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Jefferson City School Board discusses STEM school, transportation, teacher extra duty stipend

by Anna Campbell | September 23, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

The Jefferson City School District Board of Education discussed new possibilities for a STEM school, talked about strategies for combating transportation difficulties and moved to implement an extra duty stipend program for teachers Thursday.

During his report, Superintendent Bryan McGraw said the district was considering the possibility of offering a STEM school for elementary students. The idea was to target Thorpe Gordon Elementary School because it is near Jefferson City High School and the Nichols Career Center, which can offer labs and workshop spaces.

McGraw also said the district was exploring the possibility of offering dual enrollment and an associate's degree path for students in partnership with State Fair Community College.

Chief of Operations Dawn Berhorst said the district was experiencing transportation difficulties but was "attacking it as aggressively as we know how."

The district obtained four suburbans to be used instead of buses for activities at the high schools. Berhorst said the district had paid for more morning supervision at some schools to allow buses to drop off students earlier and head out again if needed.

She added the district was working with First Student to figure out solutions. The district is asking about the impact of different strategies, including raising wages, hiring full-time drivers, or having coaches obtain training to drive buses.

The board also voted to pass three policies.

• Policy DFJ-I would create a system for determining when the board may give preference to local, minority or women-owned businesses' bids. The policy allows the district to contract with one of those companies even if it is not the lowest bidder but it is considered the best choice and comes within a certain percentage of the lowest bid.

• Policy JEDB would allow students to go with a person staff recognizes as a parent, guardian or authorized contact without requiring ID each time.

• Policy BDA would alter the date of regular meetings. Previously, the meetings were held on the second Monday of each month, but they are now held on Thursdays.

The board also approved a plan to implement the Career Ladder program.

Career Ladder is a program that allows schools to pay teachers for extra duties outside of their normal hours, such as overseeing a club or tutoring. The program's state funding had been inactive for years until it was rebooted by the Missouri legislature this year. The state funds 60 percent of the cost, and JC Schools would pay the rest. A staff survey indicated the costs could be $360,000 for the district.

The JC Schools Career Ladder handbook says teachers can advance through three tiers of responsibilities -- 50 hours, 75 hours and 100 hours -- each with an increasing level of compensation, with a maximum of $5,000.

Such activities could include club sponsorship, science fairs or curriculum writing. Those activities must relate to the improvement of the district and student achievement and cannot be things that a teacher is already paid for under their contract.

The board also amended the calendar to add two days to Thanksgiving break as an act of gratitude to staff.

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