February 26th, 2024

avid demo school photo 2Liberal High School Principal Ashley Kappelmann and LHS AVID Coordinator Luz Riggs stop for a photo with other LHS AVID staff to announce Liberal High School will continue being an AVID demonstration school. The announcement came Feb. 1 and both Kappelmann and Riggs expressed excitement over the continued honor. Courtesy photoELLY GRIMM

• Leader & Times



Liberal High School has received much recognition for both staff and students and recently, the announcement came that LHS will continue to be an AVID demonstration school. LHS was originally named as a demonstration school in April 2014. 


“This is actually a revalidation, “ LHS Principal Ashley Kappelmann said. “We got three years when we were first validated as a demonstration school and we were aware we were up for revalidation and we were planning for that visit from the AVID people. The day they visited was when they made the announcement, they take about 30 minutes to deliberate and then made the announcement to the staff gathered, and that was Feb. 1. We go through the school data and the things we’ve been doing since the last time we were validated and then they’ll visit the classroom and then deliberate. We had visits from other AVID representatives prior to this so I would imagine their decision was not based on that day alone.”


“We were extremely excited because it’s not an easy process and not every school that does AVID applies to be a demonstration school,” LHS AVID instructor Luz Riggs said. “Like Mrs. Kappelmann said, you have to have a lot of data, a lot of work school-wide. The culture of the school definitely changes because it’s not just a certain set of people involved in this, it’s school-wide. It’s a very intense process and it takes a lot of teamwork to make it happen.”


And the school’s revalidation as an AVID demonstration school means a lot for the district, Kappelmann and Riggs said. 


“What it does is put us on a list of schools through the AVID center of sites to visit, so we can model for other sites considering either becoming a demonstration school or just incorporating AVID to begin with,” Kappelmann said. “It brings recognition to the school and staff and students for the work they’re doing and it also adds a layer of accountability to keep the bar set high.”


“We are the only high school though that is a demonstration school, the first demonstration school we had in Kansas was in Wichita, one of the high schools there,” Riggs said. “Not too long ago, we had a school from the Kansas City area come to Liberal High School, so we serve as a model for not just Southwest Kansas but several other schools in different areas like Goddard and this year we had representatives from Holcomb come and visit to check us out about becoming a demonstration school.”


Both Riggs and Kappelmann said the school’s success can be attributed to the work of staff and students. 


“Number one, the culture of our school has changed, and I feel like the students and teachers are more accountable in terms of making sure we all use good teaching practices and getting students ready for college or the next level they decide to take,” Riggs said. “We’ve also seen an increase in the number of students who graduate.”


“With anything we do, what’s really commendable about Liberal High School is anything we go about doing, the staff goes in and does an outstanding job,” Kappelmann added. “They work extremely hard to make sure that if it’s going to be something that benefits students, they put 100 percent effort into making sure they do what needs to be done to make it successful. That gives a lot of credit to a staff that just rallies all the time around doing whatever they can to help students.”


With the redesign and other future projects happening, Kappelmann said this will be just another opportunity for the school to help make all the programs complement each other. 


“It helps keep the bar set high. In all the things we’re doing we work to refine areas they give us,” Kappelmann said. “For example, a recommendation to make sure our students are owners of their note-taking, they become responsible with how they take their notes and organize them instead of relying on a template or something we give them, it’s up to them regarding what information they want to take in and how to organize it. With the redesign, we’ve taken everything apart and reexamined it and asked ourselves how it’s most effectively benefiting students. That’s something we look at as well and we’ll be finding a way for everything to complement each other, just like everything else we’re considering.”


“It also makes us be sure that all the plans and goals we set as a school go hand in hand,” Riggs added. “Every one of our systems complements each other and we want to be sure all of our students graduate and be successful at the next level. Many of them graduate anymore with licenses to be mechanics or electricians, just different areas a 4-year school might not provide.”


Riggs also said the future looks bright for LHS. 


“When we set our goals for the next year and a half or so, we’ll be able to be an even better showcase for Kansas and even maybe get schools from like Missouri to come,” Riggs said. “We’ve already had Kansas City schools visit and it’s a long drive but they were very curious not just with the demographics of our schools but they were also able to see some of our data and were just blown away about our progress since we’d started in 2007. We started with 21 students and now we’re up to nine classes with 225 students, which is a huge jump. Aside from what we were saying earlier about the good teaching practices and increasing the graduation rate is we started AVID in 2007 with just semi-finalists for the Dell scholarship and last year we had three recipients. Now we have some more semi-finalists who will hopefully also get that scholarship because it’s very generous. We’re looking forward to everything coming.”