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  • Writer's pictureStaff Reporter

Syracuse City School Board Meeting, April 11, 2024

The Syracuse City School Board meeting was held on April 11, 2024, covering several important topics such as policy changes, election results, and financial planning. It kicked off with everyone standing and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Dr. Donna Towers, the board president, opened the discussion by welcoming all present and those attending online, then turned the floor over to Superintendent Dr. Jason Sefrit.

Dr. Sefrit began his opening remarks by mentioning the recent solar eclipse and the Jefferson Love Awards celebrating student kindness and service.

He then extended warm congratulations to newly elected board members Ms. Heidi Sikma and Ms. Ellen Zeer, highlighting the importance of strong leadership in the district, and thanked all other candidates who ran for these positions.

He emphasized that the school year is coming to an end, preparations for standardized testing and spring activities are underway, and he mentioned various talents and achievements of students in sports, arts, and academics.

Dr. Towers outlined the agenda, consisting of several significant discussions and presentations, including policy changes, election results, and financial planning.

She emphasized that all board meetings are open to the public and invited the audience to participate according to established procedures.

Mr. Brendan Kars, president of the St. Charles Education Association, then addressed the board, first congratulating board members Sigma and Zeer on their re-election, and then praising teachers Bippen, West, and Ler for their accomplishments.

The agenda and minutes from the previous meeting were adopted, policy changes for the second reading were reviewed, and the board called for new discussions or comments.

The meeting then shifted focus to the Capital Investment Plan (CIP) revision, a strategic plan focused on district advancement over five years typically presented twice a year.

The COO team presented the latest student performance information through four points:

1. Improved outcomes

2. A systematic approach to intervention and enrichment

3. Highly qualified professional development

4. Research-based best practices

Highlighting the goals outlined in the CIP, the district's commitment to improving student achievement through various initiatives such as professional development programs, including the Science of Reading cohort and Reading Success Plans aimed at addressing literacy challenges.

The district's holistic approach to academic improvement was evident in efforts to align curriculum, adopt instructional tools such as i-Ready, and expand career and technical education offerings.

A systematic approach to intervention and enrichment was emphasized, underscoring the district's proactive stance in supporting diverse student needs.

Strategies included strategic resource allocation for academic support, restructuring of Success Campuses to provide flexible scheduling opportunities and implementation of intervention time into daily schedules across all schools.

The importance of aligning district initiatives with state mandates, such as the Missouri Re-LEAD Exceed initiative, was highlighted by the COO team, as well as promoting academic excellence, reiterating the district's commitment to continuous improvement and strategic resource utilization to drive student success.

Through the Capital Investment Plan review, the district demonstrated a comprehensive approach to addressing issues such as key areas of student success, parent and community involvement, and facility support.

The district aims to maintain its commitment to educational excellence and student achievement through targeted interventions and strategic planning.

Its commitment can be seen through intervention strategies ranging from academic labs in middle schools to dedicated intervention time in elementary schools.

Resources such as RTI experts, reading title and math teachers, and PBIS implementation district-wide contribute to a comprehensive approach to academic support.

Additionally, the implementation of universal screeners has aided in identifying gifted students, particularly at the elementary level.

The district also emphasizes investment in teacher growth, development, and effectiveness, evident in its focus on high-quality professional development.

Teachers are guided through new programs, while their ongoing support and skill enhancement are conducted through monthly meetings and summer workshops.

Their expertise and effectiveness are further enhanced through partnerships with local universities for continuing education credits and allocation of funds for building-level professional development.

In an attempt to address critical aspects of trauma-informed schools and socio-emotional needs, the school district has established building care teams, district-level student needs committees, and trauma-informed training initiatives.

These efforts are complemented by partnerships with external agencies and a student mentor program.

The district remains committed to addressing current needs, including increasing attendance rates and graduation rates, reviewing graduation credit requirements, and enhancing transition support for students.

Maximizing daily schedules, strengthening level two and level three programming, and aligning curriculum at all grade levels are underway.

The family and community representative highlighted the district's commitment to community engagement articulated through four key goals:

1. Improving communication

2. Supporting families

3. Involving all families

4. Encouraging intentional community partnerships

Communication methods must be timely, utilizing various channels including social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Peachjar, along with newsletters distributed via S'more.

Additionally, the district's website is optimized for accessibility and multilingual communication, ensuring vital information reaches all intended recipients effectively.

Student information systems such as PowerSchool and communication tools such as ClassDojo and Google Classroom further facilitate communication and engagement between parents and schools.

Centralized enrollment processes, access to community resources through the district's website, and initiatives such as the Family Festival demonstrate the district's systematic proactive support for families in transitioning to a new school year.

Simplified enrollment procedures for non-English speaking families improve accessibility.

Through curriculum nights, parent and university programs, expanded parent meetings, and volunteer opportunities, the engagement of all families is achieved.

Collaboration with organizations such as Care to Learn and Love St. Charles, along with initiatives such as Backpack Programs and expanded resources for parents of students with disabilities, builds intentional partnerships.

Ongoing efforts focus on continuous improvement of communication standards, standardized timelines for parent involvement activities, and effective use of district resources for the benefit of staff, parents, and students.

Regarding facility support, Mr. Jeremy from the COO team stated that the district prioritizes providing excellent facilities, ensuring safety and security, offering high-quality instructional resources, and maintaining and improving technological resources.

Notable events include the implementation of software asset management tools for predictive maintenance, green initiatives resulting in awards for energy efficiency, and ongoing bond construction projects aimed at improving infrastructure and instructional spaces.

Additionally, the district's commitment to providing a safe and conducive learning environment is evident through initiatives such as GPS installation on transportation vehicles, the introduction of security measures such as Raptor in every building, and compliance with safety regulations.

Following these presentations and discussions, board president Dr. Towers proposed several items for a vote, which were unanimously approved by the board.

Among the significant proposals were votes for board president and vice president, as well as MSBA delegates, which were merely formalities, as Dr. Towers was re-elected as president, Ms. Heidi Sikma as vice president, and Ms. Ellen Zeer and Ms. Karen O'Hearn as MSBA delegates. The decision was unanimous with no votes against and no abstentions.

The swearing-in of new members followed, along with a description of the duties of MSBA delegates, after which the meeting continued with the adoption of proposals.

There was discussion about the proposed Harden Middle School construction and renovation project, as well as their financing and feasibility, and these proposals were accepted and approved.

Votes were cast on the plenary tax rate, financial planning program revision and surplus investment, investment in operating funds, and all these proposals were unanimously approved as well.

Lastly, the financial report was presented, showing a surplus of +$315,000 in the first three months of this year, on a $30M investment, which is very positive.

The meeting concluded after the unanimous approval of the financial report.


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