SMSD News: Remote learning update, Deputy Superintendent appointed

Update on remote learning

As the Shawnee Mission School District (SMSD) continues to navigate through the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also been busy thinking about and planning for next school year. One of the issues we have been examining is what learning will look like when school begins in August, and specifically, whether students will have the same options for remote learning next year that they had this year. Our staff put tremendous effort this year into designing a remote learning program that allowed students to continue their learning while remaining safe. We know that some students actually thrived in this new environment, and are interested in having a similar option during the 2021-2022 school year.

Over the last several months, the district has asked for clarity from the Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) about whether we would be able to continue providing remote learning in the same manner as this school year. The answer we received is that the provision of remote learning was made possible by the suspension of state requirements during the pandemic. Absent a pandemic, there is no legal way to continue providing the remote learning option. Based on that decision, SMSD will not have a remote learning option for next school year.

Across the state, there are several school districts that are making the decision to open virtual schools, and there are a number of virtual schools currently in existence. We have looked closely at the regulations, and we do not believe that a virtual learning model would give us the ability to guarantee the same level of high-quality, personalized instruction that is necessary to meet the goals of the district Strategic Plan. We will continue to advocate at the state level for a change in law that would allow us to provide a robust remote learning option, in order to meet the needs of students who learn best in that environment.

Deputy Superintendent appointed 

Dr. Joe Gilhaus, currently Director of Secondary Services, has been appointed the Deputy Superintendent, effective July 1, 2021. Dr. Gilhaus has been in the district for 43 years. He began as a student at Hickory Grove Elementary School, and attended Old Mission Junior High School, graduating from Shawnee Mission North High School. 

He began his work as an educator in SMSD in 1991, teaching social studies for seven years at Hocker Grove Middle School. He served as an assistant principal at Westridge Middle School, as an associate principal at Shawnee Mission South High School, and for 14 years served as the principal at Shawnee Mission South. For the past six years, he has served as the director of secondary services, where he oversees all middle and high schools in the district.

Dr. Gilhaus has an undergraduate degree in secondary education from Kansas State University, a master of science degree in education administration from the University of Missouri – Kansas City, and a doctorate in education from St. Louis University.