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Brian Thompson voted JR-2 School Board President

Brian Thompson (right) was voted by the Jackson R-2 School Board as the next board president. Greg Farrow (left) was voted vice president. Photo by Jay Forness

Brian Thompson was voted as the Jackson R-2 School Board president during the Board’s monthly meeting on April 19. Thompson, a pharmacist for Jones Drug Store in Jackson, has been on the Board since 2016 and has held the vice president position since 2017.

Thompson was nominated for the position by previous Board President Kelly Waller, who was recently reelected to the Board. Waller has been on the Board since 2015 and has served as president since 2017. No other Board members were nominated for the position, and the vote was unanimous.

Waller and incumbent Board Member Shelia King took their oaths of office after the Board accepted the recent election results. Waller and King both received around 1,300 votes, while challengers Richard Murray and Charles Wallgren received around 400 votes each.

Greg Farrow, who was elected to the Board in 2017, was elected as vice president by the Board. Bonnie Stahlman was reelected as secretary, Director of Finance Terry Gibson was reelected as treasurer and Board Member Bruce Thomas was reelected as the Missouri School Boards Association delegate.

In other action:

• The Board approved the employee benefits package for the 2021-22 school year. The District’s health insurance rate with Anthem went up, going from $589 to $625.33 per employee.

The District is running at 107 percent claims to premiums. “That is not good obviously,” Superintendent Dr. John Link said. “The insurance company is losing money on us.” Link said some of the imbalance is due to people putting off surgeries to the end of the year because of COVID-19.

The District joined the MAAA insurance consortium last year. The consortium consists of 13 school districts including Farmington R-7 and North County R-1. Link said the consortium helped keep the District’s increase from being higher.

The base health insurance plan that is fully covered by the District has a $3,000 deductible. Employees can choose to buy in to upgrade the plan.

One change made to the plan this year is that the District got rid of a deductible on employees’ prescription cards. Employees are limited to five primary care doctor visits and five specialist visits at the copay amount.

“This is about the best we can do right now, Link said. “If you look back at the six years I’ve been here, we only went down once.”

• The Board approved an evaluation of the District’s food service program. The District has served 156,643 breakfast meals and 345,695 lunch meals this school year through February.

Breakfast meals are up seven percent, mostly due to meals being free to students this school year through COVID-19 relief funding from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The number of lunch meals is down about four percent. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Keenan Kinder said the lunch decrease is probably because of the number of virtual Ignite Online students this year. According to DESE, the state average for lunch meals served is down 18 percent.

• West Lane Elementary School students showed what they have been learning through the District’s new LearnZillion reading curriculum and how the students’ learning is continued through the grade levels.

“What students are learning in kindergarten will then carry over into first grade,” West Lane Principal Samantha Trankler said. She added that not only are these students learning how to read and write, they are also learning about the world around them.

Kindergarten students talked about becoming tree experts through what they are reading. The students showed their favorite books about trees and have planted trees themselves at their school. The students also recorded tree heights in Jackson and sent them to NASA as citizen scientists.

First grade students have learned about birds since January. They are incubating chicken eggs and have learned about a variety of birds in groups. The students did research about the birds and had to create a riddle about their bird. The students shared some of the riddles and had board members guess what bird they were talking about.

Second grade students learned about pollination and the dangers that pollinators face. Students dressed up as a bee, a butterfly and a bat to explain the process of pollination and how people can help these animals.

Several third and fourth grade students at West Lane made a combined presentation about fresh water and water waste. Third graders have learned about water distribution around the world and how some people don’t have access to clean water. In fourth grade, students learned more about inequality and how they can help others. Fourth graders are also learning about earth’s processes in science, including the water cycle.

• The Board approved its annual MSBA (Missouri School Board Association) membership and police maintenance agreement. The organization provides the district with updates to district policies.

• The Board approved a cooperative partnership agreement with St. Paul Lutheran School and Immaculate Conception School to allow some of these schools’ older students to participate in Jackson sports. Link said this year there were two students in track and one who played football from these schools.

• The Board approved a list of purchase card holders. Gibson said the board will approve the list annually, but there are still purchasing policy requirements including prior approval and submitting receipts. The district has three credit card accounts with MasterCard, Walmart and Sam’s Club.

Gibson said that Mastercard is now offering one percent back, so the District is planning on using that card to pay for utility bills. “There are other districts who are taking advantage of the program,” Gibson said. “It has a lot of potential for additional revenue without a whole lot of change to the way we do business.”

He estimates that the District could receive around $20,000 in revenue through this program.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past four years. He can be reached at cbjedit@socket.net.

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