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Letter from USD 235 Superintendent March 19, 2020
Letter from USD 235 Superintendent March 19, 2020
Bret Howard
Thursday, March 19, 2020

USD 235 Students, Parents, and Patrons:

Grit, Determination, Resilience, Perseverance and Perspective…  How we define these words going forward will be very important as they directly relate to the type of experience we provide for students, families, and communities.

This is an unprecedented time in our world.  We are being called to serve kids in a completely different way.

Mr. Reith shared his favorite quote from the movie, Apollo 13, in his letter to students.  In that movie, Flight director Gene Kranz overheard two NASA directors discussing the low survival chances for the spacecraft.  One of the directors said, “I know what the problems are Henry. This could be the worst disaster NASA has ever experienced.”

Gene Kranz replied, “With all due respect Sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”

I appreciate the fact that Mr. Reith shared this quote.  This focus is on the positive characteristics of Flight Director Gene Kranz’s leadership.  This goes along very well with what we will be facing in the upcoming weeks. 

When life deals a blow, or people fail, often times they can feel so hopeless that their response is to give up.

I appreciate Kranz’s character in Apollo 13.  Kranz never lets them become helpless.  I know we have an outstanding staff in Uniontown 235.  There is not another group I would rather work with to tackle this monumental task.  As we form a plan to begin helping our students to not feel helplessness, here is some information for us to consider.

The Continuous Learning Task Force sent out their guidance recommendations earlier today.  Mr. Eden, Mr. Reith and I have spent the day reading through the guidance as well listening to several webinars to review and explain the guidance in further detail.

What we can tell you after reading through it:

  • We will be focusing on essential learning and essential outcomes for students – “Less is More”.
  • We will be emphasizing relationships even more in this new learning environment.
  • Our decisions must support all populations of students.
  • We will establish a consistent and agreed upon framework of expectations, communication models and practices that all stakeholders share.
  • We will be using 1-2 platforms of learning for all students.  There will be 1-2 levels for Elementary and 1-2 levels for JH/HS.
  • The guidance we received has recommendations on time for students to spend learning each day.  We will share that in greater detail later.
  • Continuous Learning will not be hours of screen time for students and parents.
  • We will not just be making copies of worksheets and sending them home.

Mr. Eden, Mr. Reith and I will be meeting with Mark Warren and Aubri Miller in the morning (Friday, March 20) to begin discussing Technology issues and concerns.

Once we have that meeting and get some answers to a few of our technology questions, the admin team will be sending out a survey to our parents asking a variety of questions.  These questions will provide data that will help drive our discussions when we get together the week of March 30 – April 3 to begin forming the USD 235 Uniontown Continuous Learning Plan.  This survey will be created on Survey Monkey and sent out via School Messenger.  A link to the survey will also be placed on our website, our district Facebook account, and our district Twitter account.  It will be very important that all parents take this survey.

All classrooms at the JH/HS have been cleaned and disinfected at this time.  The HS Office and Board Office are the only areas that has not been cleaned and disinfected in the building.  That cleaning will occur on Friday.  Our maintenance staff will all be at WBE tomorrow to finish up cleaning and disinfecting there. 

I want our patrons to know how proud I am of your building principals.  They have been a tremendous asset to me as we have worked through this process.  They have been at work every day having discussions to try to figure out what we can implement for our students that can have an impact on their learning.  I could not have made it through this past week without them.  I want to publicly thank them for their friendship and help during this time.

I also want to publicly thank our maintenance and custodial staff.  The amount of work that Mark Hartman, Steve Geiger, Trenton Miller and Jeff Reed has done during this week is truly amazing.  They have left nothing to chance while they cleaned and disinfected our buildings.  I am so grateful for their efforts.

I’m also grateful for our Food Service staff.  They have been at work making up breakfast and lunches for our students.  We had 50 students who came on Tuesday, March 17 and approximately the same number today (Thursday, March 19). 

Please take care of yourselves students, parents, and community members. 

Our Continuous Learning Plan for our students over the next several weeks will take some of you well outside your comfort zones.  It will be a time for growth and failure.  It is how we respond to some of our failures that will ultimately determine how we feel about our endeavor in the end.

 I shared something with our USD 235 coaches yesterday after KSHSAA sent out its announcement canceling Spring Sports that I want to share with all of you.   

“I’m sure your minds like mine have been going in a million different directions over the past week. One thought that keeps recurring for me is simply this…The school year ending the way it did shows us all the importance of the lessons we learn on the playing field or court.  You truly never know when it will be your last time doing the things you love.  Do everything in life to the best of your ability and you will have no regrets.  I think this year will allow us to talk about that in a way we never imagined with our student-athletes going forward.

Thank you for what you have done this year so far and will do going forward. I look forward to continuing and building upon the culture we are creating for our students and community at Uniontown USD 235.”

While this situation is far from ideal…I do think we have the opportunity to make this our finest hour. 

I am honored to be the Superintendent in a district of caring individuals that truly want to be their best.


Bret Howard, Uniontown USD 235 Superintendent



USD 235 Timeline:

· Spring Break, March 23-27, will remain student and staff time off as scheduled. 

· The following week, March 30-April 3, will be a planning week for our staff to implement the plan provided by KSDE and the Kansas Extended Learning Task Force. Once the plan is ready to implement we will notify students and families of what this will look like going forward.

· USD 235 will continue to provide meals until March 20 and begin again following Spring Break. Our food service staff made and delivered 50 meals to children and students ages 1-18 on Tuesday, March 17.  We made approximately the same number of meals again on Thursday, March 19.  We will continue the meals again after Spring Break.  Remember if you would like meals made available for your children after Spring Break, please call Michelle DeMott at 620-238-4968.  She will need to know the number of meals requested and where you will be picking them up at.  Uniontown – WBE, Redfield – Marmaton Community Church, Bronson – Bronson Locker, and Mapleton – City Park.  Please understand that your child and/or student will need to be present to get the meals.  We can only provide meals if the children/students are present.

· USD 235 will make every effort to provide opportunities to our Eagles for continuous learning with the guidelines provided by KDHE and KSDE. We will take every Eagle into consideration moving forward. 

· Reminder: At this time, all USD 235 activities and events occurring on or before Friday, May 29, 2020, have been postponed.  We will be looking at options to reschedule events as possible after that date. This includes prom and graduation.  I want all seniors and their parents/guardians to know that we will have graduation.  I can’t give you a month/day at this time, but we will have graduation.  We will also look into the possibility of making up other activities that were postponed.  Now just simply isn’t the time to make those determinations.