Changing of the guard at WHS!

Create: 08/11/2017 - 08:20

The new school year in Unified School District 353 is about to commence with numerous additions and changes including a new principal at Wellington High School, Mr. John Buckendorff. John, beginning his 4th year in the district, the previous 3 as Vice-Principal at WHS under then Principal Adam Hatifield. Mr. Hatfield is now downtown in the role of Assistant Superintendent and Mr. Buckendorff along with the new Vice-Principal Dr. Janet Doud will take the "Crusader" reigns if you will and guide our freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors through an upcoming school year, full of new and innovative methodologies, basically a new direction by public education as directed by the Kansas State Department of Education - more about that in a bit.

John and his wife Dr. Amy O'Connor have 6 children between them, ranging in age from 17 to 26. The youngest, a girl, is a senior this year in Oklahoma and their oldest, a boy, is presently serving in the United States Air Force. Those in between, all attending college as they prepare for their futures. Dr. O'Connor who formerly taught at Eisenhower Elementary is now the Director of the Kansas Reading Roadmap Program and also the Data Specialist for the school district. John and Amy are presently building a new home here in Wellington and hope to be moved in before the end of this calendar year.

John is beginning his 3rd decade in public education. After his birth in Fontana, California in 1970, his family moved to Laverne, California, "a community with a small town feel" John indicated, and they lived there for 13 years. They would move to Palm Springs and John would attend Palm Springs schools from the 8th grade on. After High School, he attended the University of Arizona and played football. He later transferred to Southwestern Oklahoma and completed his bachelors. On to Southwestern College thereafter where he earned a Masters Degree in Special Education and then another Masters Degree in School Leadership from Baker University.

Prior to his arrival in Wellington 3 years ago, Mr. Buckendorff was teaching at the Goddard Academy Alternative School and also coached Football and Wrestling at Goddard Eisenhower. Prior to Goddard, John spent 8 years in Oklahoma City, (teaching Business and Spanish and coached Football, Baseball, Girls Basketball and Wrestling), then 2 years at Campus High School and then 2 yrs at Wichita South High School. 

He and his wife are both excited about Wellington, looking forward to making this their home and John is excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for the students and staff at Wellington High School as the school year rapidly approaches. The excitement surrounding Wellington's recent selection as 1 of the 7 pilot projects for the KSDE (Kansas Dept. of Education) "Kansas Can School Redesign Project" which will be fine tuned this coming year at WHS and Kennedy Elementary with the assistance of the State and then serve as an example of innovation, of focusing on the future and creating a "real-world" learning environment for the students they serve. "Through collaboration with our staff, with the State Department of Education, with the Building Leadership Team, with the community and most importantly with the students themselves, we want to meet the needs of our students and empower them to meet their educational, economical and social needs in the future", Principal Buckendorff stated with a look of excitement and determination on his face. 

Many new initiatives will be taking place, including the 1 to 1 computer initiative where within just 2 years, every student in the Wellington School District will have their own Chromebook Laptop Computer for use, not only at school, but also at home. That process has begun with the incoming 6th graders at WMS and will follow throughout the district soon. Collaboration with the community and the businesses in the community, will be a vital part of the project as well. "The world is changing and we need to meet the needs of our students in that changing world", Mr. Buckendorff stated. 

The State of Kansas is taking a proactive approach to public education and the journey will be an exciting one. Times are a changin' and Mr. Buckendorff, his Vice-Principal Dr. Janet Doud, his staff and the students are all going to play a vital role in this new approach that will launch and be implemented across the State of Kansas beginning next school year 2018-2019. The potential for positive outcomes is high. The leadership and staff at WHS and Kennedy and across the district are gearing up for some great things...stay tuned.

We welcome Mr. Buckendorff and his wife Dr. O'Connor to their new residence here in Wellington soon, we look forward to their leadership this upcoming school year and the challenges that lie ahead as we play a very instrumental part in the State of Kansas' new vision for educating our children. It's going to be invigorating for sure and quite exciting. Any bumps along the way Mr. Buckendorff pledges to regroup, rethink and move forward again. There's a good team on board at WHS and at USD 353 - thumbs up for your insights and efforts.


About Author

Steve Sturgis's picture
Steve Sturgis
Steve graduated from Wellington High School in 1974 and then Wichita State University (with honors) in 1979 with a B.S. Degree in Administration of Justice; his minor was in Sociology. Steve has held several positions ranging from Juvenile Court Service Officer, to District Manager in Circulation at the Wichita Eagle, Q.A. Planner at Boeing, Caregiver, Psychiatric Technician, Limo Driver, Ranch Hand, Photographer, Webmaster and Website Developer and a die hard Crusader Fan since the early 1960's. Contact the ole boy at or on Facebook or at any Crusader and/or Knight event year-round.