Van-Far Elementary Students of the Month, from left: Trinity Skwirtz, Davon Main, Nikos Connaway, Trevor Miller, Madison Arnold, Tasha Jefferson, Morgan Slatten, and Lauren Shaw.
The Van-Far R-I School Board conversation concerning the district’s “F” policy erupted into heated discourse over a possible revamping of Missouri State High School Activities Association policy (MSHSAA) during the board’s regular November meeting.
Board members were split on stricter policy concerning participating in extracurricular activities for students who have broken the law. MSHSAA policy governs Van-Far’s extracurricular programs and student participation in those activities, ranging from athletics to quiz bowls. Although the district is unable to rescind MSHSAA policy, an option exists to make MSHSAA rules more stringent.
Van-Far had done this with its current “F” policy, which sets more stringent academic standards for student participation in the district’s extracurricular activities. The policy, which is also distinct from other surrounding school districts, dictates earning an “F” in one class removes student eligibility to participate in school programs for at least three weeks or longer until the issue is remedied.
“Our “Fs” are going down as a school,” Holly Jungers, Van-Far Athletics director, told the school board concerning the policy. “This is a policy that the coaches wanted. The information is there, (students) know what is going to happen — it is stressed from day one.”
She added the number of failing grades at Van-Far this quarter are the lowest they have been in four years.
Jungers said the policy isn’t just for athletics it covers all MSHSAA affiliated extracurricular activities such as choir, band, and academic bowls.
Board Director Charles Scrogin spoke up citing his concern between MSHSAA policy and Van-Far’s rules.
Scrogin noted it was unfair that students with drug convictions or that are serving probation are able to participate in school activities while students earning a failing grade were benched.
“If MSHSAA is condoning that, then MSHSAA is out of whack,” he said.
According to MSHSAA policy, students breaking municipal ordinances, or students who are charged with a misdemeanor or felony are suspended from all MSHSAA-governed activities until court proceedings are concluded.
MSHSAA policy states once a student is arraigned, he or she may face further suspension depending on whether fines, court costs or special conditions of probation exist — such as restitution, community service, or counseling sessions.
A student on probation with is able to participate in school programs, so long as special conditions of probation are completed.
Jungers said if the student fails to inform the school, MSHSAA hands down a 365-day suspension of the student’s participation in district activities, where if the student is allowed to participate under suspension, the entire program is forfeited.
High School Principal Cindy Pirch added that students may request judges place them on informal probation — probation without special conditions such as restitution, community service, or counseling sessions — in place of fines or other stipulations holding the student back from playing. Pirch said the district isn’t privy to charges under privacy protections.
Mark Udelhoven, board vice- president, with support from Scrogin, recommended Van-Far alleviate the issue by moving away from MSHSAA’s ruling on the issue.
Board Treasurer Larry Wheeler disagreed, stating the policy should remain untouched.
“There’s two sides to every coin,” Board member Dr. Greg Frost said in agreement with Wheeler.
Board members agreed breaking the law is just that, and students shouldn’t participate in school activities until they’ve been paid legal dues.
Dr. Frost said the board needs MSHSAA viewpoint on why the association’s policy has drawn the line the way it has, as the board could be overlooking input in making its decision. Udelhoven and Scrogin agreed and the discussion was tabled pending further details. The item was not originally on the agenda.
The board unanimously approved a contract with Audrain Medical Center for bus driver drug testing. A quote concerning student drug testing has yet to be received.
The board unanimously approved filing dates for the Van-Far Board of Education, which are December 11 and January 15. Up for reelection are Scrogin and President Christy Nelson.
The board unanimously approved the Missouri School Board Association’s full-maintanance agreement and online policy, which aids Van-Far with policies and procedures and web-hosting the district’s policies and procedures on the association’s server.
The board unanimously approved the districts 2011-12 financial audit, performed by the Booneville-based CPA firm Gerding, Korte, and Chitwwod.
Travis Hundley, representing Gerding, Korte, and Chitwood, presented the board with the 2011-12 financial audit.
Hundley reported that the district remained in good standing with acceptable accounting records. He noted, concerning the size of the district, accounting personnel lacked according to state standards.
Highlights of the report included a $1,232,999 increase in net assets or a 39.24 percent increase over 2011 due to last spring’s bond issue for maintenance updates. According to the report, general revenues amounted to $4,511,088 with program-specific revenues — such as charges for services, operating grants and contributions, and capital grants — accounting for $2,098,734. Total revenue for the district equalled $6,615,208.
Governmental activities assets climbed $1,232,999 via a cash-and-cash-equivalents increase of the same amount.
Expenses for the district amounted to $6,782,209 with program-specific revenues offsetting the expenditure by $2,098,734.
Van-Far’s general fund, which decreased by $131,880 in 2012, gained $3,380,891 in revenue with $2,758,499 in expenenses. A total of $709,098 from the general fund was transferred to the teachers’ fund with $45,174 moved to the capital projects fund.
Van-Far’s beginning-of-the-year general fund balance equalled $1,602,697, with an end-of-the-year balance of $1,470,817. The end-of-year teacher’s fund balance equalled $23,748 and the debt-service fund equalled $1,502,128. The capital projects fund ended at $1,370,600.
FFA in Washington D.C.
High School Students of the Month Ryan Nelson and Sheridan Cole presented the board with their recent FFA trip to Washington D.C. for the Washington Leadership Conference (WLC).
“The big thing about WLC is all of the people you meet,” Nelson said. “It was so fun going to this and we hope more kids get to go next year.”
Aside from conference tasks, Nelson and Cole visited Arlington Cemetery, the Vietnam Wall, the WWII memorial, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument.
Title I teachers
Judy Horner, Title I director, presented the board information on the Title I department.
Horner reported that the program has spanned four years school-wide at the elementary and maintains a staff of four teachers, who assist students with instruction reading and math, and every day math for grades K-6.
She said parent participation is important and on the rise in functions such as “Muffins with Mom” and “Donuts with Dad.”
Horner said parent involvement in the program is key because the involvement fosters importance for a child.
Van-Far Superintendent Chris Felmlee said that enrollment at the district held at 605 for October. He said 349 students made up grades K-6 and 256 students composed grades 7-12.
Felmlee said applications for the Missouri School Board Association’s (MSBA) Belcher Scholarship are available. The scholarship awards $750 with a deadline to apply of January 11. Board members Peter Nasir and Scrogin volunteered to review student applications.
A new state superintendents evaluation will be discussed at the MSBA’s winter meeting. Felmlee said Van-Far is a pilot school for the new evaluation.
“The superintendents evaluation is a new critter,” Felmlee said. “This is going to be a mandatory change as of 2015.”
Nasir voiced concern over the new evaluation stating the board’s job was to hire the superintendent and evaluations shouldn’t be in the hands of the state.
“I think it’s ridiculous. As a board of education member, I resent the state evaluating our superintendant,” he said.
Elementary School update
Elementary Principal Amber Crane said the elementary school was named as a Success for All Foundation Ambassador School. The school will serve as a host, contact, and possible conference site for other districts interested in the Success for All program.
Crane reported that November 12-16 was “National Young Readers Week” and that on November 15 she read for the full day, under the principal challenge.
She said vision and dental screenings were offered free-of-charge on November 16.
Students of the Month for the elementary school were Trinity Skwirtz, Davon Main, Nikos Connaway, Trevor Miller, Madison Arnold, Tasha Jefferson, Morgan Slatten, and Lauren Shaw.
High School Update
High School Principal Cindy Pirch said the first round of basketball games started in November with junior high games in the first week of the month and the high school season kicking off November 20 against Mark Twain.
She said the EMO conference choir conference was held on November 15 at Silex.
Pirch said winter sports pictures are scheduled for November 28. STUCO is holding a winter semi-formal dance and Mrs. Teresa Winders will host a Scholastic Book Fair on December 3. The Junior and Senior High Winter Choir Concert will be held at 7 p.m. on December 11.
Pirched announced with the cancelation of Vandalia’s “Hometown Christmas,” Character Plus will be hosting a similar type of event, “Holiday Fun Fest,” from 9 a.m. -2 p.m. on, Saturday December 1.