Paula Hough has been tapped as Manhattan-Ogden’s next executive director of teaching and learning.

Hough was picked from four finalists and is currently the director of curriculum and instruction at USD 336 in Holton. She previously served as an English teacher in Kansas City, Kansas, and at schools in Minnesota.

Hough holds a doctorate in educational leadership from Argosy University and a master’s degree in leadership from Pittsburg State University. She is working on completing a master’s degree in district leadership at Emporia State University.

Her first day on the job is July 26.

Central enrollment opens Thursday

Parents enrolling students in the USD 383 school district have been able to enroll students online since Monday, but in-person, central enrollment is 7 a.m.-7 p.m. next Thursday and Friday at Manhattan High’s west campus.

The FIT Closet will also distribute school supplies to qualified students at central enrollment Friday, but parents will have to complete the enrollment process before receiving school supplies, as FIT Closet staff will verify that students qualify for the district’s free or reduced lunch program.

Parents will also have to fill out a FIT Closet registration form to receive supplies, but that form allows them to shop at the FIT Closet for the entire school year.

USD 383 teachers will see 6.5% raise

Negotiations have wrapped up between Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 administration and its chapter of the National Education Association, and under a tentative agreement, teachers will see a 6.5% raise in total compensation packages.

The contract also includes a $1,750 increase in base teacher salary to $41,000, and the district will continue to cover teachers’ health insurance premiums.

“I was pleased with what we were able to do this year to benefit our teachers and the district. The state came through with funding, and we are investing that right back into our people,” Eric Reid, assistant superintendent, said. “The level of teamwork and problem solving demonstrated by the Association and Board was impressive. We were able to discuss some mutually concerning issues and work toward solutions. I truly appreciate the Association representatives for their efforts to look at the district, and I am thankful we had better financial options to consider than in recent years.”

Although the district and the teachers reached the tentative agreement, both groups still need to formally ratify the contract.

K-State student leadership pushing for fall break

K-State’s student body president and vice president want to break up the fall semester with a mid-semester break.

Among the Kansas Board of Regents’ six state universities, only K-State and Fort Hays State University students go to classes continuously through Thanksgiving week, when students have the entire week off. Students at other universities typically have a two-day break in the middle of October but have to go to classes on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

K-State student body president Jansen Penny said he and vice president Ali Karamali pushed and voted for the calendar change in the university’s calendar committee. That measure passed in a split 3-2 vote and now goes to the university’s faculty senate.

Changes wouldn’t take place until fall 2022, but efforts are underway now because the Board of Regents is now allowing its universities to have two fewer teaching days. Among faculty, the topic has been controversial, since some faculty are hesitant toward a major change in semester scheduling and loss of class time, Penny said.

Penny said he’d like the university to start a fall break to help students’ mental health.

“The time between Labor Day and Thanksgiving break is long,” Penny said. “Students never have an opportunity to go home or step back from school and around that time is when so many of the campus resources, like Counseling Services and the Office of Student Life, are flooded with students seeking help. A two-day break will be a mental break for students in the longest stretch of classes during the year.”

Penny said he and Karamali will work with the rest of the student government to get feedback and gauge support for the measure once the semester starts in August.

NEA starting

teacher recognition program

Manhattan-Ogden’s chapter of the National Educator program is teaming up with the Alms Group to fund $500 awards for district teachers.

Manhattan-Ogden NEA president Erin Meyer-Gambrel said there are several awards and recognitions teachers receive, but personal, no-strings-attached financial awards can mean the world to teachers who struggle. Meyer-Gambrel was a recipient of a similar award herself at a former school district, and she wanted to bring a financial award program like that one to Manhattan.

Students, parents and fellow teachers will be able to use an online nomination form to nominate teachers.

The form will require two different sponsors to write words of affirmation for the teacher, and Meyer-Gambrel said she envisions an award process where the winning teachers receive the awards Publishers Clearinghouse-style.

The nomination process should go live in September, Meyer-Gambrel said, with the hope that the group gives the first award in October.

Awards will be made monthly during the school year.

Education reporter for the Manhattan Mercury. Follow me on Twitter at @byRafaelGarcia.