The North County R-1 School District, at its board meeting March 9, acknowledged with evident disappointment the previous day’s Missouri House of Representatives vote to move ahead with open enrollment.
North County was one of 175 Missouri school districts that formally passed resolutions in recent weeks opposing students’ ability to choose non-resident school districts. They say losing students would likely equal losing funding, and many in rural and inner-city areas are already financially pressed to serve the students they have.
At last Thursday’s board meeting, member David Bahr asked Superintendent Katie Bockman where the initiative goes from here.
“Is there an idea of the temperature in the Senate, what the Senate’s going to do on this bill?” he asked.
“They will pass it,” Bockman replied in no uncertain tones.
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“They’re going to get some opposition, though. I don’t think it’s necessarily going to be a slam-dunk,” Bahr said. “I’d just like to note, they didn’t listen to their constituents, all our local legislators voted for it.”
“Yes, they did,” Bockman acknowledged.
Local representatives Dale Wright, Chris Dinkins and Mike Henderson—a retired North County school administrator -- were three of the 85 voting “yes” on the bill, which saw 24 Republicans joining 45 Democrats to vote “no.”
In his weekly Capitol Report on March 3, amid review of more than a dozen bills, Henderson omitted any reference to House Bill 253. In his report on March 10, Henderson said only that he had helped pass “a measure to give parents and students more educational opportunities.”
Since Wright and Henderson share a secretary, they put out identical weekly reports on March 3, omitting mention of HB 253. In his March 10 report, Wright indicated he voted in favor of open enrollment “to improve quality instruction and increase parental involvement, provide access to programs and classes, and offer opportunity by allowing students to attend a public school in a nonresident district. The bill will allow districts to opt in as a receiving district and cap the number of students who may transfer out of a district at 3% of the previous year’s enrollment.”
Wright indicated House members framed the question as, “Should your address be the main determination as to what public school your children attend or should the child and family be the center of educational focus?”
“Open enrollment is a step in the right direction for educational reform, for offering choices and accountability within the public school system,” he said in his report.
The legislation creates an $80 million “Parent Public School Choice Fund” to cover special education and transportation costs, but the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, in debating the bill, Rep. Sarah Unsicker, D-Shrewsbury, questioned whether it would be enough.
“Basically they’d be taking students at a loss,” she said of receiving districts. “That would automatically put a cap on the number of students they can take. And if one of those children had extraordinary needs ... they would either reject that student or reject other students because of that child’s needs.”
At last Thursday’s school board meeting, Bockman and board members moved on.
The board approved health care for the next academic year, approving a base PPO insurance plan for all full-time employees and fully covering full-time employees with health insurance at the cost of $598.16 per employee, per month. They will stay with the same insurance company, which raised the prices by $25.73 per employee, per month over last year's rates. Buy-up plans are included, as are health savings account options.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brandon Gregory gave his report, while Bockman began a report provided by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lori Lamb, who was unavoidably absent from the board meeting.
Bockman, bunting for Lamb, reported North County Primary was very appreciative of all the community members who came in to read to students in observance of Read Across America Week.
A book fair, "Read Around the World Night", was held for families, and the $14,000 in sales broke previous book-fair records. Primary was able to break in their new, mobile kitchens -- students are learning to cook-- with "giraffe soup with whale garnish, and the next day, the mobile kitchen was used to whip up green eggs and ham for a pre-K class. The mobile kitchens will be used again when students in first grade harvest vegetables from their tower gardens.
Primary put on a pre-K and kindergarten screening and registration night, combining the two activities so parents wouldn't have to make two trips.
Members of Bonne Terre Police Department stopped by to have pizza with the class that raised the most money, helping to send the officers to Washington D.C. for the police memorial, in honor of slain officer Lane Burns.
NC Parkside expressed thanks to the Board of Education for all they do to serve students, staff, families, and community. The school held its Glow Dance on Tuesday, and enjoyed a performance of the Army Band on Wednesday.
At the Intermediate School, the monthly Raider Reward was held, the rewards being a hit since the school changed the parameters and structure into a half-day per quarter. Yeti and Josie, the therapy dogs, were loaned to Potosi school district. Angela Zolman's class has started the Friends Link Cafe and have been working with students to prepare food for the staff once a week. “The food is very delicious and the inclusion is amazing,” it was reported.
At North County Middle School, 20 members of the Honor Choir participated in the East Central All-District Honor Choir at Jefferson R-7 on Feb. 4 and were preparing for spring concerts, auditions for next year, and an Honor Choir performance at Music in the Park at Six Flags in April. Student Cole Swiney earned a spot on the 2023-2024 Family, Career & Community Leaders Association’s regional council. On March, 7 FCCLA members attended the Missouri State FCCLA Leadership Conference. Kudos were given to Process Coordinator Ambyr Elliott for her diligent work coordinating special education classes with the NCMS master schedule. “This is an arduous process that takes dozens of hours,” it was reported.
At the high school, winter sports were wrapped up, and spring seasons just began. The Jazz Ensemble received first place at the Truman State Jazz festival, with three students receiving outstanding solo honors. Both Jazz bands will attend MAC Jazz Festival Friday. Solo and Ensemble competition for vocal and instrumental music is set for Hillsboro on Saturday.
All grades have completed course registration, and the third-quarter attendance assembly was held Wednesday, featuring a staff lip synch battle. Freshman Welcome Night was held for eighth graders, and 160 families attended.
At UniTec Career Center, the students’ spec house is almost completely under roof. The shingles were finished and they were planning to start installing doors and windows. The annex building is still under construction, and Heimburger Construction states it will be under roof by the end of the month, weather permitting.
More than 30 UniTec students qualified for state competition in Jefferson City. They will compete March 30-April 1. The UniTec Showcase was March 7, and 275 visitors attended. UniTec Foundation Golf Tournament is set for April 15. Organizers are still taking donations, hole sponsors, and registering teams. Also, a group of students attended Legislative Day in Jefferson City on February 15.
In other business:
- The board changed the date of April’s meeting from the 20th to the 13th, to comply with state statute requiring timely swearing-in of elected board members.
- The received the summer school handbooks for review.
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or email@example.com.