Baking large cakes and desserts for many weddings and special occasions has become a hobby for senior Rayanna Gossett.
“My making cakes are not really a business. I just make cakes,” Gossett said. “I make wedding cakes and special event cakes at home. I mostly make cakes for family members; it is like my present to them.”
On average Gossett makes two cakes a week during the school year and during summer she makes around four to five cakes a week.
According to Gossett a cake can take up to 20 hours to make, but those are only the extravagant ones.
Gossett started baking because of her passion for it, and also because of her mother and grandparents.
“I love [baking]; it has a sense of art,” Gossett said. “It has an artistic side, but it also has to deal with another side, which is food, which I love. I have loved to bake since I was little, and I loved to be in the kitchen with my grandparents and mother since they also love to be in the kitchen.”
Gossett describes her cakes as different from a normal wedding cake.
“I love them, personally. When you go to [a wedding], you get a nice fancy cake, and a lot of fondant, you don’t get that nice moist cake, you get that spongy cake. Mine are nice and moist.”
Gossett plans to go to Johnson and Wales University in Denver, Colo. Her ultimate dream is to open up a chocolate bar, which will serve alcohol or a girl’s night out bakery, bar-themed service.
Four hours before the restaurant opened, senior Rayanna Gossett worked busily in the back of the crowded kitchen at Paulo and Bill. With guidance from her mentor, Jacqueline Garcia, Gossett created trays full of yogurt parfaits topped with various fruits served at the Sunday morning brunch.
“Baking is a science; if you mix one thing wrong, it will blow up,” Gossett said.
Her internship at Paulo and Bill served as preparation for her future endeavors. She planned to get a degree in Baking and Pastry Arts and Food Service Management within the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colo.
“This is tons of experience as far as going into this career,” Gossett said.
Gossett hoped to expand her dream of opening a bakery by adding a bar to the establishment, creating a girls’ night out atmosphere.
While Gossett’s work spearheaded her career path, senior Taylor Whitlow’s job working with car graphics personified his interest in cars.
“I see [work with cars] as something I will do on the side, as a hobby,” Whitlow said.
Whitlow’s interest in car engines began while tinkering in the garage with his grandpa and flourished when Whitlow began his job at Action Signs & Graphics. The company designed custom prints, signs, apparel and vehicle graphics.
With an artistic talent and underlying interest in graphics, Whitlow became co-owner of Twisted Customs, the vehicle graphics branch of Action Signs & Graphics. Whitlow specialized his work in the custom design and application of decals and car graphics.
“The problem with the industry is that so many [customers] call in wanting something, but we’ll only get about 15 percent of those jobs,” Whitlow said.
Questions of financial stability in the auto technology field worried Whitlow and his family as important college and career decisions approached. Whitlow’s plan to pursue an auto technology career, supported by his work experience, concerned his mom who favored a career that would “better support a family.”
Whitlow relied on his experience to supply an income in college, although uncertainty of his future career remained.
“The good thing about the business is that I can do it in college, sitting at home on the computer,” Whitlow said.
Similarly, Gossett faced financial concerns as her dream required much planning and funding.
“I’ll definitely need to find some money along the road,” Gossett said.
Although it created an obstacle, Gossett would find a way to pursue a baking career.
“I’ve always wanted to bake,” Gossett said. “Ever since I was little and baked with my mom.”
Recent allegations and events surrounding head volleyball coach Kim Service have called into question how the district evaluates its coaches.
According to Service, official parent complaints were filed against her for the first time in 10 years of coaching at the school as a result of a tournament at McPherson High School played on the day of the Homecoming dance. One parent, Service said, initially complained about the tournament to School Board president Tammy Thomas who then asked district athletic director Roland Van Whye to cancel the tournament. According to Service, she and Van Whye agreed to not cancel the tournament.
In the days leading up to the tournament, according to Service, Thomas called the McPherson tournament director, claimed she was Service and attempted to pull the school team from the tournament before admitting her true identity. The tournament director denied comment on the incident.
Thomas would not comment on the incident or issues relating to the tournament but released a statement.
“I am aware of the claims being made by a school district employee,” Thomas’ statement reads. “The allegations have no basis in truth and are rooted in questionable intentions. I will vigorously defend myself and my integrity and will continue to focus on my role as a Board member in providing outstanding educational experiences for all students of the district.”
Service filed a False Impersonation complaint against Thomas with the Shawnee police department on Friday, Feb. 3 after she felt the issue had not been appropriately addressed by the district. The sergeant in charge of the case submitted a report to the prosecutors’ office, who felt the facts of the case didn’t meet the criteria for a crime.
Following the agreement to not cancel the tournament, Service felt she had made compromises with the girls, like leaving a day later for the tournament and allowing parents to take girls home from the tournament, and that the tournament was a non-issue. That was until the district said players would be allowed to miss the tournament without any consequences.
“At the time, I was obviously not very happy with the decision,” Service said. “I felt like it undermined my authority as a coach…I was not able to give input into the decision that was made…I was told about the compromise the day my athletic director was going to tell the seniors about the decision.”
Ultimately, five varsity players and four JV players attended the tournament. Service awarded provisional varsity letters to the JV players and gave T-shirts she had paid for to those who played at the tournament. One additional parent complained about the incident.
“The district considered that insubordination…That by giving a provisional letter to those girls who did play, that I was being insubordinate to those five girls who didn’t play,” Service said.
Following the incident, Service said nearly every negative aspect of her evaluation surrounded the tournament. Service says she has made three attempts to meet with the district athletic director and superintendent, but those requests were denied. Service also attempted to contact Thomas and was met with no reply.
To Service, her evaluation and the district’s handling of the tournament was discriminatory against her as a female coach, coaching a female sport. In her evaluation, Service says she was told by the district that she was too competitive and should pick players who wanted to play for fun. In the aftermath of the incidents, Service is exploring filing a complaint against the district for violating the Equal Opportunity Act which addresses discrimination issues.
One parent who complained about Service declined to comment for this story and said they could not think of any other parent who would be willing to comment based on the sensitive nature of the topic and pending complaints.
The district evaluation process, in writing, measures head coaches on several categories. Based on a blank copy released by Service, the evaluation categories score coaches on administrative duties, organization of personnel, care and maintenance of equipment, coaching performance, relationship with student athletes, professional conduct and communication with parents, staff and community. Coaches are then rated satisfactory, needs improvement in selected areas or unsatisfactory.
According to a district statement, the evaluation document is the same for all head coaches and created every year by the district athletic director.
“Our process for evaluating coaches is aimed at assessing qualities, knowledge and performance that, when properly balanced and applied, result in successful leadership of and for the program,” the statement said. “…The instrument used to evaluate head coaches is designed to reflect the essential skills, knowledge and leadership attributes necessary to positively and productively guide the program and the student athletes that participate in it. Specific indicators are measured by rankings on a likert scale.”
Some coaches have noted inconsistencies in this instrument, however.
According to Service, on Wednesday, Aug. 10, a general presentation was given about the evaluation process. On Friday, Oct. 7, all head coaches met again as part of a monthly head coaches’ meeting about the evaluation process where she was given a blank print copy of an evaluation. Then, on Monday, Nov. 14, Service says coaches were called in again and were told the previous version of the evaluation was inaccurate and given a new copy.
According to Service, the new evaluation was similar but more extensive than the initial evaluation. Service likened the change to being told a test would cover five objectives but in actuality being tested on 10 when her final evaluation took place on Monday, Dec. 12. For example, she was graded poorly on not having practice plans with a written time schedule, but was not aware the plans would be part of the evaluation until three weeks after her season.
One coach, who wished to remain anonymous, also felt frustrated, when the opinion of senior athletes on head coaches was unexpectedly included as part of the overall evaluation.
“You’re getting evaluated by all seniors, even the ones not on varsity,” the coach said. “Given that they don’t work directly with varsity coaches, is that fair to have them evaluate varsity coaches?”
What the evaluation process doesn’t mention is the influence parent and Board member complaints have in an evaluation.
According to the district statement regarding the evaluation process, there is no specific protocol for parent complaints, but a hierarchy is encouraged.
“From time to time, parents and students may have concerns regarding academic or athletic matters,” the district statement reads. “While there is no specific protocol in place for managing matters of this kind, school officials always encourage students and parents to address concerns at the lowest possible level.”
School Board vice president Tim Blankenship said he couldn’t speak for other Boards members, but handles parent complaints using a hierarchy.
“I can only say what I do in those cases,” Blankenship said. “I’d recommend parents talk to their principal first, for all comments, it’s always best to follow the guidelines of working with your principal first.”
In practice, however, parent complaints and Board member action following those complaints has negatively impacted coaches, according to one anonymous coach. Two years ago, a parent complained about the coach to the district athletic director who sent it back to the coach. The coach, athletic director and parent all met and reached a resolution. Today, the coach said that same chain of command would not be followed if a parent complaint were received and that the School Board exercises excessive power over coaches and programs in the district.
“If the Board has a positive opinion of you, you’re going to get exactly what you want,” the coach said. “If they don’t, you’re going to get nothing.”
The coach went on to explain the long term effect of this environment.
“I think that, with the direction we’re going in this district, we’re going to lose some great coaches,” the coach said.
A second coach who wishes to remain anonymous also finds fault in the handling of parent complaints.
The coach’s program was investigated after one parent complained about the program. The coach said they don’t believe one or two parent complaints justify an investigation and that complaints are handled poorly in the district depending on who parents complain to.
“If parents come to our principal or athletic director, I think it’s handled in the right way,” the coach said. “There are parents that skip things and go straight to Board members and it’s not handled in the right way because information is skipped or left out, misinterpreted, not communicated. Programs get investigated for wrongdoings that they’re not even aware have been brought up.”
According to the source, other districts handle complaints differently.
“Other districts or coaches that I know, it is stifled,” the coach said. “It is asked, ‘Have you talked to the AD [athletic director]?’ And if the answer is no, then they are asked to talk to the principal and talk to the AD. There is a chain of command.”
Two years ago, boys basketball coach Justin Bogart, who has coached at the school for 12 years, had to defend himself in front of the School Board after one or two parents complained about him. In recent years, he says the Board has expanded its reach.
“Coaches also want to work in an environment where the Board has empowered the administration in the evaluation of coaches,” Bogart said. “It’s my feeling that Board members have been more active in the evaluation process within the last few years.”
Bogart questions this heightened role and says he would not still be the coach had he not defended himself.
“My question would be, why do we have administration, why do we hire an athletic director?…Why would we not want to hire, encourage and train an athletic director if Board Members want to take those responsibilities for themselves? One analogy would be, why do you have managers at stores to hire or fire employees if the owner does it himself?” Bogart said.
Senior soccer player Rayanna Gossett said athletes, rather than parents, should be proactive in dealing with a coaching issue.
“I feel like since we’re in high school now, the parent should stay out of the coaching relationship and that it should strictly just be [between the] player and coach,” Gossett said. “…[Parent complaints] bring more conflict because now there are a total of three or four people communicating instead of just the coach and player.”
Head girls basketball coach John McFall, who has coached at the school for two years, has not dealt with any parent or Board scrutiny while in the district. McFall says the number of parent complaints that justify a program investigation cannot be quantified.
“If I’m doing something really bad, then it doesn’t take 10, it’s all relative to what it is,” McFall said. “But hopefully the AD and principal realize that not every parent is going to be happy.”
Service has begun to schedule and plan for the volleyball season next year with some delay following her negative evaluation. However, she feels her coaching position remains uncertain and has begun distributing her resume and seeking available jobs so she can coach next year, although she hopes to remain at the school. The district will not comment on Service’s status as head coach.
“I have invested 20 years of my life into this sport and 13 years coaching,” Service said. “To have that taken away, especially because one or two parents complained to a Board president who is their friend, that would be a rather unfortunate turn of events.”
Service seeks to defend herself and other coaches.
“I feel it is my obligation to coaches and future coaches to stand up for what is right because if I’ve lost my position as head coach, all I have left is to stand up for what is right,” Service said. “I feel confident in speaking on my position because I don’t have anything to hide in what is going on. It’s important for people to not make assumptions about what is going on, and to get both sides of the story.”
After the recent construction of the Eudora-De Soto Technical Education Center, students are now working with state-of–the-art technology everyday. The new facility houses five different Vo-Tech programs, including Agriculture, Auto Collision, Culinary Arts, Graphic Communications and Health Careers.
“This facility truly outshines the other programs in the Olathe, and Shawnee Mission school districts, all the equipment is brand new which really adds to its distinction,” counselor Randy Burwell said.
With the new building, the students are not only learning in the classroom but can get a dual credit through Johnson County Community College and have job internships lined up.
“It’s a great opportunity for our students,” Burwell said. “They have to be very dedicated to succeed in this course.”
The Health Careers program now has a fully functioning training facility simulating a typical hospital room, as well as an examination room in a doctor’s office. Most students work with this new equipment after they get their Certified Nurse’s Aide certificate.
“This facility is really nice,” junior Carly Doane said. “They have a lot more materials here then when I toured it last year.”
The new additions to the building are helping students learn better.
“This course gives us a really good understanding of the medical terminology we need to know,” Doane said.
The Auto Collision program added new collision repair equipment and a spray booth.
“This equipment would be similar or better than most auto repair facilities,” Eudora assistant principal Ron Abel said.
The Graphic Communications program lets students interested in visual communication become heavily involved in graphic design projects. They focus on giving design manipulation coupled with producing items and meeting hard output deadlines.
The Agriculture Science program is a mix between agriculture and a science lab where cell tissues and dissection can be examined. The new greenhouse allows students to actively grow plants and figure out what stimulates and impedes their growth.
Vo-Tech gives students the experience outside of the classroom to learn quickly.
“All you have to work with in a classroom are pencils and paper but we can do a lot of learning as we go,” junior Culinary student Rayanna Gossett said.
The hands-on experience has also been helpful for junior Rylan Sutton who is involved in the Culinary program.
“It teaches you a lot more,” Sutton said. “It gets stuck in your head the first time when you’re actually doing it.”
Gossett agrees and appreciates how much space she has to work.
“I love the commons area they have, it gives you enough space to work,” Gossett said.
Because of state budget cuts this year, the number of students entering the program was reduced. Returning students were given the first priority and remaining spots were filled with new students.
“We had new students join,” Burwell said “It’s just a shame it was limited.”
Students in Vo-Tech work with students from both Eudora and De Soto.
“They are learning and eventually competing against the students from these schools, it gives them a unique opportunity,” Burwell said.
Because of the new facility, students from all programs are able to work together. A greenhouse is helping both the Agriculture and Culinary students.
“It’s really cool because they are helping us get ingredients and they are learning how to grow things,” Gossett said.
Besides the facility, materials needed for learning were also replaced.
“Everything we use is brand new,” Gossett said. “We used to cook on stoves you would use in your home but now we have stoves we would really use in a restaurant.”
Through the Vo-Tech program, students are preparing for jobs they want to pursue.
“I want to be a cake decorator and I’ve already made two cakes this year,” Gossett said. “It’s exciting for me.”
Even with the benefits, the students have to be at school early everyday.
“These students leave at 6:55 a.m everyday,” Burwell said. “It shows the commitment our students have for Vo-Tech and how much they want to succeed.”