The West Plains R-7 School Board met Tuesday for its regular monthly meeting, a week earlier than usual in order to avoid having a meeting during the district's Thanksgiving break.
During closed session, staffing changes were discussed and approved, and the district subsequently announced West Plains High School physical education teacher and Lady Zizzer Golf Coach Colton Hensley has been named assistant principal at the high school, effective July 1, 2024. He will fill the vacancy left by Dr. Kenneth Holstine, who in September announced his plan to retire at the end of the school year.
Fourth graders from West Plains Elementary in Haley Falterman’s, Sara Wichern’s and Angela Phipps' English/language arts classes gave a presentation at the beginning of the meeting with a project about main characters. The students were to analyze characters' actions and words to gain insight into the character's personality traits and, from that information, "body biographies" were created as drawings of the characters.
Updates were also given regarding upgrades and installations of heating and cooling systems in district buildings by officials with the company performing that work, Veregy.
Consent agenda items included the monthly financial report, resignations, employment, transfers, early graduates, and program evaluations. The agenda was passed unanimously.
On the regular agenda payment of monthly bills was approved, with board member Reid Grigsby abstaining from the vote on payment of Büro bill to avoid conflict of interest, as he owns the business.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Amy Ross presented a Comprehensive Schools Improvement Plan (CSIP) update as part of previous business, and later in the meeting talked about federal programs and special education.
In new business, board members voted unanimously to declare as surplus a Ford F150 extended cab truck, a 1994 Chevrolet half-ton truck and a Kubota zero-turn radius mower.
Board members also declared a critical staff shortage in Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (P.E.E.R.S.) contributing paraprofessionals and bus drivers.
Building level reports were presented by Zizzer Pride Academy and Coordinator of At-Risk Services Brandon Somoza and high school Principal Ryan Smith. A teaching and learning report was presented by Coordinator of Secondary Curriculum Tiffany Young and a facility, security and capital projects report was given by Human Resources Director Matthew Orchard.
Superintendent Dr. Wes Davis reminded the board again that the filing for the upcoming board election will begin Dec. 5 and run to Dec. 26. The filing period will begin at 8 a.m. Dec. 5 and end at 5 p.m. Dec. 26., except for those days when school is closed for inclement weather or for Christmas break. Anyone wishing to run for a school board seat may file during the district's regular hours and days, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays, except for the last day of filing when filing will be open until 5 p.m. Christmas break will be Dec. 21 through Jan. 2.
The three-year terms of President Jim Thompson and member Brian Mitchell are ending. The election will be held April 2.
Davis also talked about specs and cost estimates from Veregy for the connection of the high school's main building and the high school east wing, and the same for a conversion of the baseball field to a shared turf baseball and softball field.
In speaking about budget preparation, several things were brought up, including the possibility full-time personnel could handle some of the district's technology needs rather than using outside companies, the continuation of increases to the amount the district pays for health insurance, possible teacher salary costs based on teaching experience and a "tiered" stipend schedule for coaches and sponsors based on years of experience. He reminded board members those are items up for discussion, but costs are still being determined.
Davis ended his presentation by reporting on the ongoing process of the district joining the recently-formed Ozark Mountain Conference, with middle school and high school games being scheduled and bylaws being hashed out.
Closed session items included approval of personnel changes: New hires for certified positions are Larry Lindeman as a West Plains Elementary special education teacher and Briawna Wilson as Southern Missouri Technical Institute (SoMoTech) practical nursing instructor.
Noncertified position hires are paraprofessionals Amystie Hasting, Samantha Osborn and Valeria Molina; part-time custodian Justin Whiteside; and second-shift custodian Anthony Cox.
Transfers included Montana Morse, from custodian to maintenance; Joby Steele, from WPE principal to West Plains Middle School principal; Amanda Grisham from South Fork Elementary first grade teacher to South Fork Elementary special education teacher; and Hensley’s promotion from teacher to principal. Dakota Sparks was approved as a district volunteer.
Resignations were accepted from middle school head football coach Austin Riggs, SoMoTech administrative assistant Megan Thompson, effective Jan. 2, 2024, and part-time district maintenance employee Rob Phenix.
Retirements were accepted from WPE Principal Rebecca Hutchinson, WPES paraprofessional Mafa Bowen, district payroll and benefits manager Jan Mullen, and WPES art teacher Terri Tomlinson.
Custodian Harold White's employment was terminated.