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New reading training comes to Jackson elementary schools

Elementary students showed Jackson school board members their favorite reading tools during the May 11 board meeting. Photo by Jay Forness

Jackson R-2 School District reading teachers have recently finished training in scientifically based reading instruction, with plans to expand the training to additional classroom teachers and other District staff this upcoming school year.

District reading teachers, along with some classroom teachers and special education teachers began the two-year Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) training last school year, finishing the program this March.

Melanie Needling, an instructional facilitator at the elementary level, said they began implementing these practices this year.

The LETRS training provides instructional routines and activities to help struggling students improve in phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension.

In June, six Jackson R-2 staff members will complete their preparation to become LETRS trainers. Needling said they plan to train 28 additional classroom teachers over the next year. The district will also implement LETRS training for administrators and for early childhood educators.

“One of our goals is to ensure our kids get the very best instruction every single day,” Needling said. “We know that in order to do that, we have to ensure our teachers have access to high quality professional development.”

The Jackson R-2 School Board approved an evaluation of the District’s Title 1 reading program, which helps 407 struggling readers across the District, during its regular meeting on May 11.

Elementary schools students and their reading teachers showed the Board members their favorite instructional routines, guiding the Board members on how they worked.

The District currently qualifies for Title 1 funding at Orchard Drive, South, Millersville and North elementary schools. The federal funding helps pay for reading and math intervention for schools with a high number of children from low-income families.

Associate Superintendent Dr. Jessica Maxwell said the funding is based on the free and reduced lunch status at those buildings, and the qualifying schools change from year to year.

Maxwell said the Title 1 funding has been used to help pay the salaries of reading teachers at the qualifying buildings, but the District has reading teachers at all elementary buildings.

“We feel like these interventions are critical for all of our struggling readers, so all of those interventions are put in place in every one of our buildings,” Maxwell said.

In other action:

• Members of the Science National Honor Society were recognized for their success at science competitions, including the regional science fair held at Southeast Missouri State University each spring.

Two members, SNHS president Eli Jones and vice president Mallorie Coffee, won the top award at the regional fair, and competed at the Regeneron International Science and Engineering Fair which was held virtually this month.

Jones said 1978 was the last time a JHS student reached the international fair before SNHS was formed in 2019. Since then, JHS students have found great success at the regional science fair, with dozens of students now entering and receiving awards.

Jones will attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he has a full-ride scholarship. He will continue his own research with grant funding over the summer.

Coffee said her science fair research was the leading cause for her to get accepted to medical school right out of high school. She was accepted into a six-year program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City where she can earn her bachelor’s degree and medical degree simultaneously. The selective program only accepted 105 students this year; 61 were from Missouri.

SNHS Secretary Lilly Hoff-man and SNHS Treasurer Tate Friedrich both credited their experience competing in science fairs for their full-ride scholarships. Hoffman will be attending Missouri State University and Friedrich will attend Missouri University of Science and Technology.

• Four JHS choir students were honored by the Board for being named to the Missouri All-State Choir. Senior Hannah Shinn was named as a first-year member of the choir. Senior Peyton Lintner, junior Layton Lipke and junior Emma Shields were named as first-year alternate members of the choir.

The choir students were able to audition virtually for All-District Choir, doing sight-reading and solo auditions via Zoom. The Southeast All-District Choir had 100 members, 41 of which were Jackson High School students (see more on page 12A).

Those who made it to the All-District Choir had the opportunity to audition for the All-State Choir. Only 16 students and eight alternates are chosen for the choir out of the state’s 10 districts.

Choir teacher Christy Shinn said the All-State Choir will perform this July at the annual Missouri Choral Directors Association Conference in Springfield.

• The Board approved the District’s summer school program, which was recently approved by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Full day summer school programs will be held June 1-22 at North, East, Orchard, West Lane, South and the middle school. Half-day sessions for junior high students will be held at the high school, due to construction at the junior high.

Jackson High School will have two summer school sessions – June 1-22 and June 22-July 20. The first session will include both on-site and online classes, while the second session will be entirely online.

• Several food bids were awarded for the upcoming school year. Bimbo Bread, whom the District has used for the past 12 years, received the bid for bread and bread products. Prairie Farms received the milk and dairy bid, and Kohl Wholesale received the bid for grocery and paper goods.

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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