KAREN NORTON – 2006
Karen Norton knew she wanted to be a teacher in the sixth grade. That desire never wavered during her thirty-one years in education. After just five years as a classroom teacher and a newly completed master’s degree in education, she was asked by Jean (Mrs. Willard) Garvey if she would consider helping to start a new school in Wichita.
In 1980, The Independent School of Wichita began with eight students in a former nursing home building. Under her leadership, the school has grown to have a pre-K through 12th grade enrollment of more than 700 students in 150,000 square feet of classroom space, located on 14 acres. Last year, it was named as a 2005 Blue Ribbon School.
Throughout her tenure, Mrs. Norton served as Principal of both the primary and secondary schools and later Head of School for The Independent School. She made it a top priority to hire smart, capable teachers, which she feels is the single most important factor for a student’s success in the classroom. Her mission was to create an environment where teachers and students alike could thrive. Her own personal beliefs of the importance of kindness, honesty, and a sense of humor have served her well in building this school. TIS has become a top-ranked, college-preparatory school with substantial extra-curricular programs, all provided at a tuition level that is below most national independent schools.
Mrs. Norton was elected as KAIRS president (2003-06) and treasurer (1996-2003). In the past two decades, she has also served on the North Central State Committee, the KSDE Professional Standards Board and on the KSHSAA Board of Directors. She received her B.S. (1975) from Kansas State University and a Master of Education degree from Wichita State University (1980). She is married to Don and has two children, both of whom graduated from The Independent School.
JEAN ROSS – 2006
Jean Ross has been in education for 50 years. Among her many accomplishments, in 2000, at an age when most people would have been contemplating retirement, she accepted the challenge of saving a failing high school. That year she became president of Salina’s Thomas More Prep-Marian High School (TMP-MHS).
Six years later, the school now has a balanced budget, enrollment has increased, and Thomas More Prep-Marian High School is flourishing. Ms. Ross refers to her school as “God’s House,” in response to her belief in the power of prayer. When contemplating difficult issues, she routinely invites faculty, students and co-administrators to pray in the chapel for divine wisdom and intervention.
Ms. Ross joined the Sisters of St. Agnes at the age of 15 and remained for 23 years. She began her professional teaching career in 1955 in Catholic elementary and high schools in Wisconsin, where she taught and later moved into administration. In 1980, she returned to her hometown of Hays as a public school principal and later joined the central administrative staff of the Hays public school district. After 11 years of service, she felt it was God’s providence to accept the position at TMP-MHS.