Making a homecoming at Atchison Elementary School, Ashley Funk relies on a career that has seen a breadth of experiences as she prepares to teach special education students.
At AES, a significantly larger school than she’s used to, but with smaller home-room class sizes, Funk will work closely with other teachers. Funk talked about her plans and experiences on Tuesday at the AES Back to School Night event, which saw hundreds of students and family members patrol the halls meeting staff, collecting supplies, discussing lesson plans and chowing down on hot dogs and popcorn.
While teaching the past four academic years in Oklahoma, Funk routinely taught classes numbering more than 30 children at times, while also participating in Oklahoma Education Association efforts to improve state support for teachers and schools. In particular, she learned how important it is for each student’s needs to be met via teacher teamwork, a sort of preparation for AES’ co-teaching methods used by special education teachers and home room teachers in tandem.
“Co-teaching is so important to ensuring that special education kids are included in the classroom,” Funk said. “That way, they aren’t excluded. It’s much nicer to stay in your own classroom and give them the support that they need where they are among their friends and the teacher they know the best.”
Mollie Ambuul is another “new” teacher in that she’s perfectly familiar with Atchison, having studied education at Benedictine College, performing student teaching with Atchison Public Schools USD 409 all three years. The Martinsburg, West Virginia, native is a fifth-generation teacher and she knew early on in her studies that she would be inspired to stick with this career for the long haul.
“When the kids trust you and engage with you and you feel like you’re really helping them, that’s when I decided to stick with it,” Ambuul said. “And it’s been really fun.”
During most of her time at Benedictine, Ambuul worked as a student teacher in the very same classroom that will form her full-time fourth grade room now.
“My goal is to become comfortable with having charge of 19 completely different kids,” Ambuul said. “I think that our curriculum and the resources we have here at AES will make that easy, so I want to focus on meeting individual needs. It’s not difficult to engage with a student if you are determined to reach out to them not just as a student, but as a kid.”
Personally relating to her pupils in this way is Funk’s favorite part of the job.
“When special education students meet their goals, there’s nothing that can compare to how that feels,” Funk said. “As far as how exciting that can be, there’s nothing like it.”
Beginning Wednesday, Aug. 14, and continuing throughout the Labor Day weekend, more than 150 law enforcement agencies from across Kansas will join forces in a concentrated effort to detect and remove impaired drivers.
The Atchison Police Department has partnered with the Kansas Department of Transportation for more than 10 years in the Special Traffic Enforcement Program, said Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson. During Memorial Day and Labor Day periods APD adds additional officers to the streets to increase traffic safety.
APD will again participate in the upcoming STEP initiative, You Drink, You Lose, between Thursday, Aug. 15, and Monday, Sept. 2.
“It’s the right choice to not drink and drive, you win, we all win,” Wilson said.
Atchison County Sheriff Jack Laurie said deputies will be participating in the special enforcement this year while county authorities are on regular patrol.
Kansas Department of Transportation officials report this year’s campaign includes a No Refusal Weekend on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 16, and Aug. 17, when all suspected impaired drivers refusing breath testing might be subject to blood testing for alcohol and/or drugs.
According to the National Safety Council, 40 percent of car fatalities occur in the summer months. The Labor Day holiday brings increased traffic and unfortunately, a higher-than-normal number of deaths related to impaired drivers on the road. On average, impaired drivers cause about one-third of all traffic fatalities in Kansas. Across the state, impaired drivers injure or kill more than 2.200 people each year in car crashes.
This year’s 22-day campaign reinforces that no excuse is a good excuse for driving impaired. Designate before you celebrate, use a ride sharing service or get a ride from a sober friend are just a few ways to get home safely.
Impaired drivers can face jail time, suspension of their driving privileges, fines and other costs of up to $10.000. Additionally, the offender will be required to install and pay monthly service fees on an ignition interlock device system. Beyond the financial and legal penalties, impaired drivers face the risk of losing their own lives or taking someone else’s.
School related safety discussions dominated the business USD Board of Education members addressed from their agenda on Monday.
Board members gave their thumbs up to allow for about $10,000 in additional expenditure in an effort to ensure that the installation of higher quality security cameras in all the school facilities is complete this school year. The estimated cost for the project is $107,000.
Funding for the cameras will come from the Safe & Secure Schools grant awarded from the State of Kansas in the amount of $31,750 and an equal amount required from the school district brings the total to $63,500.
Donna Noll, director of technology education, said she and Director of Special Education David Myers have been involved in the security camera upgrades throughout the past years. The district has annually allotted $40,000 for installations and upgrades at some of the schools on a rotation basis.
Current digital technology has been refined to a point that one new camera might have the ability to replace the equivalent of two cameras currently in place. The digital camera images are also of a higher quality. However, the available funds from the grant and standard allotment falls about $10,000 short to include all the schools in the district.
Superintendent Renee Scott emphasized the $107,000 is only an estimate, and that the exact cost remains unknown until the camera company does a walk through to determine the project needs. The actual final cost might be less than the estimate. Scott recommended starting as soon as possible on the camera project.
Board members also heard a report from Atchison Assistant City Manager Justin Pregont about the Safe Routes to School sidewalk improvements project. Pregont said the ongoing improvements have been made possible through a partnership between city of Atchison, the school district and Live Well Live Atchison.
The project has benefited from about $3.5 million in funding by way of Kansas Community Block Development and alternate transportation grants. Director of Public Works Clinton McNemee, city of Atchison, wrote the grant applications, Pregont said.
The project was based on survey findings that indicated about 25 percent of Atchison Middle School student population walk to school, about one-sixth of the school’s population walk to school in the mornings, but after school the number increases to 33 percent.
Funding in the amount of $400,000 awarded for work in the Fifth Street and Second Street corridors are the most recent projects, and are substantially complete, meaning Kansas Department of Transportation grant guidelines do not allow for sowing grass until after Aug. 15.
The projects have provided a safer and generally ADA compliant route to AMS, Pregont said. He indicated the efforts are ongoing to apply for additional funding for sidewalk and pedestrian route improvements whenever the opportunities arise.
Board members recessed from public session for seven minutes to discuss matters of non-elected personnel with Scott.
A local woman remained jailed without bond Tuesday after what police said was a weekend verbal exchange that escalated and led to her arrest in connection with aggravated battery involving a moving vehicle.
Felieca K. Paxton, 23, of Atchison, was arrested on Monday for an aggravated battery that occurred late Sunday night. Formal charges were pending as of Tuesday, contingent on the prosecutor’s review of the arrest reports.
Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson said that a little before 11 p.m. Sunday, a local man told police he had been intentionally struck by a vehicle allegedly driven by a woman he knows in the vicinity of 12th and Laramie. The suspected driver remained at large until Monday.
Atchison County Jail information indicates Paxton has been in custody there since 11:36 p.m. Monday following arrest by APD. Wilson said Paxton and the victim have domestic ties.
The victim indicated he was en route to a friend’s residence when he saw Paxton, Wilson said. The victim told police that in an effort to avoid being hit by Paxton’s vehicle, he jumped up on top of the hood, then rolled off, managing to land on his feet. However, the front of the vehicle struck him, causing injuries to his hand and leg.
After the incident, Wilson said, the victim left the scene and called police from his friend’s residence. He ultimately didn’t seek transport from the scene or other immediate medical services.