By TIM HORAN
Abilene school district’s newest employee is settling in and starting to learn his responsibilities.
Elementary counselor Jeremy Lebo introduced his four-legged sidekick, Joplin, to the USD 435 School Board at its regular meeting Monday.
Yep. Joplin is a dog.
And while his job isn’t quite as complicated as a teacher, counselor or parent, Lebo said Joplin is an important asset to Kennedy, McKinley and Garfield elementary schools.
Joplin and smart boards at Kennedy were made possible through a donation of the Sarah Hoffman Trust presented by Virginia Hoffman and Kristine Meyer, president of the Community Foundation of Dickinson County.
“His job is to mainly give comfort and joy to kids and staff alike,” Lebo told the board. “We were kind of running low on therapy dogs at the schools due to retirements and things like that. We are very grateful for the gift that let us have Joplin. Joplin came from Care’s Corporation in Concordia. They train dogs for all sorts of purposes.”
Joplin is Lebo’s second therapy canine. When he came to Abilene five years ago, he had a therapy dog named Beemer.
“We had a long tenure of service and Joplin is now Beemer’s successor,” he said. “I primarily use Joplin to...if there is a student that is upset, agitated or sad over an event; Joplin does a good job of calming them down and cheering them up. I also take him classroom to classroom, kind of as an incentive. When he goes into the room all the kids are smiling.
“I use him kind of as a bribe. I will admit it,” Lebo added. “If we are good listeners to my guidance lessons, we’ll get to pet Joplin at the end of the lesson. If we are not, maybe we’ll make a better choice next time. That seems to help a little bit. He’s just been really great.”
Joplin has been making the school rounds since November.
“It’s new to him. He wasn’t sure exactly what his role was to be,” he said. “By now he knows were everyone’s classroom is and he knows where my office is and he knows what he is to do.”
The $10,000 donation, which was accepted unanimously by the board on Monday, also included smart boards. Kennedy Principal Greg Heinrichs explained the smart boards.
“We all know what iPads are,” he said. “We’ve seen iPads. A smart board is basically a gigantic iPad that you put on the wall.”
The boards are six feet across by four feet deep.
“It has a lot of the same options as an iPad as you can just touch parts of it, just like you would an iPad but it’s just a little bit bigger,” he added.
Kennedy had one smart board and the additional money allowed five more, he said.
“All of our kindergarten rooms now have smart boards,” Heinrichs said. “It is really a nice companion piece to Elmos. An Elmo is the 2013 version of an overhead projector. Those two pieces of technology really work hand-to-hand with each other pretty nicely. All six of our kindergarten teachers are excited about it. The kids are automatically drawn to anything about technology. It makes for the classroom a more engaging environment.”
The Abilene Rotary Club also presented a gift to the school district which was also unanimously approved.
Becky Schwab with the Rotary Club said in the past, the organization gave students dictionaries. This year the Rotary Club presented $1,500 for e-books for the schools.
The board was also given an update on the emergency procedures.
“We are in the process at looking at every building. Officers (Kris) Kobiskie and Lt. (Mike) Mohn met at the high school, at McKinley and at Kennedy so far,” said interim Superintendent Denise Guy. “We have walked through the buildings. They have given us some really good suggestions on ways that we can implement little things to help secure a building.”
She said tours of the middle school and Garfield are planned.
“The administrative team is looking at the plan the police department gave to us to consider and they will look at changes that are unique to our schools and our district,” she said. “We will come up with an implementation plan for what we want to do in the district and it should come in about the same time as our capital outlay if there are some changes there in updating the security in our district.”
In other action the board:
*accepted the resignation of Joslyn Meader, who had been a janitor at Abilene High School for 15 years;
* heard a report from the FFA on its 5-day convention;
* reviewed two teacher/administrator/superintendent evaluation tools;
* adopted a freedom of information policy which conforms to the freedom of information laws of the state of Kansas;
* met in executive session for 35 minutes for personnel matters, matters relating to action adversely or favorably affecting a person as a student, and employer-employee negotiations and reconvened without taking action.