THE HISTORY OF GREENBUSH
Since its inception more than 40 years ago, Greenbush – The Southeast Kansas Education Service Center has expanded its reach to serve learners throughout the entire state of Kansas, always with the same mission: to ensure equal educational opportunities for all.
1973 — 1976
CAREER EDUCATION GRANT
In 1973, federal grants became available to develop career and vocational education programs. The Kansas State Department of Education received funding for 33 grants to award to local entities. School districts in the nine counties of Southeast Kansas joined forces to apply for funds, establish career and technical education, and plan for future partnerships. Working closely for the first time, districts participating in the project established open lines of communication, shared resources, and participated in regional meetings.
AUGUST 9, 1976
INTERLOCAL AGREEMENT SIGNED
Looking to continue a cooperative partnership, Southeast Kansas educational leaders signed an interlocal agreement to establish what would come to be known as Greenbush – The Southeast Kansas Education Service Center. Four school districts—Erie, Girard, Riverton, and Yates Center—along with Ft. Scott Community College agreed to govern the interlocal agreement as at-large representatives for the entire SEK educational community. The agreement was unique; no overall membership fee was established, and no taxes were to be collected to fund the interlocal. Instead, schools would pay only for the services they needed, ensuring programs would would live or die based on the quality of services provided. As luck would have it, the Girard school district had recently closed a building in the tiny, unincorporated town of Greenbush, and offered it to the interlocal.
AUGUST 10, 1976
THE FIRST THREE PROGRAMS
Immediately following the formation of the interlocal, the Superintendents Planning Committee established three initial services to be offered to districts: A cooperative purchasing consortium would ensure access to great pricing on goods such as paper and pencils; an audio/video repair service would help ensure schools had access to classroom technology in good, working order; and an instructional film library would greatly expand the options at rural schools.
EARLY LAUNCH INTO SPECIAL EDUCATION
In 1974, Congress passed the Education for All Handicapped Children Act, guaranteeing students with disabilities the same access to education as students without disabilities. By the 1976-77 school year, it was apparent that school-age residents at state institutions were not receiving comparable education, often receiving a three-hour school day taught by non-licensed staff. With over 200 school age children to teach and no financial resources to expand the program required by law, Parsons State Hospital sought help from the three area special education cooperatives, which in turn suggested a regional solution managed by Greenbush.
SPECIAL EDUCATION REACHES PUBLIC SCHOOLS
With Greenbush having successfully managed educational operations at Parsons State Hospital, directors at the special education cooperatives sought Greenbush’s help in expanding low-incidence special education services. Looking to share specialists, testing equipment, and learning materials among the districts they served, the cooperatives asked Greenbush to coordinate special education for students with vision and hearing impairments. Greenbush worked with the cooperatives to develop programs to help keep learners in their home districts “so they didn’t have to seek residential care and to actaully deliver programs that would help them achieve success in their own local school districts.” Programs included audiology services (1977), the deaf education preschool (1977), and regional deaf education program (1980).
FOSTERING COLLABORATION: FIRST SUPERINTENDENTS FORUM
“It was kind of like Sunday farming,” former Superintendent John Battitori remembers. “That’s where the farmer looks at all the other farms and sees what’s happening… the sharing of ideas.” Fostering collaboration between district administrators began in the late 1970s with the formation of monthly Superintendent Forums.
EARLY CHILDHOOD SERVICES BEGIN
Responding to the needs of districts to serve their earliest learners in their own homes, two programs were developed in the 80s and 90s that continue to improve the early education of children today. Southeast Kansas Birth to Three began in 1982 to provide early interventions for developmental delays, including speech, hearing, and visual problems. Parents as Teachers was developed in the early 1990s as a hands-on partnership between parents and professional early childhood educators, helping parents learn how to best support their developing children.
1990 — 1999
A DECADE OF GROWTH
“The 90s for Greenbush represented this explosion of programs and services,” Mike Bodensteiner recalls. “Really what made that happen is what happened in the 80s and the 70s — leaders that created the foundation, and the staff.” Growth in the 1990s included special education programs such as Project Alternative, Project PLUS, and Project STAY; partnerships to reach learners within the Kansas Department of Corrections and the Forbes Juvenile Detention Center; the Mobile Space Station and traveling Life Education Center, which brought cutting-edge science education (featuring Harold the Giraffe) right to schools’ doorsteps; and several major additions to the Greenbush campus, including the William L. Abernathy Science Education Center, the PSU-Greenbush Astrophysical Observatory, and the challenge ropes course. These additions transformed the Greenbush campus into a learning environment unlike any other.
SOUTHEAST… TO NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, AND WEST
At the request of many educators, Greenbush expanded its service area throughout the 90s and 2000s. The Greenbush Resource Center, which provides professional development opportunities in the northeast portion of the state, was established in Paola and eventually moved to its present home in Lawrence. Greenbush helped launch the Southwest Center for Excellence across the Missouri border in Webb City. Greenbush of Topeka was established at Forbes Field to house Project PLUS and several administrative staff. “We’re really good at taking (our culture) to other areas of the state,” said Mike Bodensteiner. “Lawrence, Forbes Field, Kansas Neurological Institute… regardless of where we’re located, it’s all about creating opportuntities for kids that would otherwise be impossible.”
1995 — 2015
TINY-K INFANT TODDLER NETWORKS – A STATEWIDE PRESENCE
Tiny-K Infant Toddler Networks in Kansas provide educational services to infants and toddlers with disabilities as outlined in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. While Infant Toddler Networks existed prior to the 2004 reauthorization of IDEA, they often struggled to receive stable funding. Specifically, a network required partnership with a school district in order to receive categorical aid to offset the cost of salaries. Recognizing the benefit of partnership, three networks joined with Greenbush: TARC in 1995, Infant Toddler Services of Johnson County in 2012, and Russell Child Development Center in 2015. Partnering networks have enjoyed more stable funding, a beneficial business structure, and employee resources including mandated teacher evaluation and mentoring for KSDE-certified teachers. These partnerships expanded Greenbush’s reach to directly serve learners in southwest Kansas, Johnson County, and Shawnee County.
1996 — 1997
WELCOMING THE YELLOW BUSES – GIRARD CAMPUS EXPANSION
In the mid-90s, Greenbush completed several major construction projects at the Girard campus that would usher the organization into a new role directly educating students. With construction of the Abernathy Science Center, greenhouse, rainforest, ropes course, and the PSU/Greenbush Astrophysical Observatory, yellow buses began to transport students on a daily basis to Greenbush for science, math, and adventure-based learning. As Executive Director Mike Bodensteiner remembers, “Having kids every day, we became almost like an extension of every school district that sent kids.”
2006 — 2012
CONTINUED CAMPUS EXPANSION
After 10 years of operating the William L. Abernathy Science Education Center, leaders at Greenbush began to look toward the future of science education and identified bioscience as the number one need. This led to ambitious renovations and additions, including a digital media globe and fully equipped bioscience labs to provide new educational opportunities for students. Later, after years of planning and saving, the Camp & Retreat Center was built to accomodate students at overnight camps. Five cabins and a central gathering place were built, with the first overnight camps at the new facility starting in summer 2013.
2018 — 2020
A BRIGHT FUTURE
“Greenbush 2020 represents really a culmination of the last decade of work,” says Mike Bodensteiner. Celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2016, Greenbush is primed to continue its history of creating educational opportunities otherwise unavailable to students.