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The Farmington R7 Board of Education met in regular session on Sept. 18 and recognized the month’s middle school Heartland Hero and teacher of the year while also hearing a report on graduation persistence efforts in the district.

Before beginning the meeting proper, a returning board member took the oath of office to fill a vacancy recently made when a board member moved out of the district.

“Per our last meeting, we had a vacancy on the board,” said Board President Angela Hahn. “It was the decision of the board to expedite and to ask Jeff Lawson to come back and to sit on the board with us because he is a guy who is up to speed and ready for action.”

After being sworn in by Board Secretary Amanda Buchanan, Lawson then took his seat on the board.

Middle School Principal Dustin Jenkerson next introduced both the middle school Heartland Hero for the month and the middle school’s teacher of the year for 2017-2018.

Beginning with the Heartland Hero, Jenkerson introduced Melisa Pritchett.

“Melisa Pritchett has run the Knight Time Snack Program, or backpack program, for six years,” Jenkerson said. “This program provides food to over 200 free and reduced lunch students in our school district, and anywhere from 15 to 20 students specifically in the middle school.”

As illustrated by her involvement with the Knight Time Snack Program, Jenkerson said Pritchett has done great work in the school and community at large.

“Melisa has been instrumental in working with our community and school, and with her most recent example being that the middle school is finally getting ‘adopted,’” he said. “Ms. Pritchett, with Parkland Chapel, is going to adopt the middle school so they can help us with the needs of our students, staff and community.”

Jenkerson said Pritchett truly exemplifies what it means to have a servant’s attitude to the faculty and students of the middle school.

“We are excited about the new partnership, thankful for the service of such great people like Ms. Pritchett and we are blessed to have you as our Heartland Hero,” he said.

Next, Jenkerson introduced the middle school’s teacher of the year for 2017-2018, Melisa Hampton.

“Ms. Hampton was nominated by her peers to recognize her outstanding work she does for staff, students and parents of Farmington Middle School,” Jenkerson said. “Ms. Hampton is in her fourth year now at Farmington and teaches 7th grade ELA, which she taught last year, but now she is also the part-time High School Dean of Students.”

Having taught previously at Jackson High School for two years, Jenkerson said Hampton excels at building relationships with her students.

“Ms. Hampton possesses many qualities that make her a great teacher, but the one that stands out the most to me is that she is relentless in the pursuit of anything she sets her mind to,” Jenkerson said. “Ms. Hampton has a very clear understanding of curriculum and instruction. She knows how to deliver content to her students in a way that is meaningful and relevant and students are actively engaged and always learning in her class.”

Next, Dr. Mike Rickermann presented the board with a report on persistence to graduation and the work being done at the W.L. Johns campus.

“Right now, we’re serving about 50 students, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but we also have eight different programs that we are servicing them through, ranging from our Knight School kids that are primarily high school kids working toward Missouri Options,” Rickermann said. “We have about 10 kids in the Missouri Options program, which is the opportunity to take what used to be called the GED test and to graduate with a Farmington High School diploma”

Rickermann said in that program, there have already been four students this year who have taken Missouri Options tests to graduate.

Additionally, the campus also serves students at the children’s home and students who are homebound.

In the near future, Rickermann said he and the staff at the campus would be taking a “field trip” to Lindbergh High School, where they will see how that school has integrated character education into the alternative education atmosphere.

“We need to make sure that we’re also instilling good character values and preparing these students for life after school,” he said. “We’re going to take a look and see what Lindbergh has to offer, then we’ll take some of that and embed that into our wetting and work from there.”

Rickermann added that the staff at W.L. Johns has been working on identifying students who may face future problems in the regular school setting, in order to take action earlier.

“The hope is to spend some more time identifying factors that are causing kids to not function well in a general ed environment and to catch them before they get to the alternative atmosphere,” he said. “If we can identify them early and try to redirect, correct and support in general education that keeps more opportunities available to students.”

Another possible future change is the lengthening of the Knight School program from a half-day program to a full-day program. The goal, Rickermann said, is to provide educational programming that enables the most success from students.

“We tell everybody that walks in, ‘School may not be your top priority, but your options get so limited when you don’t walk out of here with a high school diploma,’” he said. “And our goal is to keep their options open.”

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Jacob Scott is a reporter with the Farmington Press. He can be reached at 573-518-3616 or at jscott@dailyjournalonline.com.

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