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New members sworn onto California school board

New board discusses SRO agreement, policy updates by Garrett Fuller | April 26, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
Democrat photo/Garrett Fuller — Susie Gorrell, from left, California R-I Board of Education secretary, swears in Jan Trachsel, David Cook and Tony Haile as they take the Oath of Office on April 18 at the board's April meeting in the California High School media center, making them official members of the board.

Three new members joined the California R-I Board of Education.

Susie Gorrell, board secretary, swore in David Cook, Tony Haile and Jan Trachsel on April 18 at the board's meeting in the high school media center. The three fill seats vacated by Paul Bloch, who is retiring, and Brandy Brockes and Landon Porter, who were defeated in the April 4 election.

After the new members were installed, it elected its officers and Missouri School Boards' Association (MSBA) representatives before approving a school resource officer (SRO) agreement with the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office, approving policy updates, and hearing a program spotlight on art classes throughout the district.

Former board president Derek VanLoo nominated Brandon Dunham to head the 2023-24 board as its president. Haile nominated Allison Kruger as vice president, and Kruger nominated VanLoo as treasurer. All three nominations were approved by the board. Gorrell will continue as the board's secretary.

In the new business portion of the meeting, Kruger stepped up to be the MSBA representative. Haile will serve as an alternate representative. Superintendent Daniel Williams said there are no additional responsibilities for MSBA representatives.

New business

The board approved an SRO agreement with the Moniteau County Sheriff's Office for the 2023-24 school year. There was contention around how going from two SROs to only one would affect student safety and response times.

While Williams could not elaborate on why the district is cutting back to one SRO in open session, he said budget concerns were one of many factors in the decision. Budget concerns have been raised during previous meetings, such as in response to adding a girls soccer program at the middle and high schools.

Moniteau County Sheriff Tony Wheatley said SRO salaries -- $35,000 per year -- are fully paid by the school district, who reimburses the sheriff's office. The sheriff's office still pays for the SRO's benefits and equipment. He added that Deputy Leanna Brown will still work for the sheriff's office at the jail, which may affect her pay depending on openings at the jail.

Williams also said current response times are quick, using the response time to a recent swatting call at California High School as an example.

"If one SRO is in the bottom seventh-grade hallway and there's a threat in the elementary cafeteria, I don't think any person, outside of an Olympic athlete, could run that distance in less than 15 seconds," he said. "Our response time of four patrol officers, which would be county, city and our SRO, during our swatting call we had a few weeks ago was 22 seconds from the time that the call hit 911 dispatch until the point we had all four of those vehicles in our high school parking lot."

Williams reiterated that while it would be optimal to have an SRO in each building, he returned to the budget aspect.

"But that also faces a challenging question of, when we're talking about a budget that doesn't have the greatest forecast for next year, the question might be 'Do we want five teachers at kindergarten' or an SRO?" he said. "Are we willing to drop to four teachers at kindergarten, to where now we have 30 or 32 students in every kindergarten classroom, which we know will have a negative impact on learning every single day, or do we want that SRO?"

Williams said safety upgrades being made throughout the district -- including the SafeDefend system to be installed this summer -- should help put parents' minds at ease. The SafeDefend system consists of biometrically-activated alarms and safes that can be activated by staff members in the event of an emergency, such as an active-shooter situation. When activated, it automatically notifies law enforcement -- from California Police Department and the sheriff's office to the Missouri Highway Patrol -- and staff members across the district. Safes will also unlock, allowing teachers access to defensive measures, first-aid kits and other tools.

The board also approved updates to various policies. Williams said MSBA made the updates in response to legislative changes or legal challenges.

One policy, BDDH, establishes a method for patrons to add items to board meeting agendas. Williams said after a written request has been received, the superintendent has 20 days to meet with the community member to discuss the request.

"I think that's as simple as we want to solve problems at the lowest level possible," he said.

A policy affecting the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program (MOCAP) was also updated, dropping the requirement for students to be enrolled in a public school the semester prior to enrolling in online courses. Williams said school districts can still determine whether MOCAP courses are in a student's best interest for non-host virtual classes.

Another update discussed during the meeting impacts enrollment eligibility. Previously, families had to pay out-of-district tuition to enroll in school districts they don't live in. Families can now enroll up to four children in another district if they own real or agricultural property in the district and pay at least $2,000 in property tax annually, Williams said.

Program spotlight

Before delving into new business, the board learned more about art classes throughout the district.

Dana Lee, elementary school art teacher, started the spotlight session by sharing her excitement about having a new classroom with a kiln and additional storage space. The classroom is part of the addition built between the elementary and middle school buildings.

"It is a great blessing for an art program," she said.

Maggie Luebbert, middle school art teacher, said the new kiln, shared between the elementary and middle school art classes and donated by the classes of 1970 and 1971, is firing at least once or twice a week. Lee said the kiln allows her to give students hands-on experience with ceramics, one of a variety of media and techniques they get to experiment with.

"Whenever I was growing up, I went to a very small school and we didn't have an art class necessarily. You had your classroom teacher that would do what she can, so it was a lot of markers and crayons," Lee said. "I'm not saying we don't use markers and crayons, but they're getting lots and lots of experience with things that I would've loved to have when I was a kid."

Lee said her classes are more than just making art, but the projects are designed to help build students' confidence and establish a positive attitude.

In addition to clay, Lee said her students get to experiment with fiber art and mixed media, painting, drawing, and printmaking. They also use digital tools, such as creating digital stop-motion animations.

At the middle-school level, classes are more structured.

Luebbert said her projects usually center around specific techniques and skills, history or inspiration. The projects also typically consist of a written pre- or post-activity reflection.

Fifth-grade art classes extend throughout the entire school year, and students do not receive a grade in the class. She said all fifth-grade students take the classes, where they learn to create digital mosaics, foreshorten falling self-portraits and make clay pinch pots.

Sixth grade, Luebbert said, is when things start to get more serious. Students can choose between taking art, band or choir, and the classes only last a semester. Students also start receiving grades for their assignments.

There is an alternative, however, for middle-school choir and band students wishing to still do art. Luebbert said a new middle school art club has been meeting before school at 7:15 a.m. to do various projects, such as tie-dye T-shirts or tape murals. On Friday, the club took a field trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.

Art education continues at the high school level, with an emphasis on learning the elements of art and principles of design. Brad Friedrich, high school art teacher, said students should develop an appreciation for visual arts and learn to critique their own work in his classes.

Much like at other levels, high school students get experience with a variety of media and tools. In addition to traditional art classes, Friedrich said he teaches a graphic design course using the Adobe Creative Cloud software suite -- featuring image-manipulation (Adobe Photoshop), vector artwork (Adobe Illustrator) and page design (Adobe InDesign) software. He also teaches a set design and construction class, which provides set pieces for school-sponsored plays.

Friedrich also sponsors a high school art club, which has created artwork in the community. The club painted the Little Free Libraries found throughout California, along with the "Pinto Strong" mural inside C&R Supermarket.

Other business

In other business, the board also:

Accepted the resignations of nine staff members -- Dana Barr, high school English teacher, Jane Bishop, middle school science teacher, and Lorrie Brauner, MO-Options and Reach teacher, who are retiring; Lauren Biggs, kindergarten teacher and assistant high school softball coach; Jordan Brown, middle school physical education teacher, eighth-grade boys' basketball coach and assistant middle school football coach; Rebecca Maher, high school counselor; Allyson Rose, fourth-grade teacher; Bobby Sangster, high school athletic director, in-school suspension and credit recovery teacher, and high school girls' basketball coach; and Jamie Shewmake, pre-kindergarten early childhood special education teacher.

Heard a public comment from Sara Holtsclaw, who encouraged the new board to "think outside the box" when cutting programs to meet a tight budget. She said California previously eliminated its home economics/Family And Consumer Sciences class, which resulted in many students not learning valuable life skills.

Approved the consent agenda.

Approved an interview date for architects wishing to complete pre-Bond Issue design work on a proposed athletic facility at California High School.

Approved a contract with Ousley Behavioral Services for support services with a student.

Heard administrative reports. Assistant Superintendent Matt Abernathy said the district is one step closer to having its phone service switched to Verizon, a process that has been delayed since winter break due to incompatibility issues between the new phone system and the district's overhead paging system. Williams also reminded the board of an upcoming teacher appreciation luncheon.

The California R-I Board of Education will meet next at 6 p.m. May 16 in the high school media center. The meeting was moved a day ahead due to the Baccalaureate ceremony.

Print Headline: New members sworn onto California school board


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