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Three Candidates Seek Open MRH School Board Spot

Resumes from Francis Chmelir, Pat McMakin and Katie Kaufmann were formally submitted to the Maplewood Richmond Heights Board of Education at a meeting Thursday.

Members of the Maplewood Richmond Heights Board of Education have received the resumes of three candidates vying to fill a vacancy in the board's membership and will begin interviewing them this week.

Information from Francis Chmelir, Pat McMakin and Katie Kaufmann was formally given to the board at its regular meeting Thursday night. Board President Maria Langston said the interviews will occur at a special session of the board Wednesday.

The board will make a selection that night, though the official swearing-in for the new member may occur at a later date, MRH communications director Tom Wickersham said.

The vacancy exists following the . Hogue was to become a member of the board along with April 11.

The selected applicant would serve on the board until April 2012, a news release from the district states. He or she would have the opportunity to seek election at that time for the remaining two years of the term.

Course Changes, Budget Voted Through

The board approved several proposals, including changes to three courses and the budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The changes to classes on ACT readiness, human anatomy and new health and physical education were a topic of discussion at an of the school board. The updates are aimed at upping the school's average ACT score from 19 to 20, offering new science courses and increasing the number of physical education electives available.

The school board discussed the district's budget Tuesday at a . It will total approximately $22.3 million, up about 5.5 percent from the district's amended 2011 budget. The district's operating expenses—aided by a 67-cent tax levy approved by voters in 2010—rose from $2.7 million in that year to $3.5 million in 2011.

MRH To Receive Digital Facelift

An unveiling of the near-finalized look of the district's website by Wickersham earned praise from the board and district administration. Wickersham said he hopes to have the new site operational later this summer.

"I am so happy. It is magnificent. It is everything we have wanted," Assistant Superintendent Karen Hall said.

Adamn Hammerman, a representative from the company that is working on the project, explained that the new website will be larger with more color and photos.

"It will show off the spirit of the school district," Hammerman said.

The redesign offers improved navigation. It places school news headlines, tools for sharing content across social media and a calendar of upcoming events on the main page. The calendar can be filtered to only show events from certain schools.

The content management system that the district uses to update the website also will be streamlined, Hammerman assured the board.

"That was always a huge issue with the current site," board treasurer Nelson Mitten said. "It always seemed too cumbersome to update."

National Interest Expressed for Joe's Place Documentary

Mitten updated the board about the release of a chronicling the lives of several students at Joe's Place. Although final figures from a fundraiser recently held for the nonprofit were unavailable, Mitten hinted that the film is attracting broader attention.

Mitten said a "national publisher" has expressed interest in the documentary but declined to give further detail. Mitten also informed the board that one of the founders of Joe's Place, Pastor Andrew Vander Maas, is taking a sabbatical and that he will serve as co-chair in Vander Maas' absence.

Federal Law Mandates Rise in Lunch Prices

Chief Financial Officer Kay Lesley explained that a new federal law will soon force the board to increase the cost of its school lunches for students at the by $0.25.

Lesley said the move is necessary because the school only charges $2.25, while the federal reimbursement it receives for free/reduced lunch students is $2.50. The middle and high school already charge $2.50, so no change is needed.

District Teachers Sign Up for Sensitivity Training

Board member Ralph Posely reported that the efforts of the district's African-American Community Advisory Council has made inroads with teachers.
"We feel that it has come a long way. The teachers who spent time in it have showed sensitivity to trying to understand some of our African-American culture," Posely said.

He added that this sensitivity training makes them better and more effective teachers. But Posely said the district still needs more African American teachers on staff, a sentiment echoed by Hall.

"We want to add the goal of MRH recruiting more AA teachers," Hall said, explaining that, ideally, they can encourage more African America teachers to enter the pool of job candidates for potential district positions.

Low Attendance for Wellness Committee

Board member Brooke Rintoul said she was unable to attend the most recent meeting of the district's wellness committee, though she noted that meeting dates have been set for next year. The committee has had low attendance and is in need of more participation, she said.

"We need more parental involvement. The people involved in the first year or two aren't as involved," she said.

Revamp Planned for Cornerstone Program

The board heard a presentation on plans to revitalize the district's Cornerstone program. The program, which promotes citizenship, leadership, scholarship and stewardship in students, has had low participation in recent years. 

Closed Session

The board adjourned into a closed session at Thursday's meeting to discuss personnel matters.

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