LINN — Linn R-2 Superintendent Bob James noted the school hosts a middle and high school track invitational each year, with throwing events beginning at 1 p.m. and races starting …
LINN — Linn R-2 Superintendent Bob James noted the school hosts a middle and high school track invitational each year, with throwing events beginning at 1 p.m. and races starting at 2:30.
School dismisses at 3:45; by then, with buses, extra cars and people, and students trying to leave campus by bus or car, it’s a challenge. “Our invitationals are well-attended, and we don’t have the parking. If we get through the inclement weather phase without too much trouble, I would like to consider two-hour early releases for students for those two events,” said James. “It will help avoid logistical complications, provide for more parking, and hopefully increase non-athletic staff/student attendance.”
He expects to have some traffic issues even with students having cleared the campus, noting there will be some overlap between throwing events and races, which begin at 2:30. These track events have traditionally been held on Thursday, but James said administrators have discussed moving them to Monday to avoid this issue.
Longtime former track coach and board member Brett Phillips asked about holding the event on a Saturday.
“We talked about that, too,” James answered. “Our Saturdays are pretty competitive, too, with some people having invitationals.”
Athletic Director Chris Minnix noted that most of Linn’s spring events are held through the school week, though some are on Saturday.
“We definitely have a lot of options to consider,” Minnix said, adding the biggest challenge is avoiding holding events on days that would conflict with other big track meets.
“Is an early-out normal for this kind of stuff?” Dr. Strong asked.
“It’s better to plan them,” said James.
Minnix added, “It’s doable. I’ve heard of it.”
Phillips noted that Jefferson City High School closes for the Friday that state track is held, citing traffic and congestion as significant factors. However, that’s the biggest event of the year.
At Linn, the track invitational typically draws between 20 and 30 schools, most of which send a bus, plus parents driving in to watch. Last year was especially challenging. “There were a lot of angry people,” Minnix said.
Phillips supported the idea of pursuing an early-out option, and board member Mark Baker agreed, provided the school wasn’t trying to make up snow days.
One option is to hold the event on Monday with help from teachers and give them Thursday off in trade.
“That’s not a bad idea,” said James. “That may be an anomaly, too, but if we plan far enough ahead, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
Some favored the half-day instead of switching in the event of inclement weather.
In related news, the administrative team met on Jan. 17 to review the requirements and preferences of students, staff, the community, and state laws.
James noted the school is required to meet the minimum requirements of 145 days with 456 minutes of instruction per day, or 66,120 minutes. One day is 456 minutes, and based on that figure, school is in session for 66,326 minutes or 1105.43 hours.
James explained that if the calendar includes 30 hours for inclement weather, the district only needs to make up half of any days missed.
Historically, the district has included 60 hours for inclement weather, meaning Linn wouldn’t have to make up any missed days since the school included more than was required.
James noted he would be sure to include all required instructional and make-up hours in the calendar.
Additional considerations are the first and last days of school, Professional Development (PD) days, state and federal holidays, discretionary holidays, teacher work days, in-service days, early-out days, etc.
The administrative committee has discussed whether holding PD days sporadically on Monday is effective. An alternative is to offer exchange options for teachers.
James explained that would mean teachers could exchange six hours of online training that benefits the district for one of the sporadic Mondays.
“We’re trying to do that around late March so we can give our families a spring break because teachers will have options to be off on two of those PD days,” said James, adding he plans to offer the exchange during Thanksgiving week as well.
James plans to solicit input from parents, teachers, staff, and the community before presenting a calendar for the board’s consideration in February.
• Linn R-2 will undoubtedly experience temperatures and road conditions that are resolved shortly after sunrise. James suggested that adding a two-hour late start to the district’s list of options to respond to inclement weather would allow administrators greater flexibility in responding to changing weather conditions.
“Using the two-hour late start will allow us to retain as much instructional time as possible while periodically improving the conditions in which our students wait for buses and the road conditions our parents and bus drivers experience during poor weather,” James said.
However, James said it has not been done at Linn, and he doesn’t want to roll it out without instruction.
Administrators are working to devise alternatives for lunch and other things so that with frigid temperatures, everyone is ready to act.
James planned to send information to parents, students, and the community ahead of time.
• A second reading of a service animal policy was conducted. James explained he blended information from the Missouri School Boards’ Association (MSBA) and Education Council to meet Linn’s situation.
James noted that a reference to a miniature horse as a service animal is language from someone else. “It always ends up in policy shortly after the first time it’s resolved in court,” he said. “Apparently, at some point, someone felt their emotional support animal was a miniature horse. They tried to enter a facility with a miniature horse on a leash with a harness.”
“You don’t get to ride the miniature horse, do you?” Board President Dr. Shawn Strong asked.
“I don’t know if they were offering rides or not, but they did want it on campus,” James replied. “That’s how that part got in there, and it doesn’t hurt us to leave it.”
Board members were amused and had no complaints.
A third and final reading will be held next month.
• James related good news regarding health insurance. He met with Ozark Schools Benefits Association (OSBA) members on Jan. 24 to discuss increases for the coming year and learned that rates will be the same as last year. Additionally, nearly all deductibles will decrease.
“Overall, our folks are in a better position going into next year than they were this year,” he said.
• The superintendent told the board the district has not solicited bids for certificates of deposit because the school simply deposits funds into an account at Mid America Bank. “We don’t have to vote on selecting the place we choose to do CDs,” he said. “I’ll bring that back to you guys, but I plan to reach out to our local banks.”
• Linn R-2 has a checking and investment balance of $2,708,022.93, including investments of $$489,804.60 through Mid America Bank.
SPECIAL EDUCATION PROGRAM REVIEW
Special Education Director Rylee Glenn noted the Special Services Department currently serves 82 students or approximately 13% of the school’s total student enrollment. That has increased 2% since the 2022-23 school year. The state average from the 2021-22 school year data reporting was 14.5 for pre-K-12.
• Of the 13 students in the Early Childhood Special Education Program, 17 have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), along with 37 in grades K-5, 13 in grades 6-8, and 14 in grades 9-12.
• Twelve students at Linn R-2 have 504 plans, one student attends the Missouri School for the Severely Disabled, one attends the Missouri School for the Blind, one goes to Discovery Schools, two students attending St. George Parochial School have an ISP, and one student at St. George has a 504 Plan.
• Glenn anticipates having two seniors with IEPs and one with a 504 graduate high school this year.
• Vocational Rehabilitation services are provided to high school seniors.
• Pre-Employment Transition Services are provided to students 16 years old or older.
• Glenn said the department continues the growth of the transition program utilizing a school store, crockpot meals, and coffee cart.
• Elementary Special Education classrooms have a new curriculum designed to teach students common topics across various skill levels. Glenn said the program also helps address behavioral concerns within the classroom and implement strategies for positive interventions within the learning environment.
• With Tyler SIS discontinuing, the department transitioned to a new IEP/Evaluation software called SpedTrack. “This new program allows for more efficient data tracking, information sharing for new and transferred students, and an overall smoother process for evaluations and service planning,” said Glenn. “Our teachers and staff have done a fantastic job transitioning to this new system!”
Areas for improvement for the 2022-23 school year:
• Glenn said the department continues updating testing materials. In the 2023-24 budget, funds were allocated to address this area of improvement, and to date, Linn R-2 has updated its pre-K fine and gross motor testing materials and protocols and speech and language testing materials and protocols.
• Linn R-2 is still searching for an appropriate math curriculum. “We have found a math curriculum that is being highly praised by our elementary SPED teachers,” Glenn said. “It is a one-year subscription, but I anticipate continuing this program into the 2024-25 school year.
• Special Education staff members are up-to-date on Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) certification.
Glenn completed CPI Trainer training in February 2023 through a free opportunity through MSBA, a $6,000 value, and they have since provided the school with 50 free certification booklets valued at approximately $2,500. Glenn completed training for 12 staff members — in both SPED and General Education — in October and will continue to provide training as needs arise.
2023-24 areas for improvement:
• Glenn intends to improve Professional Development for paraprofessionals and expand PD for staff to address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students.
• Significant changes in 504 Policy and law are expected soon, and Glenn plans to ensure the 504 plans are compliant upon release of new regulations.
In his report, James noted that Linn is developing a process to nominate teachers and staff for year-end awards. James explained that the state has a process, but R-2 does not. “We are working on a rubric to identify teachers and staff members of the year,” he added. “I think that will be a positive experience.”
Winners selected locally will be part of a statewide process. James noted that last year, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) asked him for Linn’s winner, but the district had no process in place to select one. “Part of our process will mirror what the state expects next,” James said.
• Under Policy 342, all board members must submit a financial disclosure before May 1. James asked board members to review their accounts and submit information prior to that deadline.
• James praised High School Principal Erin Sassmann for her efforts with teen mental health training.
Elementary Principal Cammie Higgenbotham told the board the PTO Fall Festival went very well. “Families had a great time enjoying food, games, bounce houses, face-painting, the silent auction, and time together,” she said. “A big thank you to our PTO for their work and planning to make this event possible. Another big thank you to staff and volunteers who worked this event and put baskets together!”
• Higgenbotham noted staff recently had many great discussions with reading consultant Dr. Jill Brown. “We revisited our Reading Success Plans and talked about student progress,” she said. “We also talked about specific interventions that can be used to help students.”
• To build a positive culture, Linn’s Sunshine Committee has worked hard this year to plan monthly staff outings. “We have enjoyed getting to know one another better,” Higgenbotham said.
• Higgenbotham has also started adding classroom highlights to staff newsletters each week to showcase the amazing things happening in the building.
• At the Jan. 3 PD day, two potential state-approved vendors showed staff their product that would replace Evaluate next year as that program is not on next year’s state-approved assessment vendor list.
• Higgenbotham added the office is still receiving a lot of positive referrals and said the Christmas concert with kindergarten and fifth-grade students was great.
Facilities Director Cliff Wilson noted he is still looking for an event custodian. Anyone interested is encouraged to contact the school.
• Wilson noted his focus has been inside, performing preventive maintenance and painting.
• An electrical issue in the elementary building was addressed, and a compressor failed on one of the Daikin units. Wilson said that would be a costly repair at $7,990 and will be completed soon.
• Lead water testing is complete, and Wilson has submitted all samples. The deadline for project completion is in August, and Wilson said he will have no trouble meeting it.