Governor Kelly Visits Two Southwest Kansas Schools to Discuss Importance of Fully Funding Public Education, SPED

DODGE CITY – Today, Governor Laura Kelly visited Dodge City High School and Garden City High School to discuss the importance of continuing to fully fund public education and the need to fully fund special education with teachers, administrators, parents, students, and local legislators.

These are the first two stops on a two-day tour in which Governor Kelly is visiting classrooms throughout Western Kansas to highlight the importance of protecting public schools.

“I am always blown away by our teachers’ commitment to providing quality education to our students across the state. That commitment couldn’t be more apparent than at both Dodge City and Garden City high schools,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “But our teachers can’t do it on their own. We must continue to fully fund public education – and start fully funding special education – to ensure our teachers have the resources they need to provide the best quality education for our students in every corner of the state.”

First Stop: Highlighting Special Education Funding at Dodge City High School Governor Kelly began her visit with a tour of a special education classroom at Dodge City High School, followed by a roundtable discussion with Dodge City teachers, parents, and state legislators focused on the importance of increasing special education funding. Governor Kelly then visited The Coffee Bean, a coffee cart run by Dodge City High School special education students.

“The men and women serving special needs students in our great state are incredibly inspiring people. Their willingness and skillfulness are a source of hope for their students,” said State Representative Jason Goetz. “My son Mayson has Down Syndrome and has received excellent instructional care through the staff of USD 443 and 613. Thank you to everyone involved in the discussion today and blessings to you for your caring work.”

Other roundtable participants included:

  • Matt Legg, Principal, Southwest Kansas Area Cooperative District (SKACD)
  • Judy Zapata, Deputy Clerk, SKACD Board of Directors
  • Tessa Hiatt, Special Education Teacher, SKACD
  • Dr. Fred Dierksen, Superintendent, Dodge City USD 443
  • Jonathan Hansen, Assistant Principal, Dodge City High School
  • Martha Mendoza, Principal, Dodge City High School
  • Kerri Baker, Director of Public Information, Dodge City USD 443

Second Stop: Addressing the Teacher Shortage at Garden City High SchoolGovernor Kelly was joined by state legislators, teachers, and administrators for a roundtable discussion focused on efforts to address the teacher shortage in southwest Kansas, including Garden City’s Teacher Apprenticeship Program.

This apprenticeship program is the first of its kind in Kansas history; its goal is to recruit and train local residents to fill teaching positions in an area with several openings. The program has placed nine apprentices in classrooms in need since it started in 2019. The apprenticeship program is a joint partnership between Kansas WorkforceONE – a local workforce development board in Western Kansas – and the Kansas Office of Registered Apprenticeships that the Governor created last fall.

“We are honored to have Governor Kelly visit Garden City Public Schools to highlight the state’s first Teacher Educator Apprenticeship program, which began four years ago to help close the gap with the teacher shortage in our community,” said Afton Huck, HR Coordinator for Garden City Public Schools. “This program provides invaluable experience in the classroom as a paraprofessional, long before participants become licensed teachers. I am excited to see teacher apprenticeship programs grow across the state and fill teaching positions that are critical to the future success of Kansas.”

“If it were not for the Apprentice Program allowing me to gain experience and still hold my para position, I would not be able to complete my degree. As a single mom I would not be able to do a semester of student teaching without pay and benefits,” said Shannon Wyatt, a teacher at Garden City High School and graduate of the Teacher Apprenticeship Program. “The apprentice program allowed me to do both– get my experience and provide for my family.”

“The apprentice program has given me the opportunity to gain experience in the classroom by building new skills and instruction,” said Maritza Guerrero, a teacher at Garden City High School and graduate of the Teacher Apprenticeship Program. “It has given me a chance to grow as an educator and learn ways I can create a learning environment to meet the needs of my students.”

“Our rural schools do more than just educate our students – they serve entire communities with employment, activities, and entertainment,” said Senator John Doll. “As a former educator myself, I believe the best way we can support our students, teachers, and school districts is to fully fund public education, especially for our rural schools, and continue efforts to attract and retain teachers.”

“Teacher recruitment and retention are our highest priorities in Western Kansas,” said Representative Bill Clifford. “We’re working with the Governor to provide affordable housing, improve daycare, and engage parents to partner with these education professionals who are training the workforce of tomorrow.”

Other roundtable participants included:

  • Representative Bob Lewis, R-Garden City
  • Dr. Mike Dominguez, Superintendent of USD 457, Garden City Public Schools
  • Tracy Leiker, Principal, Victor Ornelas Elementary School

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