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10-6-23 — October 2023 Board Meeting Review

Oct. 5, 2023 ~ The Olathe Public Schools Board of Education met Oct. 5 for its regular monthly meeting. The agenda included two recognitions, two presentations and a number of action items.


  • Heatherstone Elementary School was awarded the Civic Advocacy Network Award from the Kansas State Department of Education. First grade teacher Nancy Smith can be credited for her work and leadership with the “farm to table” program and advocating for embedding agriculture standards in her extensive integrated unit plans.
  • Rachel Swearengin, fifth grade teacher at Manchester Park Elementary School, was named one of 10 finalists for the 2023 National History Teacher of the Year Award. Earlier this semester, she was named the Kansas History Teacher of the Year by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

School Spotlight

Scott Appell, principal of Pioneer Trail Middle School, shared a presentation on his school, the home of the Panthers. Pioneer Trail’s mission statement is: “We ARE accountable. We ARE respectful. We ARE engaged. We ARE PT!” This means holding students accountable, being respectful, providing inclusion and belonging, and increasing student engagement. Over the past year, Pioneer Trail has seen increased involvement in extra-curricular activities. Appell also touched on community engagement, where he talked about parent groups and mentoring students at Countryside Elementary School, one of their feeder schools.

Special Education Update

Executive Director of Special Services Anjanette Tolman, consultative resource teacher Laurie Diaz and gifted teachers Summer Cowick and Tracy Russman provided the board with an update related to special education. The presentation included information around steps taken since the Special Services study, as well as information around various programs and student supports.

Tolman started the presentation by explaining what special education means. Special education means specially designed instruction, which is adapting content, methodology or delivery of instruction to address the unique needs of a child with an exceptionality, ensuring access to the general education curriculum to meet the educational standards applying to all children.

The Special Services study found that Olathe Public Schools’ special education services are robust and well within the framework of acceptable options to meet the needs of students with exceptionalities. However, there are still multiple areas that Tolman and her team look to improve. Tolman presented steps of action, including communicating findings to district staff and the board, reviewing and increasing classified and certified staff, and sharing presentations to the community.

Diaz talked about Least Restrictive Environment (LRE), which reflects circumstances most closely associated with peers who do not have a disability. Services are to be provided in a student’s LRE, with an individualized education program (IEP) team determining the placement based on individual needs. Studies found that inclusion is a belief system and when special education services are brought to the student’s general education environment, inclusion generally occurs. Diaz said that LRE and inclusion can be accomplished by providing accommodations as opposed to modifications. Accommodations level the playing field, while modifications change the playing field.

Finally, Cowick and Russman talked about what it means to be “gifted.” Gifted means performing or demonstrating potential at significantly higher levels of accomplishment in one or more academic fields due to intellectual ability, when compared to others of similar age, experience and environment. Some goals and objectives for gifted students are to develop mentor relationships, recognize abilities, provide quality opportunities to enhance social interaction, and educate non-gifted students on how amazing their peers are. 

In other business, the board:

  • Approved a consent agenda including meeting minutes, financial and accounts payable reports, human resources report, student trips, Animal Health Science curriculum update, Moral Courage Project: Diversity Without Division Workshop, and the purchase and installation of safety measures at the Education Center.
  • Approved the Ad Astra Government Relations LLC Agreement for the 2023-24 school year.
  • Approved the architectural/engineering proposal for services needed to complete the design and construction documents for the Aging Facilities 2024 Project.
  • Approved the mechanical engineering consultant proposal for services needed to complete the design and construction documents for the Summer 2024 HVAC Construction Project.
  • Approved the roofing consultant proposal for professional services needed to complete the design and construction documents for the Summer 2024 Roofing Construction Projects.
  • Approved the purchase of equipment for the new districtwide Oracle time clock solution.
  • Approved the purchase of Microsoft Surface accessories.
  • Approved the purchase of new student devices as part of the districtwide device replacement cycle.
  • Approved the purchase of a new Challenge 305TC Paper Cutter for the Graphic Communications department.
  • Appointed Julie Steele as delegate and Dr. Stacey Yurkovich as alternate delegate to represent Olathe Public Schools at the 2023 Kansas Association of School Boards Delegate Assembly meetings.
  • Amended and approved a proposed resolution regarding censure of board member Brian Connell.
  • Received information on future action items including student trips, health curriculum revisions, and high school sports psychology curriculum revisions.
  • Received the monthly Head Start director’s report.
  • Received the monthly Bond 2022 update.
  • Held an executive session to discuss non-elected personnel matters.
  • Held an executive session to discuss matters relating to the security of the board, the school, school buildings or facilities, or the information system of the school.
  • Held an executive session for the board to consult with its attorney.
  • Held an executive session for the purpose of matters relating to actions adversely or favorably affecting a person as a student, patient or resident of a public institution, except that any such person shall have the right to a public hearing if requested by that person.

The complete agenda is available on the BoardDocs website.