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  • Last modified 43 days ago (Oct. 10, 2019)

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Centre has plan to combat enrollment decline

“Surprise and delight” is the model

Staff writer

Centre school administrators and staff are hoping to duplicate the success of a rural Kentucky school district and counter falling enrollment.

Eminence Unified School District is similar to Centre in several ways. The building constructed in the 1960s is 50 miles from the nearest city in the middle of farmland and rolling hills. Many of its students are low income.

Its enrollment was 204 nine years ago when Buddy Berry, a new superintendent, had a vision for an innovative school system that pursued excellence. Nine years later, the district has 950 students. Test scores have improved.

A year ago, Centre’s seventh-through-12th-grade principal Donald Raymer and teachers Tana Riffel, Kelly Steiner, Jon Meyer, and Sherri Hudson traveled to Eminence to meet with Berry after Raymer and Superintendent Susan Beeson met with him at a Kansas State Department of Education conference in Wichita last October.

“We came back with a passion to be innovative and to think outside the box,” Raymer said.

With the school board’s support, Beeson, Raymer, and 10 teachers traveled to Kentucky this summer for two-day training to help improve their school system.

The group learned about design thinking, in which students are led to figure things out for themselves.

“It’s about lots of ideas, not a single idea of how to do something,” Raymer said.

They toured the school and learned about passion projects students pursue one day a week for a month. Teachers have a list of projects and students sign up for those that interest them.

Centre did that last April. Students canned vegetables, reconditioned old furniture, learned line dancing, did experiments in the science lab, and learned how to quilt.

Students and teachers are encouraged to set high goals and diligently pursue them.

Students also learn basic skills they will need after they graduate, such as financial management, car maintenance, how to communicate, and being competitive.

High school students are introduced to career choices, whether it be the military, technical college, university, or the work force. They are encouraged to job shadow and are taken to career fairs.

The staff, including cooks and maintenance crew, look for ways to weave “surprise and delight” into every day so that students look forward to going to school.

Teacher Sherri Hudson has a board outside her door where students and staff can attach notes complimenting other people. Teachers can use different seating arrangements and types of seats to shake things up in their classrooms.

Students receive tickets for helpful acts, such as picking up trash, aiding another student, or saying a good word. The tickets are placed in jars designating certain rewards, such as lunch with the principal, a pizza party, etc. The names of the lucky winners are announced after regular drawings.

Centre has a Cougar Connection Time 20 minutes every day for various activities and meetings. Raymer plans to set a time every other Friday when students can meet with him or the counselor, Max Venable, in the library.

Raymer said Beeson is a passionate educator and keeps the ball rolling.

“This started as a hope and a dream, and I think we’re moving forward,” Raymer said. “We are trying to get kids to come to us because of how we do things, letting them be in the driver’s seat of their own learning.”

Last modified Oct. 10, 2019

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