Technology director Austin Lawrence reflects on time at USD 329

In technology director Austin Lawrence’s nine years at USD329, he oversaw big changes in the technology, including internet improvements and the introduction of iPads.

Lawrence left the district in January for a similar position Hanover.

He had many roles at Wabaunsee. In addition to being IT director, Lawrence coached girls basketball for six years and football for one. He has also helped teachers to decide on curriculum to work with technology.

When Lawrence first arrived, the separate school buildings in the different towns each had their own internet service provider. Lawrence worked to consolidate the system, and now all the schools in the district get service from one tower with one internet provider. Lawrence also played a large role in better equipping the classrooms. The schools went from each having one mobile projector that was rolled from room to room to having projectors in almost every classroom. Each room is also equipped with an Apple TV, a device that makes student’s presentations and other classroom activities easier.

“Austin was a big help when it came to technology. I started around the same time he did and the progress we’ve made has really benefited the students,” journalism teacher Brendan Praeger said.

Originally the schools were all computer-lab-based. “My second year here, the goal was to get every school two computer labs,” Lawrence said. The junior high and middle school also got mobile labs with laptops. In 2014, the district transitioned to the current system of 1-1 technology by giving every student an iPad. “It was just as cost effective to either upgrade the computer labs or give every kid their own device,” Lawrence said.

Lawrence also oversaw security for the district. There are now 75 cameras district wide compared to the original number of only 10, and all buses are equipped with cameras. The phone system was also modified so that instead of having to make a long distance call between school buildings, the phones are all on an extension. Another major change that Lawrence oversaw was the transition from server to cloud. All the student’s documents used to be stored on physical servers. Now, all documents are backed up to the “cloud” using Google.

Currently, the district is working on changing the internet service from the tower to fiber optics, which is a technology that uses glass or plastic threads to transmit data. Fiber internet is faster and less likely to go down in a power outage.

Lawrence’s new position is the District Technology Coordinator at USD 233. The district uses Chromebooks instead of iPads, and Lawrence is excited to learn about new technology. “For IT people that’s always exciting,” Lawrence said, “instead of doing the same thing over and over I get to mess with some new technology.” Lawrence said he looks forward to having the opportunity to write new district policy about technology.

While Lawrence has already started his new position, his wife Cindy, a teacher at Paxico Middle School, will remain until the end of the school year. The couple is also expecting a third child this spring.

Both Austin and Cindy are originally from Hanover, so moving back is significant to them. “We’re moving back home,” Lawrence said. There will be familiar faces at his new job. “I actually get to work with some of my old teachers that I went to high school with,” Lawrence said.

After spending so many years at Wabaunsee, Lawrence said he will miss some things when he leaves, like the small community and the nice facilities at the high school. “Coaching sports was always very enjoyable. I probably won’t have that opportunity up in Hanover,” Lawrence said.

— Eleanor Badeker, @ellybadeker

Government class proposes changes to student handbook

Changes include dress code, parking rules and college visits

The students of the WHS Government class have made proposals for changes to the student handbook. The changes will be reviewed by Principal Jan Hutley, and if accepted will take effect in the next school year.

The students reviewed the handbook and looked for policies that could be changed to better serve the student body, as well as outdated rules that needed to be updated. “The students basically go through the legislative process,” government teacher Jess Rutledge said, “Introducing an idea, talking about it as a committee, and then writing it out for a bill, and then we send it to administration which we kind of treat like the executive branch.”

The administration then either approves the suggestions, which become “laws,” or vetoes them. Rutledge said this allows the students to better understand the legislative process. “It’s one thing to teach them about how laws are made,” Rutledge said, “so for them to physically do it and then see what all goes into it, all the various angles they have to look at, I feel like they really enjoy that.”

Proposed changes to the handbook include entries about the dress code, grading policies, parking lots and college visits. There are also proposed updates to outdated parts of the handbook such as lunch cards that are no longer in use and the correction of the table of contents.

The decision making process was largely left up to the students. “I try to stay out of it as much as possible,” Rutledge said. The students had to take the responsibility of choosing reasonable options that they believe will pass.

There was a lot of debate about suggestions. “Some people expanded on their opinions but others just said the same thing over and over,” senior Dillion Spellman said. In the end, the classes had two lists of changes to propose. “We were mostly pleased with the things we came up with,” senior Jessica Vanstory said, “most of all of us came to an agreement.”

The handbook assignment is different from past years. “The past four years what we’ve done is a bill to change WHS for the better,” Rutledge said. Of those presented over the years, one bill of suggestion was accepted by the school “administrative branch.” “It’s interesting because we’ve had a change in administration,” Rutledge said, “and with it being a different project I’m interested to see what Mrs. Hutley and the school board’s input will be.”

Hutley said she will take the student’s proposals into consideration when she reviews the handbook for changes. “It’s their school too, and I value what they have to say about the policies,” Hutley said.

— Eleanor Badeker, @ellybadeker

2B proposals

Dress Code:

 

Remove the following restrictions on these dress codes from the handbook, under the condition that they are not a distraction:

  • Jackets/Coats
  • Gloves
  • Hats/Beanies/Bandanas
  • Key chains
  • Dyed Hair Colors

 

Update the shorts policy to read as follows:

  • “Students are not allowed to wear shorts that are shorter than a 3-inch in-seam and are showing anything above the upper-thigh.”

GPA Policy:

The following should be the updated for the section titled “Weighted Grades an Honor Grades”:

  • The following weight formula is used to figure grade point averages at WHS-
    • Weighted Classes:
      • Physics
      • *NOTE- the following classes are still listed in the student handbook as classes that are offered for a weighted grade, but currently not available at WHS-
        • AP English
        • Calculus
    • The Weighting is as follows-
      • “A”= 5 points vs. the current 4
      • “B”= 4 points vs. the current 3
      • “C”= 3 points vs. the current 2
      • “D”= remains 1 point
      • “F”= remains 0 points
    • Honors Classes: Students will have 0.5 added to their GPA for the following classes-
      • Anatomy
      • Spanish II, III, and IV
      • College Algebra
      • Stats & Trig
      • Advanced Biology
      • College English
      • *NOTE- the following classes are still listed in the student handbook as classes that are offered as Honors Classes, but currently not available at WHS-
        • French II
        • Pre-AP English III
        • College Trigonometry

Parking Lot Permission

Under the “Student Driving” section in the handbook, it states that students are not allowed to go to the parking lot, and/or their vehicles, without permission from the office. We would like to amend this section to read as follows:

  • ‘Students will not return to their vehicle without permission from the office, or without a written pass from their classroom teacher, or until school is dismissed.’

College Visits/Military Policy:

 

  • Change the wording in the handbook to read as follows in regards to the policy on the amount of dates allowed for a student to miss school in regards to college visits, and/or military requirements-
  • Students are allowed 6 excused college visits, or, military visits/affairs while they attend WHS.
  • Students must present signed college visit form/military form on their visit and return it to the office upon their return to school.
  • Students are responsible for all homework missed during this absence.
  • Any additional excused visits must require either of the following for administrative approval-
  • Military requested attendance
  • Contact from the college specifically pertaining to the student

 

Work Study/Senior Hour Policy:

The handbook requirements for both of these policies should remain the same, with the exception that students are allowed to enroll in both, provided they meet all other existing requirements to be in good standing with the school and on course for graduation.

  • As it relates to the Senior Hour policy, we would like to specify that students are NOT required to be at school until the start of second hour classes.

Open Lunch:

Currently, the handbook does NOT place any restrictions on students, during open lunch, using a non-motorized bicycle to transport themselves to and from eateries. We would like to add the following policy in regards to open lunch transportation-

  • Students that are able to go off of campus during the lunch period may do so using the following modes of transportation-
    • Non-motorized bicycles
    • Non-motorized scooters
    • Non-motorized skateboards
    • Heelys
    • Non-motorized Rollerblades/Rollerskates
    • Students are NOT allowed to use the following to transport themselves-
      • Any motorized transportation

Needs Updated:

 

  • Change “Powerschool” to “online gradebook”, because we do not use powerschool anymore.
  • Remove “student lunch cards” from the handbook, as they are no longer used.
  • Change the listed days for ZAP to stating that it is on Tuesdays & Thursdays.
  • Revise the online handbook to the current edition
  • Current “Table of Contents” is incorrect with its information. This needs to be remedied.

 

4A Proposals 

 

College Visits/Military Policy:

  • Change the wording in the handbook to read as follows in regards to the policy on the amount of dates allowed for a student to miss school in regards to college visits, and/or military requirements-
  • Students are allowed 5 excused college visits, or, military visits/affairs while they attend WHS.
  • Students must present signed college visit form/military form on their visit and return it to the counselor upon their return to school.
  • Students are responsible for all homework missed during this absence.
  • Any additional excused visits must require either of the following for administrative approval-
  • Military requested attendance
  • Contact from the college specifically pertaining to the student

 

 

Ineligibility Policy:

  • The following should be added to the WHS ineligibility policy:
  • Two or more ‘D’s- After eligibility is run, students have one week of probation to bring up their grade in ONE of the two classes. If they do not come off probation at the end of the next week, they are officially ineligible for the next week.
  • Two or more ‘D’s WITH an ‘F’- Students are ineligible immediately. This includes participation in all school activities, athletic and non-athletic. The only exception to this is prom.
  • Additionally, we would like to add that students must be allotted four complete school days to raise their grades. This would be an addition to the stipulation that students must also be given two assignments to raise their grades.

 

 

Vocational Class Requirements:

  • Our class would like to change the section in the handbook regarding required classes. We would like to reduce the amount of vocational class requirements as follows:
  • Reduce the required amount of Vo-Ed elective classes from two to one credit. This would also increase the elective credits required to graduate from nine to ten credits.
  • Students would also be allowed to take four or more Vo-Ed classes, but would not be limited with what other core classes they would be able to take.

 

 

Hall Pass Policy:

  • Currently, the hall pass policy is predicated on students having their planners signed by the office, classroom teacher, or administration. We would like to update this policy to reflect as follows:
  • Written Pass Permission-
  • Student will have a completed pass slip from their classroom teacher, allowing them to go to another location (including, but not limited to; classrooms, the office, library, or to their vehicle).
  • Teachers are not only responsible for filling out a pass slip for the student, but are also required to phone the destination said student is going to visit, to make them aware the student is on their way.
  • Restroom visits and needing a hall pass slip are at that teacher’s discretion.

 

 

Maintenance a financial challenge for Wabaunsee School District

A hole remains open in the ceiling of Mr. Praeger’s classroom on the third floor of WHS. A rolling trash can is brought in whenever it rains. The roof is one of many maintenance challenges facing USD 329.

USD considering options to maintain buildings

USD 329 faces maintenance challenges and is considering an extension of a bond issue to pay for solutions.

“The building was built in 1937,” WHS custodian Tim Songs said, “so it’s always challenging when there’s a problem.”

“The biggest problem is the roof,” maintenance manager Freddie Johnson said. The clay tiles high school roof leak, and the underlayer becomes saturated with water and splits open. This can be seen in the form of brown water stains on the ceiling tiles, or in more extreme cases such as the hole in the ceiling of one teacher’s room.

“To fix it right,” Johnson said, “we could take the clay tile off and replace it with tin. That would alleviate a lot of problems.”

The old high school building is not on the Register of Historic Kansas Places, so there are no restrictions on what can be done to the building. “The boiler system will have to be replaced,” Johnson said.

While some of the problems are cosmetic, others affect the way the building is used. For instance, the heating system in the high school auditorium has been broken for several years. A school assembly Wednesday was moved to the gym because it would be too cold to have students in the auditorium.

Funding for maintenance is provided by the capital outlay budget, which also provides for salaries of maintenance and custodial staff, transportation, and performance uniforms. The capital outlay budget would pay for maintenance repairs such as a toilet going out.

But for certain large expenditures like the roof or boiler system, capital outlay is insufficient. “To replace the roof at the high school,” superintendent Brad Starnes said, “it would take around $160,000.”

Another large expense is the heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system. The systems installed with the last bond issue have outlived their life expectancy. To help pay for these things, the board is considering extending a bond issue for another seven years, which would raise about $2-3 million without raising taxes from the current level.

The district also faces a decision about Paxico Middle School. Parts of the building and facilities need to be repaired, so the board is considering the district’s need for the building. The board has also been looking into studies that show that when a student transitions into another building, there is a drop in academic success before it rises back up. Potential plans would keep fifth grade students in elementary school and move sixth grade students to the junior high.

It is an ongoing process to look for solutions to maintenance problems, and several options are under consideration.

“We don’t want to put money into something that we won’t have in the future,” Starnes said.

— Eleanor Badeker, @ellybadeker

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