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2022 Kansas State Schools of Character Recognition - Virtual Ceremony

Kansas State Schools of Character

Criteria for selection are based on Character.org’s ​11 Principles of Character, which include providing students with opportunities for moral action, fostering shared leadership and engaging families and communities as partners in the character-building effort.

In Schools of Character, adults embrace their critical role as models. Teachers work together as professionals - along with parents and community members as partners - to positively shape the Social, Emotional, and Character Development of the young people entrusted to them each day. Students in these schools feel safe, respected, and connected to those around them, allowing them to thrive academically and socially and be motivated to give back to their communities.


Kansas State Schools of Character

Beloit Elementary School - USD 273 - Beloit, Kansas

McClure Elementary School - USD 501 - Topeka, Kansas


Shifting School Culture Recognition

Recognizes schools and districts that have developed and implemented an SECD initiative or program for at least one year and are transforming the school culture, district culture, or both - as well as growing student SECD skills. These initiatives or programs must support the Kansas SECD Standards and the school or district KESA goals, the Redesign Principles, or a combination of the above. 

Alta Brown Elementary - USD 457 - Garden City, Kansas

Chaparral School District - USD 361 - Anthony, Harper, & Chaparral, Kansas

Dodge City Public School District - USD 443 - Dodge City, Kansas

Lincoln Elementary School - USD 489 - Hays, Kansas

Lincoln Elementary School - USD 298 - Lincoln, Kansas


Enhanced Spotlight Recognition

Recognizes schools and districts that are implementing new initiatives or are enhancing existing initiatives that will strengthen the Social, Emotional, and Character Development skills in their students and school climate. Initiatives must support at least one of the Kansas SECD Standards strands and support one or more of the KESA 5R’s, the Redesign Principles, or both.

Central Heights School District - USD 288 - Richmond, Kansas

Ellsworth Elementary School - USD 327 - Ellsworth, Kansas

Garden City Achieve - USD 457 - Garden City, Kansas

Georgia Matthews Elementary School - USD 457 - Garden City, Kansas

Lakeside Junior/Senior High School - USD 272 - Cawker City, Kansas

Lincoln Elementary School - USD 489 - Hays, Kansas

Mission Valley Junior/Senior High School - USD 330 - Eskridge, Kansas

Remington Elementary School - USD 206 - Potwin, Kansas

RISE Wilroads Gardens - Southwest Kansas Cooperative USD 613 - Dodge City, Kansas

South Hutchinson Elementary School - USD 309 - South Hutchinson, Kansas

Southern Cloud School District - USD 334 - Miltonvale & Glasco, Kansas

Spring Hill School District - USD 230 - Spring Hill, Kansas

Spring Valley Elementary School - USD 475 - Junction City, Kansas

Kansas State Schools of Character

Beloit Elementary School – USD 273 – Beloit, Kansas

Also named a 2022 National School of Character

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Beloit Elementary School started their character journey back in 1999 after receiving a special education grant to start character education in the school setting. Over the years there have been challenges, but a renewed focus started a few years ago when as a Gemini redesign school social and emotional skills became one of their major focus areas.  

The Beloit Elementary School motto is BES Expects Success and they promote three core values – Respectful, Responsible and Ready to Learn. These aren’t just words on the wall, BES has committed to an intentional, comprehensive and proactive approach to character development. They connect the Six Pillars of Character – Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship – to the 16 Boys Town Life Skills and the Olweus Bullying Program. Morning announcements include the skill of the week, pillar of the month and reciting of the character pledge. A character rubric has been developed so students, staff and families are all on the same page about behavioral expectations. Dedicating 30 minute each day to either BES Skills Time or TEAMS demonstrates their commitment to building skills, allowing for direct teaching of skills and opportunities for students to practice skills in a safe and supportive environment through student role playing.  

Classroom curricular items also reflect the life skill of the week or pillar of the month. Literature such as Words are Not for Hurting, Chrysanthemum, Personal Space Camp, My Mouth is a Volcano and Spookley The Square Pumpkin are common place in classrooms.  

Shared leadership and a caring community approach has not only made for a safe and caring environment, but also long-term sustainability. Various staff are part of the Character Education Committee that meets twice a month and the Site Council has a CE subcommittee made up of staff, parents and community members. The Marigold Committee focuses on staff morale and emotional support.

Time is designated at staff meetings to discuss progress and keep focused on the three core values. Not only has in-service time been dedicated to train staff in the areas identified as necessary, but coaching supports are available for staff as they move through the daily grind and implement new things.

Students and parents are a part of the shared leadership focus. Students coordinate the building character assemblies, apply for and hold leadership jobs, and have cross grade level building buddies. Parents serve on the BES Site Council, CE Subcommitte, PTO and are invited to character assemblies as well as parent trainings. 

Significant efforts have been made to implement true service learning instead of community service. The Thierolf Park project is a great example. Students worked with city officials on identify new ways to use the park. Students took measurements, researched ideas and costs, created pictures, had a presentation by the Parks and Recreation Director and meet with city officials to discuss funding options. The food drive project provide students the opportunity to meet with the local food pantry director to learn what items were needed, how many individuals use the pantry and how it impacts the community. Both of these, demonstrate examples of students investigating community needs, connecting service to curriculum and student reflection.

A conscious decision was made to move away from Trojan Bucks, an extrinsic motivator, to positive office referrals to increase student motivation from intrinsic supports. Intrinsic motivation has also been enhanced through the integration of Project Based Learning and MTSS instructional supports. BES provides a continuum of services designed to meet the diverse needs of the learning community.


McClure Elementary School – USD 501 – Topeka, Kansas

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McClure Elementary was certified as a National School of Character in 2017 and they have continued to work hard to build on that framework. At the center of their character education approach is their House System. This system is intentional, comprehensive and proactive for building relationships, cohesiveness and a caring school culture. The four house are named after the Six Pillars of Good Character – Fidato House (trustworthiness), Kujali House (caring), Respecto House (respect), and Zimmedaaree House (responsibility). Each House meets weekly and includes students from different grade levels as well as staff members.

The alignment of the House System to the Six Pillars and Essential McClure 27 strengthens the importance of the core values and character development in the school culture. The System also allows for students to connect with each other, provide leadership and service opportunities, and allows student/staff connections.

The McClure Pledge, Good Character Super Power Chant, McClure Cadence, Super Hero Behavior Expectations, Morning Meetings, explicit lessons, evidence-based curriculums like Second Step, and celebrating Character Counts Day demonstrates their full commitment to embedding character into every aspect of the school day, structures and culture, not just words on the wall.

The implementation of Restorative Practices, Zones of Regulation, Peace Corners, Kagan Cooperative Structures, students keeping track of their assessments, Ci3T Prevention Plan (PBIS) and the Check In-Check Out system extends their commitment to building student skills. These structures provide opportunities for students to foster self-motivation, to strengthen their self-regulation skills and to take ownership of their own academic efforts and achievement.

A move away from individual recognition with extrinsic supports has been made. Now the focus is on House recognitions, providing students the opportunity to work to meet team goals. When a student is recognized for something they have done, their ticket goes into the House container. To increase intrinsic motivation and moral action, each House is responsible for conducting at least two service projects each year. This has more than doubled the number of service projects that students participate in and has provided more opportunities for community connections.

Shared Leadership and making data-driven decisions are demonstrated by the creation of a Morale Committee, Mental Health Team and a student data review team. Student data is reviewed weekly during staff collaboration meetings to make instruction decisions for student academics as well as social-emotional skill development. Other data pieces - school climate survey, SRSS screener, academic, attendance, bullying - are reviewed by staff during professional development days, quarterly teacher consult meetings and weekly collaboration meetings providing multiple opportunities to reflect and make data driven decisions.

Shifting School Culture Recognition

Alta Brown Elementary – USD 457 – Garden City, Kansas

Dragons on F.I.R.E.

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The Dragons on F.I.R.E. initiative was started in response to a high number of discipline problems and students displaying issues related to anxiety and depression. The initiative began with teachers providing direct instruction for each of the Six Pillars of Good Character – Respect, Responsibility, Caring, Fairness, Trustworthiness, and Citizenship. A student from each class was then recognized monthly for exhibiting the character trait of the month. Recognition included an award and lunch with the counselor. Sometimes community members who had careers that exemplify the trait of the month would join them for lunch. Community members were also asked to present to different classes about the trait of the month.

In 2020-2021, the initiative was strengthened by coordinating the Six Pillars with the Second Step Curriculum, aligning the character pillars with the Second Step lessons. The pillar of the month is also now taught during whole group class counseling and during Dragon Families. Dragon Families are a mixed group of students from different grades with a Dragon Leader that meet monthly to build relationships and to reinforce the pillar of the month.

Students say the “On F.I.R.E.” pledge every morning – “I am on F.I.R.E. today! Fair & Caring; Inspiring Others; Respectful & Responsible; and Excited to Learn”. This is a daily reminder of the good character expectations. “F.I.R.E.” slips are given daily to students who exemplify the pillars and are documented as positive referrals. These referrals are shared with parents and the students are put in a weekly drawing to earn a prize and/or yard sign.

Major discipline referrals have decreased significantly over the last two years from 67 to 22 and positive referrals now exceed discipline referrals. The SAEBRS data has shown significant social emotional improvement with students at low risk increasing from 78% to 89% and students who are at-risk decreasing from 22% to 11%. Additionally, the number of students with self-harm or suicidal ideation has been reduced to zero. 

Chaparral School District – USD 361 – Anthony, Harper, & Chaparral, Kansas

School Climate Transformation (SCT) Project

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In 2019, USD 361 Chaparral Schools applied for and received a School Climate Transformation grant. SCT projects are designed to boost school climate through improved multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS) frameworks, increased services for students, and technical assistance for district personnel.

The Chaparral SCT project involved the addition of four mental health providers to the district mental health team – a behavior specialist, character specialist, mental health specialist and family specialist. This team of 15 meets weekly. The project objective of was to provide direct mental health services during the school day to at least 150 students annually, this has been exceeded with an actual caseload of 298 students. Students typically meet with their mental health provider weekly.

The Behavioral and Emotional Screening System (BESS) was implemented in 2020 to screen student social-emotional risk twice per year. Students with elevated risk are provided support as needed through an MTSS framework. GoGuardian Beacon was also adopted by the district to monitor student activity online and alert mental health team members in real time when students engage in risky internet behavior, including searches related to suicidality.

Character Strong was adopted and implemented as a Tier 1 SEL curriculum for prekindergarten through twelfth grade. Lessons are taught weekly by classroom teachers and there are opportunities for integration of the lessons throughout the week. The curriculum also provides opportunities and materials for family connection and relationship-building. The family specialist communicates these components in the monthly family newsletter. Families and community members have also been invited to “Chappy Chats” information sessions.

The character specialist leads the district in the character, personal and social development of students through a coaching of the coaches model and student leadership team initiatives. A five-hour Challenge Day was held for the high school students that focused on growth mindset, character development, personal development and social development. A Challenge Day was also held for the junior high school.

High quality professional development has been provided for staff including trauma-informed practices, a poverty simulation, opioid overdose prevention, data-driven dialogue, crisis prevention and response, team-building, Character Strong and Capturing Kid’s Hearts. District staff have also been provided with over $8,500 in mini grants to support teacher engagement. Projects have included student service learning projects, mental health sections in each library, books aligned with the SEL curriculum, affirmation stations, a community story walk, mindfulness and yoga for students, staff appreciation, sensory tables and activities, additional character and leadership development for student athletes, and student-led leadership supplies.

Student leadership opportunities have been developed at the elementary and secondary levels and center on servant leadership, mental health awareness, drug abuse prevention, innovation, entrepreneurship, and student mentoring. Secondary level projects have included hosting speakers, mentoring activities for younger and incoming students, Spread the Word week, and becoming a Unified Champion School with Special Olympics. Elementary level projects include leading school tours, door greeters, creation and distribution of positive affirmation posters, mentoring new students, and writing notes to every staff member in the building to express gratitude.

Because of these efforts, Climate Survey data indicates improvements in students’ perceptions of Chaparral Schools, including resilience, student peer relationships, staff to student relationships, bullying and alcohol use. Students also did not perceive opioid use as a significant problem. Adult responses to the Climate Survey were mixed and indicated a perceived decrease in learning expectations, trust has remained stable, improvement of bullying at Anthony Elementary and drug use improved in all three schools.

According to the BESS index results according to teachers, 77% of the students demonstrated average levels of social-emotional risk for their age, 17% had an elevated risk and 6% demonstrated an extremely elevated level of risk. The goal of the mental health team is get 80% of students demonstrating average levels of social-emotional risk. With the mental health team in place they are better able to respond quickly and locally to student needs so this 80% goal is well within their reach.


Dodge City Public School District – USD 443 – Dodge City, Kansas

CARES/BSEL Support Team Initiative (CT)

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Several years ago USD 443 collaborated with TASN to implement the MTSS process, including a system to support Tier interventions in Behavior and Social Emotional Learning district-wide. As they worked with their 13 attendance centers, they discovered they needed more support for the system and for the staff and students to ensure a solid implementation and to create sustainability. With that in mind, they developed a district CARES/BSEL Support Team initiative or CT. 

The CT initiative is comprised of four highly trained behavior specialists and counselors that work with each building in the district on a weekly basis. The goal of the team is to: review the BSEL Tool with building teams to help determine areas of need and professional development; review student data to identify needs, determine risk levels and work with staff to develop and monitor interventions; implement data-driven decision-making district wide and improve school climate and culture through data-driven behavior interventions; and to provide support to the counseling department by developing the ASCA model as their systems framework.

The CCCFramework which focuses on Self-Regulation, Self-Efficacy, Conflict Management, Assertiveness and Empathy has been implemented to address the social emotional learning for students and staff. Staff understanding, student understanding and how this looks in the classroom has been the initial focus. Next the CT will work with each building to develop a Multiplier Team to build an efficacy and sustainability plan for the five CCCFramework areas of focus.

All teachers have also been trained in Zones of Regulation as a classroom SEL curriculum. This has been primarily focused in the K-5 classrooms, but has been implemented district-wide.

The CT has worked with Building Leadership Teams on school-wide behavior expectations, revising behavior matrices based on incident/behavior data. The response system to behaviors includes a rubric that helps teachers decide which behavior codes to use based on the situation and a motivator list to help determine the possible motivation for the incident. A focus next year will be to create a system to more properly document behavior in their SIS. The discipline handbook will also be revised and restorative practices will be added to the rubric.

Trainings have been conducted with staff and administration on universal instructional practices. The focus areas for the year were: greeting all students at the door, active supervision, opportunities to respond, and pre-correct, remind, reinforce. Positive recognition systems have been a primary objective for three years, working with staff on how to implement specific positive feedback ranging from Behavior Specific Praise to Relational Growth Promoting Feedback. This has had a positive effect on climate and culture and every building has taken steps to increase their positive recognition system for students and staff. Recognizing teachers more consistently across the district is an area of growth for next year.

Surveys, SAEBRS and FastBridge are used to inform decision-making and Educlimber is used to compile all student data in one easy to find location. A small number of Tier 2 and 3 Support Protocols have been intentionally focused on. For Tier 2 the 2 X 10 to build relationships and the check-in check-our, CICO, intervention. Data is currently being reviewed to determine if more targeted Tier 2 supports need to be implemented. The CT worked one-on-one with buildings to develop plans for more intensive Tier 3 interventions, as well as teacher training and follow up to ensure fidelity of the plan.

The CT initiative has created a more targeted approach for decision making and allows them to respond quickly and appropriately to meet each student’s needs. The data-driven interventions have also helped restore relationships with students and families.


Lincoln Elementary School – USD 489 – Hays, Kansas

Redesign Initiative

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Lincoln Elementary began their redesign initiative during the 2020-2021 school year and was approved for launch in May 2021. Their redesign goals are to increase family and community involvement and reading scores.

A majority of their students have not been to a zoo, carnival, the library, gone on a hike or had a picnic. This can create a limit to the background knowledge needed to assist with the vocabulary and comprehension needed for their reading curriculum. One way to provide real world experiences and learning has been to allow students to choose a “club” based on their interests. Some clubs include building with Legos, arts and crafts, sign language, crochet, journalism, book clubs and dance party.

This year each grade level has also partnered with at least one business or agency from the community. Engagement was continuous throughout the year providing opportunities for students to learn about the business or agency, learn about a potential occupation, see real world application of content and create relationships with community members. Partnerships included banks, the Hays Public Library, local law enforcement, restaurants, Fort Hays State University Foreign Language and Science Departments, long term care facilities and the Ellis County Farm Bureau.

Another key component to their redesign was to increase engagement with families. Lincoln received grant money to enhance engagement opportunities that allowed them to host a family dinner night, a Veteran’s Day celebration and a family picnic. Participation in these events has been amazing and has only served to enhance participation in the family activities they do every year such as family fun night, concerts, home and school meetings and various classroom activities.  

The efforts to enhance relationships, provide real world experiences and enhance reading skills has paid off. Lincoln leads the district in student attendance, maintaining an attendance rate of 87% or higher despite Covid-19 quarantine requirements. Also, after being placed on improvement just 3 years ago Lincoln was awarded the Kansas State Challenge Award by KSDE this year. The Challenge Awards recognize schools for outstanding achievements and uncommon accomplishments based on Kansas math and reading assessment results and other qualifying factors, specifically the sample size, ethnicity, and social-economic status of those taking the test.


Lincoln Elementary School – USD 298 – Lincoln, Kansas

Leopard Families Program

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When Sawyer Ptacek started as the Student Advocate/School Counselor at Lincoln Elementary in 2018-2019 the data she collected continued to indicate that relationships were an area that needed improvement. Staff to staff, student to staff, student to student and staff to family members were all in need of development.

Based on this data the Leopard Families Program was started during the 2019-2020 school year. Every student and available staff member was part of a Leopard Family. Families met for 30 minutes once a week for Family Time until Covid-19 hit. Families continued in 2020-2021 but weren’t able to meet in person, so letters were written and cards were made and then delivered to family members. The number one thing indicated on surveys that year was the need to have in person meetings again.

This school year, Families were in person again meeting for 30 minutes on the first Wednesday of every month. Next year the hope is to increase meeting frequency. Staff support for the program is tremendous with some staff giving up part of their planning time to make sure Families continue to meet.

Each family has their own color and is composed of a group leader and a mix of kindergarten through 5th grade. The high school student operated printing business, Paw Print, makes t-shirts yearly for each Leopard Family. The goal of the Leopard Families is to provide students with a sense of support, belonging, and community as well as to boost life skills for students and improve school culture.

When surveyed, about 92% of students indicate that Leopard Families are their favorite school program. Staff have seen an increase in prosocial behaviors across the grade levels and with staff. Interactions between grade levels has increased and Leopard Family members are always greeting each other. Leopard Families have also opened the door for other school-wide activities like family dance parties, ice cream socials, and game challenges where Families team up to participate.

Enhanced Spotlight Recognition

Central Heights School District – USD 288 – Richmond, Kansas

Leader in Me

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In the Spring of 2021, Central Heights identified the need to address student behaviors such as interpersonal interactions, perseverance and overall character development. After reviewing different curriculums, Leader In Me quickly sorted itself to the top of the list.

The elementary school has developed their Adult Lighthouse Teams and have targeted areas of growth. Staff have started to build their knowledge and expertise on the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and have eagerly signed up for different committees. Their next step is to form a Student Lighthouse Team.

At the secondary level, a Student Lighthouse Team was quickly formed with two students per grade level, 6th-12th. The student team was partnered with an Adult Lighthouse Team and began having facilitated discussions of how to make the school a better place physically and culturally. The teams met twice per month in September and October to plan implementation with a student lead focus. The adult team served mostly as a support, encourager of ideas and helped eliminate roadblocks. By mid-November meetings had increased to twice per week and an additional 14 students were invited to plan the student-delivered leadership development lessons. One lesson was delivered to the all the secondary students at that time.

The Student Lighthouse Team now has expanded to over 50 students with direct leadership roles. Twenty-eight students meet weekly to plan and teach leadership development lessons that are delivered once a month to their peers. An additional ten students are planning major school events like Mini Course Day. Mini Course Day is a day designed to bring staff and community members together to teach non-traditional lessons to students such as beekeeping, Frisbee golf, trap shooting and yoga. Another 15 students are working on school beautification activities including new murals, a monthly calendar that is posted in the cafeteria and new club activities. Each of these committees meet at least once a week.

Ellsworth Elementary School – USD 327 – Ellsworth, Kansas

Mini Morning SEL (M&M’s)

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In October 2021, the Social Skills Improvement System (SSIS) completed by Ellsworth Elementary School teachers identified that 26% of the EES students were considered “at risk” in the area of self-management. So, the Mini Morning SEL Initiative, M&M’s, began with the goal to provide students the opportunity to learn and practice self-regulation skills. Dr. Bruce Perry’s use of the “6 R’s” as a way to help children who are disregulated become more regulated was a strong influence on the M&M classes chosen. The “6 R’s” include: Relational (safe), Relevant (developmentally-matched to the individual), Repetitive (patterned), Rewarding (pleasurable), Rhythmic (resonant with neural patterns), and Respectful (of the child, family and culture).

M&M features 5 rotating classes: Drumming, SEL Literacy, Yoga, Bal-A-Vis-X I and Bal-A-Vis-X II. Each student participates in each M&M class for 5 weeks at a frequency of 1 class per week. The classes also provide opportunities for teachers to learn additional techniques to add to their toolboxes.

Drumming features patterned, repetitive, rhythmic lessons using real drums to create calm through music and the beat. Students engage in activities designed to practice following directions, working together to create unity through music, and having positive relationships with others.

The social-emotional literacy lessons focus on positive relationships, boundaries, understanding oneself and being aware of others.

Age appropriate yoga lessons utilize yoga stories, sequences, breathing and body awareness. Students experience body awareness and self-regulation in “real time” while transitioning from pose to pose and activity to activity.

Bal-A-Vis-X I & II includes safe, slow, rhythmic, repetitive, patterned, predictable, physical movement utilizing bean bags and racquet balls. Students practice midline crossing movements individually and with partners to experience positive body movements and control.

Garden City Achieve – USD 457 – Garden City, Kansas

RISE Up: Expecting Success

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Garden City Achieve is an educational setting that includes a High School, a Therapeutic Education Program, a Day School, and a Virtual Academy. Over the past 3 years, it has been a building initiative to improve student and staff morale, build cohesion, create a positive perception of the school, increase college and career readiness for each student, and to implement social, emotional and character development (SECD) standards to benefit every student.

At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year after much planning, specific steps were taken to put this initiative into action. First, the phoenix mascot was rebranded and the building name was changed from Garden City Alternative Education Center to Garden City Achieve. The start and end time were also changed so that the entire building had a uniform schedule. This has helped with scheduling and has allowed staff to meet as a complete team.

A STUCO club was added this year, consisting of thirteen 9th-12th graders and has been instrumental in the initiative. They have organized a variety of monthly events including: Pancake, Popcorn and Phoenix Gear Sales, Spirit Week, Fall Fest, Teacher Appreciation Gifts, Family Crisis Spa Kits, Blessing Bags for cancer patients, Benefit Raffles, Door Decorating Contests and Student Food Boxes. These events have improved building morale and have allowed the entire building to work together towards a common goal.

The SECD standards are taught through weekly mentoring lessons and other various events. Self-regulation, mindfulness and Project ECHO anti-vaping were the focus this year. College and career readiness opportunities have been provided including dual credit, monthly “Career Connections”, FAFSA Workshops, Scholarship and College Application Day, College Admission Visits, Graduation and IPS Conferences and Career Showcases.

Community partnerships have been vital and have helped with donations, grants, and volunteers. Students have had the opportunity to work with various community members on a monthly basis.

These efforts are paying off. Over the past three years, student enrollment has increased approximately 27% and the graduation rate has increased 32.1%. 

Georgia Matthews Elementary School – USD 457 – Garden City, Kansas

Morning Announcements

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The morning routine for Georgia Matthews Elementary students used to be to sit in the gym, then at 8:20 a.m. they would complete a few exercises, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, review activities of the day and week, and hear the lunch menu. Covid-19 changed this as students could no longer sit in large-group settings.

Because of this, last year morning announcements were held virtually over Zoom. As the year progressed, students asked if they could share information during the announcements like jokes, fun facts and shout-outs. As the months followed, students became accustomed to the routine and it has become a natural part of morning announcements.

Students can stop by the front office to write a shout-out to a fellow classmate or teacher. Jokes and fun facts can be written up and submitted to be read. Student contributions are now a daily part of the morning announcements. Teachers and administrators have also begun to recognize student achievement in the form of shout-outs or awards from their Tier 2 programs Fast-Forward and Dream Box.  

Morning announcements start the day in a positive manner and have had a positive impact on school culture. Aside from morning announcements, Georgia Matthews also uses the Second Step curriculum daily, PBIS with the monthly Panther Point Parties and CHAMPS as a building structure. This intentional focus is paying off, discipline referrals have decreased 88% since 2019-2020, down from 433 to only 54 this year.

Lakeside Junior/Senior High School – USD 272 – Cawker City, Kansas

Social-Emotional Growth Initiatives

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In the Spring of 2021, the Lakeside Jr/Sr High committee for social-emotional and mental health set the goal of implementing a lineup of programs and initiatives to target teen issues and impact school climate for the 2021-2022 school year. These needs were identified through the Kansas Communities that Care results, faculty input and feedback from student small group discussions.

To foster strong relationships among students and teachers, students were placed in multi-age family groups called KESA groups that meet weekly. These groups participate in team-building activities, social-emotional lessons, as well as other activities. It is also during these groups that the Second Step curriculum is taught on a bi-weekly basis for 6th – 8th grade.

Professional speakers Kirk Smalley from the Stand For the Silent organization and Mike Donahue with Value Up have presented to the student body. And the Value Up curriculum will be used 6th-12th going forward.

USD 272 was one of 56 districts in Kansas awarded a Mental Health Intervention Team Grant. This grant provides counseling both in-person and through telehealth appointments, allowing more students to receive services while not having to be absent from school for extended periods. As of March, twenty-two students have taken advantage of these services.  

The Kindness Campaign was started to foster healthy relationships. Students record random acts of kindness that they themselves have performed or have witnessed by other in the building. As of February, Lakeside students have reported 204 acts of kindness with 76% of them being performed by other students.

Also implemented has been the LJSH Feature Student of the Month. Students selected had posters with personal information hanging in the hallways and were pictured on the schools Facebook page.

Lincoln Elementary School – USD 489 – Hays, Kansas

Family Groups and Club Meetings

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Lincoln Elementary Family Time was implemented in August, 2020. The family houses meet bi-monthly on Friday mornings from 8:05-8:35 a.m. and are a mix of students from different grade levels. The focus is to implement skills learned in their SEL program, Second Step lessons, teambuilding, a time for students to build relationships, and an opportunity to learn and grow leadership skills. Also once per month breakfast is served in the houses.

The implementation of family houses came about when staff voiced concerns about students not knowing students in other grade levels and the lack of family like experiences. Not only have students had the opportunity to build relationships, but they have also had the opportunity to build self-esteem.

To continue to build student confidence and self-esteem as well as life experiences, Club Fridays was started. Students were surveyed and asked what their interests were and what they would like to learn more about and from those results different clubs were created. Students spend 35 minutes monthly in the club of their choice. Some clubs include building with Legos, arts and crafts, sign language, crochet, journalism, book clubs and dance party.

Mission Valley Jr/Sr High School – USD 330 – Eskridge, Kansas

Suicide Awareness and Prevention

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Recognizing the increase in suicide ideation based on the Kansas Communities That Cares survey data, Mission Valley partnered with a local suicide awareness and prevention group, “HEARTS”, to provide education, support and awareness to their students on suicidality. The counseling department met with “HEARTS” for 6 months prior to implementation to develop the curriculum/lessons and create an inclusive approach to awareness and prevention.

The program is scheduled as a year-long curriculum for 7th through 12th graders with 15 lessons, on average 2 lessons a month. Lessons are provided in two different formats: webinar and general assembly. Support for instruction and assignments is provided by way of the Xello platform. The staff at “HEARTS” provide a majority of the instruction with the assistance of the counseling department. This is done so the students can be provided some objectivity to the information being disseminate. Students have been allowed to provide feedback after each lesson and a pre-test and post-test will evaluate student growth and knowledge at the completion of the lessons.


Remington Elementary School – USD 206 – Potwin, Kansas

Saddle Up Group

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The Saddle Up Group is a 4th grade leadership development group based around service learning. Students have the opportunity to serve on one of five service teams – Digital, School Service, Welcome Team, Magnet Makers, and Mentoring. Additionally, The Saddle Up group is in charge of hosting the character trait student of the month assembly called The Round Up. This provides students the opportunity to practice planning, organizing and public speaking. Students spend on average an hour preparing for the monthly Round Ups and an average of an hour each month for their team duties.

The Digital team has allowed students to learn how to operate simple cameras to take photos of events at school. This year they are also documenting the development of an outdoor classroom. Students have also learned how to use the web-based video editing software WeVideo to create simple videos.

The School Service team is responsible for hanging posters of the character trait of the month around the building and delivering the month’s visuals to each classroom teacher. They also help set up and return things used for events like Art and Bingo Night.

Students in the Magnet Makers team are responsible for making locker magnets that are awarded to students who earn student of the month honors for character traits. This has required these students to learn about confidentiality, so the surprise of who is winning awards stays a secret until the Round Up assembly.

The Welcome team are responsible for morning greetings twice a week and on special occasions. They also greet and hand out programs at concerts and other events the school hosts.

The Mentoring team spends time in the prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms, helping teachers and students with centers or playing games with students.

Having the students hold meaningful jobs has not only grow student confidence, social-emotional skills, and academic skills, but it has also fostered student voice and ownership.


RISE Wilroads Gardens – Southwest Kansas Cooperative USD 613 – Dodge City, Kansas

Social Emotional Platform and Initiatives

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RISE – Respect, Inspire, Support, Empower – utilizes a three step social emotional platform to work with students at the Special Education Day School. The first platform is direct teaching of SECD skills. Throughout the year students receive daily SEL lessons in the classroom. Second Step has been implemented at the elementary and 186 Days of Character is used at the secondary level. Lessons are broken down by staff and are practiced daily.

The second platform is individual sessions 1-2 times a week for each student with one of the Emotional Support Team members, School Psychologist or Mental Health Groups.  Each session is individualized to target the specific areas of need for that individual student or small group.

The third platform utilizes Equine Therapy through the Urban Therapeutic Riding Academy. Staff work with students once a week when the weather permits. Not only does this allow students to learn how to keep their body calm, but it also gives them the opportunity to learn responsibility by properly caring for the horses.

One goal of the program is to start transitioning all of the students in the program at the beginning of the school year to their home school. By the end of this year, they expect that 83% of those students to have either started their transition or to have graduated with their high school diploma.


South Hutchinson Elementary School – USD 309 – South Hutchinson, Kansas

Zen Den

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The Zen Den program is a joint effort between the Reno County Education Cooperative and South Hutchinson Elementary. The Reno County Cooperative provides a full-time site-based behavior interventionist and USD 309 provides a general education teacher/counselor. The goal of the program is to improve pro-social skills, self-regulation and decrease discipline referrals.

The Zen Den was created after looking at disciplinary data and lost instructional time. In the 2018-2019 school year, South Hutchinson Elementary had over 700 office referrals.

Zen Den was launched in the Fall of 2019 and is now in its 3rd year of operation. The SAEBRS screener was used to get baseline data, and then groups were formed for students whose scores fell in Tier 2 or 3. Once a student is placed in Zen Den, data is continuously tracked to see student improvement. Teachers complete the SAEBRS screener three times a year for each student, staff observe and support students in their classroom and consult with the classroom teacher, and teachers complete a daily Ticket to Success for data tracking and monitoring.

Students are involved in Zen Den classes anywhere from once to four times per week, depending on their needs and goals. Over the past three years over 200 students have received support through Zen Den.

Teachers have witnessed more on-task behavior in the classroom with reduced disruptions of learning time, creating in general a more positive classroom and school culture. The recent SAEBRS data also shows the number or Tier 1 students has increased from 41% to 60% and the number of Tier 3 students has decreased from 35% to 10.7%.


Southern Cloud School District – USD 334 – Miltonvale & Glasco, Kansas

Friendzy SEL Curriculum

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This school year, the Friendzy Kindergarten through 8th grade curriculum was implemented as the main component of the social emotional learning program. Each Friendzy unit is designed to introduce a foundational truth of friendship using a monthly school-wide catch phrase, goal, and SEL competency. For example, the September catch phrase was, “We Need Each Other!” and the goal was to create a culture of building up versus tearing down. Kindergarten through 6th grade students receive weekly lessons and junior high students participate in lessons twice a month. The weekly lessons are taught by the school counselor and teachers support the catch phrase and SEL topics by reinforcing them in the classroom.  

The catch phrase for December was “Teamwork makes the dream work.” Not only was the benefits of working as a team and how each individual has qualities and strengths that can be contributed to the team highlighted, but service to the community was integrated. In Miltonvale, students participated in a winter warmth service project, collecting hats, mittens/gloves and socks. In Glasco, students planned a canned food drive as a partnership with the Angel Tree project. This integration gave students the opportunity to see how their teamwork could have an impact on the greater community.  

A monthly newsletter was sent home with the catch phrase/lesson topics and resources to extend student learning and conversations. And the Miltonvale high school student council also supported the grade school students in the fall during bullying prevention month by reading a story about standing up for others, and then participating in a follow-up activity in small groups.


Spring Hill School District – USD 230 – Spring Hill, Kansas

Leader in Me

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The Spring Hill School District current strategic plan has two key areas: academic excellence and personal development. Specifically, the personal development goals are focused on students improving social-emotional skills and creating a district-wide learning framework to provide a continuum for social-learning at school and home.

To move towards this goal, the Leader In Me program was adopted for all 5 elementary buildings. The Leader In Me program is evidence-based and is a comprehensive model that builds leadership and life skills while also creating a high-trust school culture.

This is the first year of implementation. So, teachers and building leaders received thorough training in the program and are now working to incorporate the hallmarks throughout the entire school day. The SAEBRs and mySAEBRs assessment tools will be utilized along with teacher and student perception data to determine areas of need and skill development.


Spring Valley Elementary School – USD 475 – Junction City, Kansas

Building Relationships Focus

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Relationships, Relationships, Relationships, has been and continues to be the focus at Spring Valley Elementary School and the school motto, “Every Child, Everyday, Whatever It Takes” remains the driving force in their daily work. The day starts with the Family Welcome via Zoom where the Principal leads the whole school in reciting the school chant, review of the bi-weekly Life Skill Trait focus, staff and student birthdays, new student introductions, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and the reciting of the Wildcat Guidelines. The sign-off is always a reminder of everyone’s responsibility to make safe and kind choices throughout the day.

The process of transitioning all students back to in-person this year highlighted the challenges of meeting the social-emotional needs for students. To better nurture relationships, focus was made on creating more opportunities for students to spend time sharing feelings and concerns while also providing some fun. The Student Support Monitors check in with students daily and spend time with groups of students. Not only has this allowed students the opportunity to develop an additional trusting adult relationships, it also provides the opportunity for upfront and immediate support for students.

Spring Valley focuses on 16 life skills throughout the school year. Each life skill is focused on for a two-week period where it is defined, taught, reinforced and then students are recognized for demonstrating that skill. When students display a life skill behavior any staff member can fill out a form to give to the student recognizing the life skill behavior they demonstrated. The student then takes the form to the library and picks a prize. Each quarter, every student receives a life skill award. A certificate is presented to the student at the life skills ceremony and parents are now able to attend the ceremony in person.