The ballroom at the Overland Park Convention Center was filled Tuesday morning with parents, educators and members of the Shawnee Mission area community for 25th installment of the Shawnee Mission Education Foundation’s annual breakfast.
Punctuated with appearances by students, parents and teachers, the program extolled the virtues of district initiatives and highlighted new programs the foundation seeks to support.
New facilities were among the top items featured during the presentation, with interim superintendent Kenny Southwick noting that the district had invested $300 million in new facilities since 2015. A student from Rhein Benninghoven Elementary and principal Mary Riley took the stage to discuss the effect the modern facility has had on teaching and learning there.
“I see it every day — students are working together, collaborating more than ever thanks to the awesome planning that went into our building,” Riley said.
The program also highlighted efforts to increase opportunities for teachers to get experience in real-world business settings and to get training from professionals. Through a program with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, specially training arts teachers are working with district educators on new classroom strategies that can be used in arts classrooms and beyond. A new externship program financed in part by Shawnee Mission Board of Education Chair Craig Denny and his family will give STEM teachers a chance to learn from industry.
District leaders discussed efforts to expand early childhood learning opportunities as well, noting that they have almost doubled the amount of enrollment opportunities available in pre-kindergarten programs.
The education foundation has contributed nearly $4 million to the district for grants, scholarships and programming since 1989.