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Dr. Higgins: As OneMa1ze surges into our new Roaring 20s, we reflect on an amazing decade

 

Dr. Chad Higgins, Superintendent of Maize USD 266 As the first month of 2020 already is slipping away, some experts still debate whether this year is the official start of a new decade. Regardless, the 20s represent a new chapter for Maize USD 266. Before we get too far into it, I'd like to reminisce with you a bit about some of our accomplishments in the past 10 years. This is by no means a "best of" list, but these are highlights we can celebrate together.

OneMa1ze: Our campaign for unity and collaboration, which we launched in 2015, has resulted in increased district pride and momentum. It has reminded us that we are all in this together, and that vision has fueled other vital initiatives, including our OneMa1ze, OneVision strategic plan. Follow our evolving #OneMa1ze story on Twitter by clicking here.

maize:connect: This program, which gained steam publicly in 2017, is a vision to strengthen and formalize community connections. The Maize Career Academy especially has grown opportunities for students and their education by connecting businesses and professional mentors, resulting in increased shadowing opportunities, mentoring, and more in a more robust way thanks to the intentional relationships we have fostered.

Bond issues: Speaking of our Maize Career Academy, that amazing and innovative facility is just one of countless and crucial additions our district has gained through two recent bond issues totaling nearly $179 million. In June 2015, voters approved $70.7 million in projects for our Maize Career Academy and standalone Maize Early Childhood Center preschool, as well as an extensive renovation and expansion of Maize Middle School. Just in August, voters overwhelmingly approved a combined $108.2 million in improvements to accommodate growth, safety, and opportunity for all students. The projects will include two new middle schools and a facility housing a pool and auditorium.

Growth: Our OneMa1ze community is an attractive one to many, as we have seen rapid growth in recent years, growing more than 10 percent in the past decade.

Increased safety: Part of the 2019 bond issue will be the addition of added security measures to schools and classrooms, the latest in a series of efforts throughout the past several years. In 2016, the district organized a safety committee to review and update our crisis preparedness plans. The outcome of this work included lockdown drills and “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol. Our district also continues to use the Speak Up anonymous tip program and encourages our students and community to say something if they see something.

Student support: This school year, Maize has added additional Student Support Specialist positions. These employees serve in a coaching role for teachers, allowing them to become even more effective instructors for our students. Schools have been using Capturing Kids Hearts, Second Step, and other programs to build relationships with students and give them the tools they need to be successful. Also new this year and thanks to a state grant, two behavioral health professionals are working as school liaisons for middle and high schools. They link students and their families to local mental health agencies and needed resources. Among other initiatives that support our students are our OneMa1ze Support Network, Mental Health Initiative, and Superintendent Student Advisory Team.

Character education: We continue to prioritize teaching our students to be good people via our homegrown Maize Way character education program, among other efforts. Our schools have been recipients of multiple state and national character education awards.

Prestigious awards: Maize USD 266 has a proud record of important honors, including three Milken Educator Award winners, an NEA Foundation Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence 2018 finalist, a Kansas Master Teacher, Kansas Secondary Principal of the Year, and multiple finalists of the Kansas Teacher of the Year and winners of the Kansas Horizon Award. This year, the Maize Early Childhood Center’s Parents as Teachers program was recognized as a prestigious Blue Ribbon Affiliate, the highest designation from its parent organization. We recently learned that six of our schools are 2019-2020 Capturing Kids’ Hearts National Showcase School nominees. The list of winners goes on.

Maize Virtual Preparatory School: Maize's virtual school was founded in 2011, providing personalized digital and blended learning to students. It is like no other virtual school in the state of Kansas. Students are required to attend live sessions online with their instructors. In addition, no grade below a C is recognized or accepted. Learn more at maizevirtualprepschool.com.

Secondary boundaries: The process was not an easy one, but in 2016, our Maize Board of Education approved the district's first secondary boundary lines, dictating which middle and high school schools our students attend. Among other benefits, the process provides predictability for families and more consistent growth predictions for the district.

Elementary school mascots: Ending on a more lighthearted note, our elementary schools last year selected official mascots, a new avenue to further create school identities and school pride. School logos are being developed now.

It is good to look back together as we prepare to look forward at what the next 10 years will hold for us. Thank you in advance for your support.

Sincerely,

Dr. Chad Higgins, Superintendent of Schools
chiggins@usd266.com