Governor Kelly Completes Two-Day Series of Roundtable Discussions on Public Education
with Stops in Colby, Ellis


COLBY – Today, Governor Laura Kelly visited Colby High School and Ellis High School to discuss the unique challenges Kansas rural school districts face, including in preparing students for the agricultural workforce. She toured both facilities and was joined by administrators, teachers, students, and agriculture business leaders from the area for two roundtable discussions. 

These are the last two stops on a two-day tour in which Governor Kelly visited classrooms throughout Western Kansas to highlight the importance of protecting public schools.  

“Public schools are the beating hearts of our rural communities,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “They provide a safe learning environment for our children and employ many local residents. That’s why it is essential that we keep public dollars in public schools, especially in places like Colby and Ellis.”  

Third Stop: Education and Workforce Preparedness Roundtable in Colby
Governor Kelly was joined by Colby High School students, teachers, administrators, and agribusiness leaders for a roundtable discussion focused on education and workplace preparedness. They discussed the variety of programs offered by Colby High School that ensure students are prepared to enter the workforce when they graduate, including its partnership with Northwest Kansas Technical College. This program allows juniors and seniors to train in welding, auto technology, cosmetology, and wind/solar energy technology while still in high school.  

Colby High School is also investing in agriculture programs to help prepare our state’s next generation of farmers. High school students can currently earn certifications in animal science, comprehensive agriculture, and beef quality assurance, and the community is preparing to build a new Agricultural Education and Technology Center. 

“We appreciate Governor Kelly visiting Colby High School. Colby and all of Northwest Kansas are full of proud Kansans who truly believe in investing back into our communities,” said Colby High School Principal Ryan Muhlig. “During Governor Kelly’s visit, we highlighted our future Agriculture and Technology Building. This new facility will provide students with greater learning opportunities and also prepare them for a smooth transition to NW Tech and Colby Community College. There is an urgent need in Western Kansas to “Grow Our Own” future employees in all areas of the workforce.”  

“I would like to thank Governor Kelly for taking the time to visit with us today about our progress on the Vocational Agricultural building at Colby High School,” said Jessica Kister, a Colby High School parent and member of USD 315’s agriculture committee. “The countless hours of dedication to this project have made a lasting impact in our community. We are excited to see what the future holds!” 

“We are very excited to have the opportunity to share the vision of our ‘Building Our Ag’ committee with Governor Kelly,” said Katina Brenn, Superintendent of Colby Public Schools. “We believe that when members of the community, industry, and school staff work together, we are able to strengthen programs and empower students to meet agricultural industry needs.” 

Other roundtable participants included:  

  • Kris Lemman, USD 315 Board President and Vice President of Accounting for Farm Credit of Western Kansas; 
  • Bill Shields, with United Agri Products in Colby; 
  • David Oren, with American Implement in Colby;  
  • Jayla Rush, Colby High School Senior and President of Future Farmers of America (FFA), and  
  • Mason Kersenbrock, Colby High School Senior who completed the workforce preparedness program with a focus on agriculture, agriculture operations, and related sciences.  

Photos from the event available for media use are below: 

Fourth Stop: Challenges for Rural Schools Roundtable in Ellis
Governor Kelly received a warm welcome from Washington Elementary School students ahead of her visit to Ellis High School for a roundtable discussion with students, parents, administrators, local elected officials, and teachers to discuss the unique challenges our rural school districts face. The group discussed the importance of continuing to fully fund public education, the need to fully fund special education, how rural school districts serve their communities beyond educating students, and how to overcome the challenges of retaining students and teachers in rural school districts.  

Participants of the Ellis High School roundtable included:  

  • Dave McDaniel, Mayor of Ellis; 
  • Randy Honas, President of Ellis USD 388 Board of Education;  
  • Kyle Carlin, Assistant Director of the Special Education Cooperative at West Central Kansas/Hays USD 489;  
  • John Befort, Principal of Washington Grade School; 
  • Janice Wilson, Superintendent of USD 388 
  • Kayla Ford, a USD 388 parent and Collections Manager for the Hays Public Library; 
  • Donna Schmidt, Principal of Ellis Junior/Senior High School; 
  • Brian Shannon, a USD 388 parent, detective at the Ellis County Sheriff’s Office, and member of the USD 388 Board of Education;  
  • Matt Davenport, Ellis USD 388 student-teacher; 
  • Libby Starnes, USD 388 parent; 
  • Liam Crawford, Ellis High School senior, and 
  • Travis Kohlrus, a USD 388 parent. 

Photos from the event available for media use are below: