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Jackson R-2 joins research organization

The Jackson R-2 School Board approved joining the Educational Advisory Board (EAB) during its regular meeting on Nov. 13. The organization conducts and provides research to 1,400 school districts and universities.

“EAB is an unbiased opinion that we would get and would drive our decision making, especially as we move forward,” Superintendent Dr. John Link said.

Link said he has looked back at many decisions the District has made where it would have benefited from more research, ranging from using the iReady reading assessment to not adding metal detectors at the schools.

“We feel very good about the research we do, but we can’t go as in depth as this company can,” Link said.

EAB provides its library of research, and presents relevant information to any question the District might have. For any specific program the District may look into, EAB will also provide contacts to nearby or similar-sized schools who already use the program. The organization also can do new research, if they do not have any relevant research already on a specific topic.

“With EAB, you get as many researches throughout the year as you want,” Link said. “They will do one big research at a time, which usually takes six to seven weeks, but once you are done, you can move on to the next project, whatever that might be.”

The organization is currently researching third grade reading literacy and how best to deal with students’ social and emotional health. Link said that if the District joined, he would want them to also look into grading at the secondary school level.

“Anyone in the District can access this, so if our principals want to ask a question about social/emotional health and families, they can contact EAB,” Link said. “They would get out their research and start looking and within two days get back with that principal.”

The cost to be a part of the organization is $21,000 per year and will come out of the superintendent’s office budget. There is a three-year commitment, but Link said the District would judge the organization based on usage.

Link said the cost is high, but some of the programs or series of books the District has approved costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, so if this research prevents them from making one bad decision, it is worth it.

The organization reaches out to schools across the nation, not only those part of the board, to get as much data as possible. Link said it will be a valuable tool in our toolbox to go along with the demographic study the Board recently approved.

“Come early winter, we are going to have to make a lot of decisions on what direction we want to go as a District with the growth, and I think this will give us some help making those decisions,” Link said.

In other action:

• Members of the Jackson Middle School Coding Club showed the Board members some of their work as part of the Youth Coding League.

The league, which was founded by Codefi in Cape Girardeau this year, consists of 10 area schools that use Google’s after-school coding curriculum. Jackson Middle School is the largest school in the league

The students code their own movies in teams and will soon compete with the other school’s participants in the league’s “post season.”

• The Board approved an evaluation of the school counselors throughout the District. Across the District, counselors are focusing on being more trauma informed and building positive relationships with other students and school staff.
 
Many students have been through trauma at some level, including death of a relative, a messy divorce, abuse and/or violence. The counselors said there are many resiliency factors that can help students overcome their trauma and be successful.

To build relationships, the elementary students are using “family” groups that meet up regularly. At the secondary schools, advisory includes character building activities.

The District is also focusing on suicide prevention and response, and is currently putting together plans to provide training to District staff, parents and students. Training has already began with District staff. Suicide is the second highest cause of death in Missouri for ages 10-24, and the counselors are focusing on dispelling suicide myths and providing accurate information about suicide.

• The Board approved an audit on the District, which had a clean opinion. The District is said to be financially sound and no findings were found in relation to following the state’s education statues.

• Two School Board seats, currently occupied by Vice President Brian Thompson and Board Member Dan Stover, will be open in the April 2, 2019, election. Those interested in running for the board must file at the Jackson R-2 Board of Education Office between Dec. 11 and Jan. 15.

The positions are three-year terms. Thompson said he plans on running for re-election, with Stover still undecided.

• Five board policies were amended, with three new policies created.

Changes were made to provide legal guidance for when the state board and retirement needs to be informed of terminations of staff members due to being charged of crimes. Written notice is now also required when putting support staff on administrative leave.

Changes were also made, due to state statutes, to allow bonds to be sold using a competitive process.

A new policy was put in place due to new legislation that requires the District to do dyslexia screenings. The policy explains the requirements of the screenings, the training that will be offered to staff and what need to be done for struggling readers in third grade or below.

The Students in Foster Care policy was updated, stating that the District will do all it can to keep students in their school of origin if they are moved into foster care outside the District, unless it is not in the student’s best interest. The decision of what is in the student’s best interest is made by the District’s social workers, the foster parents and the state’s children division. The policy also states that the District will work with other districts to help transport the students to their school of origin.

• An update of the remaining construction projects was given, with the middle school gym close to be finished. The gym should start to be used by students after the Thanksgiving break.

The West Lane project is continuing, but concrete still needs to be poured on the roof. Link said it is prepped but will need better weather to pour. The project is planned to be finished by spring break, to be ready for tornado season.

Lights are needed at the middle school bus parking lot. Three light poles are planned to be added and the District is currently looking at prices.

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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