Board meets in regular session
Tuesday's Mexico Board of Education (BOE) meeting consisted of discussion concerning matters relevant to the improvement of education within the district. Dr. Peter Perll began the meeting promptly at 7 p.m. with the call to order and then recitation of the pledge of allegiance. Beverly MacFarlane, treasurer, was not present for the proceedings.
In his opening remarks, Perll welcomed everyone to the first 'paperless' meeting as meeting materials, including previous meeting minutes, background materials, etc., will now be available online on the website. Persons unable to attend the meeting, those with questions concerning, or wanting further information on items discussed by the BOE can easily find those materials online.
Dr. M. Elwood Rice, member, announced that it was his intention to vote against the acceptance of the minutes from the Sept. 15 meeting due to questions/concerns over the legalities regarding previous Board action on the press box matter. He requested the minutes be removed from the general meeting agenda and the matter handled during the board's executive session. The issue was designated for executive session as Dr. Rice requested.
Lynn Graves, a representative of Graves and Associates, CPAs, LLC from Jefferson City, presented the annual audit report. He indicated that the district complied with all audited areas. The only irregularity found was the segregation of duties concerning oversight. He did mention, however, that such an irregularity is common among school systems and districts of Mexico's size and did not constitute or indicate any sense of impropriety.
Cindy Bambini and John Germano, representatives from Brightergy, a solar energy development company, presented information proposing the installation of solar panels on district schools. They indicated their system is being used by such school systems as the Parkway Schools, Kirkwood, and even Washington University in St. Louis. According to their presentation, installation could decrease the district's use of / reliance on Ameren energy by 7 percent system wide, resulting in a projected more than $500,000 savings in energy costs over a 20-year period.
Robby Miller, member, and Dr. Rice both asked questions regarding installation costs, insurance and safety concerns, and sought clarification on how the district would go about adopting the system. Miller made a motion to proceed with the discovery phase of the proposal to ascertain the system's viability for the district's schools. Beverly Borgeson, member, seconded the motion and the motion passed 6-0 via roll call vote.
Dr. Perll commended the efforts of administrators and teachers for their actions during the Parent-Teacher Conferences held recently. Superintendent Dr. Kevin Freeman further elaborated that he had left the particulars of how the conferences were to take place up to individual school administrators.
While it was overall an effective and successful venture district wide, Freeman explained that feedback from the teachers would be used to improve the process. The Parent-Teacher Conference scheduled for February will focus primarily on those students who may be struggling academically.
The Mexico Early Childhood Center (ECC), under the leadership of Director Emily Schmidt, hit the 100 percent parent participation mark with 114 in-person and two phone conferences held during the week of Sept. 30-Oct. 5. This was the first time the ECC had held fall Parent-Teacher conferences.
Freeman spoke at length concerning the academic progress of district schools, providing numerous examples of student success. Board member Dustin Pascoe questioned him on what has been done specifically during the last month to help raise test scores, improve instruction, etc. Freeman provided a specific list of steps taken to address the problems. He then proposed the idea of seeking new or alternative methods to overcoming the problems, telling the Board that while some of the ideas or alternatives may fail, at least the actions would allow the schools to "fail forward," or learn from their shortcomings.
Patrick Maguire, member, said that while he sees progress, he is a bit impatient and wants to see quicker results, indicating the desire to act now instead of later. He then asked what the district needed or could do now to help.
Freeman explained the district currently needs to expand its number of academic coaches to help teachers be successful in the classroom. Both Maguire and Miller expressed that the Board was willing to assist in any way needed. Miller proposed an allocation of $40,000 for the hiring of academic coaches to help the schools this year. Pascoe seconded and the measure passed 6-0 by a roll call vote.