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The Carthage Press
  • Back to school for R-9 teachers, staff

  • Back to school time is always a big, busy time for almost everyone in a school district.
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  • Back to school time is always a big, busy time for almost everyone in a school district.
    Carthage school teachers and staff returned to the district on Monday with an all-staff gathering called a convocation, held at the Carthage R-9 Auditorium, then spread out to their school buildings or offices to prepare for open houses this week and the start of school on Thursday.
    "The convocation is when we take the opportunity to bring all our employees to one location and try to reflect on what took place last year and get folks pumped up for the coming year," said Superintendent Blaine Henningsen. "We had the marching band in to play the fight song, the Boy Scouts presented the colors and Soundwave, the high school singing group, was in and sang the National Anthem. We looked at pictures of what happened last year and celebrated again school board winning school board of the year and Mark Sponaugle receiving SkillsUSA advisor of the year."
    District employees heard from a special speaker, author Jamie Vollmer, from Iowa, who has written a book called "Schools Can't Do It Alone," about building public support for public schools.
    Vollmer presented a huge list of tasks that the public and state lawmakers have added to schools duties since the beginning of the 20th century.
    "I live in a small, agricultural community in Iowa, and I guarantee you there are three or four old boys in town this morning talking about how, oh, we've just got to teach these kids the basics," Vollmer told The Carthage Press after his presentation. "Well, it's been a very, very, very long time since the people of Missouri just asked their schools to teach the basics. They're being asked not just to teach kids, they're basically being mandated to raise kids. It's not like your educators, they didn't say, oh, me, me, can I raise your kid. The people of Missouri, through laws enacted in Jeff City, basically mandate the teachers of R-9 to raise the kids."
    Volmer said one of the challenges schools face is that most of the people who pay taxes in a district do not have children in school.
    "Nationally, less than 25 percent of taxpayers have children in school," Vollmer said. "So most people who pay the taxes for R-9, they don't have kids in school and they think it's not their issue anymore, it's someone else's problem. Nothing could be further from the truth."
    Volmer said the quality of schools affects more than just the kids and the families that have kids.
    "When student achievement rises, the crime rate falls," Vollmer said. "Let's say one of your readers is a 78-year-old retired guy on fixed income. He may not care about little Johnny down the lane, but he cares about the crime rate. When the community comes together to support the schools and student success rises, property values go up. Well, again, the senior citizen on a fixed income, he may not care about Mary in the third grade, but he cares about his property values."
    Page 2 of 2 - Vollmer said school patrons also need to realize that decisions are being made by state lawmakers in Jefferson City that directly affect what happens in schools.
    Henningsen said in the November election voters will be asked whether they want to change teacher tenure and the way teachers are evaluated.
    Henningsen also said the budget battles between the Republican-controlled legislature and Democratic governor have an impact on schools.
    "When the state legislature and the governor don't see eye to eye on the budget, that poses a problem for us," Henningsen said. "When the governor withholds $100 million for public education to see what happens in the veto session, that's a problem for us when it comes to planning and budgeting."
    Vollmer said there are "very powerful, rich, voices who are attempting to undermine public education."
    "Remember, I'm not an educator, I come from the world of business, but I've been doing this for nigh on to 30 years," Vollmer said. "If public education breaks down, Missouri breaks apart. The fabric, the social and cultural fabric of the state is tied to successful public schools."

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