Board honors outgoing superintendent

Mark Schnabel
Newton USD 373 Superintendent of Schools Dr. Deborah Hamm is retiring after 17 years. She presided over her final BOE meeting Monday.

Monday’s meeting of the Newton USD 373 Board of Education was the final one for superintendent Dr. Deborah Hamm, who is retiring after 17 years.

Hamm was given a gift at the meeting. A reception for her is scheduled for 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the McKinley District Office.

The board heard from four people during the public comment session. They were limited to three minutes.

Three addressed the dress code, criticizing the current code as racist and sexist. One speaker claimed it “contributed to rape culture.”

It was also criticized as unevenly enforced.

The issue was not on the agenda and no action was taken.

• The board accepted the hiring of Darian Schomaker as a Head Start teacher at Cooper and the transfer of Jennifer Stenzel as a latchkey supervisor at Northridge Elementary from 5 hours to 7.5 hours.

The following were leaving the district — Leticia Baesa (food service), Melissa Pomeroy (SPED Para at Northridge), Nelly Flores-Ocasio (SPED Para and Red Aide at Santa Fe), Brandon Cheeks (assistant principal at Santa Fe), Ralita Cheeks (school counselor at Chisholm) and Michelle Eron (IDD teacher at Newton High School).

• Newton teacher Nan Bergen gave a presentation on The Seal of Biliteracy, a state recognition for students who reach proficiency in more than one language in reading, writing, listening and speaking. The recognitions are given at the silver and gold levels.

She said several students in the district in the past couple of years have reached those proficiencies.

“One of our issues we have had is getting the word out to everybody,” Bergen said. “You could be literate in more than one language and never take a foreign language at the high school. You grew up with it. You just have to prove somehow. Some of those students we haven’t been able to reach.”

The testing was not done this year because of the closure of the school buildings because of the COVID-19 outbreak. Bergen said she hopes to resume the program in the fall. The test can be taken multiple times.

John Janzen was honored at the meeting for reaching the Silver level.

• The board authorized the administration “to pay year end bills and complete fund transfers as necessary to close FY20.”

• The board also authorized the renewal of the food service program and an agreement with McCown Gordon “for Construction Management At Risk services. The agreement required updating for meeting Kansas guidelines. The documents have been reviewed by John Robb to ensure the state requirements are up-to-date.”

• The board approved the following gifts for donation of “Thank You” yard signs from the following:

Women's Community Foundation $500, Newton Community Foundation

$500, North Newton Community Foundation $200, Sunset Elementary PTO $230, Wild Prairie $100, Arlan Newell $100, Ann Adrian $100, Ember Hope $360, Stucky Investments $150 and Bridges Inc. $100.

• The board voted to spend $256,061 to renew its property casualty insurance. The district is insured through the Kansas Educational Risk Management Pool.

The insurance contains a $5,000 deductible for AOP (all other peril) and a $5,000 deductible for wind and hail damage.

• The board discussed the installation of a new digital marquee in front of the high school. The board previously accepted the donation from First Bank of Newton (now Intrust Bank). The sign currently resides at the First Bank of Newton on East Broadway. The Newton City Commission already approved the installation of the sign. The board accepted the donation at its Nov. 11, 2019 meeting.

• The board voted to renew it’s food service program from July 1 through June 30, 2021.

• The district agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the Wichita YMCA to establish the Y Scholars Summer Program to “address summer learning loss and improve the educational success of children.”

Under the agreement, the YMCA will hire an association lead, a site manager, two enrichment staff and two academic para/enrichment leads.

The school district will hire two academic teachers and two academic paras.

The program will operate out of South Breeze Elementary from June 15 to July 9. The district will provide breakfast and lunch via the Summer Food Service Program. The Y will provide a snack each day.

The district and the Y will have several liability policies in effect.

• The board discussed filling a vacancy on the board. Member Toby Tyner tendered his resignation at the June 8 meeting. The board will accept applications and hold a special meeting in July to decide on the appointment

Applications will be accepted through July 2. Applicants should include their resume and a brief statement “on why you want to serve and what you can bring to the Board of Education.”

Applications should be e-mailed to

• The board met in executive session to discuss personnel matters.

The next scheduled meeting is 7 p.m. July 13.

An illustration of the placement of the marquee sign that was donated to the school district by Intrust Bank of Newton (First Bank of Newton at the time of the donation).