By Woodrow Polston
The Van-Far R-I Board of Education held their monthly meeting last Thursday evening, May 19, in the high school library. During the student recognition portion of the agenda, Blaise Stuedle informed the board that there were several students that needed to be recognized for their achievements.
“At the State FFA Convention we had five teams that competed on the state level,” said Stuedle. “There were eight individuals who placed in the top 33%. The chapter was recognized as the 30th chapter out of 350 chapters in the state. Ennis Childs was recognized as second place in state proficiency for his agricultural sales, and he also represented area five for the star in agricultural business. We had five students who received their state degree, Ennis Childs, Devyn Keller, Andrew Morris, Adam McCurdy, and Hunter Scrogin. And with me tonight, I have the first-place state champion Landscape Team, Ennis Childs, Hunter Scrogin, Devyn Keller, and Mara Jensen,” added Stuedle.
During the superintendent’s report, John Fortney discussed teacher and staff openings that need to be filled, and also gave an update on current legislative action that would affect the district.
“As we look at things right now, we are sitting on nine teaching openings,” said Fortney. “We have openings for elementary music, elementary special education, math, science, high school English, high school science, a special education position, and a business position. We are facing the same battle that every other district in thew state is facing. Even the large districts are struggling with this. There are multiple openings in many places and there are zero applicants for the positions. I believe that Mexico, Mo., recently had as many as 16 open positions. Right now, we have two applicants for math, who are both foreign nationals from the Philippines, which could cause problems with immigration issues. We are looking at making adjustments and our teaching staff has been phenomenal as we continue to try and problem solve and figure out what we can do. Also, a number of legislative items have come across the governor’s desk and we are waiting to see what is going to happen.
“One of them, is an omnibus bill that has a number of items in cluding dislexia training, suicide awareness, lead water testing, which we will have to go into compliance with, and one of the major changes that we are likely to see is in the MOCAP (Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program) instruction. If the new legislation is signed into law the following changes would occur; currently, if a parent wants to have their child do online courses, there is an evaluation process conducted by the school to determine if it is in the best interest of the child’s education. The new law would allow parents to bypass the evaluation of the school district and it would have no say in the decision. The big question that we are facing as a district, is what happens if the student is unsuccessful and returns to us? There may be concerns when it comes to testing schedules if we are going to be responsible for the results of the scores,” added Fortney.
Other items on the agenda that were discussed included an update on the new athletics facilities. Fortney stated that progress was being made on the new track and that goalposts were being installed on the football field. Bids for new stadium seating were being sought and new lights were being ordered.
A state salary grant was discussed that would bring teacher salaries up to a base pay of $38,000 annually. Currently, by state statute, the starting base salary is $25,000.
“This raise in salary is not in statute and is voluntary,” Fortney explained. “So, what happens is this; We are allowed to apply for this matching grant, which would be about 30% on the district’s part. Also, it would only apply to those who are making less than $38,000 currently,” he added.
Fortney’s recommendation to the board was to participate in the grant, as many surrounding districts were also doing. One of the downsides they noted, was the compression of salaries. For long-term teachers making little more than $38,000, there seems to be no increase available. This would mean that entry level teachers could be making close to the same salary as seasoned educators.
Members of the board agreed to move forward with seeking the grant. All voted in favor. A motion was made to adjourn regular session and enter into executive session.