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USD 409 School Board votes unanimously to change mascot
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USD 409 Atchison School Board members unanimously voted Monday night to change the Atchison High and middle schools’ mascots.

Board members Sean Crittendon and Diane Liebsch, Mascot Committee members in 2018, spoke in support of their continuous stances for change back then.

Board Member John Eplee MD said “this is the right move to make at this time.” Crittendon made the motion and Liebsch seconded it. The motion passed 7-0.

Crittendon initiated the discussion prior to his motion. From his committee work that led to the vote on the issue in 2018, Crittendon said he had formed his opinion that a change was in order. At that time Crittendon and Liebsch were the only two who voted in support of the mascot change. The 5-2 vote reflected the stakeholder consensus. Crittendon said since that time national sports leagues as well as some schools have moved forward toward change from Native American mascots and related imagery.

“For me it is a matter of perspective,” Crittendon said, “the time has come to care and listen to others of cultures different than our own.”

Liebsch agreed with Crittendon, and added that a change in the mascot will not take away the history of the Redmen, Braves and community. Liebsch also referred to the district’s policies centered on diversity and diversity training.

Eplee, Liebsch, Crittendon and Board President Carrie Sowers are the only sitting board members currently serving since from the decision to keep the Redmen and Braves mascot. Board members, Stefanie Gardner, Sally Berger, and Brandi Ross are newcomers to the board.

The Redmen and Braves mascots returned front and center to school board agenda in February after a request to re-visit the matter came forward from Atchison United, a community action organization. On March 4, the district hosted a special public input session to hear comments concerning a mascot change. About 15 stakeholders were present, only nine persons offered comments, all convey their beliefs the time has come to change the mascot. Board members were also presented a petitions circulated online endorsed by USD 409 alumni in support of changing the mascot.

Eplee referred to the 2016 start of the committee work that led to the 2018 outcome. He said it has been a process and board members have done their due diligence related to the mascot. Since the prior vote there has been a remarkable switch both nationally and locally, Eplee said. In March everything heard was time for a change.

Superintendent Renee Scott said Tuesday on the heels of the vote to move forward with a mascot change, the process will entail forming a committee that will include two board members. Surveys will go out in the community for stakeholders to include staff, students and parents.

In May the board members review the process for discussion, recommendations by consensus, Scott said. After the survey recommendations are received and compilation of results likely in June, but no later than the July board meeting, Scott said she expects the board will make a decision about a mascot name in time for the start of school in August.

“We recognize there will be a transition period,“ Scott said of the proposed time frame.

In February after board members decided to re-visit the mascot issue it was mentioned that the green and white AMS colors are historically significant because they are the colors of the former Lincoln School Kittens.

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Tiger principal to end school year with resignation
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Principal Deanna Scherer is resigning from her position at Atchison County Community Junior/Senior High School.

USD 377 Board of Education members unanimously accepted Scherer’s resignation, effective the end of her contract year, as part of the personnel action during their April, 14 board meeting in Effingham.

Scherer told the Globe she has no immediate plans at this time.

“I am excited for my time with my family and to regroup and seek a new opportunity,” Scherer said. “I have been honored to serve USD 377 during my tenure here.”

At the February meeting, Scherer was one of four school administrators in the district whose contracts board members approved for a 2-year extension throughout the 2022-2023 schoolyear.

Atchison Globe files indicate Scherer has served as the ACCJHS principal for about 10 years having transitioned in 2011 from her role as an at-risk facilitator to principal for the 2011-12 schoolyear. Scherer in 2019 completed the Kansas Association of School Boards Leadership Development Course and prior to her tenure with USD 377, Scherer was part of the administrative team for the Highland school district. Scherer taught science-based courses at Midway School prior to consolidation of Doniphan County school districts.

Board members also reviewed the district’s COVID-19 protocol and revised it with a few modifications to finish out the school year. Prior to the meeting surveys were sent out to families, and staff involved in the school. The results were 50 percent in favor of mask wearing, and the other 50 percent indicated a preference to stop.

Some board members’ opinions differed concerning the masks. Superintendent Andrew Gaddis said he is mostly concerned about quarantines that would prevent healthy students being present when it comes time to take the State Assessment tests, which is crucial for the district. Gaddis explained social distancing was more of a problem at the elementary school than at the junior-senior high school because there is less space for students to spread out in the class rooms and other areas.

“I’ve not heard one person say keep the mask,” said Board Member Greg Smith.

Board Member Jim Cormode said he has been reading the statistics and has gathered information that indicates the effectiveness of the masks remains unproven.

The majority of board members agreed they preferred modification, but were uncertain how to address the issue in the best interest of stakeholders. President Lori Lanter conveyed her belief if the students can make it through graduation the district’s school year will be all right.

Board members approved the COVID-19 Protocols as presented, and modified it to include that if persons are wearing masks during close contact with one another they would not be reported to quarantine if the contact is mask to mask. However, unmasked parties in close contact would be subject to contact tracing. The vote passed 5 -2 as Smith and Cormode both abstained.

Check out the COVID Protocol revisions via USD 377 Board Highlights via usd377.org, click on School Board, scroll down to Board Highlights and click on April 14, 2021; scroll down OLD BUSINESS to 6.01 COVID 19 Protocol Review (A) then click: Revised School Entry Protocol; Revised School Cafeteria Protocol; and Revised Transportation Protocol.

Concerning other action, board members:

Approved the hire of Gregory Scheetz as a music teacher for grades kindergarten –second and sixth-12th grades per salary schedule base Step1.

Accepted resignation from Corey Thomas – as social studies and agriculture instructor, effective at the end of contract.

Adjusted wages for Ty Roberts , that became effective April 5.

Approved the following supplementals for the 2021-22 schoolyear for: Rob McLenon for the John Dewey Learning Academy bus route (to and from Ozawkie twice a day); and for Alison Ostertag as junior and senior highs’ yearbook sponsor.

Recognized the following students for their recent academic and athletic accomplishments: NEK All League Basketball : Addison Schletzbaum, First Team, Aleah Wallisch and Natalie Nitz, Second Team honors, Maci Behrnes and Kieran Courter each earned Honorable Mention; 2A All State Basketball –Topeka Capital Journal: Honorable Mention — Natalie Nitz, Addison Schletzbaum and Aleah Wallisch; Wichita Eagle Honorable Mention – Natalie Nitz and Addison Schletzbaum; Kansas Basketball Coaching Association Academic All State – Maci Behrnes; 2A State Powerlifting – Kieran Courter – overall sixth-place in 2A State 165 pounds, Breyton Hewitt – first place 156 pounds, bench press; Junior High Scholars Bowl – second place for eighth-grade North East Kansas League; and Senior High Scholars Bowl third-place finish at regionals.

Rep. Eplee winds down Legislative season
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State Rep. John R. Eplee, MD ABFM, 63rd District, a Republican, was present this past Saturday for the Legislative Coffee to visit with constituents about the updates and issues concerning the lawmakers’ work in Topeka.

Atchison Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event that took place April 10 in the Santa Fe Depot. The occasion marked Eplee’s last Legislative Coffee of the 2021 season and the first and first one to be attended in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Special guest presenter was Michael Austin, of the Kansas Policy Institute. Austin also serves director of the Sandlian Center for Entrepreneurial Government.

Eplee informed updated the audience about the Kansas Department of Labor status on the unemployment tax fraud. It has been determined there have been about 400, 000 false claims filed and lawmakers are receiving hundreds of calls a week from persons affected from the dilemma. KDOL and lawmakers are having difficulties to keep up with the volume of calls. Many of the unemployed workers are at the point of losing their vehicles and homes. Work is ongoing to resolve the issue and implement software that will requiring alternate means of client identity and pass code instead of numbers like thumbprint apps to prevent fraudulent situations in the future. Claims have been impacted all over the state. Expectations are that unemployment Insurance for employers might increase.

Concerning COVID-19 matters, the state has opened up vaccinations for persons 16 and older, Eplee said he projects vaccines will be available to pre-adolescent children as young as 11 might be able to receive their vaccines during the late part of summer. Eplee said he voted in support to allow businesses to make decisions concerning mask wearing and coronavirus protocols within their stores and businesses.

A taxation bill to bring property tax relief is also something that Eplee voted for.

Eplee voted against SB2119 related to funding public schools to create and expand school choice programs. Eplee voted for a gun bill to allow persons 18 years of age or older carry a concealed firearm with training. He also said he in support of EDDIE EAGLE GUNSAFE training program offered to eligible children and persons older through the Kansas Wildlife Parks and Tourism.

Eplee said he is a proponent of the Rural Opportunity Zones as designated through the Kansas Department of Kansas, an incentive program to encourage population growth in participating counties. Doniphan County participates, Atchison County does not.

Two bills that Eplee introduced that will pass shall have a direct impact on Atchison County, one will bring relief to colleges like Benedictine College and community colleges The bill will eliminate surcharge fees these types of educational institutions pay whenever tuitions and other expenses are paid with credit cards. The other will benefit distilleries in Kansas like MGP and High Plains Inc., both are located in Atchison County.

Eplee also announced the Iowa Sac and Fox, has assumed operations of the former mission located near Highland in Doniphan County. The historic mission building formerly served as a museum operated by the Doniphan County Historical Society members until it was closed in 2008.

Austin’s presentation highlighted explanations of government spending and taxation by comparisons and in contrast of trends during the Governor Sam Brownback and Governor Laura Kelly’s administrations.

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409 leaders start steps to sell Central School facility
  • Updated

USD 409 Board of Education members are proceeding on to dispose of the Central School facility by putting it up for sale.

The facility and the affected real estate will be subject to title searches and inspections.

Board Attorney Larry Mears told board members on Monday that it is a rather complicated to sell public property, but the process entails compiling packets that will go out to prospective buyers who would like to make offers that will be returned to board members for consideration at a later date.

Like always board members will have the right to reject any or all bids when the time comes, Mears said.

Board members went behind closed doors to discuss matters of negotiations and non-elected personnel for 22 minutes in the presence of Mears and Scott. After the meeting resumed board members took the following action, all resignations are effective at the end of the 2020-21 school year:

Unanimously accepted resignations from: Nicholas Stillwell – Atchison High School business teacher, Distributive Education advisor, head track and cross country and assistant wrestling coach and assistant AMS assistant wrestling coach; Jennifer Hayes Atchison Elementary School second grade teacher; Rachel Morgan – first grade teacher AES; and Betsy Verhoeff – AES fifth-grade teacher; Cheyenne Swanson – ninth -12th grade AHS chemistry/physics teacher. Board members also accepted the resignation from Lisa Gearhart RN effective Tuesday, May 6 at AES.

Unanimously recommended for employment for the 2021-22 schoolyear, all become effective July 1 at AES: Ann Pouy – kindergarten teacher; Paxton Throne – first-grade; Bayley Funk – second-grade; Ashley Sherer – kindergarten teacher; Tanner Mispagel –elementary teacher, grade to be determined; and Misti Earls – kindergarten through fifth-grade library media specialist.

Board members also recommended the hire of Julie Underwood – as the vocal music director at Atchison Middle School and AHS.

Unanimously approved the transfer of Jamie Tate from the 6th-grade math teacher to sixth-grade social studies teacher.

Concerning other matters, board members:

Agreed by consensus to join in the effort by Kansas State Department of Education in the effort with other school district to challenge the rise of natural gas bills for school districts during the month of February. USD 409 experienced an 800 percent increase in comparison to previous years. Business Manager Lori Lanter said the February bill is the amount that she builds into the budget for the entire year.

Accepted the following donations on behalf of the AHS Campus Cupboard: two $15 donations from Courtney Laurie in memory of Chic Downing and Rogena Richards, respectively; and from Scott and Melissa Smith $2,200 and $2,800 donations.

Theatre contributions were received by way of a $500 donation from Robin and Jean Gaslin and $200 from Jeff and Tracie Caudle.

Approved the district audit for the year ending in June 30, 2020 as presented from Jim Long, CPA.

Approved the summer maintenance, capital outlay and technology plan; security camera upgrades and AHS teacher and student parking lot renovations.

Adopted Resolution 21-05 to appoint a hearing officer to represent the school board within 72 hours of time in the event a grievance in filed objecting to the district imposed mask order, the resolution allows board members to act within seven days of a hearing in accordance with Kansas SB40.

Heard a report from Principal Lacey Warren and Assistant Principal Lindsey Hansen, about Atchison High School. Warren introduced Principal Advisory Council members to the school board members. The Advisory Council has presented all school assemblies focused on some topics throughout the year in effort to encourage good behavior and mindfulness about certain topics like parking lot safety, restroom etiquette the policy handbook.

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Authorities locate missing man
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Atchison Police Department and Doniphan County Sheriff’s Office authorities have located a 79-year-old man reported missing, Chief Mike Wilson announced in a press release Thursday morning.

Garland Blanton was found deceased mid-morning Thursday, April 15 in rural Doniphan County. Blanton’s death is considered to be the result of natural causes while he was mushroom hunting, Wilson said.

“The family has been notified of his death,” Wilson said.

Kansas Highway Patrol assisted in the search with the use of a helicopter. The Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks also assisted with the use of a K-9 unit.

Wilson said interviews with family members conducted by Atchison police determined Blanton was a mushroom hunter who frequented certain areas in Doniphan County.

Blanton was last seen mid-morning on Tuesday as he walked out of the apartment complex at 807 Santa Fe where he resides.

Blanton’s silver Mitsubishi Montero SUV has been found in rural Doniphan County.

APD and the Doniphan County authorities worked together Thursday morning to focus on the area where the vehicle was found, Wilson said.