Posts Tagged With: at risk

Four in one……

WOW – I just realized how far behind I have gotten! I actually have FOUR schools that I have visited in the past week that I haven’t told you about. In the interest of time (it’s midnight again, and only 15 days until the election), I’m going to try and tell you about all of them without writing a book. Can she do it? as my daughters cartoon friend would say…. Yes, She Can! I would answer with confidence….So here we go…..

First, on the afternoon of the 11th, I visited with Ms. Ginger Cochran of Ridge View. This was especially nice, since I not only saw the school, I saw so many of my son’s ex-teachers and paras! My middle child, Connor, started out in the Early Childhood program at Ridge View about 8 years ago, and my husband and I swear that it is one of the biggest parts of his progress even today.  I saw his old room, and many of the people who worked there, and who remembered me!  His actual teacher is now at Maple Grove, doing great things there, I have heard, even though I missed seeing her during that visit. (I did just happened to her in Wal-Mart a couple days ago, and we had a wonderful, albeit short, visit in the produce aisle.) The thing I noticed most about Ridge View was the changes in security. Ms. Cochran was very security minded, and even asked if I knew anything about a way to impress upon the parents of such young children the need for internet awareness. I promised her I would look into that, and I will – I love that she is so concerned about such an important topic. Most people don’t think children that young need to worry – but ohhhhh – they definitely do!!

Next I visited the Middle School – my oldest son’s current stomping grounds. I didn’t get to see him, much to his relief, I’m sure, but I did see a lot of the school and had a really good visit with Mr. Elliott. WMS is broken into a block schedule, which I have to admit I haven’t really liked.  Mr. Elliott’s explanation did make sense – because of this scheduling they have smaller class sizes and can offer more classes. This is important. Mr. Elliott is very aware of the possibilities that the future brings, encouraging flipped classrooms, hoping to try BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), and waiting for improved WiFi.  Like many of these facilities, WMS needs space – space for Art, and space for Tech. They have social workers, process coordinator, and instructional and literacy coaches. Their SpEd prgram has 11 paras, and although most kids don’t need the one-on-para, if they do, it is available.  They have a Solutions room and a safe room (for rare occasions), and a certified teacher in the focus room!  This school seems very focused on progress – progress in security, performance, and in the personal development of their students. I have to say I’m glad my son is in this school; it may not be perfect, but it’s much much better than many many others I have heard tell of!

On to the Career Center – a place for both High School and adult learners. Mr. Rusty Sproats, Director of WACC told me about the programs they offer – Health Sciences (PN and CNA), Cosmetology, Auto Technology, Construction Technology, Auto Collision, and Computer Repair and Networking. Some of these programs even offer services to the public – cosmetology (I’ll be heading there for a facial after the election) and the Auto shops specifically (and I’m sure I have work that needs to be done on my car!). This not counting the programs that are handled off site at the High School (Agriculture, Business, etc.). The programs in these buildings are exceptional – in fact, there was a little justified bragging at one point – Their brand new, first year, Nursing instructor had 100% of her class pass the CNA exam – that is IMPRESSIVE!!!! and definitely deserves our congratulations!

Before I move on to Martin Warren, I have to add couple other plugs – the Auto Tech program has some really wonderful equipment – computers and a top of the line alignment machine. These are obtained through grants – no easy feat, and demonstrative of the care they take. And last – next year they will be hiring a Math/Com Arts teacher (very interesting combination, says the English teacher in me). They will be working on the Common Core just like everyone else, strengthening that sense of cohesiveness that I have seen through out our district so far.

And last but definitely not least (to use a cliche), Ms. Lorna Cassell took me through another of the boys’ old schools – Martin Warren. This was the one I was probably most familiar with next to Sterling, but I couldn’t get over how much brighter it looked. Ms. Cassell has placed student art work in very conspicuous parts of the school – and it looks amazing. Not just professional, but lived in – like the kids really do love their school. She told  me of some of her other plans for adding even more personality, and I am anxious to see it myself! Ms. Cassell seems to really be about affirmation and support. These kids, and her staff, are family. She has morning assemblies every morning, with happy birthdays and shout outs, and she is excited about the upcoming concert that will be held in her auditorium with its new bleachers and sound system. I have to say, this was my last tour, but it was a good one. I’m glad I finished here – her enthusiasm was contagious, and while I was still finding it interesting, her enthusiasm made it fun as well.

So, ladies and gentlemen, readers and voters, and Warrensburg parents, that completes our tours of the Schools of Warrensburg. I have learned so much about our district in these past couple weeks, and I have really just reaffirmed why I want to be a part of it. I will be back, hopefully tomorrow night, to post some more serious content. I am also hoping to get another project started soon, specifically for our Special Needs community – but rest assured – I know ALL our families need support, not just those with unique challenges, and I look forward to being there for them.

So – upcoming events you might be interested in – on March 27, there will be a Teacher’s Forum in the afternoon and a Meet the Candidate in the evening. If you are a teacher, come hear us speak at your forum at 4:00 at the High School. If you’re not (or even if you are)  – come say hi at 5:30 in the American Legion Hall. I look forward to meeting you!

Until then – have a great week!

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Thank you to Ms. Grelle…..

I just learned the name of the woman responsible for Maple Grove’s “Autism spectrum classroom” – Ms. Sheree Grelle.

(To be honest,  Mr. Finnane did tell me her name, but in my hurry to take notes, I did not get it written down, and I owe her an apology for that. I guess I would never make it as a reporter! )

So, to rectify my oversight, I have to say I wish I could take  all the parents (not just those with Special Needs kiddos)  into this room and show them the wonderful work she has done. I only got to see it very briefly, but I hope that my other projects (an online information “hub” for Special Needs families) will allow me to see more of this, and maybe even visit with her a bit in the future. In Mr. Finnane’s words, ” She has so much knowledge and passion[; she]  is really the individual responsible for this great initiative.”

And a great initiative it is – Thank you, Ms. Grelle, our kids really need your insight.

Now how do we clone you for our other schools…. 😉

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Visited Reece Education Center today

Front doors and walk way into Reese Educational Center


I had my first tour in one of our facilities today – Reese Educational Center, and I got to visit with a wonderful woman doing an amazing job. Reese’s Director,  Ms. Leslie Brown, took some time out of what I know is a very busy schedule to show me around her facility, and I am very grateful for her hospitality. If you haven’t been out there, you should check it out. This small building houses 4 very important programs: AIM (for OSS), Solutions (for SpEd kids with some pretty serious emotional and behavioral issues),  and Gateway for those teenagers who are not thriving in the regular high school environment. Parents as Teachers (PaT) and the Gifted program also have offices in this building, and PaT has a very colorful, toy-filled room for their use.  The staff at Reese, 1 Director  (Ms. Brown), 1 secretary, 2 teachers, and 1 para for the Gateway program;1 teacher and 1 para for the Solutions program, and and 1 custodian for the building, spend their days caring for and educating as many as 34 students (28 Gateway students and 6 Solutions students) from all over our region – not just our Warrensburg rVI district!

During our tour, I saw a group of people working very hard with what they had – outdated computers, a dated, unused kitchen (which is put to classroom use because there is no kitchen staff budget – meals are bused over from Warrensburg Middle School, showing some wonderful intra-district collaboration), a safe room that still needs padding, and a shortage of teachers, to bring positive influences and opportunities to a number of young people who really need it, whether they appreciate it or not. This team has taken this old building  and turned it into a safe place for these very important members of our student population, and the fact that individuals as far away as Blue Springs are sending their kids to Ms. Brown speaks volumes for what they do.

I listened as Ms. Brown told me what was coming: renovations to the safe room, new security measures, and how she planned to make the Diner (the lunch/recreation area) into a cyber-diner using existing computers. She shared what she had done herself – remodeling an existing shower and paying for Senior pictures, and what she would like to see, a 3rd teacher, kitchen staff, cable for educational TV, and 5 more computers for the AIM (OSS) room. Very early on in my visit, she had shared  her dream of bringing at-risk elementary and middle school kids into the fold – a goal I must say I can support given what I have seen of what she has done and the need I know exists at those levels. There are many other things I saw that would benefit this school as well, but Ms. Brown’s hopes are realistic. She knows she can’t “have it all,” but she is certainly hoping for some of it, and rightfully so!

I have to admit, I knew very little about Reese before my visit today, and I’m sorry that was the case. This is the kind of place I can get behind. That’s not to say in any way that the “mainstream” schools do not deserve our attention, or that the students in those schools don’t have some of the same needs. Nor am I insinuating that Reese has been neglected. I was strongly and repeatedly reassured that was not the case. The District and the other schools do seem to look out for Reese Educational Center, but there is always more that needs to be done in these situations. As Ms. Brown emphatically pointed out, these kids are smart – they are capable – they are just really beat up, and need someone to show them that they CAN succeed. Does it always work? No – it absolutely does not. But if there weren’t the Ms. Browns-and-Company in the world, and School Districts with Boards like our to back them up, these kids wouldn’t even have the chance.

I not only welcome the chance to advocate for these kids, I ask for it!!

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