Bringing a school back from the brink

October 17, 2013

In 2007, the smallest school in a rural Kansas school district was facing closure. Today this same school is a project-based learning charter elementary school – complete with a teaching barn, greenhouse and wind turbine.

The leaders of the school’s transformation will speak in Emporia later this month about how Walton Elementary went from an elementary school struggling to remain open to become the Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center. Regarded as a model for struggling rural communities, the school has succeeded beyond the most optimistic vision of those involved with the project.

Dr. John Morton, former superintendent for the Walton school district and now an associate professor in ESU’s School Leadership/Middle and Secondary Teacher Education department, will lead the presentation about the school’s metamorphosis. He will be joined by Natise Vogt, Principal of the Walton 21st Century Rural Life Center, and Derrick Richling, an Emporia State University graduate and teacher at Walton.

The lecture is free and open to the public. It will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 30, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. in Visser Hall, Room 330 on the Emporia State University campus. The presentation is part of The Teachers College Speaker Series and is sponsored by the Flint Hills Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa.

A live webcast of the lecture will be available via Adobe Connect at

Morton was recently accepted to speak about the transformation of the school at the Hawaii International Conference on Education in January. The annual conference draws more than 1,000 participants from over 35 countries. The goal of the conference is to provide an opportunity for academicians and professionals from various education related fields from all over the world to come together and learn from each other.



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