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Ava R-I Hires Assistant Superintendent, Four Teachers and Extends Swatosh’s Contract

By Sue Curry Jones

School board members addressed several hiring issues during the closed session segment of the March board meeting, and according to Superintendent Jason Dial, the roster has been completed for the ensuing year and all positions are presently filled.

The board also rehired all non-tenured teachers, extra-duty coach-ing staff, and activity/club sponsors.

A resignation notice was tendered by Assistant Superintendent Mike Henry Thursday evening, as Henry has accepted a job in the Marshfield School District.   The board vote was split on the issue as five board members opted to accept the resig-nation and one voted against.  The final tally was 5-1, as Ron Wallace was absent for the vote.

Aaron Dalton will fill the assistant superintendent’s position next year.  Dalton, who is currently serving as high school principal in Gainesville, Mo., was hired under a two-year contract, with a unanimous vote from the board.

Dalton previously served in Ava as high school assistant principal, and middle school principal.

Resignations were also submitted by several staff members who elected to step down from the responsibility of overseeing an extra-curricular club or student organization.  They are  Airin Bassett, co-sponsor, National Honor Society (NHS); Gail Davidson, Quiz Bowl; and Charlie McDonald, Key Club.  In turn, Trish Haltom assumed the role of Quiz Bowl sponsor, and Missy Tate, Key Club.

Julie Taylor, who co-sponsored NHS with Bassett, will continue to serve as leader of the group.

Ruth Churchill, a paraprofessional educator in elementary special edu-cation, provided notice of retirement.

Cheryl Beason, who has approxi-mately 15 years teaching experience, was hired for a fourth-grade teaching position in the fall.  Beason will fill the slot vacated by Katy Chapman who is filling a vacancy in the middle school.   Beason comes to Ava from Gainesville.

Emily Sterling, a graduate of Ava, was hired as a kindergarten teacher for the 2017-18 school year.  Next year with Sterling on board, there will be five kindergarten teachers in the elementary and class sizes will be more manageable.

Westin Loftin, an Ava grad who has been teaching at Gainesville, was hired to replace Liz Kyger, the high school physical education and health teacher.  Kyger is retiring at the end of this school year.

Crystal Miller, who has taught at Fordland and Ava Victory Academy, will assume the duties of high school social studies teacher, a position left open in the fall as Cody Whitaker moves to the middle school to teach seventh-grade social studies.

In a split vote, the board approved extending the contract of Marcella Swatosh, middle school principal. This decision extends the contract through school year 2018-19.   The vote on the issue was four in favor, Wallace, Johnson, Ellison, Spurlock, and three against, Strong, Aborn and Tredway.

Superintendent Jason Dial gave an overview of current legislative items currently under consideration in the State of Missouri.  Dial noted HB 634, a charter school expansion bill, has passed the House of Repre-sentatives.  The bill allows for a charter school to be established in any county in the state if the district’s Annual Performance Report (APR) drops below 60%.  Additional components of the bill note a local school board has the first right of refusal to sponsor a proposed charter school, and if a charter should fail for eight-years, it can be closed.

Charter schools are a business, Dial explained, and they must have numbers to fund their educational programs, consequently, rural areas, such as Ava, probably will not appeal to the format.  Dial pointed out the bill has only passed the House, and must garner Senate approval before it can be implemented.

Dial reported all 19 buses contrac-ted for student transportation passed state inspection standards Thursday.  Dial said school-owned buses will be inspected March 20.

Bus radio testing was completed last week, and Dial said the radios passed with success as coverage was good and remote areas did not pose a problem.  He advised the radio systems have been ordered and should be installed within two weeks.

As previously requested by the school board, student representative Dwight Emerson gave an updated report on state transportation funding and current status of the budget item, a figure that has not been approved.  Emerson said the prior school year’s funding decrease was a loss of $8.6 million, and then, when Governor Greitens took office, Greitens moved another $36 million from the fund.  Emerson advised this means a proposed loss of $36,000 next year, which is comparable to funding an additional teacher or buying a school bus.

It was also noted in the Missouri School Board Association’s (MSBA) report that districts are continuing to lose funding through tax abatements as districts are dependent on the local property tax base.

Asst. Superintendent Mike Henry advised summer school is scheduled to start Monday, May 22 for K – 6th-grade students and after this initial two-week session, summer classes will be offered to seventh- through twelfth-graders, beginning June 5.  Henry said students in K–6th grade are key to summer school numbers.  As last year, summer school will be a six-week session.  According to Henry, the last of day school for all students is Thursday, May 11, with May 5 the last day for graduating seniors.

In a 7-0 vote, with motions by Marsha Aborn and Vernon Johnson, board members approved the health services annual program review as provided by school nurses Bonnee Stafford and Wendy Brooke.  The report gave a synopsis of the nurse’s interaction with students and duties performed, showing an average of 80-100 visits per day, for each office.

Three Ava students representing the Tri-M Music Honor Society gave a brief presentation in open session to express the importance of music education in schools.  Each student provided information about Ava’s program and why music is important to them as a student.

The Tri-M Music Honor Society is a high school and middle school music organization, and is linked to the National Association for Music Education.  Tri-M is designed to recognize students for academic and musical achievement, as well as to promote leadership and service in young musicians.

In the local community spotlight, the school board recognized MOCH as a supporter of students at Ava R-I.  Superintendent Dial said MOCH provides a host of services to support students and their family members. He noted the local facility has been generous in many ways.   Jennifer Heinlein accepted the certificate of appreciation from the board.

Within the district, Melissa Dalton and Brandy Harvill were acknowled-ged for attaining UNICEF grant funds that provided fitness trackers for Ava’s fourth-graders and the Healthy Schools program.  It was noted that for every 24,000 steps recorded, a packet of food is delivered to severely malnourished children somewhere around the world.  UNICEF’s goal is to get kids moving, while bringing awareness to global malnutrition.  Harvill and Dalton also received a certificate of appreciation.

Ron Wallace, who has been on the board since 2011, was awarded an engraved plaque to commemorate his term on the school board.  Wallace did not re-file as a candidate for the board.

Board members were provided a packet of 2017 policy updates and changes as recommended by MSBA.  Dial said most of the revisions are tied to changes in state law, and Ava is complying with many of the modi-fications.

Monthly bills totaling $352,865.06 were approved for payment in two votes, as board member Lowell Strong abstained from one vote due to a family association.

School board members present for open session were Troy Tredway, Bart Ellison, Marsha Aborn, Randy Spurlock, Ron Wallace, Lowell Strong and Vernon Johnson.

Following the municipal election to be held April 4, Ava R-I will hold a board meeting on Thursday, April 20 at 6:15 p.m. to re-organize and swear in three newly elected board members.  The regular April business meeting will follow at 6:30 p.m.   Both sessions are open to the public.