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Board Meeting 05 19 09

R-2 Targeting Literacy, Attendance
Published: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 by Laura Schuler, C-T

The Chillicothe R-2 school board has approved a plan to spend approximately $687,500 in federal stimulus money over the next two years. Prior to the board's vote Tuesday night at district headquarters during the regular May meeting, R-2 Superintendent Dr. Linda Gray Smith explained the plan in detail. She noted that the United States Department of Education has stipulated that federal funds be used to finance new ideas and improve education.

The district's plan, Smith said, focuses on just that and is "more innovative than it looks." "It focuses on improving reading proficiency and attendance, reducing failing grades, improving relationships and facilitates engaged learning," she said. Smith added that the district already has the "pieces in place" to achieve those goals through staff development. But, she said, staff development takes time. The one-time money, she explained will be used to jump start efforts to improve education immediately while staff members are trained to help meet district goals in the future.

Among other things, the district will spend approximately $100,000 on Title I programs, which are designed to improve literacy. Those funds, Smith said, will be used to pay a part-time reading teacher at Field School ($25,000), a middle school reading teacher ($45,000), and will fund a new reading curriculum at Field School called "Fast Forward," ($30,000).

About $123,000 has been earmarked for district-wide special education improvements including $40,000 for an autism classroom for the district's 19 autistic students and about 10 other students with similar needs. Smith also said that surrounding school districts may also wish to send their autistic students to the classroom, which may generate additional tuition for the district.

Smith said that $25,000 has been reserved for a high school special education aide and $18,000 will go toward a special education aide at Dewey School. Another special education aide's position will be created for both the Chillicothe Alternative Center for Education and the high school ($40,000).

The exciting part of the district's plan, Smith said, is the money earmarked for Title 5 programs (or innovative education programs). There, Smith said, $15,000 will be spent on providing a staff member for a high school at-risk study hall which will be offered during every period of the school day. Also, she said, $10,000 will be used to provide EmPower curriculum to middle school students. Smith explained that the civic engagement program will be offered in the middle school's seventh and eighth grade exploratory classes.

Smith also said $100,000 has been reserved as a stipend for staff members to begin implementing the district's new Student Information System. She explained that more than 200 certified staff members, nurses and secretaries will be implementing the new system. The superintendent cautioned that, while the money creates some jobs, those positions are not permanent.

David Meneely Takes Oath of Office, Employees Honored for Service
Published: Wednesday, May 20, 2009, C-T

CAPTION: David Meneely (left) takes the oath of office administered by Chillicothe R-2 board secretary Kristi Newlin Tuesday night during the regular May meeting held at district headquarters.

C-T Photo/Laura Schuler

The Chillicothe R-2 Board officially has a new member: David Meneely, 57, of 12188 Highway V, Chillicothe. Board Secretary Kristi Newlin led Meneely in the oath of office Tuesday night during the regular May meeting held at district headquarters. Meneely fills the vacancy left by Eric Reeter, who resigned from the board earlier this spring to pursue an employment opportunity within the district.

Also during the meeting, several retiring staff members received plaques of appreciation for their years of service to the district. Seventh District State Rep. Mike Lair was also on hand to present the retiring staff members with House Resolutions in honor of their service. Those receiving awards were Frank Thompson, four years; Helen Harris, 13 years; Rosemarie Smith, 11 years; and Janet Barnhart, 14 years. Mary Quinn was also recognized for her 21 years of service in the district.

Demolition to Begin Next Week
Published: Thursday, May 21, 2009, C-T

CAPTION: Students exited the old Chillicothe High School on the last day of R-2 classes Wednesday afternoon. The district's middle school students and staff have used the first floor of the 85-year-old structure over the past nine years, since the high school was built on Hornet Drive. The old high school will be razed over the summer and work is slated to begin Tuesday.

C-T Photo/Laura Schuler

The final bell of the school year rang at 12:20 p.m. Wednesday and soon afterward, middle school students exited the former Chillicothe High School for the last time. The three-story historic structure that has towered over the 1500 block of Calhoun Street for 85 years is scheduled to be demolished over the summer and within just a few days, the massive project is scheduled to begin.

R-2 Assistant Superintendent Wade Schroeder gave board members a timeline of planned activities at the site during Tuesday night's regular May meeting held at district headquarters. Schroeder said the learning cottages leased by the district should arrive in Chillicothe on Wednesday.

They were originally slated to be here earlier, Schroeder said, but weather and the upcoming holiday have both pushed back their arrival. On Friday, he said, all of the utilities to the old high school will be disconnected and he predicted that the middle school will be without phone service from May 22 through the first week of June.

Starting on Friday and through Sunday (May 22-24) items still in the old high school that were purchased at the May 9 auction will be removed, Schroeder said, with demolition slated for Tuesday, May 26.

Exterior Walls at CMS May Cost More Than $100,000 More Than Expected
Published: Thursday, May 21, 2009 by Laura Schuler, C-T

CAPTION: Chillicothe Middle School students gather on the front steps of the old high school after the final bell of the school year Wednesday afternoon. The school will be demolished over the summer and the project is slated to begin on Tuesday.

C-T Photo/Laura Schuler

The R-2 district's facility needs committee will be investigating why bids on the construction for two exterior walls at the middle school are over $100,000 more than anticipated. The Chillicothe board of education approved an amended motion to that effect Tuesday night during the regular May meeting held at district headquarters. The committee is slated to bring its findings to the special June 3 meeting.

The action followed a recommendation from Assistant Superintendent Wade Schroeder to approve a bid of $214,000 to build two exterior walls on the east and west side once the old high school is demolished. The bid was submitted by Irvinbilt Co. of Chillicothe. He noted that the only other bid received on the project was for $232,812 by Copeland Development and Construction Company Inc., also of Chillicothe. Those bids, Schroeder said, were only slightly lower than the two previous bids both companies submitted for the project in April. Last month, Irvinbilt offered a bid of $216,000 and Copeland offered a bid for $248,548. The board unanimously rejected those bids under the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Linda Gray Smith, which allowed the district to go through the bid process again in an effort to attract lower bids.

The $200,000 bids have caught the district and its board off guard. The district's contracted architectural firm of Dickinson Hussman Architects, of St. Louis, had anticipated bids of around $100,000. (The firm is currently formulating the district's long range facility needs plan.) Board member Randy Constant expressed his frustration with the higher-than-anticipated bids and voiced concerns over the low number of bids, among other things. "One-hundred-fourteen thousand dollars in this budget makes a big difference and I don't want to just swallow it if I don't have to," he said.

So, the board began discussing available options, including the possibility of tabling the issue until the June 3 special meeting. Board members discussed the limited amount of time left to make a decision. demolition is set to begin next week on the old high school, and Schroeder noted that work on the exterior wall would likely need to be started by July. If the project were to be bid out a third time, bids would need to be advertised for two weeks prior to beard approval.

When asked for her recommendation on the issue, Smith advised the board that while the bids were higher than expected, the fact remains that the project needs to continue. "We need a wall. If you want to wait two weeks to see what's out there you can, but we need a wall," she said. Smith said she had reserved $100,000 in next year's budget for the project and, if lower bids cannot be found, money will have to come from somewhere.

Instead of tabling the issue, the board handed the issue to the facility committee, which Constant, President Tom Chapman and Paul Thomas serve on. Smith said the committee will likely make contact with the bidders to determine if costs to the project can be trimmed. If not, the superintendent said the board will accept the bids the district has received.

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