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By Sue Curry Jones
A decision to broaden the scope of student drug testing was approved by the Ava R-1 School Board in a 7-0 vote last Thursday evening during the board’s regular monthly session. According to motions presented by board members Pat Henry and Marsha Aborn, the upgraded screening services will go into affect immediately, and start with the next scheduled testing cycle.
The recommendation to upgrade the drug-testing capabilities from a 4-panel to a 12-panel test was made by the school’s committee on drug-testing, which is comprised of committee members: Larry Silvey, Brian Wilson, Teresa Nash, Rex Sawyer, Bonnee Stafford, Dan Swofford, Ann Leonard, Teresa Nash, David Williams, Heather Snelson and Johnny Burkdoll.
Prior to this decision, drug testing at the school encompassed a 4-panel test which detected drugs associated with amphetamines, opiates, THC (marijuana) and cocaine. Now that the board has expanded the scope of the screenings, tests will not only search for the four-panel elements noted above, but will also screen for methamphetamine (speed), phencyclidine (PCP, angel dust), benzodiazepine (Xanax, Klonopin, anti-anxiety), barbituarates (tranquilizers, sleeping pills), Ectasy, oxycodone (Ocycotin, pain killers), propoxyphene (Darvon) and methadone (Dolophine, Mehadose).
The board noted the 12-panel test costs about $5 more; however, after a brief discussion, board members concluded the welfare of students and their responsibility to provide a safe, drug-free environment was key to the issue.
In advance of the meeting, board member Ron Wallace had asked for the subject school resource officer to be placed on the agenda as a new business item for discussion.
Wallace commented that a large group of community members had talked to him about the possibility of re-instating an officer’s presence at the school. The group was looking at the safety of the students, and had voiced their interests in establishing a relational atmosphere of positive reinforcement and instructions for the kids. The community group had also offered their support in funding the position.
In response, Johnny Burkdoll noted the board has a responsibility to review the idea and consider all options available for school safety, including Community in the Schools program or a Watch Dog program.
Pat Henry observed, “when we had a resource officer, we still had fights, it’s not just about having a person.” She also commented, “I would have a problem with letting teachers go and then hiring a resource officer. ”
During the discussion, board member Regina Porter asked for an estimate of how many fights occur each week. High school Principal Teresa Nash said before the holiday break one or two fights occurred in the high school each week.
Teacher Michele King told board members present-day consequences for fighting in school are lax. Generally, students deem the punishment standard as insignificant, “it isn’t a big deal for kids.”
King said teachers overhear students talking about fighting in the hallways, but under the current rule, youths don’t deem the consequences a deterrent. Even with ISS or out of school suspension, the disciplinary action does not impact academic record or homework.
Principal Diane Premer noted in past years, the resource officer did not promote interaction with the students. She commented the job was not instructional.
Board member Larry Silvey said more information is needed on the topic, including details about other programs. Silvey requested the following points for consideration – How do other schools in the area utilize a resource officer? What are their protocols and goals for the position? What was their procedure for doing this?
Silvey also inquired about costs associated with the position.
In the discussion, Ron Wallace stressed the importance of the officer’s relationship with students and the positive impact the position has on youths.
Superintendent Brian Wilson suggested this was an opportunity to look at other community programs as well, and not limit considerations to whether or not a resource officer is the only answer. Wilson offered to gather information on school programs, to explore options for in-house or community programs, and to provide the board with a varied perspective on what is available.
In other business, Supt. Wilson presented a three-month comparison of the new food service program and student participation rates for Oct. – Dec. 2010 and Oct. – Dec. 2011. Wilson said students partaking of cafeteria offerings has increased from 86% to 88%; and, the after school program, Bears Den, which offers a meal as well, has added to the percentage increase. However, Wilson disclosed student enrollment dropped drastically in December and that downturn has a profound impact on totals.
Wilson reported the cafeteria budget was $40,000 in debt prior to Opaa’s involvement, but now with the food service contract, a return of $50,000 is expected for 2011-12.
During closed session, the board voted to ‘extend out’ the contract agreement with Supt. Brian Wilson, the time-frame of the agreement was through 2015.
The Ava Board spotlight recognized KKOZ Radio Station for their support and dedication in promoting school activities, events and sporting games throughout the school year. Board president Randy Spurlock presented Art Corum with a certificate of appreciation for the station’s commitment and coverage of district events.
The board also recognized five high school focus teams for their commitment to the high school at work program. Teams honored were the data assessment team; student and faculty motivation focus team; intervention team; guidance and counseling; and school-wide behavior support team.
Superintendent Wilson provided an update on the governor’s recent remarks about 2013 budget plans, noting budget forecasts remain flat for 2013 and plans are at a standstill. However, the final conclusions have yet to approved by legislators.
Wilson also provided information on Consumption Tax petitions that are being circulated across the state of Missouri. Based on the talking points cited by the superintendent, these petitions are intended to constitutionally change how revenue is generated in the state, by placing a sales tax on both goods and services.
Under a Consumption Tax system, the current income tax structure would be phased out. The Missouri PTA has stated the proposed change will negatively affect the welfare of children. The organization noted a consumption tax that taxes the basic needs of individuals, will disproportionately and adversely affect middle and low-income families.
The Consumption Tax initiative is also referred to as the Everything Tax, Mega-Tax, or Fair Tax.
During the session, Wilson also announced the capital projects list for 2012-13. The tasks, prioritized by board members, are listed below.
1. Repair middle school roof, $7,000;
2. Security cameras for kindergarten through12th grade, most of the equipment is on hand;
3. Seal performing arts center and middle school parking lots, $13,000;
4. Fix and repair administrative building, $4,000;
5. New paint for district, $5,000;
6. Remove underground storage tanks, $35,000;
7. Truck/plow purchase, $10,000 – $20,000;
8. Seal brick, $6,000;
9. Soffit & fascia repair, $10,500;
10. Seal guttering, $3,500.
Maintenance supervisor Monty Valentine reported nice weather has allowed crews to work outside on buildings and campus grounds. They have also been readying for the installation of outside cameras, and holes have been drilled for the cables and preparations made for mounting on buildings and hallways. Gravel was removed from the elementary walking track, and playground areas are being refilled.
Principal Diane Premer reported Mrs. Nelson’s 4th grade class earned high attendance for December, and celebrated with a party. The class had perfect attendance 11 out of 15 days for the month.
The character word for the month of December was compassion, and the following students were chosen for displaying the character trait: kindergarten: Haley Dale, Drew Henry; 1st grade: Brooklyn Bushong, Jayce Atchison; 2nd grade: Julia Henry, Sam Morris; 3rd grade: Orianna Connors, Eric Barnes; 4th grade: Jade Willis, Drake Rollins.
Principal Cody Hirschi noted 7th and 8th grade teachers continue to train and develop units of instruction for the eMINTS Technology grant. Laptops provided through the grant are on campus, and should be in the classrooms shortly.
Hirschi said teachers attended a professional development seminar Tuesday, Jan. 3, and devoted most of the day to Intruder Training. The teachers participated in practice scenarios and found the hands-on training to be beneficial. The faculty also received poverty training and instruction on how to better serve the students.
Assistant high school principal, and director of the Bears Den, David Williams, noted the next ACT prep series starts Monday, Feb. 6, in preparation for the Saturday, Feb. 11 exam. Williams reported Communication Arts, math, science and government EOC Prep courses are now being organized to help students prepare for spring end-of-course exams.
Open library has been extended an hour on weekday mornings when school is in session; open library isn’t available on Friday afternoons due to low attendance.
Principal Teresa Nash announced Hoopcoming Week starts Monday, Jan. 30 and runs through Friday, Feb. 3. The theme is “Monopoly” this year, with spirit days designated as follows: Monday – Cops vs Cons; Tuesday – Rags to riches; Wednesday – Monopoly Day; Thursday – Tourist day; and Friday, Blue and Gold day.
On March 28, Ava High will host the car accident docudrama, which demonstrates the consequences of driving under the influence or not paying attention when driving. The event is scheduled prior to prom.
During spring, Dr. Nancy Lawler, assistant superintendent, reported 88 students from the A+ program are tutoring in elementary and middle schools. Lawler said A+ funding has been moved from the Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to the Missouri Department of Higher Education (MDHE); consequently, MDHE will pay community / career /technical school fees for eligible students. Student requirements will remain constant until the 2013-14 school year; but starting with the senior class of 2015, eligible students must achieve a score of proficient or advanced on the Algebra I end-of-course exam. If the requirement is not met, eligibility may be completed the first semester at a participating institution with a minimum of 12 hours, and a 2.5 grade point average.
The school’s safety program, community involvement program, and technology review evaluation forms and program updates were approved in 7-0 votes. Program details were presented by Cody Herschi, Nancy Lawler and Jon Doane, respectively.
In a 7-0 vote, the board selected Davis, Lynn & Moots, PC, Certified Public Accountants of Springfield, as the firm to provide auditing services for ensuing year.
The board approved payment of bills totaling $181,242.30.
Board members present for the meeting were Ron Wallace, Johnny Burkdoll, Regina Porter, Randy Spurlock, Pat Henry, Marsha Aborn, and Larry Silvey.
The board will meet again next month on Thursday, Feb. 16, at 6:30 p.m. in the Board of Education room at the school. Sessions are open to the public.