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R-7 welcomes new faculty, staff at Tuesday's board meeting


With the new school year just around the corner, members of the West Plains R-7 School Board held their most recent regular monthly meeting Tuesday, a little less than two weeks before classes begin Aug. 21.

The meeting began with an introduction of new faculty and staff, made by building administrators.

After the board approved last month's board meeting minutes and the payment of bills, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Amy Ross gave an update on the district's goals for its Comprehensive School Improvement Plan (CSIP), highlighting progress in most areas and talking about future goals. One area of focus she highlighted was the improvement of mental health services.

In individual building updates, South Fork Elementary Principal Dr. Seth Huddleston said he is excited for the new school year and the facilities and grounds are in good shape for the new academic year. Preschool and kindergarten open house will be held beginning 5 p.m. Tuesday and an open house for grades 1 through 6 will be held by appointment noon to 7 p.m. Aug. 17. Huddleston mentioned that event will be conducted by appointment in order to allow teachers to have 10 to 15 minutes to meet with parents and students one-on-one.

West Plains Elementary Principal Becky Hutchinson said this year there will be sensory paths and a focus room for students with sensory issues or who need a supervised environment to calm themselves. The new tools are part of a strategy to be used before resorting to sending students to the principal for behavioral issues.

Academically, this year the school’s teachers will focus on literacy improvement, she said.

Two kindergarten orientation sessions will be held, from 1 to 3 and 5 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, by appointment. A walk-in open house will be held for students with last names beginning with the initials A-K from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday and for students with last names starting with initials L-Z from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 17.

West Plains Middle School Principal Dr. Donnie Miller told board members his building’s priority for the year, besides academic growth, is personal development. To that end, he said, there will be a return to student recognition for those demonstrating positive character traits.

Fifth grade orientation will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, and an open house will be held for grades six through eight from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 17. Class schedules may be picked up from noon to 7 p.m. Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 17.

Principal Ryan Smith, in talking about the goals and improvements at the high school, said there will be increased opportunities for students and parents to speak with counselors while making scheduling choices, and recognized the FFA trap shooting team for winning a national championship recently.

Freshmen Zizzer Day will be held 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, and an open house for all high school grades will be held 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 17.

Zizzer Pride Academy (ZPA) and At-Risk Services Coordinator Brandon Somoza told board members he is looking forward to starting the school year and appreciates the transition into his new role, having taken the job after a teaching career in the Cabool School District. Somoza replaces Raegan Fox, who is the high school assistant principal this year.

Southern Missouri Technical Institute Director Dr. Josh Cotter said things were going smoothly at the vocational school, formerly South Central Career Center, and the facility was freshened up by custodians for the new school year during a two-week break from summer classes. Cotter took an opportunity to thank staff for their efforts during that window.

As far as enrollment, Cotter said the facility is still signing up students from their sending schools. 
District Director of Human Resources & Student Services Matthew Orchard, in giving updates on facilities overall, said bleachers have been removed from the upstairs gym at the middle school for replacement. The gym is being painted before the new bleachers are installed, he added, noting the project is expected to be complete the second week of September.

An improvement to increase safety on the high school campus was the replacement of two sets of doors, Orchard pointed out. He is also in charge of safety training, and informed school board members there will be active shooter training sessions for faculty and staff members, led by Shield Solutions, as well as Automated External Defibrillator, fire extinguisher and crisis prevention training.

The meeting ended with a second closed session to discuss personnel matters. New hires in certified positions include Andrea Harris and Brenda Scott, Parents as Teachers parent educators; and Amanda Grisham, South Fork Elementary Teacher.

Noncertified new hires included Erin Phillips, WPHS/WPMS library aide; Brittany Campbell, Christina Hodgson, Collin Boyd, Angelina Contreras, Debra Shearin, Rachel Smillie, Brenda Colter and Julie Rasmussen, paraprofessionals; and Brock Kenaga, paraprofessional and assistant football coach.

Resignations accepted were those of Courtney Judd, Kourtney Waggoner, Elizabeth Mitchell and Taylor Brege, paraprofessionals. Lenny Eagleman retired from the position of transportation director.

west plains r-7 school board