What looks like just a fun sing-a-long of parents and toddlers on a sunny Tuesday morning is much more than just playtime. A monthly playgroup hosted by Grain Valley Parents as Teachers and Faith United Methodist Church seeks to serve both parents and children. But, Parents and Teachers is about more than just play.
Parents as Teachers (PAT) is a free early childhood family education program that assists and supports families in preparing their children for success in school and in life.
One of the cornerstone programs of the Parents as Teachers program are personal home visits by certified parent educators. In these monthly visits, parent educators visit families by appointment and focus on child development and parent interaction.
Parent Educators Pam Schmitt and Shannon Leap serve more than 60 families in the Grain Valley program.
“We answer questions that the parents may have, and bring a developmentally appropriate activity and handouts. It gives them a glimpse of what most kids are going through at that time. We also do development screenings,” Leap said.
While developmental screenings and activities are focused on the child, Parents as Teachers works to serve the entire family.
“That’s exactly what Parents as Teachers does. It’s not just focusing on the child. It’s focusing on the family,” Schmitt said.
Schmitt has been with Parents as Teachers for eleven years and has seen many changes in both the program and in the families she serves.
“The Parents as Teachers program used to be much more child-oriented, and now it is more family-oriented, which is good,” Schmitt said.
In addition to personal home visits, Parents as Teachers hosts a number of activities throughout the year for young children and their families, including a popular “Wiggle, Giggle, and Jiggle” event and the monthly playgroup held on the first Tuesday of each month at Faith United Methodist Church in Grain Valley.
While playgroups are often seen as a place to help wear a busy toddler out, Schmitt and Leap stress it is much more than that.
“It’s for both. It’s for the kiddos to comes out and interact with other children. It’s also for parents to be able to get out and connect with other parents. Here they get to talk, perhaps make friends, and have someone to go out with or talk to,” Schmitt said.
“I think this is a great place to model behavior with their peers, especially if they are not in school and have trouble with that. It’s a good place to learn important skills like taking turns and sharing,” Leap said.
Parent Alison Cook of Blue Springs and daughter Audrey, 3, attended the December 4th playgroup.
“It’s good to get out and do an activity and get out of the house. It helps the rest of the day go well,” Cook said.
Anna Grover of Grain Valley attended the playgroup with 3-year old son Everett.
“The interaction with other kids his age is important,” Grover said.
“Before I discovered playgroups, I went insane,” Grover joked. “It’s good for parents as well, to have interaction with other parents. It’s very beneficial.”
There is currently a wait list of approximately 30 families for the Grain Valley Parents as Teachers program.
For more information on Parents as Teachers, call 816-847-5011 or email Parent Educators Pam Schmitt, email@example.com, or Shannon Leap, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Youth Court is a peer tried court serving the youth of Eastern Jackson County since 1989. Youth Court is a youth diversion program operating under the jurisdiction of Jackson County Family Court. Youth Court accepts at-risk juveniles ages 6 through 17.
Every defendant is assigned a youth attorney for their defense. Defendants may choose to plead either guilty or not guilty. If a guilty plea is entered, the defendant will be ordered by the teen judge, to complete a specific number of community service hours and to complete an educational program.
If a “not guilty” plea is entered, the defendant will continue to a trial. The courtroom process is monitored by adults at all times.
Youth Court’s primary funding is received from the Jackson County COMBAT (Community Backed Anti-Drug Tax) program. Additional funding for the operation of the Youth Court is received from those involved: Blue Springs School District Public Safety Department, Buckner, Grain Valley, Greenwood, Oak Grove, Sugar Creek, and Jackson County’s Sheriff Office. Without this funding and the support of the Jackson County Legislature, the program could not operate.
Welcome and introductions for the November 25th Youth Court Attorney Graduation were provided by Dr. Brad Welle who serves as the Deputy Superintendent of Student and Community Services for the Grain Valley School District. Welle made a point to celebrate the cooperation between the Eastern Jackson County Youth Court and Independence Youth Courts.
Welle also serves as the Vice Chair of the Eastern Jackson County Youth Court Executive Board. Time was taken by Welle to state the importance of what is provided through the volunteer efforts of youth court attorneys who complete training and pass their test to get to the point of graduation.
Congratulatory remarks at this year’s attorney graduation were provided by students Madison Montgomery and Emilio Ayala-Youngblood. Montgomery is a senior at Grain Valley High School and is completing her fifth year of being a youth court attorney. Montgomery’s credits her Mom and her 8th grade social studies teacher for encouraging her to become part of youth court.
“My experience started with me filling out an application with a few of my friends and attending introductory meetings. Then I got experience as being a defense attorney for many people and enjoyed the experience enough to stick with it. Now, I’m here and judging as a senior for Eastern Jackson County Youth Court,” Montgomery said.
“I like the fact that I’m supporting people and possibly helping to change someone’s life for the better. My Mom is a sergeant with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department and my Dad is a major for the Sheriff’s Department as well. Their influence as well as having friends in this program prompted me to try this and keep going.”
Montgomery commented during her congratulatory remarks how much her youth court experience has impacted her personality in helping her discover her voice in getting passed being shy. Both Ayala-Youngblood and Montgomery made a point in their speech to thank their parents and Judge Watkins.
Susan Watkins is the Youth Court Executive Director and has served in that capacity for Eastern Jackson County since September of 1999. Watkins sees several benefits in her role and what youth court provides.
“We deal with at-risk juveniles who get in trouble for some reason and have them come in front of a court of their peers. That seems to really have an impact on the students. And juveniles don’t have a record upon going through youth court as we are a diversion program. This program provides students to do some sort of restitution through community service as well as going through education programs so that they learn something,” Watkins said.
“The Jackson County COMBAT Program assists in many different areas. We fall under the prevention category. They (COMBAT) assist with both violence and drug and alcohol related cases. We do all those types of cases in youth court. Anyone that at the present time is under the age of 17 and has one of those types of offenses that is not considered a felony would have the opportunity to come through youth court.”
Watkins also expanded on how the youth court program helps young people along with the current regular docket of juvenile court cases.
“This is a second chance for young people, and it does benefit the court system in that they have the time to deal with the more serious juvenile offenders and cases. This (youth court) also keeps the offenders in their local communities. So, when they do their court sentence they are coming back to work in their community,” Watkins said.
Among Watkins duties at graduation were swearing in the newest set of attorneys and providing them with graduation certificates.
The 38 students listed below make up the 2019 graduating class of Youth Court attorneys. Included in this year’s graduates are Linda Hoessli and Gavin Yao, who are the first two exchange student graduates of the program.
Eastern Jackson County Youth Court and Independence Youth Court Executive Director Susan Watkins and Grain Valley High School student and youth court judge Madi Montgomery. Photo credit: Valley News staff
Thirty eight students were a part of the 2019 graduating class of youth attorneys for the Eastern Jackson County and Independence Youth Courts.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Truman Heartland Community Foundation (THCF) invites applications for the more than $200,000 in scholarships available for students.
“In addition to stand-alone applications, students can submit a general scholarship application and we will match them with more than 200 scholarships that they may be eligible to receive,” Rachael Cassiday Watkins, Truman Heartland’s Director of Programs and Donor Services said.
The deadline for Truman Heartland’s general scholarship application is December 31, 2019. Applicants have until February 1st to submit additional documents for each scholarship that is a potential match. Scholarships may require additional items, including, but not limited to, transcripts with final fall 2019 grades, essays, letters of reference or statements about participation in certain activities.
Some scholarships are not included in the general scholarship application. Deadlines and requirements for these stand-alone scholarships vary.
In 2019, Truman Heartland awarded $319,000 in scholarships to 214 local students. Scholarships are available for students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, and technical degrees.
Visit https://www.thcf.org/Scholarships to learn more and begin the application process. For questions or assistance with scholarships, please contact Rachael Cassiday Watkins at email@example.com or 816-912-4185.
Beyond the cheers from the stands at Friday night football games at Moody Murray stadium, the sound of Grain Valley’s award-winning Marching Eagles echo through town. The Marching Eagles began their own competition season last weekend and are poised for another successful run with a show focused on the moments that shape the band members.
“This year's show is entitled "Moment" and is very centered around the lives our students. We asked them to think about moments in their lives that have shaped them, challenged them, or a moment they will never forget. We then took their comments and created the show around several concepts: Moments that Shape Us, Moments that Change Us, Moments That Challenge Us, Moments We Experience Alone, Moments that Bring Us Together, and Moments of Triumph and Victory. The musical selections are tied together by recordings of our students narrating their "moment" throughout the show,” Director of Bands Daniel Berard said.
The Marching Eagles started the competition season strong with a first place win at the Blue Springs High School Golden Regiment Invitational on October 5th. The band was also recognized for Outstanding Visual.
“It was our first competitive performance of the season, so it was great to see how the students stepped up their focus and professionalism, dealing with the nerves and the delays due to weather in a really positive way. They came out of the gate and gave two really solid performances and set up the rest of the season on a solid foundation,” Berard said.
Up next for the Marching Eagles is a trip to St. Louis to compete in the Bands of America (BOA) St. Louis Super Regional contest on October 18th and 19th, followed by a trip to the BOA Indianapolis Super Regional contest October 25th and 26th.
An army of parent volunteers supports band members throughout the season through the Band Parents Association. Support from the community is always welcome, and opportunities to be involved as a donor and volunteer can be found at www.gvbpa.net.
Costos Kotzambasis attended Grain Valley High School as a foreign exchange student from Greece with the Class of 1966. Erma and Robert Doty and their children were his host family and the Dotys still consider him family. Costas returned to Grain Valley last week and was treated to a tour of Grain Valley High School with his host siblings.
Students in the 1960s attended the two-story school on Main Street. Costas has been back to Grain Valley over the years and has been in the current high school building, but on touring the latest addition at the school, he was struck by the look and feel of the transformation that the community has taken on in recent years. He marveled at how Grain Valley has grown, and how the new sections of the high school look more like a university than how he remembers high school.
After graduating from GVHS, Costos went to Cornell University to study Hotel and Restaurant Management. For the past 30 years he has lived in Australia.
When Costos arrived in Grain Valley in the 1960s, the population was just a little over 500 people. Today, more 12,000 people live in Grain Valley and many of the landmarks familiar to him from his high school days, such as the old two-story school building on Main, are gone.
Larry Doty, brother; GVHS Class of 1968 (31 in his class), Sandie Brown Doty (Larry's wife); GVHS Class of 1971 (39 in her class), Kathy Doty, sister; GVHS Class of 1973 (31 in her class), Konstantine (Costos) Kotzambasis, AFS foreign exchange student from Crete; GVHS Class of 1966 (32 in his class).
While students enjoy the last few weeks of summer break, work crews and school staff have been hard at work preparing the new addition at Grain Valley High School (GVHS) for its debut this August.
Valley News recently toured the new space with GVHS Principal Dr. Jeremy Plowman.
A new office at the entrance on the north side of the building will welcome parents and visitors. Students will continue to enter and exit the building from the school’s prior front entrance. The office space provides needed space for professional development and staff meetings, as well as comfortable spaces for parents and students to meet with administrators and staff.
A new library is five times larger than the school’s previous library, and includes a maker space, multiple use glass encased cubicles for tutoring or small group projects, and space for at least three full classrooms to utilize the area. All bookshelves, seating, and charging stations are moveable, allowing the space to be configured in a number of ways.
The addition also includes a community meeting room with a separate entrance. The room will be used for Board of Education meetings, community use, and student testing.
“We previously had to do all of our AP testing off-site at Blue River Community College. 1 was sending 100 kids back and forth on buses and adding 45 minutes to the test by having to go there. Now, we can test most of our kids here,” Plowman said.
The most striking addition to the school is “The Valley”, a large enclosed outdoor courtyard that includes green space and an amphitheater. Seating for approximately 100 will allow students to enjoy lunch outside.
A new health clinic has separate well and sick areas. An expanded counseling office allows for more privacy, and space for students to utilize technology to apply for college and scholarships.
Administrators and staff worked with architects over the course of several months to develop the space.
“When you have kids who are upset and waiting to see the counselor, it’s important to have a space for them to have some privacy, rather than make them sit out in the main area in plain view of everyone who walks by. We were intentional in designing the space, and it is going to work so well for our students,” Plowman said.
The addition also includes new classrooms for business and marketing and an area for a school store.
“Our first couple of additions were pretty pragmatic. We needed lots of classrooms or we needed to build a new wood shop. We need science classrooms specifically for Project Lead the Way. We needed to build things for academic purposes,” Plowman said.
Plowman emphasized that new offices for administrators were never at top of his list of priorities. However, he has seen the pride former students and community members have shown when touring the space.
“The kids that we’ve had through here have been excited. Every parent who comes in, every adult and business, will come through these doors and will see this office, our library, the courtyard, and will understand the pride we have in our school.”
A new office space will greet parents and visitors at the north entrance of Grain Valley High School. The office suite includes an expanded counseling center, health clinic with well and sick areas, and improved meeting spaces for administration to meet with parents and students. Just outside of the office is The Valley, an enclosed courtyard that includes green space, an amphitheater, and areas for students to enjoy lunch outdoors. Photo credit: Valley News staff
A new community room, with a separate entrance, will be used for Board of Education meetings, community meetings, and testing for students.
See additional photos of the addition at www.grainvalleynews.com.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
Entry in the new Counseling Center at Grain Valley High School.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
The Maker Space inside the new library at GVHS. The illuminated sign states "Experiment. Fail. Learn. Repeat.".
Photo credit: Valley News staff
The Valley, an outdoor enclosed courtyard (under construction while this photo was taken), will include an ampitheatre, green space, and area for approximately 100 students to eat lunch outdoors. Photo credit: Valley News staff
Students Receive Scholarships To Attend Missouri State University
Missouri State University recently awarded scholarships to incoming students for the 2019-20 academic year.
These students were selected from those who applied based on their ACT (American College Test) scores, GPA, standing in graduating class, and leadership shown in community and school activities.
Natalie Beth Hansen, Deans Scholarship
Mackenzie Dawn Jenkins, Missouri State Promise Scholarship
Adison Paige Richardson, Deans Scholarship
Skylar RaeLeigh Schmidt, Missouri State Promise Scholarship
Avila University Spring 2019 Dean’s List
More than 350 undergraduate students at Avila University earned dean’s list distinction for the spring 2019 semester. All full-time admitted undergraduate students are eligible for the dean’s list. To be included, students must have successfully completed at least 12 credit hours with at least a 3.5 grade point average for the semester.
The following Grain Valley students were honored on the dean’s list for the spring semester:
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) announced statewide results for both the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) and district Annual Performance Reports (APR) for the 2017-18 school year, and Grain Valley Schools earned a perfect APR rating.
The district earned a rating of 100% on the 2018 APR report, which evaluates academic achievement, subgroup achievement, college and career readiness, attendance, and graduation rate.
Grain Valley Schools Superintendent Dr. Marc Snow credits teachers and administrators with achieving this rating, despite ongoing changes in standards at the state level.
“An APR rating of 100% from the state is an affirmation of the hard work by everyone in our school community. Our teachers and administrators deserve a pat on the back for their work to provide an exceptional education to the children of Grain Valley,” Snow said.
“Missouri's school districts and state assessments are in a period of transition as we are operating under our third set of state standards in five years. Earning high marks from the state at this time reflects how we our team is managing the transition.”
More than 413,000 third- through eighth-grade students and an additional 175,000 high school students participated in the state’s testing program, leading to more than 1.05 million total assessments being administered to Missouri public and charter school students.
More than 97 percent of Missouri districts and charter schools scored at least 70 percent of the possible points on their APR. For public school districts, this places them in the fully accredited range, while charter schools do not receive an accreditation classification under current guidelines.
Valley News will dive deeper into these results in our February 7th print and online edition.