Posts tagged with Education

KCKCC class will teach safe driving

A four-hour defensive driving class will be offered Saturday, Nov. 12, at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

A comprehensive driver-improvement program without any in-car instruction, the class will be from 8 a.m. to noon in the Continuing Education Building on the east side of the KCKCC campus.

The course is approved by the state of Kansas so insurance rates can be reduced by 5 percent or more upon completion of the class. The cost is $40. To enroll, call 913-288-7660; go to the Community Education Building, 7250 State Ave.; or visit kckcc.edu and click on Continuing Education and Schedule.

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KCKCC class will teach safe driving

A four-hour defensive driving class will be offered Saturday, Nov. 12, at Kansas City Kansas Community College.

A comprehensive driver-improvement program without any in-car instruction, the class will be from 8 a.m. to noon in the Continuing Education Building on the east side of the KCKCC campus.

The course is approved by the state of Kansas so insurance rates can be reduced by 5 percent or more upon completion of the class. The cost is $40. To enroll, call 913-288-7660; go to the Community Education Building, 7250 State Ave.; or visit kckcc.edu and click on Continuing Education and Schedule.

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Federal grant to help children in foster care in Kansas succeed in school

The state has received a $250,000 federal grant that is aimed at improving the lives of children in foster care, officials said.

The grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will fund a 17-month collaborative initiative among the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services, Kansas University and State Department of Education.

The grant funds will be used to improve sharing of information among the agencies involved in the lives of foster children, specifically SRS and the schools the children attend, officials said.

The goals are to reduce the number of times foster children have to change schools and improve the children’s graduation rates.

“We are going to do everything we can to make communication among agencies more efficient to ultimately benefit children who are in state care,” said SRS Secretary Rob Siedlecki Jr.

KU’s Institute for Educational Research and Public Service and School of Social Welfare will help the Children and Family Services Division of SRS and the state education agency develop the infrastructure necessary to increase interagency communication.

By Scott Rothschild

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Regents approve salary increases for university chiefs; hefty ones for some

Kansas University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little on Thursday got a 1.8 percent salary increase, while her counterpart at Kansas State got a 14.3 percent hike.

Why? Because Kansas State President Kirk Schulz was one of three chief executives of regents universities to receive a hefty “market adjustment” from the Kansas Board of Regents.

“We all believe we have great university leaders at our regents institutions,” said Regent Fred Logan Jr. of Leawood as he laid out the plan.

All of the school leaders received the 1.8 percent cost of living increase.

But the regents also provided “market adjustments,” ranging from 12.2 percent to 14.7 percent, for the heads of Kansas State, Fort Hays State and Pittsburg State. Under the pay plan, K-State’s Schulz will see a $50,500 annual increase, while Gray-Little’s dollar increase was $7,650. Gray-Little’s salary cap, however, is still more than Schulz’s.

In addition, Steve Scott, president of Pittsburg State University, will receive a 14.7 percent market increase and Ed Hammond, president of Fort Hays State, 12.2 percent.

Prior to the action, the board had not granted salary increases to the heads of regents schools since 2009 as the state has struggled with the recession.

The increases will take effect Jan. 1 and will be paid through a combination of public and private, endowment funds. But how much will be state dollars and how much private, hasn’t been worked out yet, Regent Chairman Ed McKechnie of Arcadia said. Essentially, what the regents did was increase the salary cap for the chief executive officers.

The method of payment was criticized by Regent Tim Emert of Independence who was the lone opponent of the plan, which was approved 8-1.

Emert said the raises should be paid with state dollars, and not placed on the backs of students, through tuition and foundation funds.

“The state Legislature and governor, for some reason, refuse to step up to the plate and reward excellence,” Emert said.

Emert also said he was concerned about the employees who are not getting raises. “All the people keeping the engines running are not receiving increases,” he said.

But Christine Downey-Schmidt of Inman voted for the increase, saying that it was one way to provide raises. “It seems we have asked more and more and more from these presidents and the chancellor. We are asking more, we ought to be able to deliver,” she said.

Gray-Little’s increase will put her salary cap, which includes state and endowment funding, at $432,650, an increase of $7,650 from her current cap of $425,000.

Regents members said the fact that Gray-Little did not get a market adjustment was not a reflection on what they thought of her job performance. They said the 1.8 percent increase represented a cost of living increase and should be interpreted as being a vote of confidence.

Logan said the market adjustments were needed because those presidents who received them were being paid much less than their peers.

He said the 1.8 percent increase “was not pro forma. It is a vote of confidence.”

The regents are currently searching for a new president at Emporia State, and Wichita State President Don Beggs, who is leaving next year, received a 1.8 percent cost of living increase.

The board also is considering establishing a merit system pool to provide up to 3 percent increases for the chief executives in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2012.

Regents members met several times in closed session to discuss CEO salaries.

The current and increased salaries, which include state and private funds, under the regents vote are as follows:

• Beggs, WSU, $277,160 to $282,150 (No market adjustment; 1.8 percent cost of living increase).

• Gray-Little, KU, $425,000 to $432,650 (No market adjustment; 1.8 percent cost of living increase).

• Schulz, KSU, $350,000 to $400,050 (12.5 percent market adjustment and 1.8 percent cost of living increase).

• Hammond, FHSU, $222,860 to $255,200 (12.2 percent market adjustment and 1.8 percent cost of living increase).

• Scott, PSU, $213,200 to $248,378 (14.7 percent market adjustment and 1.8 percent cost of living increase).

• ESU to be determined.

By Scott Rothschild

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Kansas Regents put off budget request for new KU medical school building

The Kansas Board of Regents on Wednesday agreed that expansion of the Kansas University Medical Center was a top priority, but put off asking Gov. Sam Brownback and the Legislature for funding next session to help build a new medical education building.

Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt of Inman urged her colleagues to “accept the request from KU for a little bit more time to develop the complexity of their offer and bring it back to us when they are ready.”

Earlier, KU had sought a new $5 million appropriation to help pay off a potential bond issue for the proposed $78 million medical education building. KU also expects to fund the project through a $10 million FICA refund, tuition dollars and private donations.

The current building, constructed in 1976, is “obsolete,” said Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center. She also said the current building won’t meet accreditation standards.

The proposed new building will help KU climb up in national rankings of medical schools and increase the size of each year’s medical school class by 50 students to about 240, KU officials said.

“The Medical Education Building is the anchor component of the new master plan for KUMC,” said KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little.

Last month, however, regents told KU officials that Brownback’s office wants the funding of the project to be nailed down further. They recommended KU continue discussions with Brownback about financing questions surrounding the project.

Atkinson said she was confident that the project will be recommended for approval in next year’s budget request by the regents to the governor.

In another budgetary move, the regents did approve forwarding a budget request for a $5 million annual appropriation for improvements to the Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. The improvements will increase research and train the workforce needed to fill positions associated with growth of the animal health industry in the state and country, officials said.

By Scott Rothschild

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Brownback administration outlines school finance concepts

Education officials on Wednesday expressed concerns that Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to overhaul the school finance system may put more of the financing burden on local districts.

During a meeting held by the Kansas Association of School Boards and United School Administrators of Kansas, Brownback’s policy director, Landon Fulmer, said the administration was looking at a plan to provide a base payment from the state to local school districts, a system of block grants for at-risk students and other needs of individual districts, and allowing local districts to increase taxes. There also may be some changes to the distribution of statewide property tax collected for schools, he said.

Mark Tallman, with the KASB, said, “One of our concerns is the impact this would have on equalization, and there is a concern of shifting funding responsibility back to the local level.”

But Tallman added that some of the concepts that Fulmer addressed were interesting and he noted that Fulmer said the proposals were not set in stone. Brownback is expected to make a recommendation for legislators to consider when the 2012 session starts in January.

Tallman added, “We need to have a clear understanding of what we are trying to correct. Why is this better?”

Schools have been hit with several rounds of state budget cuts since the recession. Earlier this year, Brownback signed a budget that cuts base state aid to schools by $232 per student.

Brownback has said he wants to reform the school finance formula because it has been tied up in litigation in recent years. But those legal challenges have sought to force the Legislature to increase funds for schools and distribute those funds more equitably.

By Scott Rothschild

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State plans to apply for waiver of requirements in No Child Left Behind law

The State Board of Education voted Tuesday to apply in February for a waiver of requirements under the No Child Left Behind law.

President Barack Obama opened the door for states to have more flexibility in complying with the law after Congress failed to approve a newer version of the measure.

The U.S. Department of Education said it would drop the requirement that all students must earn a proficient score on tests for reading and math by 2014.

Critics of the law said that was an impossible goal and that the law branded some schools as failures when they were really improving.

Instead, the federal agency said it would grant waivers to the requirement if states either imposed standards to better prepare students for college and careers, reduced the achievement gap between sets of students, extended the deadline to achieve 100 percent efficiency to the 2019-20 school year, or adopted incentives for high-performing schools and plans to help low-performing schools.

Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said it would take several months of work to get the state’s application for a waiver in shape.

Once the application is made, she said the federal education department would let Kansas know by the end of the current school year whether the waiver has been granted.

Education Board members said they would provide more direction on the waiver application at the board’s meeting in November. The board voted 8-1 to give staff the green light to start preparing the application. Board member Walt Chappell, a Republican from Wichita, voted against the plan.

Several board members said they would oppose applying for a waiver under the option of trying to achieve 100 percent proficiency by 2019-20. They said the 100 percent goal was one of the onerous requirements of NCLB and extending that period wouldn’t solve the problem.

“I don’t think extending the time out makes it any more possible,” said Sue Storm, a Democrat from Overland Park. “I think that’s kind of foolish thinking to think that that would work,” she said.

Several board members also criticized federal proposals seeking to link teacher pay to student achievement. Board chairman David Dennis, a Republican from Wichita, said he feared that would result in teachers trying to get better students in their classes at the expense of other teachers.

“I don’t want to end up having teachers shopping for kids,” he said.

By Scott Rothschild

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Fewer job openings in higher education mean tougher search

Alicia Levin remembers what it was like to be looking around in the higher education job market. And it wasn’t much fun.

Levin is a musicologist, meaning she’s something like a music historian. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina in 2009 and finally got hired on a tenure-track position in the Kansas University School of Music this year.

“It was a horrible experience,” she said. “I wouldn’t recommend it.”

As universities across the country face state budget shortfalls and are feeling the effects of a slumping economy, it creates a backlog of qualified applicants to fill open professor posts. And for departments looking to hire new positions, the situation has meant they often can attract their top choices among the large pool of applicants to come to the university.

It was a lot of checking up on websites that tracked open positions in the field. Some of the sites allowed users to post updates on how the job searches were going, so she could watch as jobs she’d applied for moved to the phone interview stage, and then through the process until they were filled.

For others, including Jacob Dakon, a Ph.D. candidate at Ohio State University, the search went a little better. He was able to secure a position on the music faculty right out of his doctoral program.

“I just got lucky,” he said. He said put in 11 applications, and KU was the first to call. He was able to wind up with the position.

“I never heard from any of the other universities,” he said.

The market can vary across the disciplines. The Modern Language Association reported that the number of jobs advertised with the organization stabilized in 2010-11, increasing by 8.2 percent for English positions and 7.1 percent in the foreign languages.

But the positions are still down at about a third below their 2007-08 peak.

The American Historical Association reported that jobs posted with its organization fell 29.4 percent in the academic year 2009-10, to its lowest point in 25 years. The 569 advertised positions “marks a precipitous fall from the historical high of 1,059 advertised positions recorded just two years ago,” wrote Robert B. Townsend, the AHA’s assistant director, who tracks the jobs data annually.

While the available number of jobs were falling, the AHA reported that the number of people earning doctoral degrees continued to rise slightly, up to 989 in 2009-10, from 969 a year before.

Marta Caminero-Santangelo, chairwoman of KU’s English department, said the market has meant more options for her department.

“It’s a buyer’s market,” she said. “We’ve definitely been able to get our top choices.”

For a tenure-track assistant professor position, applications typically range from newly minted Ph.D. candidates to people who already have assistant professorships at other schools, she said. Tenured associate professor posts typically attract associate professors from other schools, she said.

KU hired two new English professors this year — one assistant professor, and one associate professor, Caminero-Santangelo said.

“We’ve got extremely high-qualified people competing for the jobs we’re offering,” she said.

Levin said that more qualified candidates in the pool can contribute to the backlog of people looking for jobs. The people who earned doctorates in 2009 typically will take a non-tenured lecturer position and then try again in 2010, 2011 and so on. Every year, they have to compete with a new crop of candidates, too.

“While it was a difficult process, it was definitely affirming,” Levin said. She said she got great support from colleagues and others along the way. “There’s no group I’d rather be a part of.”

By Andy Hyland

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Kansas School for the Deaf turns 150 this month

To a person who hears, lunchtime at this particular school can be a jarring and confusing sight. Hands aflutter, kids laughing, the clanging of chairs and the squeaking of floors.

Heads quickly scan the room, looking to see if they missed part of a funny comment or are being left out of a story.

But nary a word.

Have a camera, and curiosity soars. But the students approach with caution. There’s an awkward moment when a student realizes a hearing person doesn’t speak their language. And for a hearing person, you can’t help but feel left out of all the fun.

A brave 4-year-old approaches.

Tiny fingers move and the girl is telling you her age.

“I’m four,” she says, in sign language.

The cookie she’s munching on?

“It’s chocolate chip,” she says and now bored, she turns around, munching and signing, talking to her friends.

The scene isn’t much different from an encounter with a 4-year-old at another school. Curiosity, a short attention span and having lunch with friends. Just no words.

This is the Kansas School for the Deaf, which this month celebrates its 150th anniversary. Through the years, thousands of students have passed through the school, learned a new language, moved on to careers and created a “deaf-friendly” culture in Olathe.

About the school

Seventh-grader Cameron Symansky, 12, plays football, basketball, hunts and is a Boy Scout.

The Kansas School for the Deaf offers a variety of sports and extracurricular options, and if something isn’t offered at the school, students simply hop over to one of the local schools to join in.

“There’s a lot of activities,” said Cameron, using sign language, interpreted for the Journal-World.

Just more evidence to help fight the occasional stereotypes the deaf students at the school encounter.

“It can be frustrating sometimes with a hearing person because they think that we’re limited,” he said.

About half the roughly 150 students live near the school — which is part of the state’s public school system and is available to any deaf student in Kansas — and attend during the day, like Cameron. The other half live farther away from the school and stay in dorms on site during the week.

Cameron, originally from South Korea, was adopted when he was 3 and started in the preschool program. Cameron had an early leg up on education, which is key, said Luanne Barron, the school’s assistant superintendent. Students can attend as early as age 3 and stay until they’re 21. Barron encourages students to enroll at the school as soon as possible because in many smaller Kansas towns, there just aren’t enough services for deaf students.

“In some rural areas, there may not be an interpreter all,” Barron said.

Like some of the other students, Cameron tried the public school system. He said it was a good learning experience, but communicating with other students was always an issue.

“It was really difficult to make friends,” Cameron said. “I wanted to stay in the public school, but communication was really difficult.”

But here at the school for the deaf, Cameron has the opportunity to make friends who speak his language.

His experiences have been so positive that one of his possible career choices would be coming back to the school, which students and staff simply call KSD, after college to be a counselor.

“KSD is very important to me,” he said.

Two languages

Barron emphasizes that the school is a bilingual school, where students learn English and American Sign Language.

“They’re two completely different languages,” she said. In addition to other state certification requirements, teachers at the school must also be certified in American Sign Language. The staff has both deaf and hearing faculty, Barron said.

Classes are designed to give both languages equal weight, and that’s on full display in teacher Daniel Allen’s sixth-grade classroom for story time.

During the week, the students were studying Roald Dahl’s “James and the Giant Peach.”

As opposed to simply reading the story, Allen and the class also sign the words.

The students giggle throughout Allen’s signing of the story, as he exaggerates the signs and adds in his own humorous facial expressions.

“It’s one of my favorite things to do with my class,” Allen said. “I love it.”

The performance aspect of story time embraced by Allen is key, he said, because it helps students connect the written word to the gestures and signing.

“It’s a visual language,” Allen said.

The visual aspect is a point emphasized by teachers and by the decoration of the school. At every corner of the several buildings on the campus, students are met with bright colors, murals and “deaf-visual” art, which is a combination of artwork and signing. Lining the school library are portraits with a visual element, such as a house with hands signing “home.”

‘Typical’ experiences

And deaf families from all over the country make Olathe their home, in large part because of the reputation of the school and the city.

High school student Briella Diaz, 15, moved with her parents and siblings — all of whom are deaf — last year from Utah, after having trouble with services for the deaf in that state.

“We knew there was a large deaf community here,” Briella said. “Everything’s ready to go here.”

Briella talks in glowing terms of the community surrounding the school. Go into a store or restaurant, and you’re bound to run into another deaf person, she said. Police carry notebooks and are ready to write notes to residents during interactions, and businesses seem ready and willing to assist deaf customers.

“There’s caption televisions everywhere,” Briella said. Supporting the deaf “is like the law here.”

But occasionally, Briella said, she and her friends encounter someone not quite comfortable with a deaf person.

“Some hearing people just back off,” she said. But that provides an opportunity. “It’s important to educate them.”

When asked about what her life is like and what she likes to do, Briella uses the word “typical” a lot.

She plays volleyball, competes on the academic bowl team, hangs out with friends and plans to go to college at Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf in Washington, D.C., that’s a popular college choice for the school’s students.

Briella laughs when asked if there’s the typical gossip about boyfriends and girlfriends among the students.

“Oh yeah, it’s real-life drama here,” she said.

Ask Briella what it’s like being deaf, or going to a deaf school, and she just shrugs. They’re questions she’s been asked before, and she just doesn’t have any huge revelations about her experiences.

“We just have a different language, that’s all,” she said.

By Shaun Hittle

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Kansas Board of Regents approves smaller budget request and puts KU building project on hold

Hoping to appease Gov. Sam Brownback and the state Legislature, the Kansas Board of Regents on Thursday approved a slimmed-down budget request and put a major Kansas University building project proposal on hold.

The total increase sought by the regents was $31.8 million, down from the nearly $60 million that higher education institutions had sought. The request will now go to Brownback’s budget office. Brownback will propose a state budget in January for the Legislature to consider.

The biggest hit by the regents was to community colleges for technical education. Studies have indicated that workforce-related training is underfunded and needs a $60 million increase.

A staff proposal recommended $20 million, but, on a 4-3 vote, the board lowered that to $8 million.

Regent Fred Logan Jr. of Leawood said the $20 million request would produce “eye-rolling” among state leaders.

But Regent Tim Emert, a former Senate majority leader from Independence, said that asking for a lower amount at the start of negotiations was not a good strategy.

“I am no fortune-teller, but you will not get the $8 million. You might get closer to the $8 million” if the original recommendation is higher, he said.

Regent Christine Downey-Schmidt of Inman said she agreed with Emert, but because of the tight budget situation and Brownback’s stated support of technical education, she was willing to “gamble” and ask for $8 million in the hopes of getting the full amount.

Regent Kenny Wilk of Lansing told community colleges not to get discouraged,

saying that the budget request was part of “an ongoing conversation.”

Logan also successfully decreased the requested inflationary increase from $18.9 million to $12.7 million, saying that the lower figure was closer to the Midwestern regional inflation rate.

KU had sought a new $5 million annual appropriation to help pay off a bond issue for a proposed $78 million medical education building. The current facility, built in 1976, is obsolete, in need of repair and too small for proposed expansion, KU officials have said.

But Regent Chairman Ed McKechnie of Arcadia said there needed to be more work on funding proposals to pay for the building. The board sent both the KU medical building and a proposed expansion of the veterinary medicine program at Kansas State back to a regents committee for more study.

Board members said they were confident that later this year they would forward the medical building project to Brownback’s office for budget consideration.

KU officials said the new building is crucial to their efforts to train more doctors for the state.

As far as other KU requests, the board approved asking for $3 million in new funding to hire highly-sought-after research professors, and $1.9 million more for a medical scholarship program.

The board also recommended a 2.6 percent increase in student financial assistance systemwide.

By Scott Rothschild

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