Kearney Public Schools – Kearney, Nebraska

June 27, 2024

Kearney Public Schools

Blueprint for Excellence


Inspiring educational excellence with strategic initiatives and community-focused programs

Kearney Public Schools, under the stewardship of Superintendent Jason Mundorf, has embarked on an ambitious mission to enhance educational opportunities and foster a nurturing environment for its students. In 2022, the district unveiled a strategic plan framework to guide its initiatives through 2027. This comprehensive plan is built upon four pivotal pillars that aim to prepare students not just academically but as well-rounded individuals ready to tackle future challenges.

Mundorf details the first pillar, emphasizing “college and career readiness.” He explains, “We want to prepare students for various career interests. This includes skilled and technical labor, four-year college opportunities, and paths like the military or direct entry into the workforce.” He highlights the district’s proactive steps in providing practical experiences such as internships and apprenticeships to bridge the gap between education and the professional world.

The second pillar focuses on a “guaranteed and viable curriculum.” According to Mundorf, the district strives for equity in learning opportunities. “We ensure that all students have access to the same core curriculum, and our pacing guides are consistent,” he says, underscoring the importance of maintaining educational consistency and supporting all students through targeted professional development.

The third pillar is addressing the challenges of staff retention and recruitment. Mundorf acknowledges the shifting landscape in the labor market, which has not spared the education sector. “We are facing shortages not only in teaching positions but also for classified staff and specialists,” he notes. The district’s strategy involves robust recruitment and efforts to nurture and retain talent within the system.

The fourth and final pillar revolves around social-emotional learning, a priority that has become even more critical in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve seen a rise in mental health concerns,” Mundorf remarks. He elaborates on the district’s proactive measures, including a curriculum aimed at helping students regulate their emotions and handle challenges and a student assistance program offering immediate access to therapeutic support. “It’s about creating a bridge until a student can see a local therapist,” he explains, illustrating the district’s commitment to timely and practical support.

Strategic Developments in Kearney Public Schools

In the wake of the global pandemic, Kearney Public Schools has established significant milestones emphasizing its dedication to continuous improvement and community engagement. Superintendent Mundorf reflects on the strides made in enhancing the district’s curriculum and professional development programs.

“Before Covid, we had started working on a guaranteed and viable curriculum,” he explains. “We’ve developed professional development days that include selective sessions. These sessions allow our educators to educate their peers on best practices in their fields.”

Highlighting the social and emotional support structures, Mundorf details the partnerships that have strengthened the district’s mental health resources. “Both the Student Assistance program and the Parent Resource program are collaborations with a local nonprofit, McKenna’s Ray of Hope,” he says. This initiative was born from a tragic event and has evolved into a robust program aimed at preventing suicide and supporting teens through expert-led sessions and community efforts.

Kearney Public Schools has innovated with its leave policies regarding staff welfare and retention. “We became one of the first districts in Nebraska to transition from a standard sick and personal day model to a PTO model,” Mundorf notes. This shift offers staff greater flexibility, allowing them to use their leave in ways that best suit their personal needs, enhancing job satisfaction and work-life balance.


Literacy and STEAM Initiatives in Early Education

As education continues to evolve, Kearney Public Schools is adjusting its approach to early education, focusing on literacy and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) programs. Superintendent Mundorf elaborates on the diverse offerings to enhance literacy and STEAM education.

“We offer a variety of high-ability learning programs for our younger students,” he shares. This includes partnerships for events like the Science Olympiad and spelling bees, which involve district and county-level participation. These competitive platforms boost student engagement and promote excellence in academic pursuits among youngsters.

The conversation shifts to the district’s after-school programs, which have expanded significantly over the past two years. “We started with a great fourth and fifth-grade program that was only quarterly,” Mundorf recalls. We’re ramping that up to include 18 building high-ability learning coordinators across our ten elementary schools.”

Mundorf is particularly proud of the “Destination Imagination” program, which challenges students to solve problems creatively within a team setting. “They work through the design process in STEM to find a solution for that problem, and then they compete with other schools,” he explains. This program stimulates intellectual growth and prepares students for state and national competitions, fostering a competitive spirit and teamwork.

Moreover, Kearney Public Schools have introduced innovative “STEM trailers” to their facilities. “These are maker space trailers that visit schools, equipped with various STEM modules like circuits, robotics, and pneumatics,” Mundorf points out. These mobile units provide hands-on learning opportunities crucial for engaging students practically and interactively.

Career Preparation and Community Partnerships

As Kearney Public Schools continues refining its career readiness approach, Superintendent Mundorf illuminates the intricate network of educational and community partnerships that bolster the district’s career-oriented programs.

“We have a tremendous partnerships with Central Community College and the University of Nebraska,” he explains. These relationships enable students to access 14 Advanced Placement courses and dual credit offerings, significantly enhancing their educational trajectories.

“The dual credit courses range from American History to chemistry,” he continues, highlighting the breadth of subjects that allow students to simultaneously earn high school and college credits. This not only gives students a head start on their college education but also exposes them to the rigor and demands of higher-level coursework while still in the supportive environment of high school.

“We also offer a welding program, an automotive program, and even a CNA program through CCC,” Mundorf states, emphasizing the practical skills students gain that are directly applicable to the workforce. These programs are designed to meet the demands of specific industries and lead to certifications that students can immediately use to advance their careers.

Internships play a crucial role in the district’s career readiness strategy. Mundorf details several local businesses that provide students with hands-on experiences, from Blueprint Engines to major retailers like The Buckle. “These internships range from marketing to fashion merchandising,” he says, illustrating the variety of fields students can explore.

Highlighting a unique aspect of the district’s offerings, Mundorf discusses the Construction Tech Houses program. “Since 1976, our students have built a house each year under the guidance of a teacher who acts as the general contractor,” he reveals. This program teaches valuable construction skills and involves students in all phases of building a home, from framing to insulation, culminating in the sale of the house.

Embracing The Digital Frontier in Education

Technology permeates every aspect of life, and Kearney Public Schools is actively embracing these advancements to enhance educational experiences. Superintendent Mundorf explains the district’s comprehensive approach to technology, starting with implementing a one-to-one Chromebook initiative.

“We are one-to-one. Starting in fifth grade, every student receives a Chromebook they use through middle and high school,” he details. This commitment ensures that all students have personal access to digital learning tools, fostering a tech-savvy environment from an early age.

Using Canvas, a learning management system standard in higher education further illustrates Kearney Public Schools’ forward-thinking approach. “It’s predominantly what many universities use for their online coursework. We utilize Canvas for many of our high school courses, helping students get used to the format they will likely encounter in college,” Mundorf points out. This system allows students to submit assignments, engage in discussions, and receive grades in a manner that mirrors the collegiate experience.

Addressing the transformative potential of artificial intelligence (AI), Mundorf anticipates significant impacts on education and workforce readiness. “Artificial intelligence is probably going to be the most transformative technology that we’ve had in education in at least 20 years,” he asserts. The district is adapting and planning to integrate AI effectively into its curriculum. “We are passing an artificial intelligence board policy,” Mundorf reveals, noting that it empowers teachers to decide when and how to incorporate AI tools in their classrooms.


Capital Improvements and Safety Initiatives

In an ongoing effort to modernize and secure its facilities, Kearney Public Schools has embarked on ambitious capital improvement projects. Superintendent Mundorf is enthusiastic about the breadth of the improvements being made.

“We’re very excited about our facility improvements and capital infrastructure,” he begins. The projects, funded by federal Esser dollars, include upgrades to HVAC systems and roofing, which will enhance air quality and energy efficiency across the district’s schools.

The focus on security is particularly rigorous. “We’ve utilized some bond dollars for secure entrances,” Mundorf explains. Every building features multi-tiered access, starting from a protective vestibule, enhancing the security protocol before anyone can enter the primary school areas. He notes an exception with a national historic building, which poses unique challenges due to its structure and age, indicating plans for targeted improvements to integrate modern security measures.

In addition to structural upgrades, the district is implementing subtle but powerful safety measures, such as bullet-resistant films on windows. “It’s not bulletproof glass, but it’s a high-end film that will protect the school’s entryways,” he specifies. This measure is part of a broader strategy to fortify vulnerable points without compromising the buildings’ architectural integrity.

Renovations extend beyond security enhancements. Mundorf details significant accessibility improvements, such as new ADA-compliant facilities within several elementary schools, ensuring inclusivity for all students and staff. “We’re completely renovating Windy Hills Elementary next year,” he shares. These initiatives mirror the amenities at Kearney High School, a recently constructed $90 million facility that has gained national attention for its design and functionality.

Kearney Public Schools’ Top Priorities

As Kearney Public Schools approaches the third quarter of 2024, Superintendent Mundorf outlines the district’s top priorities to sustain and enhance the educational excellence for which the district is known.

“We’re very proud that as a district, we’ve been rated by our state accrediting model as a great school district,” he proudly states. Recognition by U.S. News and World Reports for multiple elementary and middle schools underscores the district’s success. “We are doing some great things, and we want to continue those great things that we’re already doing,” Mundorf affirms.

Looking beyond maintaining current standards, Mundorf is keen to broaden the opportunities available to students. “We want to continue to have a watchful eye on expanding opportunities for kids,” he notes, mentioning the introduction of programs like Army ROTC and Destination Imagination as steps towards enriching the district’s offerings. This focus on growth aims to continually evolve the educational landscape to foster new learning experiences and challenge students.

Fiscal responsibility remains a cornerstone of the district’s strategy, especially in light of ambitious capital improvements and program expansions. “Always, we want to have a watchful eye on fiscally managing the many resources we have for our taxpayers,” Mundorf explains. This includes diligent oversight of budgeting processes, ensuring that funds are allocated effectively to sustain current successes and future growth.

Through these strategic priorities, Kearney Public Schools is set to continue its trajectory of excellence, adapting to the ever-changing educational demands while ensuring the best outcomes for students and the community. The careful balancing of academic innovation, resource management, and staff development positions the district to successfully navigate the challenges of the coming years, reinforcing its commitment to excellence and growth.


Kearney Public Schools

What: A public school district focusing on comprehensive educational excellence and community engagement

Where: Kearney, Nebraska



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