Concern for the whole well-being for students of Atchison Public Schools USD 409 continues amid an awareness campaign that stems from the deaths of two students within a month of one another in 2018.

Jacque Coleman, director of curriculum and instruction, and Assistant Principal Lindsey Hansen of Atchison High School say that the phrase “Why I Matter” is reflective of their vision for an enriched educational culture of inclusion for all students. Coleman and Hansen spoke on Monday at the regular meeting of the USD 409 Board of Education at the district office in downtown to board members, administrators, counselors and teachers.

Board President Herb Gwaltney asked what, if any, activities are happening in accordance with Suicide Prevention Week, which has been declared for Sept. 8 through Sept. 14 by the State of Kansas. Throughout recent school years, administrators agreed, the “Why I Matter” campaign has been initiated at Atchison High School and was subsequently implemented at Atchison Middle School. A mental health professional is currently in the district, and rigorous training on the Signs of Suicide is underway for all faculty and staff, including an 8-hour course. Trinity Lutheran School personnel have also taken the course, Coleman said.

There are steps for increasing awareness which are being taught to students from grades 6 through 12, Hansen said. “See something, say something,” is an intrinsic part of the lessons being taught. The “Act, Care, and Tell” prevention measure is another part of this education.

Coleman also reported about the district’s strategic plan, goals and state assessment rankings.

Board members unanimously voted to approve the following supplemental contracts:

  • The position of Nicholas Rebant, assistant football coach;
  • The new position of Valissa VanWey, head girls basketball coach (VanWey steps down as assistant coach Aug. 31)
  • The new position of Lottie Lee, teacher mentor at Atchison Elementary;
  • And the new position of Sara Tschauder, AHS lunchroom supervisor.

Board members unanimously voted to approve the following employment actions:

  • The hiring of Ashton Herring, certified nurse assistant, set to serve at AES;
  • The hiring of Kaytlynne Norris, paraeducator
  • The hiring of Jay Meyers, science teacher, set to serve at Central School;
  • And the resignation of Earl Threet, paraeducator, effective Aug. 23.

Board members also heard from Superintendent Renee Scott about the following policy proposed revisions, set for action in October, and recent legislative changes:

  • Scott encouraged board members to closely review the proposed revision to Policy CGK, which has an additional clause addressing filing of criminal complaints against employees and added verbage to indicate such action could result in suspension without pay.
  • Policy CN regarding public records has a proposed revision that would allow the district to reasonable fees assessment to cover costs associated with the labor associated with the production of the requested information. Scott referred to a recent request that required 40 to 60 hours of legwork from district employees to make the information available, Scott said.
  • Policy EBBE, is the third revision Scott urged board members to thoroughly read about legislative changes to the number of safety drills in Kansas schools serving kindergarten to 12th grade.
  • Senate Bill 109, signed into law April 10, lessens the requirement from 16 safety drills within the school year to nine. As of 2018, schools had to conduct nine crisis drill, four fire drills and three tornado dills, according to a release from the Office of the State Fire Marshal. SB 128, effective July 1 for the new schoolyear, requires schools to conduct one tornado drill in September and one in March; three crisis drills to reflect potential events like water main breaks, earthquakes, missing students, hazardous spills, intruders, active shooters or medical emergencies.

Board members also heard from Technology Center Director Lucas Hunziger of Highland Community College. There are 47 AHS students attending classes at the Tech Center, which is the largest number Hunziger has overseen in his tenure. These AHS students are enrolled in auto collision repair, business technology, building trades, computer aided drafting, diesel technology, industrial welding and other courses that includes the block course in early childhood care.

Mary Meyers can be reached at

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