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Van-Far R-I follows up on student safety

Posted on Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 10:03 am

Van-Far Elementary School December and January Students of the Month. Front row, from left: Destiny Ruby (preschool), Zyah Griffith (kindergarten), Olivia Wood (kindergarten), Tylee DeTienne (first grade), and Mercede Ehler (second grade). Back row: Sarah Hensen (second grade), Maddie Hopkins (third grade), Breanna Black (third grade), Haylee Lumbert (fourth grade), Dylan Harvey (fifth grade), and Jordan Garner (sixth grade). Not pictured: Sarah Corder (first grade)

High School Principal Cindy Pirch said visiting law enforcement officials were impressed with the Van-Far R-I School District’s efforts toward increased student safety in the wake of the tragic Newtown, Conn., shooting.

The district’s board of education followed up on safety issues during its regular January 22 meeting with an overall agreement that using area police resources to educate staff on emergency matters is well worth the venture — including a short in-service with law officials and perhaps a mock disaster day.

With board member Charles Scrogin’s noting Van-Far’s out-of-city-limits situation and how that potentially affects a disaster response time from local law enforcement, board member Mark Udelhoven commented on the need for a mock disaster day where staff would be confronted with a situation and guided through a reaction.

In agreement with Scrogin, board member Greg Frost said response times are critical, as student tragedies tend to be quick in nature.

“We have failed as a board without dedication to student safety and concerns,” Udelhoven said.

Scrogin said a potential resource for staff safety education would be the Missouri School Board Association’s Director of Student Safety, Paul Fennewald.

Fennewald previously served as an FBI agent and as Missouri’s director of homeland security coordinator.

Aside from a disaster day, Frost followed up on the board’s previous discussions of safety upgrades at the district, questioning whether the steps discussed were closer to being implemented.

Ryan Morris, maintenance technician, reported he met with two vendors regarding the camera and buzzer system in the works for the main doors, which are now the only access points, of the district’s elementary and junior and senior high schools. Morris said one more vendor is scheduled for a quote. No dollar amounts were discussed.

Superintendent Chris Felmlee said a magnet system has been ordered to help secure the district’s interior doors and will soon be in place.

Superintendent Felmlee said the magnets, which will be placed in the jams of each interior doorway, keep the doors ajar.

Once removed, as would be done during an emergency, the-displaced magnets allow the doors to shut and automatically lock.

Morris noted that the original thought behind Van-Far’s interior doors was to keep students from possibly locking staff out of the classrooms. Therefore, the doors could only be secured from outside of the room. The new magnet system allows the doors to be locked from inside the classroom.

Elementary School Principal Amber Crane said steps to secure the school’s “pods” have been enacted.


With a 7-0 vote, the board unanimously accepted Superintendent Felmlee’s resignation letter. Superintendent Felmlee accepted a position with the Southern Boone County R-I School District. His last day as superintendent at Van-Far will be June 30. Superintendent Felmlee started at Van-Far on July 1, 2007.

“There is going to be big shoes to fill when Chris leaves here,” Frost said.

With another 7-0 vote, the board also unanimously accepted the resignation of Mariam Savidge, special education instructor for the elementary school. Savidge has served the district since the fall of 1987.


The board heard three program evaluations from the music, vocational, and social studies departments, all of which met district-level expectations and received no major input from the board.

For the vocational department, which includes FFA, FCLA, and FBLA student organizations, a goal has been set to execute mock interviews by the completion of the spring semester. A school-wide mock interview day has been set for March 27.

Cross-curricular activity at the district was noted as especially important for depth of student learning.

Superintendent’s report

Superintendent Felmlee said district-wide enrollment for December was 599 students with 354 elementary students and 245 student in the junior and senior high school.

He thanked Scrogin and Christy Nelson for re-filing for positions on the board of education. Kevin Motley has also filed for the board. With three candidates filing for two seats, a meet-the-candidate event will be scheduled prior to the April 2 vote.

Superintendent Felmlee reported that the district scored a 93.6 percent on Missouri School Improvement Program 5 (MSIP 5) testing, which evaluates college or career readiness.

Other district reports

Pirch said Van-Far will participate in the MRMC Holiday Basketball Shoot-out to be held over next Christmas break from December 27-28. She said participation in the tournament will replace one regular season game with an opportunity to play schools that Van-Far does not typically play.

She reported that two meetings were held regarding drug testing at Van-Far for school activity participation. With feedback needed and procedural guidelines to be fine-tuned, Pirch said drug testing for all school activities is being considered, rather than just MSHSAA activities, as well as activities in both the elementary and junior and senior high schools.

She said the annual Junior High Celebration is scheduled for February 28. “Pink Out” is scheduled for February 12. “Pink Out” polo shirts are available, of which all proceeds will go toward a memoriam to Van-Far Alumni Kathy Hartgraves.

Other Junior and Senior High School activities include:

• Hart Career Center representatives meeting with sophomore students on Friday, February 1, to discuss vocational school opportunities

•  Courtwarming week starting on January 28 and lasting to February 1

The final home game for varsity basketball will be February 12, which is also Senior Night and FBLA’s “Pink Out” game.

For the Elementary School, Crane said the school’s professional development meeting on January 2 focused on writing as a common core. She said writing curriculum will be revamped by the 2013-14 school year.

Crane reported school staff has been asked to attend the SW-PBS Summer Institute. SW-PBS assists “schools and districts in establishing and maintaining school environments where the social culture and behavioral supports needed to be an effective learning environment is in place for all students,” according to the organization’s website.

Crane said Van-Far’s elementary school is one of few schools in Missouri utilizing SW-PBS data.

Jody Horner, director of special education for the high school,  said six students will participate in the “ALEKS” program, which will aid the students in satisfying end-of-course (EOC) Algebra I standards. She said participation in the program will be pro-rated at $35 per student for six months instead of the regular $45. A month trial will be used to test the program’s effectiveness.

“If it helps them be successful, that is what we need,” Nelson said.

Horner said the rigors of EOC coursework has risen and will continue to do so. Pirch commented that GED students may not even be successful without competency in EOC coursework, which is another instance where cross-curricular learning in important.