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District focuses on wellness

The Fredericktown R-I School Board had its regular monthly meeting, Feb. 15.

The board was visited by School Psychologist Julian Affrime from Community Counseling Center. Affrime is a clinically trained therapist provisionally licensed in the state of Missouri and provides counseling services to kids on school property.

Affrime said, the schools identify students who are struggling in the school setting and they are then referred to him. He said his goal is to provide emotional support and care and helping kids that are really struggling to emotionally regulate.

“I work with students who a lot of them have trauma in their past,” Affrime said. “Kids that have parents who are absent because of drug related behaviors, have anxiety depression, suicidal ideation, and some self harm behaviors.”

Affrime works with students K-12 and he said he keeps a case load of around 20 to 30 students at a time.

“I also provide crisis services for the school,” Affrime said. “Usually the most common crisis is the school might be informed that the student is engaging in self harm or some suicidal ideation and I am called. It is usually a situation where I drop everything so my schedule has to be flexible.”

Affrime said, he is usually able to help the student regulate and get back on track and it could lead to a referral for additional school-based therapy or other services. 

Next, Assistant Superintendent Melanie Allen talked to the board about Wellness Week and the Blackcat Community Partnership.

Allen said the partnership has been successful so far and currently has 15 members.

“The three main points that I have tried to bring out with them is that our focus is we want to connect with each other,” Allen said. “We want to make sure all stakeholders are not only heard but that their ideas are shared and we can maybe put some of those to work. We want to support each other from the school to the community and vice versa to make sure that we are supporting families and students that we both serve.”

Allen said Wellness Week, March 21-25, is something that has never been done district-wide let alone branching out into the community.

“This is our first go at this, so we are just going to try something small and then each year we will expand,” Allen said. “We are looking at whole person wellness so mental health, physical health, and social emotional health. We want to try and address and meet those needs during this week.”

Allen said there will be a “Blackcat Challenge” every day of the week to challenge every one school-wide and community-wide. The challenges include taking a break from phone, TV, and computer screens, trying a new food or exercise, take some time for yourself, do something positive for someone else and for yourself, and increase physical fitness in some way. 

Next, Kelly A. Burlison Middle School Principal Pam Hanner and Assistant Principal Beth Glore spoke about their building and some of its goals. 

During the presentation, the duo showed a chart of the top reasons students receive office referrals, with number one being disrespectful behavior.

“When we came back from Christmas everyone went over expectations, but our science department spent a day talking about disrespectful behavior,” Glore said. “It was actually very eye opening because what kids see as disrespectful doesn’t necessarily align with what we see as disrespectful.”

Glore said it was a good conversation to have, it helps build relationships with the students, and helps figure out ways to improve this alarming trend.

“Another way we are trying to help with this is we have monthly celebrations,” Glore said. “The purpose of it is, for one thing, for the students who do what we expect them to do without any rewards, we want to honor them in some way. That was our motive in doing these monthly celebrations.”

Glore said students who do not meet the requirements to attend the celebration go to a classroom instead. She said this past month they had a lesson on healthy relationships including what it means to be a good or bad friend.

“The feedback that I have been given is some kids owned up to, ‘you know what I think I may be a bad friend, I think I’ve done that to my friends,'” Glore said. “We are really targeting relationships and behaviors to try and help these kids.”

Other topics discussed included academic, behavior and attendance goals, enrichment classes, and chromebook policies.

Hanner said they are currently reviewing enrichment classes to make sure they are engaging for the kids and looking to make them even better than they are.

During his superintendent report, Chadd Starkey presented the board with a preliminary 2022-2023 calendar option. The option would add nine minutes to the school day.

“It gives us a little bit of freedom in the midst of the school year,” Starkey said. “One of the requests from the staff was to add a teacher work day on that Monday, January 2 to do some grade work and get ready for the kids to come back. We were able to plug that in by stretching the day a little bit.”

Starkey said they were also able to add a professional development day in September and February. 

“This calendar is 167 days, it is actually more hours in attendance than we had for 168 this year,” Starkey said. “I think we were at like 1,050 hours and this one is 1,087 by just changing that length of the day. May 24 would be the last weather make up day possibility.”

Starkey said he has given this option out to the staff members and will have feedback from them in early March. He said he would like to narrow it down by the March meeting.

Also discussed was the unexpected increase in health insurance costs.

“In December, they (Anthem) told us there would be no increase in our premiums,” Starkey said. “They (Anthem) came back to us last month with what started out to be a 15% increase and they whittled it down to a 6.6% increase.”

Starkey said the consortium estimates Anthem made $3 million off the group last year and the increase did not sit well with the consortium members.

“So we are going to go out to bid and see what we can do because there shouldn’t have been an increase in our opinion,” Starkey said. “With the amount of profit the company made and the loss ratios that they had, it is just unbelievable that they wanted to come back with that much of an increase again.”

Starkey said premiums would go from $632 per employee per month to around $674.

The next meeting of the Fredericktown R-I School Board will be at 5:30 p.m., March 15 at the district offices. 

School Psychologist Julian Affrime, from Community Counseling Center, introduces himself to the R-I School Board at its Feb. 15 meeting.

School Psychologist Julian Affrime, from Community Counseling Center, introduces himself to the R-I School Board at its Feb. 15 meeting.

Kelly A. Burlison Middle School Principal Pam Hanner presents the Fredericktown R-I School Board with information about her building. 

Kelly A. Burlison Middle School Principal Pam Hanner presents the Fredericktown R-I School Board with information about her building. 

Victoria Kemper is a reporter for the Democrat News. She can be reached at 573-783-3366 or at

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