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R-7 School Board members thanked, ZPA program showcased at March meeting


The West Plains R-7 School Board celebrated School Board Appreciation Month during its March meeting, and board members were presented with gifts from each of the schools in the district, many of them made by students.

The March 19 meeting started off with presentations by Zizzer Pride Academy (ZPA) students, telling board members the positive impact the program has had on their high school career. The students are participating in the Missouri Option Program, designed to provide an alternative to students identified as being at risk of dropping out without earning a high school diploma. Students are at least age 17 and the program leads to a high school equivalency exam to demonstrate competency.

Later in the meeting, district At-Risk Coordinator Brandon Somoza said there are about 94 students total at ZPA, including about 50 students who participate in seated classes, 30 online, five in the Missouri Option Program, and 15 in class credit recovery.

Students are chosen for ZPA attendance based on a team effort between staff members, including teachers, counselors, and the school resource officer, to identify those needing an intervention to prevent them from dropping out.


Human Resources Director Matt Orchard gave an update on facilities improvements, reminding board members such projects will always be ongoing, with the task of continually identifying areas of concern regarding building repairs and, lately in particular, making the district's facilities safer for students and staff members.

Safety measures thus far have included additional fencing at the South Fork Elementary School, the West Plains Elementary playground, Southern Missouri Technical Institute (SoMo Tech), and a planned fencing project that will enclose the area between the middle school and high school.

Other security measures in the works are concrete barriers to be installed near street-level doors to keep vehicles from accidentally or intentionally breaching them, and adding a secure secondary entrance to ZPA.

Unrelated to safety, an awning has been added at South Fork, and painting has been finished at SoMo Tech, the high school weight room and the maintenance shed. More painting is planned at the transportation department office.

Properties have been bought by the district to expand the campus footprint, and as a benefit it should also improve school safety as the district gains control over more of the properties adjacent to facilities, Orchard commented.

One challenge still faced is hiring and retaining personnel, he added, but that has improved since R-7 started using Penmac Staffing to review applicants for potential staff and substitute teachers.

A second reading on policy updates concerning marijuana possession on school property was called for, and passed unanimously.

Further discussion was held regarding a tiered stipend schedule, presented by Superintendent Dr. Wes Davis, who intends to present a plan next month. The stipends are those paid to faculty members that take on extra duties like coaching and directing other extracurricular activities, based on years of experience, and Davis emphasized in the future the stipend will be based on experience in specific areas.

He gave the example of a coach who may have been coaching football for 10 years, but then switched to being a swim coach. The tier schedule would be based on years being a swim coach, rather than being a coach in general.

District contributions to employee health insurance plans was also talked about. Davis cautioned that insurance costs with R-7’s current company might see an 8% to 10% increase soon, and said he wants to research options for the district before bringing the matter to a vote. Last year the base plan was $509 a month, with the district contributing $450, or 88%. This year the contribution was $475 on a $514 plan, or 92%.


Six buses were declared surplus, three of which were 1995 models that ran "but don't run well," Orchard said, one that will start, and two that aren't running at all. Roofing bids for two transportation buildings were reviewed, with submissions from A & A Quality Roofing, H and S Roofing, and West Plains Roofing. Orchard recommended the bid from West Plains Roofing for $29,800 and board members agreed, passing the measure unanimously.

A bid for services for physical and occupational therapy from Ozarks Healthcare was passed, with board member Reid Grigsby abstaining from the vote because he is also a member of the hospital board. Davis noted that Ozarks Healthcare was the only provider to submit a bid.

During his presentation, High School Principal Ryan Smith reminded board members graduation events are coming up, including the West Plains Rotary Club’s Summa Cum Laude Banquet on April 30, and gave updates on recruiting students from the surrounding rural schools, who have a choice where they attend high school after graduating eighth grade.

The board will hold its next meeting April 16in the high school library, beginning with a closed session at 5:30 p.m. to discuss personnel and other issues covered under closed session, followed with a session at 6 p.m. open to the public.