Trenton R-9 Board of Education tackles busy agenda at meeting on Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Trenton R-9 School District

A representative from SafeDefend presented information to the Trenton R-9 Board of Education on June 8th. Dan Cole demonstrated the system, which he called a crisis management harm mitigation rapid response solution. He said it was created after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.  He explained activation modules allow a staff member to place a finger on the device, network devices indicate an alarm status, and alert messages are sent to a safety team, district administration, campus staff, and first responders. A 911 call is made, and a campus-wide warning will sound for a designated time before silencing.

Safety boxes include a kit to stop bleeding, a tourniquet, a strobe light, pepper spray, and a wand to hit with. Cole said the goal for most schools is to have a safety box in each room.

He noted the system is server-based, has power over ethernet, and includes plug-and-play devices. Each school project is engineered to meet specific needs. One thousand binary files can be remotely programmed and managed per campus. There is also a battery backup if the power goes out.

Cole said training videos are available, and anyone on payroll can be entered into the system, including substitute teachers. SafeDefend asks schools to do drills with the system to better prepare for if there would ever be real danger.

Cole noted the system is used on about 150 campuses in eight states. School campuses range in size from about 30 to more than 2,500 students.

Later on in the meeting, Superintendent Mike Stegman reported installation of the system would be in the $180,000 range, and there would be a yearly fee of about $11,000. The system would be checked on a yearly basis.

Board Member Bill Miller said if the school district has money available now to install the system, he thinks it should do it.

Director of Supportive Services Kris Ockenfels said that if the district wanted to install SafeDefend, this summer would probably be the best time if the company could. He did not know if it was feasible for the company to install it this summer since it was already June 8th. If it was not installed this summer, Ockenfels commented, it might have to be installed on a weekend or next summer.

Trenton High School Principal Kasey Bailey said SafeDefend was the best program like it he had seen.

The board did not take any action on the matter on June 8th.

A draft of a Return to School Plan was presented, which involved general guidelines for school operations during the pandemic. Stegman noted Trenton R-9 needed to post a Return to School Plan by June 23rd to meet requirements to receive Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief 3 funds. The district could receive $2.6 million total with ESSER 3, and 20% of that would go to programming dealing with education loss due to COVID-19.

The 2021-2022 Return to School Plan is based on the plan from the beginning of the 2020-2021 school year. Stegman said changes were based on what the district was doing near the end of the year.

Changes made include masks and temperature checks not being mandatory. He intends for school to go back to as normal as possible. Additional mitigation and prevention strategies were added to the plan.

Stegman explained school staff would help with contact tracing.

Board Member Melissa King commented there needs to be careful consideration and communication with contact tracing. Stegman said he thinks the district will do better this year with contact tracing.

Stegman mentioned the plan was a live document, and administration has more steps to go. He did not need board approval on the plan to have it posted. The plan is to be posted on the district’s website at a later date.

Trenton R-9’s ESSER 2 funds have been approved, and they are to be received this month. The district is to receive $1,188,922.

Stegman reported the district paid off its computer purchase lease of $271,576.48, and it no longer has a four-year lease. He explained Fund 1, or the General Operations Fund, will gain $917,345.52. At the board’s closeout meeting on June 28th, the district can transfer around $500,000 from Fund 1 to Fund 4, or the Capital Projects Fund, after the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education gives the district its final calculation for the amount.

Stegman said this would help the district fund projects underway, like a camera system and other projects to be done this summer. It should also help the unencumbered cash balance grow some for help in the future. He will have estimated amounts for the ending cash balance at the closeout meeting.

A Plus Program, Activities Program, and Technology evaluations were presented.

Bailey reported 42 graduating seniors fulfilled A Plus requirements this year. Since 1998, 1,013 graduates have fulfilled requirements.

He said information is provided to eighth-graders about the A-Plus Program each year, and the A Plus handbook is available on Trenton R-9’s website.

For the 2020-2021 school year, 304 high school students participated in athletics and other Missouri State High School Activities Association activities. In 2019-2020, 372 high school students participated in athletics and activities. The Activities Program Report included sports, cheerleading, scholar bowl, and music.

Ockenfels reported several technology projects were completed during the 2020-2021 school year with COVID-19 funds. Projects completed during the school year included 1,000 new iPads for students; two preschool Smartboards; MacBooks for staff members; upgraded desktop machines; new Smartboards in elementary second grade, kindergarten, and special education; and parking lot hot spots and mobile hot spots for student use.

Ockenfels said Trenton R-9 was just approved for $53,000 from E-Rate for access points in the district. He thinks the district is currently in a good place with technology.

Ockenfels also reported on maintenance projects to be completed this summer that go above and beyond regular summer maintenance. There are 14 projects throughout the district. He noted three or four projects have already begun.

Two other projects are possible depending on the budget and time. They include district office parking and the fourth-grade lift. Ockenfels explained the platform lift gets caught at the top, and the district has worked to fix it all year. He said the lift is at least 20 years old, and he thinks it needs to be replaced. He is waiting on a bid to replace it.

Stegman reported interviews are scheduled on June 10th for the Rissler principal. A special meeting may need to be held to hire someone for the position.

Stegman also reported Board Member Corey Leeper talked to him about resigning from the board. Once Stegman officially receives a letter of resignation, the board can vote on the matter and advertise for the position.

TMS Principal Daniel Gott mentioned middle school student Titus Kottwitz will compete in the preliminary rounds of the National Spelling Bee on June 12th.

The Trenton R-9 Board of Education voted three to one June 8th to relinquish non-certified staff payroll back to the district administration for management and administration. Board Member Bill Miller was the no vote. Board President Dorothy Taul and members Andy Burress and Melissa King voted yes. Vice President Brandon Gibler, Treasurer Marcie Cutsinger, and Member Corey Leeper were absent.

Non-certified payroll annualization was discussed last month, and at that time, it was suggested the district talk to an auditor about possibly changing back to hourly pay. Superintendent Mike Stegman reported on June 8th that the auditors he talked to differed on if switching back would be a good idea or not.

He said his main concern was with the ongoing monthly situation administration deals with involving staff members worried their pay was being cut. He explained the district was paying employees for what they work.

Stegman noted it was his understanding that pay was changed to annualization after there were a lot of snow days one year before he became superintendent. He wanted to simplify things and recommended reverting back to hourly pay.

Miller moved to table the matter until the next meeting since three board members were gone last (Tuesday) evening. That motion died for lack of a second.

Burress then moved to relinquish non-certified payback to administration for management and administration, and King seconded the motion.

King said she had been contacted multiple times and was told staff liked the old way better. She noted most staff members wanted to go back.

Trenton R-9 Administrative Assistant and Board Secretary Susan Leeper mentioned June 8th’s vote would not affect pay for this summer.

The board approved handbooks for preschool, Rissler Elementary School, Trenton Middle School, and Trenton High School.

One revision for Rissler included federal program requirements recommended from tiered monitoring this year and complaint resolution procedures added to the last page. Another revision included students being allowed one bus stop for the school year. Bus changes are only allowed if there is a permanent address change or other change deemed necessary by the principal or bus barn staff. Principal Tiffany Otto said staff can talk to and work with split families. A new standards-referenced grading scale will also be implemented for English Language Arts at Rissler. There were also clerical revisions.

One change made to the TMS handbook was the implementation of standards-referenced grading. Students receiving 3s or higher in all classes will earn honor roll recognition. Students receiving all 3s with a minimum of two 4s and in core content classes will earn distinguished scholar recognition. There will also be a citizenship honor roll for students who are respectful, helpful, and hard working in the classroom. Principal Daniel Gott noted the citizenship honor roll will have nothing to do with grades.

Students who receive four or more semester Insufficient Evidences, or IEs, in core classes will qualify for retention. IE means the student has not been able to provide evidence of learning, which could be due to absences or a lack of motivation. In regard to athletics and activities, there will be eight grade checks each year, and students with scores of 1 or below, IEs, or a combination of the two in more than one class will be ineligible to participate in contests or performances until the next grade check, when eligibility will be reassessed.

Another change for TMS was not permitting students to use cell phones or other personal devices during school hours. Phones and accessories are expected to be off and out of sight during school. Principal Daniel Gott reported students can currently use cell phones during lunch and in the hall during passing time.

For THS, the T Club will replace 95310. Principal Kasey Bailey said the T Club is based on a former organization started in 1940 to promote student involvement. To be recognized as a member, THS students will have to be active in two or more school-sponsored clubs or activities, maintain 90% attendance, have a minimum of a 3.0 weighted cumulative grade point average, have no grade below a C- in any semester course, and have no discipline referrals resulting in in-school or out-of-school suspension. Academic lettering will be added to honor students who have attained a 3.5 weighted grade point average for the entire academic year.

Another change for the THS handbook involves students not being permitted to use their cell phones or other personal electronic devices during school hours. Other changes include the addition of general information about the Success Center as well as revisions on sections on Pride to reflect current practice; Lockers to state students are to keep backpacks, coats, and non-essential personal items in lockers to reduce classroom clutter and incidents of theft; and Dress Code to more clearly reflect what is stated in board policy. There were other minor revisions in wording and phrasing for clarity and to reflect changes such as in dates and prices.

No changes were made to the preschool handbook.

The board accepted bids for fuel and dairy suppliers for the 2021-2022 school year. MFA Oil’s bid was accepted for fuel. Burress abstained from the vote. May average prices, with tax and delivery included, were $2.28, $2,35, and $2.32. Prairie Farms’ bid was accepted for dairy. The bid included skim milk at 23.95 cents, one percent at 24.5 cents, chocolate at 25.32 cents, cottage cheese at $7.72, and sour cream at $7.25.

The board approved a Retired Teachers Foundation grant application request by TMS Sixth Grade Family and Consumer Sciences Teacher Joy Bettis. The request for a $500 grant involves 65 students in the sixth grade creating pillows as part of class using a sewing machine and with hand stitching.

A board meeting will be held June 28th at 7 o’clock in the morning to close out the 2020-2021 budget, approve the 2021-2022 budget, and approve final bills for the current fiscal year. The board voted to forgo the regular July meeting.

A closed session was held to discuss personnel.