Something to Think About
As many of you know the last 3+ years our family has been on a Mission to Spread Awareness and Raise Money for Research for a Disease called Type One Diabetes, a disease my Niece Michelle has lived with since she was 14 years old. There are still far too many kids and young adults that pass away each year because most people don’t know the symptoms and it is often dismissed as the Flu or Strep Throat. We are blessed to live in Emporia and have the support of so many great organizations and been involved in so many fundraisers. Being a part of the Emporia St. Patricks Day Parade, the Tour de Lyon County bike ride, speaking at local service clubs and this year being a part of Match Day through the Emporia Community Foundation has been very Special.
This Mission has also evolved into trying to help children and families in a positive way and give them hope that people really do care and are willing champion their cause. I really don’t watch the news much but when I do I see so much Hate in the world against each other in politics and religion and in so many other ways, I Try and stay focused on the things I can do to make a difference, One of my favorite things is to Speak at School Assemblies, many in Kansas, but also in other states as I have traveled around our country . I always talk to the kids about Changing the World from the inside out, doing it any other way sure hasn’t worked, We talk about trying and making a positive difference every day at school, at home, in sports, and other activities they are involved in. I challenge them to find a Cause and Make a Real Difference in the World. I always conclude my presentation with this story.
3 years ago I was in Burlington Vermont for a JDRF bike ride, I had some free time so I was driving around the area, I was on a busy street and traffic was backed up at a red light, As I was stopped I looked to my right and saw a young man in a wheel chair in front of a church and a lady was setting next to him in a chair, they both were looking right at me and from the position of his body in the chair I could tell he was facing some serious challenges. As the light turned and I drove off I smiled and waved at them, she waved back and smiled, but it was a very sad smile, as I went up the road something inside of me told me to go back, so I turned at the next opportunity and took a backstreet and parked behind the church, I walked up to them and introduced myself and told them why I was in town, The lady who was his caregiver told me this young man was born with a severe muscle disorder and would never be able to walk or talk and required 24 hour care. But he loved to sit outside and watch traffic go by and he must have loved your truck because he made a loud noise and stared right at you. I asked them what they enjoyed and what I could do to make their day better, she told me that when his dad came to pick him up at night on Special Occasions the 3 of them loved to go out to eat together at different places and she looked at the Bright Yellow Team Schnak shirt I was wearing and said and He Loves Bright Colored shirts, so I went back to my truck, almost running with a special feeling inside. I walked back to them and handed her 40 dollars and said you all please go to your favorite restaurant tonight and here is a shirt for him to wear. She held up the shirt and said look what this man just gave you. For the first time this young man kind of looked up at me and a hint of a smile came across his face, He reached up with what had been a clenched fist and opened it up, I put my hand in his and he squeezed it very hard, I told them both I loved them and gave them a hug and my card and said please let me know if I can ever do anything else for you both again. As I turned to walk away she said You Already Have, I turned back and she said we have been setting out here for over a year and you’re the first person that has ever cared enough to stop and check on us and that means the world to us both and I know it will to his father. The Lesson in this story is this. When your Moment comes and your Moment will Come. Just don’t Miss it, Just don’t Miss it.
I'm Kent Schnakenberg and that is something to think about.
I devote my days to finding ways to provide the opportunity for Higher Education to students because I believe wholeheartedly – that higher education lifts up our local, state, national and global communities. In last week’s, Something to Think About segment it was pointed out that by the year 2021 70% of careers in Kansas will require some form of higher education. The value and accessibility of higher education is a public good and should not be reserved only for the select.
While education, technology and the world in which we live, are evolving at unbelievable rates, the founding values of higher education institutions endure. Education is something our nation has believed in - for example, the GI Bill of 1944 was established and instituted to reward veterans - based on the national belief that Higher Education is key to public growth and prosperity.
There is much conversation about Higher Education today and whether it is worth the investment by the individual or by the state. As we look closer at the return on investment of those graduating with a four-year degree, there is a significant difference over a lifetime.
I would share a few interesting highlights that are true for those graduating with a bachelor’s degree. On the individual level, those with a bachelor’s degree earn significantly more – an average of 40% more - over a lifetime, which translates to the ability of graduates to create greater opportunity for their families. Additionally, those graduating with a degree tend to have an overall healthier lifestyle. Beyond earnings and personal benefit, these individuals also are more likely to exhibit a higher level of civic engagement. They give back to their communities providing an overall increase in the quality of life.
Education alone is a change agent. Today’s students are deciding to change their story, elevate their communities, and provide a brighter future for generations to come. We are educating this generation to be lifelong learners that will prepare them to adapt for jobs that have not yet been created, discover solutions to problems not yet identified, and develop leaders within our organizations, communities, and nation.
So the next time we hear of a budget cut aimed at higher education a high school senior wavering about their future, or someone debating about returning to school; the value of education and our future is without question worth every dollar!
Last year Emporia State University was recognized as a college of distinction for providing high impact learning experiences, has a 98% placement rate, and is ranked by US News and World Reports as having the lowest student debt of any public university in Kansas, 2nd in the Midwest and 15th in the nation. And even more impressive – while all other institutions are seeing an increase in student debt – ESU’s average student debt has actually decreased.
No matter what you may hear or read in the news- the truth is, college is a real option for any student that has the desire and determination to get a degree. There are many scholarships, programs and financial aid solutions that can make the dream of a college education a reality for anyone.
I’m Shane Shivley and that is something to think about!
In the sport of competitive rowing, there are different types of boats that travel the 2000 meter distance. The world record for a single scull boat that one rower propels it that distance is six and a half minutes. The world record for a double scull boat that two rowers propels it that distance is six minutes. The world record for an eight boat that eight rowers propel it that distance is five minutes and nineteen seconds.
So why is this something to think about? Teamwork is the answer.
My first example is the City of Emporia and Lyon County’s commitment to working together to share costs, equipment, and personnel to provide services to the community that provide savings and better service for everyone. The history of this relationship has changed over time from somewhat adversary to a teamwork approach on local government. This has happened because the two commissions have chosen to sit down together and have the difficult conversations that were avoided in the past, and the results have been more than successful. Through this joint effort of propelling our boat faster, we quickly realize that another couple of rowers would be beneficial. Obviously, it would be difficult to just choose two. Would it be Emporia State University, or would it be Flint Hills Technical College? What about Newman Regional Health, Main Street, Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce, or RDA? My suggestion is to throw them all in the boat and grab an oar.
In 2013 Lyon County joined with 6 other counties to form the Flint Hills Regional Council to take a regional approach to economic development. The 7 counties involved are Lyon, Chase, Morris, Geary, Riley, Pottawatomie, and Wabaunsee. By having a seat at the table for the monthly meetings we made many connections that have opened doors for exciting opportunities. Whether it be Fort Riley working with Emporia State University and Flint Hills Technical College on educating and training troops that are transitioning out of the military, or the fact that the seven-county economic development directors are now meeting every quarter, good stuff is happening.
Currently, the National Bio and Agri-Defense Facility (NBAF for short) is being constructed in Manhattan Kansas and is anticipated to be in full operations in 2023. At a joint city-county meeting last spring we had Ron Trewyn, the NBAF liaison, speak to us on how this facility impacts Lyon County. His main point was that with three pet food manufacturers and a regent university within a short distance from the facility we have enormous possibilities for economic opportunities for this region, and I totally agree. Already companies from around the world are looking at locations to settle in, and we are it. In this global economy, we cannot afford to go it alone.
The future of our success will be our ability to work strongly together to create an environment of economic growth and make Lyon County the place where people from across the globe look ‘to call home. I’m Scott Briggs and that is something to think about.
“The mission of Lyon County government is to create an environment of economic growth within a framework of fiscal responsibility and transparency to the people of Lyon County.”
It's no secret that former assistant city manager Jim Witt has been trying for months to ease out of his job and return full-time to his home and his wife in Canton.
He sets target dates to leave, but we keep asking for just a few more weeks or until a certain project is completed.
One day, I fully expect him to slip away like the wind, without fanfare or notice to anyone except the city manager.
Hiring Jim Witt was one of the best moves we've made in recent years.
Jim and his business partner Ron Leupp had come to Emporia as consultants early in 2013, when we took a hard look at our city -- what it was and what we wanted it to be in the future. The pair translated our conversations into specific long-term goals and the strategies needed to reach them.
By the time we finished, we were so impressed with Jim's leadership and hands-on experience as city manager of other cities, that we asked him to stay on in city management to get us solidly on the path we'd set.
He consented, saying he'd stay 18 months to two years. That was in November 2013. After almost 4 and a half years, he's finally whittled his time down to two days a week rather than five.
But he's still here, wrapping up a number of projects and weaning us away a bit at a time.
He's spoiled us. As assistant city manager, Jim kept us on-task, hauling out the goals every quarter and keeping us on-pace.
He led the Finance Department in creating a five-year budget, to plan ahead for anticipated expenditures rather than budgeting one year at a time.
Jim shepherded us through some major projects and programs, some of which we'd not attempted before.
There's not much within city government that hasn't been piled on Jim's job plate.
-- The Rural Housing Initiative Development program that brought a boatload of new homes to the Hidden Vista neighborhood.
-- The Black and Gold District that is bringing attractive new apartments and retail businesses on the north end of Commercial Street.
-- Retail and hotel projects involving long-term negotiations for designs, infrastructure, ordinances and contracts to turn them into reality.
He's represented the city in negotiating and developing contracts and Incentive Compliance Agreements with existing industries -- and the result has been hundreds of new jobs added within the past several years.
He's supervised the city's Community Development Division, and was our primary contact as Emporia and Lyon County reached agreement on a new Comprehensive Plan.
Jim has represented city management on joint projects with the county and other major entities to share expenses and resources to operate each more efficiently and economically.
He's worked with architects, engineers and department heads on a major renovation project for the Municipal Courtroom, which outgrew its quarters a decade or two ago.
He's supervised the fire department, the police department, the city clerk, and worked closely with the city attorney on everything from ordinances to lawsuits.
There's simply not enough time to list everything that Jim has accomplished.
He's done an amazing job -- even more than we'd anticipated, and we are exceedingly grateful.
But it would short-sighted not to recognize another Witt family member. If anyone deserves a heartfelt thank-you, it's Jim's wife, Kim, back in Canton.
She's shared her husband with the City of Emporia while 18 months stretched into four years and beyond.
She's visited here, of course, and seems to like it. So maybe it's not entirely inappropriate to send her our profuse thanks along with an open invitation to both of them to make Emporia their home. Or maybe their second home. That would work, too.
And that, Kim and Jim Witt, is something to think about.
Since the opening of the 2018 Legislative session in Topeka, the buzz has been how the Legislature will respond to the Kansas Supreme Court order to fix the school finance system while being able to balance the budget at the same time. The Governor’s budget calls for a $200 million dollar increase in educational funding for the FY19, and then an additional $100 million increase each of the next 4 fiscal years. While at first glance, this is seemingly a significant increase, and let’s just be honest, $600 million dollars is a lot of money; but before we pass judgment or form an opinion on the Governor’s budget proposal, I would first like to point out a few items for you to think about:
Dr. Randy Watson, the Kansas Commissioner of Education, started his tenure as commissioner by visiting 20 different communities across the state holding 287 focus group meetings with around 1700 people ranging from students, parents, educators, business owners, and community members discussing one question: what are the characteristics, qualities, abilities and skills of a successful 24 year old Kansan. Dr. Watson learned that while teaching students academic skills are extremely important; it is equally important to teach students non-academic skills as well. Schools need to focus on the social and emotional growth of students. Curriculum needs to be re-designed around individualized goals, planning, instruction, and experience, as well as incorporating real-life problems and projects. Schools need a deeper dive into individual career planning, and establish internships, job shadowing, and work experiences with business and community organizations for students.
There is more on the list for school redesign but I think you get the picture that schools in Kansas are changing. Changing for the better. Schools are redesigning how we educate students, as the world is different today than it was years ago. Technology has been the catalyst for exponential growth and advancements in our society. The Kansas State Department of Education’s response to this growth and advancement was to establish a new accreditation and accountability system for public schools that use an educational framework called, “The Five Rs.” Those 5 Rs are Relationships, Relevance, Responsive Culture, Rigor, and Results. Within the 5 Rs are several indicators schools are focusing on. These indicators are:
#1: Social-Emotional Growth (Social-Emotional learning is the process through which students acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others and establish and maintain positive relationships.)
#2: Kindergarten Readiness (the success of each student begins with high-quality, early childhood care and education)
#3: Individual Plan of Study for every student in middle school and high school.
#4: High School Graduation (from the first time a student enters kindergarten, every educator, kindergarten through grade 12, shares in the responsibility of preparing that student for success.)
#5: Civic Engagement (Civic engagement is necessary so students can become active members of vibrant communities. Students can’t be civically engaged by learning lessons in the classroom about civic engagement, they must themselves be civically engaged.)
#6: Post-Secondary Success (did you know that according to a study produced by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, by 2020, at least 70 percent of all Kansas jobs will require some level of postsecondary education? This means that 70 percent of all Kansas students will need to obtain some sort of post-secondary training via a technical institution, a two-year college, or a 4-year college.) If we want Kansas to prosper we have to prepare students in kindergarten through grade 12 with the skillset to continue their education via a post-secondary institution in order to meet the workforce demands in 2020 or else those business will leave Kansas and relocate in a state that is producing the workforce.
As you can see, all the above is a shift from how education has been approached in the past. To be successful in this shift, it will require more resources such as social workers, school counselors, family support specialists, instructional coaches, early childhood education programs, classroom resources, technology updates, curriculum changes, and most importantly, we have to be able to attract the best and brightest teachers to stay in Kansas. Because let’s face it, the right teacher makes all the difference! However, did you know that Kansas currently ranks towards the bottom in the nation at 42nd out of the 50 states in average teachers’ salaries? We have to do better than that to attract the best and brightest!
I had a local patron tell me not long ago that school was good enough for him, so it is good enough for kids today. I asked him when he graduated from high school and he replied in the early 1960’s. In closing, I want to leave you with a few questions in comparison to think about.
A 2018 Chevy pickup is different mechanically and technology wise than a Chevy pickup that was new in the early 1960’s. Mechanics are now technicians, and shops require specialized tools and machinery to diagnose and work on modern day vehicles. So, would you take your 2018 Chevy pickup to a mechanic to be worked on if the mechanic only had access to tools from the early 1960’s to work on it with?
Earlier this year, I had a teacher at the John Deere Technician Training Program tell me that there are more computers on a modern day John Deere combine than there were on the first space shuttle! Technology has improved processes and practices in our agricultural communities that have allowed our farmers and ranchers to meet the needs of our growing populations. So, would a farmer or rancher be able to function and sustain operations in 2018 with only access to equipment and methodologies form the 1960’s?
As I circle back to the current legislative session taking place in Topeka and the sticker shock I’m sure many of you had when you heard the $600 million dollar figure over 5 years for education, I ask you to think about whether that seemingly big number in the Governor’s budget is a small investment to make for the much needed and necessary changes Kansas is making to improve education. I believe education is the foundation of a strong economy and education is the foundation of strong communities. Investing in our children is constructing a foundation Kansas can build a future on!