WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — School is a hot topic right now, with some parents wanting more say in their child’s education in addition to staffing shortages. Wichita Public Schools will soon have a new superintendent to tackle those issues and more.
Kelly Bielefeld brings 20 years of education experience from working as a high school teacher to elementary administration. He said he’s working closely with Dr. Alicia Thompson as she retires to make sure he is ready for the new role.
With the recent Nashville school shooting, Bielefeld said anytime an event like this happens, the district reviews the current policies and procedures.
USD 259’s current safety plan is Run, Hide, Fight, an intruder response plan where staff and students assess the situation and respond with the best option.
Bielefeld said it’s the district’s number one priority to keep students and staff safe.
Schools are also seeing discussion by Capitol Hill and state lawmakers looking to determine if parents should have more of a choice in their child’s education.
“We really do want to work with families and work with parents, but we’ve already been doing that. We don’t need a new law in Topeka to tell us that we need to keep doing what we are already doing,” said Bielefeld.
But also looking at student behavior, he hopes to work with the community and high schoolers to ensure a drug-free and safe environment in the district.
“The vast majority of our kids are not participating in those high-risk behaviors, so how can we leverage, you know, their peer influence on other kids to really change the culture in our schools and our community,” said Bielefeld.
With over 47,000 kids in the district, they are also working to recruit and retain staff.
New teachers are coming in, but there are still 60 open positions for the fall.
The district said it’s the only one in the state offering a mentorship program to teachers during their first two years.
“That helps get you oriented. It helps you understand our culture and bring you into the district so somebody is there to answer questions and be right there alongside you that has already experienced that before,” said Sean Hudspeth, USD 259 chief human resource officer.
Bielefeld said this summer will be the time for the district to work on a strategic plan to begin the new school year.
“Our future is very bright. I mean, I feel like we have a ton of potential. We will have a new strategic plan we can set new goals. I’m excited to lead us forward in achieving those goals,” said Bielefeld.
Bielefeld is currently serving as the executive director for college and career readiness with Wichita Public Schools.
He is expected to start his new role in July.