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Jackson High School adds administrative probation program

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Starting this school year, Jackson High School students who aren’t meeting academic and attendance expectations will be placed on administrative probation and will not be allowed to attend selected school-related events including dances.

In addition, students involved in athletics or extracurricular activities will be allowed to practice, but not participate in competitions or games while on probation.

“It’s a way to identify at-risk students and give them a reason to work hard,” Assistant Superintendent Matt Lacy said at the latest School Board meeting on Aug. 10. “You have to work hard before you get to play and do some of these fun activities.”

Students will be placed on administrative probation if their attendance is below 90 percent, which is considered chronically absent and they are failing two or more courses. Lacy said the program is set up to be an academic intervention program to help students who meet multiple at-risk factors.

“It’s not a high number of students [who will qualify for probation],” Lacy said. “When you pull the stats on this, you are probably looking at 40 kids – but for those 40 kids, it’s critical that we intervene and we get a plan of success in place to try to help them.”

After a student is placed on administrative probation, they will meet with their administrator to learn of restrictions and expectations and parents will be contacted in order to generate a plan for student success.

The student’s probation will be reviewed and reassessed over five review periods each semester and can be appealed if attendance and grades improve between review dates. All students will begin each semester in good standing.

“It’s a little bit of increased accountability and will make sure we catch these students before they fall,” Lacy said. “We want to intervene early and be proactive instead of reactive.”

In other action:

• Superintendent Scott Smith reiterated that the District is on track to begin the school year without masks being required, except for on school buses due to federal public transportation regulations.

“If somebody chooses to wear a mask, they are welcome to do so,” Smith said. “We are not requiring vaccinations or anything like that, however, if a student is positive and is sitting near somebody who is wearing a mask or are vaccinated, they will not have to be quarantined.”

• The Board set a tax rate hearing for 6 p.m. on Aug. 26 at the JHS Ignite Center. The tax rate for the District is not increasing.

• Bus routes for the 2021-2022 school year were approved by the School Board. The District will have 67 different bus routes, utilizing the District’s 73 buses. In addition, the District has recently filled all bus driver positions for the coming school year.

Associate Superintendent Keenan Kinder estimated that the buses travel about 3,000 miles a day, totaling over 600,000 miles last year.

• Construction at the Jackson Junior High School is almost done, with Kinder saying the District has taken over ownership of the space. Kinder said custodians began waxing the new classroom floors and teachers have begun moving in. “You wouldn’t recognize where the old library was,” Kinder said. “It’s really nice.”

At the high school, the “C” building’s new windows have been installed, but blinds are still being manufactured. The blinds will be installed after school starts.

• The Board approved the District’s special education local compliance plan to be submitted to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

Christa Weber went over the plan and gave an update on the special education program. The program received the highest rating in all categories from DESE’s annual determination, receiving a score of four while the state average is 3.33.

The dropout rate for special education students has gone down from 1.45 percent to 0.67 percent. In addition, the percentage of students who spend more than 79 percent inside the regular classroom has gone up from 54.3 percent to 56.4 percent. Conversely, the percentage of student who spends between 40-79 percent inside general education classes, as well as less than 40 percent inside a regular classroom, has gone down.

Weber said they are not yet at the state averages, but they are moving in the right direction to make sure students are accessing the curriculum in general education classrooms while still being provided the support they need.

“We are getting there, but my ultimate goal is to provide the kids what they need,” Weber said. “I would like to meet the state goal, but what the kid needs comes first.”

The homebound numbers have increased from 0.5 percent to 1.42 percent, which Weber said is mostly because medically fragile students stay homebound due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

• The tuition rate for out-of-district students was established for the upcoming school year by the School Board – remaining at $9,117. Chief Financial Officer Terry Gibson said this rate is primarily used for students who come to Jackson High School from the Nell Holcomb School District.

The rate was increased last year from $8,767 to $9,117 because the District’s actual cost per student was higher than the out-of-district tuition. Gibson said the District’s cost per student is still higher than the out-of-district rate at around $10,000 per student, but he is happy to have the gap closed to within $1,000 of the actual cost.

In addition, Gibson said Jackson’s tuition rate is now slightly higher than surrounding districts, including Cape Central, and he doesn’t want Nell Holcomb to choose what school to send its high schoolers to based on price.

• The Board reapproved the District’s policy on Board member conflicts of interest and financial disclosures. The Board annually approves the policy, which did not have any changes since it was last adopted, to stay in compliance with the Missouri Ethics Commission.

• The Board approved the District’s professional development plan. Teachers have eight scheduled professional development days throughout the school year, including four days at the beginning of the school year.

“Because of the school closures in 2019 and COVID-19 quarantines and other stuff we had to deal with last year, we want a real focus on academic learning and achieving this year,” Lacy said.

Lacy said teachers throughout the District will work on curriculum implementation and classroom management. Secondary school teachers will also work on lesson design for 90-minute block classes that started last year.

“We really want to go back to basics and make sure we are hitting the core content and instruction that we all know is important,” Lacy said.

• The list of staff members who are issued District credit cards was amended by the School Board to include building principals. The change will allow principals to make small purchases using a credit card, especially for vendors who do not accept checks. Each principal will have a limit of $500 and purchases will be monitored by District staff.

Jay Forness covers education, county government and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Jackson for the past five years. He can be reached at

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