Excitement and a real sense of community could be felt in the Owensboro High School gym this morning as Owensboro Public School welcomed teachers and staff to back for the 2018 – 2019 school year.
Patrick Whitmer, Risk Management Officer at Independence Bank and public announcer at University of Kentucky’s Rupp Arena, was the master of ceremonies for Tuesday morning’s event. To kick off the welcome back program, Whitmer announced a group of special guests — former Owensboro Public School graduates — who entered the OHS gym as if they were the Red Devils themselves, through a tunnel of cheerleaders into a cheering crowd. Guests included first female Mayor Pro-Tem, Pam Smith-Wright (Class of 1967), Mayor Tom Watson (Class of 1968), Chief Judge of the Western Kentucky District Honorable Joseph McKinley (Class of 1972) and 15 other distinguished alumni from Owensboro Fire Department, Owensboro Police Department, Owensboro Parks and Recreation, Atmos and other businesses and organizations within the community.
The highlight of the event, awards from Owensboro Public Schools Foundation, were presented by Foundation Chairperson Michael Moore. The following grants were awarded to OPS teacher and staff:
Estes Elementary School – $633.34 for Conscious Discipline, Special Education – Nikki Simpson, teacher
Estes Elementary School – $699.30 for Conscious Discipline, Early Learning Academy – Melissa Seaton, teacher
Estes Elementary School – $1,500 for Owensboro Kids Magazine – Faith Harralson and Lauren Magill, teachers
Foust Elementary School – $1,000 for Foust Store Economy – Melissa Stahler, teacher
Foust Elementary School – $1,500 for Success with Series Reading – Adrianne Condray, teacher
Newton Parrish Elementary School – $435.80 for 60 Recorder Instruments and Music Books – Elizabeth Tullis, teacher
Cravens Elementary School – $1,000 for EdMark Reading Program, Special Education – Ashley Jaiswal, teacher
Cravens Elementary School – $600 for PAWS Club Mentor Project – Emily Brown and Ann-Michael Hamilton, teachers
Sutton Elementary School – $2,000 for Kindergarten STEM Projects – Crystal Richards, Tiffany Hoffman, Mary Booth and Susan Bratcher, teachers
Owensboro High School – $500 for Snack Shack, Special Education – Amy Harper, teacher
Owensboro High School – $500 for Early Childhood Education Pathways – Jennifer Busse, teacher
Owensboro High School – $1,500 for College Readiness Opportunities – Monica Rice and Michelle Mayfield, teachers
Cravens Elementary School – $250 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Estes Elementary School – $250 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Foust Elementary School – $250 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Newton Parrish Elem. School – $250 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Sutton Elementary School – $250 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Hager Preschool – $250 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Owensboro Middle School South – $250 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Owensboro Middle School North – $250 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Owensboro Innovation Academy – $125 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Gateway Academy – $125 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
Owensboro High School – $500 for Instructional Supplies and Programs
220 OPS employees donated over $14,000 to the Foundation during school year 2017-2018. This includes contributions from teachers, aides and administrators, as well as many cafeteria, maintenance, and office employees – most from regular payroll deductions. The Foundation Board of Trustees votes to give back at least the same amount, if not more, that employees have donated in the form of innovative mini-grants to each school on a yearly basis. The OPS district has 30% employee participation in Foundation contributions which is a very high rate for K-12 schools, according to the National School Foundation Association.
Superintendent Dr. Nick Brake closed the ceremony, noting four significant changes to OPS for the upcoming school year. After starting online registration for the 2018-2019 school year, OPS has seen 94 percent of students registered, which Brake says is “unfathomable,” and matches where the district was by the third day of the previous year. All-day preschool will begin at Hager Preschool and at OPS newest facility, Seven Hills Preschool. This year will mark the first graduating class of the Owensboro Innovation Academy and Brake says a middle school level program is in the planning stages. Lastly, Brake said the biggest change, moving fifth grade students to the elementary school, has been well received across the community and will be a good foundation for next year when sixth grade students move to the middle school.
Brake ended the day by promising to safeguard teachers and to build and advocate for public education both in Owensboro and across the Commonwealth. He challenged the crowd to “let compassion be the driving force” behind each interaction with OPS students this year.