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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Wichita names new schools for Christa McAuliffe, James ‘Coach’ Enders

By Suzanne Perez Tobias
The Wichita Eagle

A teacher who died in the Challenger space shuttle explosion and a longtime Wichita teacher known as “Coach” to generations of students are the namesakes for two new Wichita schools.

The Wichita school board voted unanimously Monday to name the new southeast K-8 school Christa McAuliffe Academy.

A new elementary school near 31st Street South and Seneca — a replacement for Lewis Open Magnet Elementary — will be named James Enders Elementary School.

McAuliffe, a high school teacher from Concord, N.H., was scheduled to teach two lessons from space via satellite to schools as part of NASA’s Teacher in Space Program aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986. Her career and life were cut short when the shuttle exploded after launch, killing all aboard.

Enders taught physical education and social studies at several Wichita schools, most notably Truesdell Middle School in south Wichita, where he worked from 1964 until his retirement in 1991. He also coached tennis at South High School and was a mentor to hundreds of students. He died in 2010.

Several members of the Enders family, including his wife, Etta, and two sons, Mike and Todd, attended Monday’s school board meeting.

“It’s a huge honor for the whole family,” said Todd Enders. He said his father, who loved to help people but never sought credit or attention, “would have loved this, but he wouldn’t have wanted it. He was never about himself.”

The board also voted to rename the building at 1847 N. Chautauqua — the former location of Northeast Magnet High School and the new location for Metro-Boulevard Alternative High School. It will be the Chester I. Lewis Academic Learning Center.

That move keeps Lewis’ name in the district even though the former Lewis Open Magnet Elementary was renamed. Lewis, a state and national leader in the civil rights movement, served as president of the Wichita chapter of the NAACP and helped initiate the Dockum Drug Store sit-in demonstration in 1958.

2012-13 budget

In other business Monday, board members heard an overview of the district’s 2012-13 budget, including the potential cost of teacher raises.

More than 100 people lined up outside North High School before the meeting, holding signs waving at passers-by as part of a rally aimed at showing support for teachers.

Verlean Brown, a retired teacher, said, “Enough is enough. Teachers need support. … And they need raises. It’s been too long.”

Contract talks between the district and the local teachers union broke down last month. Teachers have asked for a 3 percent raise; district officials say increased costs and continued cuts in state and federal funding mean they might not have money for raises.

Allison told board members Monday that fixed costs such as utilities, technology, transportation and fuel will increase more than $11 million next school year.

A 1 percent raise for all employees — teachers, administrators and classified employees — would be about $3.1 million, he said. The same raise along with increases for additional education or experience, known as steps and tracks, would be about $12.6 million, Allison said.

“Then the question is, ‘How long is it sustainable?’ ” Allison said. One option, he said, would be “to eliminate positions in order to fund” raises.

Board member Connie Dietz asked about the board’s authority to raise property taxes. Allison said an increase of 1.5 mills — the maximum the board could raise the local-option budget without leaving itself open to a protest vote — would net the district about $11 million.

“So that’s not even enough to pay our (increases in) fixed costs,” Dietz said.

“It would just about cover it,” said Allison.

Fabian Armendariz, director of transportation services, said the district will need more buses and fuel next year because of new schools and boundary changes.

Transporting students to the new Northeast Magnet High School in Bel Aire will require 17 additional bus routes, Armendariz said. The new Christa McAuliffe Academy near 143rd South and Pawnee will require an additional 10 to 12 buses, he said.

He also said that starting in the 2013-14 school year, the district will more strictly enforce its policy on hazardous busing, a move that could result in thousands of students losing their bus rides.

About 2,500 Wichita students currently ride a bus because the route to their assigned school, even though it’s 2.5 miles or less, was at some time deemed too dangerous to walk.

“It’s not being applied evenly across the board,” Armendariz said of the policy. “There are areas we’re deeming hazardous, but we’re having students in other areas of town walking through the same conditions.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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