and industry.  The first step in this process involves an event to be held on January 14, 2016 called the Winter Summit.

The Winter Summit, to be hosted at Dyck Arboretum, is an invitation to over 30 area business leaders.  The objective is to initialize partnerships between our schools and local business in order to create exposure opportunities for our students and best equip them with skills and qualities necessary to be successful after graduation.


We are fortunate to have Dr. Randy Watson as our keynote speaker for this event.  We will also have a panel discussion with local educators from Hesston and Newton Schools.  In addition, each guest will have an opportunity to explore ways to partner with our school system in order to help provide new opportunities for our kids.

We are incredibly excited about this event next week.  We feel that this will be just the beginning of a new partnership with a great resource we have in our community, entrepreneurs that can help inspire our young people. 


November 30, 2015

For the first time in several years, Kansas school districts have received state assessment data from the spring Kansas State Assessment Program.  This past year’s state assessments looked much different than they have in the previous 15 years as these tests reflect the more rigorous Kansas College and Career Ready Standards adopted in 2010.  Our teachers have worked very hard over the past few years to align our classroom curriculum with these new standards, and overall, we are pleased with our results as USD 460 exceeded the state median in almost every assessed area in all three buildings.

As we move forward with this new assessment program, our teachers will continue to align curriculum and instructional practices to ensure that each child can be successful in all core academic areas.  In addition, USD 460 is currently analyzing our vision for what successful schools and students look like, and we know that long-term success for our children includes more than just standardized tests.  We also want to ensure that we are taking a purposeful approach in teaching skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and teamwork.  In order to be most successful in developing well-rounded young people who possess the skills and ability to pursue whatever dreams they may have, we know that a strong partnership between home and school is incredibly important.

It is an exciting time for Hesston Schools! Although we have a long-standing tradition of success throughout our school district, we also have a strong desire to improve and provide an education to each and every student that is second to none.  We have adopted a mindset of moving from good to great with a clear focus on continuous and measured improvement, and we want every stakeholder in our community to be a part of our vision for success in the future.  

As always, thank you for supporting your child and our wonderful school system in Hesston, and please contact your child’s school should you have any questions about state assessment results.

November 1, 2015

This past week, we held our first District Technology Committee meeting in USD 460.  This committee has been an important part of the decision making process related to technology integration in our school district over the past few years and that continues in 2015-16.  I wanted to take just a moment to share where are district is currently as we work to integrate technology most effectively in our K-12 classrooms.

Technology is expensive.  In 2011, our district invested heavily in student devices as we purchased Apple products which included a 1:1 Macbook program at the high school along with some devices being placed at both the middle and elementary schools as well.  In 2015, we are still using many of these same devices purchased well over four years ago and they are definitely showing their age.  One recommendation that the District Technology Committee made two years ago was to shift the 1:1 program at HHS to an iPad device and that allowed us to provide more devices to HMS and HES and updated equipment to every student at HHS.

Despite the gain in devices, one of the challenges we currently face in addition to the existing devices beginning to fail due to age is that our initial investment at the elementary level was not as strong as it was at the secondary levels.  So, one of the big questions we are tackling as a committee is how we can invest in a stronger way in technology integration at the elementary level to provide students and teachers with the tools necessary to engage and provide skill development at those youngest grades.

In addition at this initial meeting, our District Technology Committee focused on defining the purpose of the committee, determining the key questions we must be able to answer, and communicating the next steps as we move forward in establishing our vision for technology integration in USD 460.  We will have a follow-up meeting soon to begin answering all of our critical questions and connecting technology to our overall vision as a school district. 

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have questions on this or any other district related topic.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


October 29, 2015

This past week, Dr. Randy Watson, Kansas State Department Commissioner of Education, released the Kansas State Board of Education's vision for K-12 Public Education.  The vision statement is as follows:  "Kansas leads the world in the success of every student."  Although we have been aware of many facets of this vision for quite some time, we did get to see some of the specific outcomes that the state board will be focused on to judge the success of school districts in Kansas.

There are five initial outcomes related to the new vision that will be developed to provide districts with measures for success.  They are as follows:
  • Individual Plans of Study
  • Kindergarten Preparedness
  • Graduation Rates
  • Post-Secondary Enrollments
  • Social/Emotional Supports

This new vision for public education in Kansas is based in large part on the tour that Dr. Watson conducted this past winter and spring asking Kansans around the state about the knowledge and skills necessary for a "24 year old Kansan" to be successful.  The takeaway from this tour was that it is not just academic skills that Kansans value but also those "soft skill" such as conscientiousness and collaboration that school districts can contribute to as we teach our students.

Our school district is committed to learning more about this new vision and the outcomes associated with it.  We feel that there are many positive components that will lead to even greater success of our students as they go through school and ultimately graduate with the knowledge and skills that will allow them to pursue what they are most passionate about.  We feel that as our local vision connects to the state vision, collaboration with all stakeholders will be key, and we are looking at providing these opportunities to students, parents, community members, colleges and universities, business leaders, and anyone else invested in the future of our community, state, and nation.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me about this topic or any other related to our school district.  Our district office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.  I love to sit down with folks too so if you would like to visit in person, always feel free to give us a call and we can schedule an appointment.  It continues to be an honor to serve our school district and the wonderful community of Hesston.

October 18, 2015

One of the true highlights of my time as superintendent has been our Board of Education "Retreat" on Saturday, October 17.  This was an opportunity for our Board Members to visit about goals and objectives that are not typically discussed in our regularly scheduled Board meetings.  I wanted to take just a moment to share some of the topics that our Board of Education is currently discussing and how these conversations can impact the future of Hesston Schools for the better.

For the 2015-16 school year, our Board retreat discussion topics are as follows:
  1. Board Culture
  2. District Vision
  3. Student/School Success Measures
  4. District Leadership Expectations and Accountability

During this initial retreat, our Board spent about 4 hours discussing their desired culture for the BOE and also how to create intentional actions that will maintain and grow that desired culture.  The conversation included key ideas that will ensure a positive and student-centered culture and how this can positively impact our entire district.  A bit of research that has helped drive this conversation comes from the Center for Public Education's "Eight Characteristics of Effective School Boards.  You can view information related to these characteristics by clicking here.

As the weeks and months progress, our Board of Education will be continuing the conversation around culture, vision, success, and expectations.  It is an exciting time in our district as we work to become more purposeful in how we measure the overall success of each student and each school.  We are looking closely at the new vision for public education in Kansas and will ensure that Hesston Schools become a leader in this vision and those outcomes that have been established related to this vision.  As the Board continues their work related to these retreat topics, we will continue to provide updates on progress made toward the very important objectives connected to these topics.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime should you have any questions related to this topic or any other.  Our district office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


October 6, 2015

During the next few months, our school district will be organizing "focus group" opportunities for the following stakeholders:  students, parents/families, community members, local business owners, City of Hesston Officials, Hesston College Officials, Board of Education Members, and both certified and classified school district staff.  The purpose for these focus groups is to help our school district leaders determine what a successful student in USD 460 looks like.  We want to have a clearly defined outcome for what qualities a successful student should have as he/she progresses through and ultimately graduates from USD 460 and what role our schools can have in the development of those skills and characteristics.

As part of their "Results Tour," Dr. Randy Watson and Brad Neuenswander with the Kansas State Department of Education have been sharing data they gathered while visiting over 20 communities in Kansas this past winter and spring.  Their goal was to listen to folks in Kansas define what a successful 24 year old looks like and the skills and characteristics that are most important to that success.  As our administrative team listened to this data and ultimately the impact it will have on our state vision, it became clear that we need to be doing the same thing at the local level in our own community.  

Hesston is a high achieving school district and our desire moving forward is for continual and purposeful improvement in a process we call moving from good to great.  Although we absolutely place great value on the data that came from around the state, we also know that it is important to listen to the people of Hesston.  We have tremendous resources in our community and too often our school district does not do its part to connect all of these resources together for the betterment of our young people and our community as a whole.  Creating these focus group opportunities will allow us to collaborate on a specific topic, but it will also help us to hold a conversation on how we can create a more collaborative system between and amongst those most invested in our children and our communities future success.

More information will come soon about how interested individuals can be a part of these focus group discussions.  Until then, if you have any questions about this topic or any other related to Hesston Schools, please do not hesitate to call or email me at 620-327-4931 or ben.proctor@usd460.org.  


September 18, 2015

Each year, Hesston students in grades 6, 8, 10, and 12 take a survey called the Kansas Communities that Care Student Survey facilitated by the Southeast Kansas Education Service Center in Greenbush, KS.  This survey asks students to respond to questions and statements in order to identify the prevalence of potentially problematic behaviors at school, home and in the community.  The survey is considered "opt in" which means families must sign a form stating they will allow their child to take this survey.

One of the many topics addressed in this survey is bullying at school.  This is a term that has drawn a lot of attention over the past decade or so.  School districts have been required to create and review bullying policies and procedures in order to ensure this issue is being acknowledged and addressed.  
Although we have an extremely positive culture in each of our school buildings in USD 460, we understand that our students are not immune to bullying or experiencing the results of bullying.  It does happen, and we do have policies and procedures that our teachers and school administrators follow in order to ensure each child feels safe at school.

This year, in an effort led by our school counselors, we are taking a second look at our policies and procedures related to bullying, and more commonly student conflict, in our buildings.  One area we have identified as critical in this discussion is working with students to develop the skills necessary to successfully deal with conflict.  Just like it is critical that students learn academic skills, we feel that interpersonal skills are also essential for a child to grow into a successful adult.  

Our teachers and school leaders also know that we cannot prevent every bad thing from happening in our buildings.  We understand that equipping and supporting students through difficult times is a priority in order to create the best learning environment possible for each child.  We have extremely talented school counselors in our district who are devoted to helping students.  That is why these three ladies, Donna Schadler, Jillian Toews, and Chelle Tedrow, are leading  this discussion.  Our goal is to create anti-bullying and student conflict procedures that will help our students develop the skills necessary to address such issues in a way that will benefit them now and in their future.

As we analyze our bullying data on the KCTC survey, this will help us to determine where are currently with this issue and how we can strengthen our approach to these types of occurrences.  The good news is our data is very positive, and you can view the results by clicking here.  

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about this topic or anything we do in USD 460.  Our central office phone number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


September 11, 2015

Over the course of this fall semester, a big topic of discussion will be the results of our state assessments that students took in the spring of 2015.  The results that we will receive in the areas of math and reading will be considered baseline achievement data and cut scores have been established by the Kansas State Board of Education.  Before we even know what our test results are for USD 460, I wanted to take this opportunity to share what this data will mean for our schools as we move forward in aligning our curriculum and instruction with the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards.

As we begin to look at our data for our schools and individual students, one of the big topics of discussion is that our performance will be lower than what we would like for it to be.  Anytime we start something new, this is going to be the case, and knowing that we are developing a system that will ensure future success is critical.  Although the reasons are many as to why the results will be lower than we would like, I want to point to two of the biggest determining factors for this.

First, the content that is covered in these new assessments takes time to completely align.  Although we have had several years to make this transition, there are so many elements to changing curriculum and instruction to match these new standards.  It involves a great deal of time, resources, and targeted training to ensure that our whole system is aligned to the current academic standards.  Our teachers are doing an excellent job of managing this shift and will continue to do so as we ensure that our students are receiving access to the content in the most effective manner possible.

Second, the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards are much more rigorous than what the old state standards were.  This is a good thing, but again, will be reflected in our results.  In order to most effectively address these new standards and ensure students success, it is more than just teaching a limited number of items that will be on the assessment as districts were able to do with the previous standards.  Now, it involves a curriculum and instructional alignment system that supports student achievement across the board.  This includes not only having a sound core instructional program but also a system of support that addresses any skill deficiencies that individuals and groups of students may have as they work through the given content.

One of the big questions that you may have, as we begin to see our initial results on these assessments and knowing that scores are going to be low for us, is what are we currently doing to ensure that our scores will improve in the future.  This is the exciting part about where are district is and where we are headed.  We believe that it is essential that we become more purposeful in everything we do.  This includes creating a system for collaboration where teachers are able to work together to ensure our curriculum is aligned, viable and guaranteed.  In addition, we have identified specific lesson elements that are essential if we are going to best prepare our students and we refer to this as an "Instructional Framework."  Some of the lesson elements inside this framework include stating a clear and aligned learning objective everyday, engaging students through the use of cooperative learning structures, and ensuring that students can successfully interact with the content by checking for understanding each day and making informed decisions in subsequent lessons and intervention plans. 

In addition, we know that establishing a safe and comfortable learning environment is a non-negotiable in contributing to overall student academic success.  This is something we take great pride in at Hesston Schools, and we will continue to find ways to build the most positive culture possible as we strive to move from Good to Great

There is so much more to discuss when it comes to the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards, the new state assessments and the results we will receive this year and in the future.  Although our results this fall will not be as high as we would like or as high as they will be in years to come, the system we are creating and the vision for the future of Hesston Schools will undoubtedly allow us to grow and provide the very best to our students from this year to next and on down the road.  We are creating a system that will ensure student success by any measure chosen locally or state wide, and we have all the pieces in place to guarantee the opportunity for a first class education for each child in USD 460.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions on this topic or any other related to Hesston Schools.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.

September 4, 2015

Excerpt from Todd Whitaker's What Great Principals Do Differently...

"Outstanding principals know that if they have great teachers, they have a great school.  More importantly, all of their audiences take the same view."


This summer, I had the opportunity to attend two budget workshops led by Mr. Dale Dennis, Deputy Commissioner at KSDE, and also spend one hour with Mr. Dennis while he reviewed the USD 460 budget for 2015-16.  As any school district leader in Kansas would attest, Mr. Dennis is the most respected advocate for public schools in our state.  He is a wealth of knowledge about not only school finance, but also in doing what is best for kids and teachers in Kansas.  I wanted to talk about just one of the many takeaways I had in listening to and visiting with Mr. Dennis this summer and how it connects to the quote from Mr. Whitaker above.

There are so many factors that go into determining a successful school district.  There are many trends in education and directions that schools can go in order to maximize their results.  Whether it is technology integration, project-based learning, cooperative learning, or any other approach to classroom instruction, schools often get caught up in moving in too many directions without a clear focus on what will make the biggest difference in student success.  Sometimes the focus is on the program and the main thing, the teacher, is forgotten.  However, as Mr. Dennis says, it is really all about our teachers and the rest of us are just their "helpers." 

We do really, really good things in Hesston.  Whether it is our approach to our kids through Responsibility-Centered Discipline, cooperative learning, our system of student supports, our ability to integrate technology effectively, in all of these areas and more, we exhibit great strength.  Programs can be effective and our people have extensive training in many of the most impactful instructional methods that are out there.  However, when it comes down to it, our school system is defined by the teachers who work with our kids each day. 

One of the great blessings of working in Hesston Schools is that I get to come to work each day knowing that we have world-class teachers throughout our district.  For a school system of our size, we are second to none when it comes to the quality of our teaching and support staff.  As our administrative team works each day to ensure our staff is well supported, we always maintain a mindset that we have an exceptionally talented and invested teaching staff.  Because we know this, our focus is to help grow even better teachers by making informed and purposeful decisions that will take us to the next level and maximize student success. 

It is a true blessing to serve this district.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about anything we do in USD 460.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


August 28, 2015

This past week, our new state commissioner of education, Dr. Randy Watson, was interviewed by the Topeka-Capital Journal and in this article Dr. Watson began laying out a bit of a new measurement for what a successful product of public education looks like.  Since the early 2000s, education in Kansas has been driven in large part by the accountability behind state assessments, especially in the areas of math and reading.  Schools adjusted curriculum and programs to ensure that their students were successful on these assessments and this often meant sacrificing other important areas that might have contributed to the holistic development of a child.  Often subjects like history, science, and the arts were diminished due to the high stakes of these assessments. 

Part of what Dr. Watson is basing this new vision on is asking what we want our 24 year old Kansan to look like.  What knowledge and skills do we need to equip this young adult with as they venture into the post-secondary world and gain employment in this new economy.  Recently, I attended a superintendent conference where we were shown the documentary "Most Likely to Succeed."  The premise behind this documentary was that our current model of education is over 120 years old and it questioned whether we are truly preparing our children for the world they will face when they leave our schools.  You can view a short trailer for the documentary here.  There is no question that more and more jobs are becoming automated and new skills and characteristics are necessary for our children to be successful in the career of their choosing. 

These discussions are in the initial stages at the state and local levels, but it is exciting to hear Dr. Watson and his emphasis on developing more than just good test takers.  It is important to note that we do not want to diminish our children's abilities in key areas such as reading, math, and other core academic contents, but ensuring we are doing more than just focusing on narrow academic areas is essential if we are going to be prepare our kids for a successful future.  That is what is exciting and that is what we must base our vision on in USD 460.  There is no doubt that we can continue to develop a world class school system here in Hesston and understanding what our measurable outcome will be is an essential component of this.  Knowing that our state officials are on board with this very idea is extremely encouraging.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime you should have any questions or thoughts on anything we do as a school district.  It is an honor serving this wonderful community, and I look forward to our future as a school district moving from Good to Great.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


August 21, 2015

We have had a wonderful first week with our students at USD 460.  It has been so much fun getting to visit all three school buildings each day throughout this week to see many of the great things that happen in our classrooms around the district.  One of the highlights of the week has been watching our youngest students getting dropped off at the elementary school, especially those who are beginning kindergarten.  What a great reminder this week has been of our incredible responsibility as educators each day in working with so many young people of different ages, talents, and backgrounds.  It can never be said enough how blessed our community is to have such a talented team of teachers and support staff working with the children of Hesston.

In the coming weeks, there will be many school activities and events taking place, and we want to ensure that our families and the community are aware of these opportunities to share in the overall educational experience of our students.  Each of our buildings work hard to ensure that information related to activities and events is shared in the most effective manner possible.  Our website is a great resource for the latest information, and we also have printed calendars available for pick-up in any of our individual buildings and the central office.  In addition, our office staff will periodically send out email reminders about activities that are specific to each building.  We hope that you have a chance to look at our calendar of events and are able to attend the various activities offered throughout the fall season.

On another note, we have completed the budgeting process for the 2015-16 school year, and we have posted a number of resources on our district website with information related to our new budget.  You can view these budget documents by clicking Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Information.  Although there have been a lot of challenges related to school finance in recent months and years, our district is committed to using our funds in the most efficient and effective manner possible and we will constantly evaluate our expenditures and ensure that we are focused on our commitment to provide the very best to our children. 

It is an exciting time of year as we are fully back in the swing of a new school year, and I believe we are poised for a great one.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions or comments about anything we do as a school district.  Our office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.

August 14, 2015


Over the past week, our staff has been working hard to get classrooms in order, discuss new ideas for this year, and all of the other components essential to starting the new school year.  What has been more apparent to me than ever is that we have a staff committed to providing the very best to our students.  It is an exceptionally talented team of teachers who will work with our kids everyday in our schools and Hesston is truly blessed in this way.  As a parent myself, I cannot imagine a better place to send my own children each day as I know they will not only learn and progress academically and socially, but they will also be loved and cared for by an amazing group of people.

These past few days, our staff has been focused on a variety of activities that we feel are going to make our district even better.  On Thursday, our principals led their building in discussions and activities around school culture, student achievement, measuring what we value, high expectations, college and career readiness, and a number of other ideas and topics intended to create a united purpose behind all that we do.  In visiting the three school buildings throughout the week, it has become more apparent than ever that our staff is incredibly knowledgeable, professional, and they also love what they do.  We like to have fun and that is an important part of ensuring that our schools are successful.

On Friday, I had the privilege of leading a discussion with our entire district staff for about an hour.  One area we have identified through staff feedback that needs to improve in our district is our overall "connectedness" and ensuring that all of our people know one another and what each person does (because we are all in this to help kids).  It was a lot of fun to lead our staff, about 130 people total, in a cooperative learning structure where individuals throughout the district mixed up and had conversations on a variety of topics including:  what excites you most about the upcoming school year, what advice you could give to a newbie, and how are you going to make others around you better.

In addition, we also defined our clear purpose for why we exist on Friday morning.  We wanted to make certain that there was no mistaking this united purpose as we know that it is defined by the 800 kindergarten through seniors who will be arriving on Tuesday.  That is why we do what we do and there is an excitement that can be felt from those who will be working with these students beginning in just a few days.  

There is much more to share about what our wonderful staff has been doing these past few days and weeks to prepare for this new school year, but that is just a short sampling of a few activities in which we have participated.  There is no question in my mind that we truly have an exceptional team of educators at all levels and that is why we have such a highly respected school system in Hesston.  The good news is that we are not satisfied with where we are at.  We are ready to get better and that will be our intentional focus as we move forward through this year.  As always, do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about our school district.  Our central office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.



August 7, 2015

With enrollment behind us and new teachers reporting on Monday, the new school year is upon us and I could not be more excited.  First, I would like to recognize two groups of people for their outstanding work over the summer to ensure that our district is ready for the start of the year.  I am convinced that our maintenance and custodial staff is second to none.  I cannot imagine working with a team who takes more pride in what they do.  They are incredibly talented, professional, and most importantly they understand that everything we do is for the students, staff, and community we serve.  It is truly an incredible group of people we have taking care of our buildings and grounds.

Second, our central office staff and building secretaries are the most organized and efficient group of people I have ever worked with.  As someone new to the superintendent position, I have relied heavily on the expertise and skills of this wonderful group of professionals for the past couple of months.  Each one of them is completely dedicated to the success of our district and committed to ensuring that we are taking care of our students and staff at all times.  The community of Hesston is truly blessed to have a custodial/maintenance and central office/building secretary staff that is as talented, committed, and professional as what we have.

Based on our enrollment numbers from this past Thursday, USD 460 will be welcoming approximately 800 total students in Kindergarten through 12th grade when school begins on August 18.  We had a great turnout for enrollment and our hope is that all families who attended found the process highly organized and informative.  Our district is always interested in feedback from those families we serve so please feel free to share any thoughts you may have on how we can improve our enrollment process with me or any of our building leaders.

Welcome to the 2015-16 school year.  I believe our school system is poised for great things, and as we progress through this school year, there will be opportunities to provide feedback and ideas on how we can move our district from good to great.  As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about our school district.  Our central office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


July 31, 2015


Included in the August 6 edition of the Hesston Record will be the Unified School District 460 budget for the 2015-2016 school year.  This year, public school systems in Kansas are being funded by a block grant formula which was passed by our state legislature earlier this year.  Although a district court has ruled that this formula is unconstitutional based on both equity and adequacy, Kansas schools are developing budgets based on the block grants while the Kansas Supreme Court prepares to hear an appeal of the district court’s ruling later this fall.  The premise behind the block grant is that it provides a consistent amount of money to schools while a new formula is developed, and I wanted to take this opportunity to share a few details about our different funds within the school district budget and how we are receiving little to no additional operating monies in our General Fund despite what the budget documents might look like.


Our General Fund is our largest fund and this includes the following: A  20 mill levy which is the same as every district in Kansas, Supplemental General State Aid (also known as local option budget), Special Education State Aid, KPERS, Capital Outlay State Aid, and any Interest on Idle Funds we may accumulate.  Our total General Fund budget for this coming year is $6,863,572.  By comparing this to our actual expenditures from 2014-15, the USD 460 2015-16 budget is over $1.5 million higher than what we actually spent last school year.  


As part of the block grant, the legislature decided to take two funds, the Local Option Budget and KPERS, and direct them through the General Fund.  This has not been done in the past and the result being our General Fund is inflated by approximately $1.5 million, even though there is no new operational money being provided to our district.  The money for these two funds simply comes into the General Fund account and then immediately is transferred into the Local Option Budget and the KPERS fund respectively.  In reality, USD 460 has a General Fund that is almost identical to last year’s budget when analyzing actual operating monies going from $4,517,115 in fiscal year 2015 to $4,518,997 for fiscal year 2016.  


Despite a reduction in state aid for both our Supplemental General and Capital Outlay Budgets, our district has been able to maintain a relatively steady mill rate and that will continue for the 2015-16 school year as we are going from a total of 57.870 mills for fiscal year 2015 to 57.691 mills for fiscal year 2016.  Regardless of the challenges our state has faced in recent months and years, Hesston USD 460 is committed to providing the very best education possible to our children, and we are appreciative of the incredible support from the community we serve.  It is our commitment that USD 460 will continue to strive to be a point of pride for all of Hesston.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me anytime should you have any questions about anything we do at USD 460.  Our central office phone is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


July 24, 2015

As we begin to close out the summer break and prepare for our students return on August 18, I wanted to share a few of the activities that take place with our staff in the days leading up to that first day of school.  On August 3, our building secretaries and principals are back on duty and our offices are open for business.  Much of their time is spent getting ready for our all-district enrollment which is held on Thursday, August 6 from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm at Hesston High School.

In addition, our Administrative Team, has an annual "Retreat" on August 4 and we will spend the day focused on how we can best support our students and staff this year as we continue to move from "good to great."  On Monday, August 10 those certified staff members who are new to the district will report for two days of new staff training.  This includes an overview of our district vision, the various systems we use in our school district, and an opportunity to meet with building leaders and "buddy" teachers that will help our new staff acclimate to their new position.

All certified staff officially return to the school buildings on Wednesday, August 12 and have opportunities to work in classrooms and meet with their building teams through August 13.  We have our all-district staff breakfast on Friday, August 14 and that is an opportunity for our entire district staff to unite together and set the tone for the new school year.  After a work day on Monday for teachers, the big day is Tuesday, August 18 where our students come back to school.  This first day is a half-day where students come to school from 8:00 am until 12:00 pm and teachers are then able to have the afternoon to work in the buildings before the regular school schedule begins on Wednesday, August 19.

So, there is a lot that will be happening in the district between now and August 18 in preparation for our students.  We are blessed to have a staff that is so committed to the success of our kids and focused on professional improvement and development.  Continual improvement is one of our goals as a district and is an integral part of our desire to move from "good to great" as a whole school system.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about Hesston Schools.  Our central office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


July 17, 2015

This is the time of year when most school district central office staffs are busy working on the budget for the 2015-16 school year.  Our office is no exception as we are currently working to put together our anticipated revenues and expenditures for this new fiscal year.  I wanted to take just a moment and share a few thoughts as this budgeting process begins for USD 460.

Most folks know that school finance has been challenging for districts in the state of Kansas for a number of years now. State revenues continue to come in below estimates and mid-year cuts have been common including one during the spring of 2015 that amounted to about $110,000 for USD 460.  There has been a great deal of information in the news over the past several months about the change in the funding formula for school districts in Kansas.  This year we will be funded by a block grant system and much of our state aid will be similar in amounts to what we had last year although we have experienced some reductions in aid for two of our funds, the Local Option Budget and Capital Outlay. 

Another important piece of information to know about our budget for 2015-16 is that there will be a larger amount reflected in our general fund than what we have had.  When looking at our budget documents, there will be a significant increase for the 15-16 general fund budget for two primary reasons.  First, the general fund will now reflect the KPERS "flow-through" money whereas in the past, this money was never passed through the general fund.  This is not new operational money.  Second, Local Option Budget state aid will be reflected in our general fund before it is transferred to the Local Option Budget fund.  Again, this is not new operational money but will contribute to our general fund looking larger than it really is.

As we continue to progress through the budgeting process, we will provide more updates on important dates as we ultimately publish the budget, hold a hearing on the budget and eventually adopt the budget for 2015-16.  This is a new and educational process for me and our commitment will always be to use our resources in a way that will maximize the impact we can have on each of our students.  There are lot of decisions to be made as we move into this new school year, but our focus will remain on our top priorities, the people of USD 460.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions about this topic or any other related to our school district.  Our central office number is 620-327-4931 or email ben.proctor@usd460.org.

July 10, 2015

The summer is quickly flying by, and our Central Office and Maintenance Staff is busy getting ready for the upcoming school year as our new teachers report one month from today with all returning staff and students a short time thereafter.  It has been a busy summer so far at USD 460 as there are a number of capital projects being worked on, school finance decisions to be made, and planning for what is going to make this school year the very best we have ever had in the history of Hesston Schools.

One of the most significant facilities projects we are working on this summer involves the entryway at Hesston Middle School.  Over the past three years, our district has committed to increasing the security of our buildings and one decision that has been made involves each building's entryway.  The high school and elementary school have both successfully transitioned to having all traffic flow through the front office and by the beginning of the school year, the middle school will have the same orientation.  In addition to his project, we are also replacing our boiler at the high school and that process is currently ongoing.

Another big topic that has impacted schools across Kansas this summer is school finance.  The first challenge resulted from a change in the long-standing school finance formula this spring when the "block grant" formula was instituted for the 2015-16 school year.  The state legislative session went over their allotted 90 days and finally passed a bill that would (almost) fund the block grant on day 114.  This caused a delay in the Kansas State Department of Education's ability to get districts the information we need in order to plan our budget for the coming school year.  

An additional complication that arose in the past few weeks has been the decision of the district court that the block grant does not meet the Kansas Constitutional requirement for both adequacy and equity in school funding.  This ruling has now been appealed and the Kansas Supreme Court will hear this case.  However, because school budgets must be finalized by August 25 with publication and a hearing occurring before that time, districts are currently planning to budget based on the block grant formula because that is where the legislature has appropriated our funds.

Despite all of these challenges, our focus in Hesston will remain constant and that is providing our students with the very best education.  Each new school year is an opportunity for us to get better and this year we will have a fresh focus on how we can become the very best district we can be.  We want everyone to continue enjoying the summer months and we will soon get information out to our families and staff about the back to school procedures.  

As always, thank you so much for the opportunity to serve this district and please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions on anything we do at USD 460.  Our central office number is 620-327-4931 and my email address is ben.proctor@usd460.org.


July 1, 2015


Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. - John Wooden

It is with great excitement and anticipation that I write my first entry as the new superintendent of schools for Hesston-USD 460.  It is an incredible blessing and honor to be given the responsibility of leading and serving this wonderful school district, our amazing staff, and incredible group of K-12 students.  I want to take just a moment to share just a bit about my background and philosophy and how this will help shape my ability to best serve our school district and the Hesston community.

I actually began my educational career with USD 460 fifteen years ago while serving as the assistant freshmen boys basketball coach during the 2000-01 season.  During that brief time period, I fell in love with the school system and community of Hesston and knew that this was the community I wanted to raise my own children in even before they were born.  From 2001 to 2012, I was able to work in three school districts which helped shape who I have ultimately become as a coach, teacher, principal, and now superintendent.  

One of the great professional privileges I have experienced has been serving as middle school principal at HMS.  During the past three years, I have learned so much about the culture of our school system and the high expectations that go along with serving in USD 460.  I have learned that there are no limits to how good our schools can be and that with the right vision and focus, we can become the very best school district of which we are capable of becoming.  

Our mission going forward will be to establish a clearly defined vision for what our district can be.  We call this process moving from Good to Great which is a phrase that exemplifies a continual effort to constantly improve and truly become the very best we can be.  This involves evaluating all that we do and determining those factors that limit our ability to grow and improve as a district.  It also involves maximizing those factors that promote and positively influence our continual improvement and purposeful march towards greatness.

There will be much more on this as we begin the new school year and work at all levels to develop our vision for our schools.  I am incredibly excited to be a part of this process and serving this community as superintendent! Please do not hesitate to contact me anytime at the central office at 620-327-4931 or by emailing ben.proctor@usd460.org.