Top education officials visit Southeast Kansas – Pittsburg Morning Sun

PITTSBURG, Kan. — With additional stops planned for Galena and Coffeyville later in the day, some of the state’s top education officials hosted an event Tuesday at the Bicknell Family Center for the Arts at Pittsburg State University as part of their 50-city Kansans Can Success Tour, which kicked off in late July. 

Tuesday’s event involved a survey that was made available to attendees, and Kansas Commissioner of Education Randy Watson said that not only the local results of that survey, but statewide data for comparison, will eventually be made available to participants.  

“We’ll send you this information statewide, what Southeast Kansas thought versus Northwest Kansas, what small communities thought versus larger communities,” Watson said. “We’ll share this with you in a variety of ways, because we want feedback.” 

The Kansans Can Success Tour is a follow-up to a similar tour called Kansas Children, Kansas’ Future that took place in 2015. 

“I’ve been at the State Department [of Education] for going on 15 years, and my job completely changed in 2016 after we went on that tour,” Deputy Commissioner Brad Neuenswander said at the event Tuesday. 

One thing that the Kansas State Department of Education has consistently heard from people across the state is that students need to have a much broader skill set beyond just academic abilities in order to be successful in the work force, Neuenswander said. 

“I think what they’re finding in all the stops that they’ve made so far is that the input that they got years ago is certainly still ringing true,” said Pittsburg Community Schools (USD 250) Superintendent Rich Proffitt. “Everybody recognizes that there is an importance for schools to be responsible for the academic piece of education, but it goes well beyond that into what in education we call soft skills.” 

Watson noted at this week’s event, which drew more than 120 attendees, that the Kansas State Board of Education consists of 10 elected members, which each represent a district made up of four contiguous Kansas Senate districts. Pittsburg is located in District 9, represented by Jim Porter. 

“In the new census we believe that these large geographic districts you see are probably going to get slightly larger,” Watson said, as he displayed a map of the state divided into the 10 districts, “and that the smaller districts that you see are probably going to get slightly smaller as the concentration of population in our state continues to somewhat move across the state.  

“You are unique here in Pittsburg,” he added. “Pittsburg is a growing community, growing school district and area of Southeast Kansas.” 

Proffitt said that Pittsburg having an increasing student population even as many other school districts in Southeast Kansas lose students presents its own set of challenges for Pittsburg Community Schools, but does not change the district’s mission.  

“It’s absolutely true that our student population is going up, where a lot of other communities in Southeast Kansas are going down,” he said. “I don’t think it really changes the responsibility for us to educate the kids in the way that is being described today, it just takes a lot more resources and a lot more people to do it.”