One of the KC-135 air refueling planes at McConnell Air Force Base has a piece of Derby attached to it – literally.
In what is termed a nose-art ceremony, the city’s official 150th anniversary logo was unveiled on the pilot’s side of the aircraft at the base on Oct. 2 in front of an appreciative crowd of U.S. Air Force, Derby and elected officials.
The audience also included David Craig. And for the Derby resident, the ceremony had an extra special meaning as he was a crew member who flew on this very same aircraft back in 1978, a plane with tail number 357 that he called “an old friend.”
“It’s beautiful,” Craig said. “This is a special occasion.”
He realized it took a lot of effort to get the approval necessary for the artwork to be put on the plane — but it was worth it.
“It’s just an amazing feeling; it really warms my heart,” Craig said. “It’s very personal as I never would have expected in 1978 I would be here in Kansas in 2019 seeing my new hometown logo being put on the plane.”
Derby Mayor Randy White repeatedly stated that this is “a big deal,” to the point he joked about asking people how many times he was going to say that.
But it was, he said, and it was all about building a firm, neighborly relationship.
White also brought the crowd up to speed on the history of Derby, including several colorful stories, such as women busting up a saloon and a 1920s bank robbery going bad.
“We have grown a lot from those early days,” White said.
He cited the city’s schools, library, parks and first responders. He also referenced DHS’s AFROTC group and its many activities.
And so, a celebration was in order for the 150th, White said.
“We wanted to have special events throughout the entire year,” he said. “We didn’t want just one.”
Therefore, this nose art ceremony was one of many and it was even more special by knowing it doesn’t happen often, he said.
“It’s obvious Team McConnell wanted to recognize us in a special way,” White said shortly before a black cloth was dropped, revealing the logo.
Base commander Col. Richard Tanner, who also spoke in front of the crowd, said nose art really took off in World War II and it’s also important to remember the “staggering” death toll bomber crews took.
Of about 125,000 U.S. bomber airmen, more than 57,000 were killed in action. Since they knew odds were against them, anything to cheer them up was warranted, he said.
The crews often developed strong bonds with the planes they were flying, and some believed that the nose art was bringing luck to the planes.
They had some official rules about what could be on the nose, but given the deadly nature of the war, nobody cared about them.
The point was to get people to have fun, think about home, and think about peace, Tanner said. Today, although the toll isn’t like it was in the 1940s, planes and crews still get put in harm’s way and no one should forget that, he said.
City Council member Jack Hezlep has experience with nose art as he flew F-4s for the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War. Although the practice was mostly an Air Force one, the Navy has its share, mostly with “big teeth,” he said.
“Individual Navy nose art was once in a blue moon,” he said.
This particular application got his approval.
“It looks really nice,” Hezlep said.
U.S. Rep. Ron Estes said the occasion was reflective of “the great partnership between McConnell and the city of Derby.”
Estes said that this was a new event for him.
“It’s the first time I’ve been to one,” he said.
Candidates for the Derby Board of Education addressed topics ranging from bonds and safety to educators and curriculum at a recent forum.
Five seats are up for grabs in the Nov. 5 election, including four that are open for four-year terms. The fifth seat is open for an unexpired, two-year term.
The forum was hosted Tuesday, Oct. 1 at City Hall by the Derby National Education Association (DNEA). Dave Kirkbride, former executive director of the Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) moderated the event.
DNEA President Kathleen O’Brien, a science teacher at Derby High School, said the group hosted the forum as a way to promote civic engagement and support for teachers.
“We want the community to get involved and we want to make sure that everyone has a chance to meet all the candidates,” she said. “We care about the makeup of the school board and want them to be teacher-friendly and care about our concerns.”
All nine candidates in the Nov. 5 election were present except Lauren Ignowski. Those candidates are incumbents Althea Arvin, Matt Hoag, Matthew Joyce and Tina Prunier – as well as newcomers Ron Chronister, Don Adkisson and Mark Tillison.
After brief introductions, each candidate was given two minutes to answer a different question each round, meaning not every candidate answered the same questions. Candidates were given the bulk of questions ahead of time, but a few were submitted by audience members Tuesday night.
For length, the Informer has selected one response from each of the eight candidates, along with brief information about each of their backgrounds. You can watch the forum in full at www.derbyweb.com/406/Channel-7.
In what ways have you supported teachers in Derby Public Schools?
“Trying to just be available in my previous role as finance director,” Adkisson said. “I served on the IBB committee for 18 years. The finance department was responsible for putting together an adequate benefit package.”
“I tried to work with administrators to provide sufficient resources in the classrooms for teachers.”
Don Adkisson is the former finance director for Derby Public Schools, retiring last year after an 18-year career with the district. He also served as a liaison between the district and the Kansas Legislature.
What do you see as the greatest challenge currently facing Derby Public Schools?
“I think it’s bond execution,” Incumbent Althea Arvin said. “I think it’s an important challenge that deserves our utmost attention and prioritization.”
“This requires juggling at times, balancing priorities to ensure we complete bonds on time and on budget.”
Arvin has served on the school board since members selected her in May to fill the seat left vacant by former BOE member Mark May. She is a veteran of active-duty service in the Air Force and currently works as the leader of integrated business teams for Spirits AeroSystems Defense.
In what ways would you work to maintain high teacher morale across the district?
“I think the way to maintain high morale is just to get involved,” Ron Chronister said. “I’d like to listen to the teachers, get involved with the teachers, make sure the teachers have the resources they need. Support a good working environment.”
Chronister is a small business owner and financial representative at LPL Financial – the Office of Carro, Chronister, Goldsmith, Herrman. He served in the Kansas National Guard for over 25 years and is a former member of the State of Kansas Learning Quest 529 Advisory Board.
What are the responsibilities educators have to provide education to all, including our most vulnerable populations?
“Every child has a right to learn, and I believe we have a responsibility to provide the resources that will allow that child to learn,” Pamela Doyle said. “Diversity, I think, is an essential component of any educational environment. To get real learning, we need to be exposed to people who are different from ourselves.”
Doyle has worked in education for 28 years and is vice president for general education and health sciences at WSU Tech, formerly known as the Wichita Area Technical College (WATC). She has lived in Derby since 1991.
What is your most valuable vision for the future of Derby Public Schools?
“I see my core strength is really being able to think critically, create relationships and look at problems and opportunities from multiple perspectives,” Incumbent Matt Hoag said. “It’s not jumping to conclusions, but really digging in to understand what that looks like.”
Hoag is a graduate of DHS and has lived in Derby since 1983. He works as an enterprise architect at Koch Industries and is in his sixth year on the board.
What do you see as the greatest needs in the area of safety and security at our schools?
“The easy things are the things we listed out on the bond: storm shelters, safety locks, secure access to all buildings [and] most of the facilities,” Incumbent Matthew Joyce said.
Most of that has been completed, Joyce said, but he says there are some needed features the public might not consider like positional plans during recess.
Joyce was first appointed to the BOE in 2009 and is now the longest-serving member. He is a principal lead-systems integration engineer at Spirit AeroSystems and is a union representative.
If elected, how would you work to strengthen academic achievement in kindergarten through 12th grade?
“If elected, I would work – and I have worked – to ensure that our curriculum is up to date,” Board President Tina Prunier said. “Something else that’s very important is that we’re working on individual plans of study for each of our students.”
“We have to tap into their interests and encourage them to follow their own paths to success.”
A DHS graduate and criminology graduate at WSU, Prunier was first elected to the school board in 2015. She is now a stay-at-home mom and volunteers in the district.
What criteria would you use to determine district budget priorities?
“Safety is pretty obvious, and certainly the mission of the schools is education and making sure our kids are successful,” Mark Tillison said. “Of course infrastructure – we’re doing a lot right now with that but that kind of spills into identity. A new stadium, sports, those kinds of things help build cohesion.”
Tillison retired from the Kansas Air National Guard after 34 years of service with a focus on logistics, intelligence and maintenance. He also serves on the Derby Planning Commission.