Every school year, the Kansas State Department of Education recognizes schools that have above-average performance from students. There is a special category of award for schools that have above-average performance despite facing additional challenges.
The Challenge Award is presented to schools where students have achieved above-average scores in reading in math on standardized tests, yet also face additional challenges like high poverty rates and a large population of minority students. These schools have a high percentage of free or reduced lunch students, yet they maintain a low level of absenteeism. KSDE recognizes school teachers, administrators, and students with these challenges and high level of student performance, and selects the top performing 100 schools in the state to receive the award.
This year, USD 475 is proud that two of the elementary schools in the district have received this award. On Friday, April 10, 2020, KSDE Board of Education member Deena Horst came out to the district office to present Geary County with Challenge Awards for Grandview Elementary and Westwood Elementary.
Under normal circumstances, both KSDE and USD 475 would coordinate an awards ceremony to recognize both schools. However, due to social-distancing guidelines currently in place, Deena was not able to present the awards directly to each principal. She happily delivered the awards to the district offices, and USD 475 was able to ensure both schools received their awards.
Lynn Shinault is the Principal is Grandview Elementary, and she is very proud of her staff and students. This isn’t the first Challenge Award her school has received, and she knows why her school has been recognized by KSDE.
When asked why she thinks her school received the award, Lynn stated, “We appreciate this Challenge Award very much. I just wish those so instrumental in us obtaining the award could have been there. This award represents the hard work and dedication that our entire staff give to our students everyday. They see much more than a child they need to teach math to, they see the whole child and do whatever it takes to take care of all needs – academic, social and emotional. Our students come each day and give us their all, putting in good effort and setting goals for themselves. Of course, without the partnership and support of the parents we would not be as effective as we are. It is a true team effort in the Grandview community. We are family and each of us wants nothing but the best and success for one another. We have created a safe, welcoming environment where it is ok to take risks and grow as learners and as people. I couldn’t ask for anything more from my school community.”
Kim Dressman, Principal at Westwood Elementary is also no stranger to receiving a Challenge Award. Kim takes a personal approach to helping her students achieve a high level of success. She is often seen walking the hallways and can tell you the name of every student in her school.
When asked about why she thinks her school received a Challenge Award this year, she said, “I felt honored to accept the Challenge Award today on behalf of the teachers, parents and students of Westwood Elementary. The staff work diligently to meet the various needs of our students and go above and beyond to establish and build positive relationships with our school community. Westwood has dedicated families who work collaboratively with the school to develop effective partnerships focused on academic and social-emotional learning. Every child is different, and it is truly a team effort to capitalize on their unique strengths and set goals for individual growth and improvement. Our students are truly amazing and put forth their best effort each and every day. Westwood is a family who takes care of each another, and I am honored to be a part of it.”