School news

Abilene Public Schools hired its new assistant superintendent during a special meeting Friday afternoon.

Dana Sprinkle, Ell-Saline Elementary School principal, will take the position on July 1.

Sprinkle replaces Chris Cooper who has served seven years as assistant superintendent in Abilene. Before that, he spent 14 years as Garfield Elementary School principal.

Cooper will leave at the end of the current school year to serve as superintendent in Clearwater Public Schools.

Friday’s board meeting was livestreamed for the public as the district office and all Kansas school facilities are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Besides being Ell-Saline’s elementary school principal, Sprinkle facilitates a great deal of that district’s professional learning and serves as administrative leader for accreditation, according to a news release from Abilene Public Schools.

“The USD 435 Board of Education and administrative team are very excited to have such a strong educational leader join our team,” said Abilene Superintendent Greg Brown.

“She is recognized across Kansas for her expertise, which was made evident most recently as she helped develop the Kansas Department of Education’s guide for Continuous Learning,” Brown added.

Sprinkle is active in a number of educational organizations including United School Administrators of Kansas, the National Association of Elementary School Principals, the Kansas Association of Elementary School principals and serves on the Bethany College Teacher Education Advisory Team; has repeatedly served as a task force member for the Central Kansas Cooperative in Education and has worked closely with the Kansas State University Department of Education.

Sprinkle was named the National Distinguished Principal of the Year in 2017.

Hours waiver

The Abilene school board also met during a 7 a.m. special meeting Tuesday morning, March 31, which was livestreamed on YouTube.

The board approved a waiver from the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) that allows the school district to have less than the number of hours required by law during the 2019-20 school year.

The waiver is necessary because of the closure of all school facilities. Although school is continuing in a “continuous learning structure” for the remainder of the school year, Abilene and all other schools across the state will not be able to reach the required 1,116 instructional hours.

Abilene USD 435 is requesting to waive 272 hours.

Abilene began online classes Monday, March 30 as part of KSDE’s Continuous Learning Program developed to keep schools operating during the COVID-19 epidemic.

During the March 31 board meeting, Cooper told board members the positive aspect about the move to continuous learning is the fact that Abilene already had nearly everything in place to do it.

“The good news is we were built for this already,” Cooper said. “You may have heard a lot of horror stories out there. Two things made a successful roll out for us: First is the people. We put together a group of people that pretty much already existed -- we added a few to it leading small teams.”

The second positive is Abilene did not add a lot of unnecessary technology. The only new app was Zoom for face-to-face meetings. The other apps -- Canvas for grades 4 to 12 and SeeSaw for grades K-3 -- were already being used.

However, the biggest “hiccup” for continual learning is the lack of internet access for some students. The district was still working with private internet providers to help solve the problem.

Also:

• The state is still requiring districts to keep “average daily membership and attendance” although keeping track of the number of kids enrolled and how many showed up to school each day ended March 13.

(The Abilene High School facebook page on Saturday noted that “turning in assignments, emailing a teacher or participating in a Zoom meeting is how we will be taking attendance moving forward” and one of the main goals is making sure “seniors stay on track for graduation and that underclassmen are in a position to continue into next school year.”)

• Staff will be paid for their normal working schedule (as required by the state’s continual learning program). However, to get FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) assistance, staff has to keep track of actual hours worked.

Stadium remodel

President Kyle Becker reported the district facilities committee hoped to have some updated renderings and floor plans for the remodel of Cowboy Stadium to show the board, but “that didn’t happen.”

The committee also has talked about fundraising for the stadium, but COVID-19 “has paused some of that for a bit,” Becker said.

He expects to have more information available soon.

Contact Kathy Hageman at reporter@abilene-rc.com.

Contact Tim Horan at editor@abilene-rc.com.

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