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It was standing room only last week when concerned citizens and students filled every available space in the administration building during the monthly meeting of the Ava R-1 School Board. The meeting was held on Wednesday, April 20, instead of the usual third Thursday of the month, and for the session, over 100 students and community members were in attendance to show support for Ava teacher Jeff Tabor whose contract was not renewed for the 2011-12 school year.
Due to the crowd of supporters, many visitors were forced to stand shoulder-to-shoulder because of lack of room in the boardroom. Others were relegated to the hallway and anterooms where it was difficult to hear or take part in discussions. In fact, the boardroom was so crowded students lined the walls and stood behind board members.
According to state statutes (Missouri Revised Statutes, Chapter 610, Governmental Bodies and Records, Section 610.020, No. 2), any governing board such as the school board has the duty to provide adequate meeting space for those in attendance. The statute states, “each meeting shall be held at a place reasonably accessible to the public and of sufficient size to accommodate the anticipated attendance by members of the public… Every reasonable effort shall be made to grant special access to the meeting …”
The same act of courtesy is also noted in a summary of the Sunshine Law, which says, “Meetings should be held in facilities that are large enough to accommodate anticipated attendance by the public and accessible to persons with disabilities.”
However, the statute was not followed by administrators or board members. Ideally, plans should have been made to accommodate the visitors, as administrators and board members had been informed of the groups intentions.
During public comments, several from the group politely asked the board to reconsider their position on hiring Jeff Tabor. Community members, students past and present, voiced strong support of Tabor’s skills, creativity and commitment to teaching. A host of positive comments were given.
However, during closed session, the board re-visited the issue and re-confirmed through another vote that a contract would not be offered.
According to Dr. Brian Wilson, the motion to re-hire was made by Ron Wallace with a supporting motion by Larry Silvey. Votes were given as follows:
Yes votes: Silvey and Wallace;
No votes: Marsha Aborn, Randy Spurlock, Regina Porter; and
Abstentions: Pat Henry, Johnny Burkdoll.
In other business during closed, business teacher Janelle Stewart resigned as assistant volleyball coach, and Cole Dishman who has been at Ava two years, tendered his resignation as physical education, basketball and cross country coach. Nathan Houk will fill the boy’s basketball coach position, and Liz Kyger has opted to take the cross country team responsibilities.
Terri Tabor, an Ava resident who has taught in Norwood for several years, was hired as a third-grade teacher in the elementary. Tabor will replace Kim Davis who has chosen to fill the 5th-grade position left open by Mary Kay Davidson’s retirement.
Sefora Billups, who is currently employed at Lutie, was hired to teach high school Science.
The board spotlight recognized the coaches of Ava R-1 Basketball, noting the accomplishments of the teams and coaching staff over the past two years. Certificates were presented to coaches Cole Dishman and Clint Gazette, details of their career accomplishments at Ava were presented by Athletic Director Rex Sawyer.
Following a moment of silence in memory of Joe “Pete” Miller, board members unanimously approved the transfer of the bus route to Jeannie Miller. A graduate of Ava High School, Miller had served as a bus driver for 35 years.
Graduation for the 2011-12 year was set for Saturday, May 19, 2012. The board also established summer school hours as 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., June 6 –July 1.
Preparing for 2011-12, Ava’s full-day pre-school program will charge tuition. The program, which started approximately eleven years ago under the Missouri Pre-School Project, was originally funded with a three-year grant. At present, funding is an issue, and according to Dr. Wilson, costs associated with the program have tripled. A tuition rate of $90 per semester would assist with program expenses, an amount that factors down to just over $1.00 per day.
The sliding scale approved by the board was given as follows: $90 per semester per child; $75 per semester for families who qualify for reduced lunches; $60 per semester for families who qualify for free lunches.
According to administrators, the pre-school program had recently passed accreditation.
Preparing for June budgets, board members were advised of rising insurance costs, and salary requests from teaching staff and personnel for the 2012-11 school year.
Wilson reported insurance rates are expected to climb between 8 –17 percent this year, a factor which may require the board to consider an alternative approach for next year. Since 1997, the Ava school system has been a part of an insurance consortium that provided less risk, and lower costs, through pool membership and volume purchasing. However, this year, the consortium voted to switch from 80/20 coverage to a 60/40 plan, a choice Ava administrators did not support. Consequently, Wilson advised the board they had three options to consider:
–– solicit bids as a single entity, an expensive option;
–– continue membership in the consortium with 60/40 coverage (a decision opposed by staff); or
–– research memberships in other consortiums.
The school salary committee also expressed concerns about insurance costs and asked board members to cover the rate increase for staff and personnel. In addition to insurance costs, the committee also requested an additional step to the salary schedule by expanding the chart to 26 years of service. Stipends for teachers working beyond regular hours was also recommended. These budget items will be reviewed over the next few weeks, as final numbers must be approved in June.
Dr. Brian Wilson, superintendent, said a preliminary report on Ava’s Missouri School Improvement Plan (MSIP) review had been received in his office, and the school did exceptionally well. Wilson also noted the spring regional meeting for board members is April 28 in Hartville, and the board leadership conference will be in Columbia, Mo. in June.
An assurance statement acknowledging the school’s commitment to federal compliance standards was accepted, and the counseling program review was approved as presented. Both received a 7-0 vote.
In a 6-0 vote, the board selected Marsha Aborn as the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) delegate and representative for Ava R-1. Marsha’s nomination was made by Regina Porter, and seconded by Larry Silvey. Marsha abstained from the vote.
Each board member received a copy of revisions recommended for elementary, middle and high school handbooks. These changes will be assessed, and if approved, adopted by the board at a later date.
Policy revisions as advocated by the review committee were adopted with a 7-0 vote. These changes were final recommendations from the committee as all sections have now been evaluated.
Middle school Principal Cody Hirschi said sixth-grade and middle school bands received excellent ratings at the West Plains Band Festival. Sixth-grade band earned a one-rating, and middle school a two-rating.
Ratings on solo performances were also given to: Haley Barker, I; Monica Corum, I; Gabe Page, I; Scotlyn Canape, II; Sarah Dudley, II, and I; Maranda Yost, II; Kim Copeland, I; and Ruby Kilgore, I.
In high school, Tamara Yost was recognized for making the finals of the White River Valley Electric Essay Contest, along with Josh Freeman for his nomination to the 2011 Missouri Scholars Academy held on the University of Missouri – Columbia campus this summer. Dustin Davis and Kristen Hasting were noted as the academic students for the month of April.
High school citizens for March were Brandon Guengerich and Lacy Tucker.
Ava elementary will host the annual School Carnival on Saturday, April 30. The games will run from 5-7 p.m., and crowning of the queen and king, and auction will start at 7:30 p.m.
Dr. Nancy Lawler, assistant superintendent, said course exams have started in high school. English I and II are finished, and Biology exams were Tuesday, April 19. The remainder of class exams will test in late April and early May.
The new maintenance supervisor Monty Valentine was introduced to the board. Valentine was hired after Lennie Johnson made plans to retire this school year.
Members present for the meeting were Marsha Aborn, Ron Wallace, Johnny Burkdoll, Regina Porter, Larry Silvey, Pat Henry and Randy Spurlock.
The next school board meeting date was set for Monday, May 16. Meetings are held in the school administration building and convene at 6:30 p.m.
News Editor Note:
Prior to writing this school board account, I took the opportunity to talk to taxpayers who attended the meeting. Most of them had strong opinions about how the meeting was handled. Here are their comments:
“The board was cordial enough, but there wasn’t a feeling of community.”
“It seemed like it was them against us.”
“When elected officials get personal, they quit being professional.”
“When Randy Spurlock stated in the meeting that the board could not talk about personnel issues with us, it was misleading. That was wrong, he gave the wrong impression. I wondered if it was on purpose.”
“It appeared as if we were not welcome. I felt as though it was inappropriate for me to address the board.”
In the public venue, transparency is key to creating trust. In this case, we will probably never know if the board acted in the best interest of the students, and the school.
However, one question remains – if the board’s process on the contract renewal was complete and thorough, why would two board members vote in abstention? When an individual’s career is at stake, making a decision should be transparent.
In concluding this account of the April 20th board meeting, here is some information readers may find helpful.
The Board of Education is legally defined as a representative body elected to office by the registered voters of the Ava R-1 School District of Douglas County. The purpose and role of the Board is to supervise the district and ensure the school is maintained as directed by state statutes, rules and procedures.
The Board is accountable to the voters, and is responsible for the educational needs and financial constraints of the district. The Board serves as the governing body.
The Board is responsible for employing personnel, establishing salary schedules, and maintaining and implementing personnel policies district wide. And, according to the Missouri School Board Assn’s list of the board’s powers and duties, the board is also accountable for the regular evaluation of its staff.
The Board of Education controls all aspects of the operations of the district within the limits of the law.
The Board is the final authority, and the superintendent answers to the board and should follow the board’s directives.