Delta Dental of Missouri's Land of Smiles® Show teaches students at four Grain Valley elementary schools good habits for healthy teeth
Delta Dental of Missouri’s popular Land of Smiles® dental education program is on the road this fall, taking the crusade for healthy teeth to 23,000 youngsters at more than 100 schools across the state in the coming weeks. The cast of dynamic superhero characters made their most recent stop in Grain Valley for performances at Stony Point Elementary School, Matthews Elementary School, Prairie Branch Elementary School and Sni-A-Bar Elementary School, teaching good dental health habits to 1,350 students in kindergarten through third grade.
The Land of Smiles® experience follows superhero Captain Super GrinSM, as he defeats his nemesis, Caz CavitySM, with help from his sidekicks Terri Tooth FairySM and ToothpickSM. Students learn the importance of brushing teeth twice a day, flossing, using mouthwash, eating healthy foods and visiting the dentist regularly. The program includes an oral health curriculum that adheres to National Health Education Standards, as well as standards for Missouri.
Delta Dental of Missouri also offers free “smile bags” to schools for students who participate in the program. Each bag includes a toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss to help students practice the good oral health habits they learn. Newly created short videos, which recap important oral health tips that the program teaches children in schools, are now available for caregivers and can be found at https://www.landofsmilesmo.org/parent-caregiver-information.
Since its inception in the fall of 2002, the Delta Dental of Missouri’s Land of Smiles® program has taught more than 1.1 million kids how to take care of their growing smiles through more than 5,800 onsite performances at schools in 113 Missouri counties, and through its online version. At least 25% of schools receiving the program have more than 80% of students enrolled in the free and reduced lunch program. The Land of Smiles® experience is provided free of charge to schools, courtesy of Delta Dental of Missouri.
by Cole Arndorfer
The Grain Valley Schools Board of Education met on Thursday, November 16th with a full agenda for their monthly meeting. The board held recognitions for athletes of three high school athletics teams and one for school resource officer Danny Iams, seven items under reports, three items of new business, and two policy discussions.
First, the board recognized the state runner-up girl’s tennis team led by coach Randy Draper. The team went 24-3 this season and earned a trip to State as a team for the third time in as many years.
Following the girl’s tennis team, the board recognized two girl’s golf state qualifiers, led by coach Randy Hughes. Junior Mallory Crane was recognized first. Crane is a three-time state qualifier, placing 12th and earning All-State honors this year. The second state qualifier was senior Seena Tyler. Tyler is also a three-time state qualifier, finishing 49th this year.
Next, three cross country state qualifiers, led by coach Nick Small, were recognized. David Roberson and Landon Barnes were recognized first, followed by Rylan Smith. This was both Barnes and Smith’s second year in a row qualifying for state. Small said that he is thankful for the team and he looks forward to seeing what they will accomplish next season.
The final recognition from the board was for school resource officer Danny Iams’ tenth year of service. Officer Iams has served at all eight of the districts’ schools over the past ten years, as well as serving as the districts’ DARE officer. Assistant Superintendent Dr. Nick Gooch described Iams as a valuable part of the districts’ team and that they are very thankful for his service to Grain Valley Schools.
Following recognitions, the board moved onto reports. The first report was an evaluation of the Grain Valley Education Foundation program, delivered by Jerry Vaughan.
Vaughan said that just last year, the Education Foundation was able to award 92 scholarships to graduating seniors totaling $104,650. Vaughan reported the Foundation is always looking for new ways to maximize the amount of scholarship money the foundation is able to help students receive because, “a $500 scholarship or $400 scholarship that we gave 14 years ago, doesn’t have near the impact now,” Vaughan said.
One option for helping students get more scholarship money, Vaughan said, is to use a program called VU Scholarships. In this program, students input their criteria and that is sent to over 50 colleges in the region. Those schools then send the student a list of scholarships they would qualify for based on the information they input.
Another priority for the program is to allow students to save their scholarship money in order to use their A+ award for their first two years. Vaughan explained that the foundation could put the scholarship money in a bank for the student in order for them to be able to use it once they complete their A+ program, that way students would not have to choose between using their A+ award for two free years of community college or using the scholarship money they have been awarded.
The board then heard a summary of the community survey results from Rick Nobles, from Excellence K-12. Nobles said that in the category of college preparedness, Grain Valley Schools received the highest score that they have ever seen from any school district. As for strengths, strong academics as well as good and caring teachers topped the list. Nobles also said that the overwhelming consensus of respondents said that they were in support of the district and back their mission.
Dr. Amanda Allen then provided a recap of the state assessment report. In each grade level and in each content area, students scored above or significantly above the state average.
The second part of the report is the district’s cohort comparison. In this section, the students continue to exceed the state averages. Allen said that the data the district is seeing shows a trend back toward pre-pandemic levels, though there are still a few challenges. Students are returning to those pre-pandemic levels a bit quicker in math than they are in reading, so the district will continue to focus on literacy, according to Allen.
Allen continued with the next report over curriculum. Allen said that on October 30, they held their curriculum review committee meeting. The group was prepped by choosing their curriculum group and reading through related materials. On the night of the meeting, the teachers that wrote the curriculum came to present the curriculum, explain it, and answer any questions committee members may have.
No major concerns were recommended, just minor tweaks such as bolding priorities in order for them to stand out. Other than small changes, most of the other feedback was praise and support for what was presented. The board was then presented with post curriculum review, revised curriculum standards.
In his superintendent report, Dr. Brad Welle highlighted the recent college and trade school fair hosted at the high school on November 2. The school hosted over 60 colleges and trade schools in attendance to give students information about their programs.
Welle also commended the team for their actions and support in response to the recent tragedy that occurred in the parking lot of Milestone Academy. He said that counselors were made available the first day they were back in school and that he appreciates everyone’s leadership in a time of need.
Moving to new business, the board discussed a potential tax levy ballot issue for the upcoming April election. One of the district’s priorities is to make sure teacher pay is on par with other high quality metro area school districts. In order to do this the district needs to generate more revenue, Welle explained. One way to do that would be increasing the tax levy, which those polled in the community survey showed they would support.
The district is seeking more information from L.J. Hart and Co. and hopes to have a report from them at next month’s meeting. The deadline for the board to decide whether or not to make an increased tax levy a ballot measure would come in January.
The second piece of new business was over the filing for school board candidates, also for the upcoming April election. That period will open on December 5, at 8 am, and run through December 26, at 5 pm.
The last section of the meeting was board policies. First up was the third reading of three policies regarding prohibition against illegal discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, school board member ethics, and food service management. These policies passed unanimously.
The last policy discussed was the first read of a policy regarding board member qualifications. Dr. Welle pointed out a change in this policy. A potential board member now must have lived within the district for at least one year prior to them being elected to the board. This policy will be brought back as an action item at the next meeting.
Following this, the board moved into executive session. The next school board meeting will be held at the Leadership Center on December 7 at 6 pm.
Missouri education leaders say social-emotional learning guidelines an ‘ongoing discussion’
by Annelise Hanshaw, Missouri Independent
Missouri education leaders knew establishing social-emotional learning guidelines for public schools would draw controversy, with some celebrating the idea and others decrying it as government overreach.
So when the Missouri State Board of Education decided earlier this month to change course and pursue social-emotional learning as an optional framework instead of a statewide standard, the reactions were unsurprisingly mixed.
Some Republican officials celebrated the move, declaring it a victory for critics of the idea. Proponents, meanwhile, were left scratching their heads and wondering how social-emotional learning got wrapped up in the culture war.
State Board of Education President Charlie Shields told The Independent the board’s decision will ultimately be a positive thing for social-emotional learning in Missouri.
“If we would’ve moved forward with standards, I think that, frankly, would have set us back in terms of trying to change what’s actually happening,” Shields said.
Missouri’s proposed social-emotional-learning framework is a set of goals intended to progress soft skills, like teamwork and self-motivation.
Board members spoke enthusiastically during the October meeting about expanding the current guiding document into resources for educators, hoping to curb teacher burnout.
According to Google Trends, social-emotional learning has had interest for much of the 21st century, being searched consistently but not widely until around 2016. The phrase dramatically increased in prominence in August 2020 before peaking in September 2020.
Christi Bergin, a research professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia and director of the prosocial development and education research lab, said social-emotional learning has been a tool to correct student behavior since the 1970s.
Social-emotional learning has grown in popularity as students returned to school from COVID-19 closures and teachers noticed additional behavioral issues.
“It was always a need,” Darbie Valenti Huff, a professional developer at the Missouri State Teachers Association, told The Independent. “When our students started to really struggle and had a hard time adapting after the pandemic, it just spotlighted that maybe they didn’t have those skills to help regulate and things like that beforehand.”
Valenti Huff was named Missouri’s teacher of the year in 2017, heralding her success as a result of her continuing education in social-emotional learning.
She told The Independent that she was always interested in social-emotional learning, but now others are taking notice.
The State Board of Education discussed improving classroom behavior and expanding resources for educators during the October meeting with a focus on teachers. The charge to bring SEL statewide came from a Department of Elementary and Secondary Education blue ribbon commission, a group that hopes to improve teacher recruitment and retention.
But some, following the meeting, spoke as though the blue ribbon’s recommendation was dumped entirely.
Jeremy Cady, lobbyist for conservative advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, posted online that the board “halted“ the proposed standards. State Rep. Doug Richey, a Republican from Excelsior Springs who is running for state Senate, posted on social media that the board’s decision was “welcome news.”
“After my effort to defund (social-emotional learning), this past session, met with significant opposition, I wasn’t sure this day would actually arrive,” he wrote.
Richey sought in March to pull state funding of diversity, equity and inclusion programs, or DEI, not social-emotional learning. Though for some in Missouri, the two initiatives sound similar alarms.
State Sen. Bill Eigel, who is running in the GOP primary for governor, labeled social-emotional learning as “awful” during an appearance on a television program operated by Mike Lindell — creator of MyPillow and election conspiracist.
“As governor, I am going to dismantle DESE and continue to lead the fight against children being used as research experiments for leftist agendas. No to government bureaucracy in education. No to social emotional learning,” Eigel posted on social media alongside a clip of the interview.
A portion of Missourians who responded during the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s public-comment period on proposed social-emotional-learning standards linked the guidelines with DEI. There are more than 1,000 instances of commenters writing “DEI” in their messages about the standards.
Many negative responses are identical or nearly identical.
“Please focus on teaching students how to read, write, math, science, and etc.,” one respondent wrote. “Social-emotional learning and DEI programs do not help students learn and have no place in the students’ of Missouri education.”
Shields told The Independent he doesn’t understand why people draw a connection between DEI and SEL. He wondered if some opposing commenters read the 15 guidelines before condemning them.
Aggressive comments didn’t persuade the board’s actions to make the guiding social-emotional-learning document optional, Shields said. Instead, he was focused on others’ worries that the standards would become part of schools’ accreditation and scoring system.
“We were very careful that we didn’t set the effort backwards by moving it forward as standards,” he said. “We actually think we can move forward the guidelines and possibly have more impact.”
Shields said the board will continue to discuss social-emotional learning, including the development of resources for teachers to apply the 15 points outlined in the initial document.
Bergin, who is the co-chair of the work group who created the standards, described the following situation when talking to The Independent.
A teacher has a classroom of students that haven’t been behaving well this school year, perhaps bickering or calling one another cruel names.
It lingers in the teacher’s mind, and it would be nice to have a lesson on cooperation or respect — but there’s an intimidating list of core-subject lessons to complete.
If the state and district administration encourages social-emotional learning, that teacher will feel like there’s permission to pause and teach social skills. The feeling of permission is the reason Bergin likes standards instead of an optional framework.
Bergin has helped numerous districts implement similar programs.
“The climate of the classroom improves, and children are happier there,” she told The Independent. “They actually learn more because when children are in environments where they feel like all their classmates care about them, they care about each other. They are free to learn more, and they’re more engaged in the classroom.”
She has watched test scores improve as students learn social-emotional skills.
Valenti Huff was also part of the work group that created the standards.
“Our approach was, ‘let’s try to find that common ground that we all agree on…’ I don’t think that’s quite what happened,” she said.
She wonders if the name “social-emotional learning” caused some commenters to disagree.
The work group began meeting in February and prepared a document of standards members believed the whole state could appreciate. They presented a first draft in May.
The standards have three categories — me, we and others — to help students with a “healthy sense of self,” “relationship-building skills” and “prosocial skills.”
The most current version includes a glossary of traits for each category and student indicators of goals. Skills include cooperation, emotional regulation, respect and active listening.
The group included educators from Missouri’s urban districts and rural districts to ensure the goals worked for everyone because it was created to be a standard, and, therefore, not optional.
“Without them being a set of standards that we all agree should be a priority and should be taught, I just am afraid that it will fall by the wayside in some districts,” Valenti Huff said. “It will maybe be used as a resource, but I’m afraid it might be an afterthought.”
Others were opposed to another statewide standard.
“I think teachers barely have time to teach what we were trained to teach and that SEL is the responsibility of counselors and families,” one public comment says. “I am not a trained therapist or life coach.”
The Missouri National Education Association, the state teachers’ union, has not made a formal statement on the guidelines. But its policy is in favor of character education and prefers local school boards to have the final say on curriculum issues.
“It is really about these policies and maintaining some flexibility for districts so that they are not looked at as cookie-cutter communities, but instead are allowed to do what’s best for their students where their students are at,” Mark Jones, the MNEA’s communications director, told The Independent.
He said teachers will be looking for clarity and consistency if their district adopts the guidelines.
“It’s really about helping educators have tools and access those tools that benefit their students while conducting their normal lesson plans during the day,” Jones said.
He sees social-emotional learning as an additional layer of learning that is incorporated into the school day, like having students work in groups and practice collaboration.
Bergin said social-emotional learning can be applied in many ways, but she also sees it fit into the everyday rhythm of the classroom.
“My preference for approach is what we call interactional, which is when we just work on tweaking the way that educators interact with students during their regular academic curriculum,” she said.
Currently, the state has not prepared any directions for educators or materials for professional development.
Valenti Huff said the original plan was to have a team help with implementing the standards by creating resources for teachers and detailing them further.
Shields said the board has not abandoned the next steps and has directed DESE staff to look at best practices nationwide and provide options to districts.
“This is not a one-and-done discussion,” he said. “This is an ongoing discussion, so we will circle back on this in the future.”
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by Cole Arndorfer
On Thursday, October 19th, the Grain Valley Board of Education met for their monthly meeting. The meeting included a report over the district’s audit, a comparison in pay across the metro, the superintendent’s report, and an item of unfinished business.
Under reports, the board heard an audit presentation from Brian Eckhoff of Westbrook & Co. Eckhoff led the school district’s audit over last year’s financials and he came to give a brief overview of the financial statements. Eckhoff said overall, the district had a good financial year minus some project expenditures.
Eckhoff described the audit as, “as clean as you can get.” He added that there were no recommendations for improvement by the firm.
Following the report, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Nick Gooch presented a comparison in teacher pay. In this comparison, Gooch broke down where Grain Valley ranked against other metro area districts. For teacher pay, the district ranked 11th in the metro in base salary, up three spots from the previous year. Grain Valley added $1,500 to their standard base pay in order to move up. For master’s degree level teacher pay, the district stayed at 13th even after adding to that salary. Gooch said that they have looked at the stats and have outlined ways that the district can improve on these numbers in order to become more competitive, not only in teacher pay, but across all positions.
Superintendent Dr. Brad Welle said that their goal is to come back to the next meeting with a solid idea of what it will take to improve on the competitiveness of the pay schedule. Gooch said his hope is to be able to present the board with a new salary schedule by the end of the calendar year.
In his superintendent report, Welle first outlined a $10,000 grant the district received from the Grow Your Own program. The purpose of these funds is to work with students who are interested in becoming teachers. The district can use these funds for dual-credit courses, paying college scholarships, and for paying students internship stipends for summer school internships working in the classroom. Welle said that the high school has a course underway this year that is gauged toward teaching students how to be teachers.
Welle also reported the district’s community survey is underway. He also reminded the Board of the Bright Futures Luncheon which will take place on November 14, at noon, at the Grain Valley Community Center. He said that this year is Bright Future’s 10-year anniversary and he is looking forward to celebrating that.
In unfinished business, the board discussed the Scott Belcher Scholarship nominee. This scholarship comes from the MSBA. Participating school boards may submit a nominee for a regional award and an opportunity receive consideration at the state level. The board went over the applications and after discussion, they chose Mia Simmons as this year’s nominee.
The next school board meeting will take place on November 16th, at 6 pm, in the Leadership Center.
Grain Valley High School's Speech and Debate team will be hosting their home tournament on Friday, October 20th and Saturday, October 21st, and need a few good volunteers to help out as judges.
No experience is needed and a variety of shifts are open both Friday and Saturday. Scan the QR code on the flyer below or visit GVHS Invitational Judge Sign Up October 20-21st 2023 (google.com) to sign up to volunteer.
On Thursday, October 5 the Grain Valley Marching Eagles are inviting the community to an exclusive performance of the Marching Eagles 2023 field show, “All The Queens’ Thrones”. There is no entrance fee, but a donation to the GVBPA is greatly appreciated.
Please arrive at 8 pm. The gate to the field will open at 8:30 pm and the run through of the show will begin shortly after.
No video or audio recording will be allowed.
Living the Great War Weekend is back on Oct. 21-22. Guests will meet soldiers, nurses and more from all sides of the Great War. The Living History Volunteer Corps and other living historians bring WWI to life in a camp setting on the grounds. It all kicks off with Reveille - a gathering at the flagpole inside the front gates – on Saturday, Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. This event is free and for all ages.
October is Homeschool Month at the National WWI Museum and Memorial. A discounted rate of $6 for all homeschool students aged 18 and under provides ticketed access to all gallery areas of the Museum and Memorial along with a free Family Guide booklet. Discount tickets are only available onsite at the Ticketing Counter.
Other events in October include a Fall Film Screening of 1917 on Saturday, Oct.21 at 6:30 p.m., a KC Current Tailgate with The Modernists on Saturday, Oct. 7 and the 2023 Symposium: Milestones & Cornerstones on Friday, Oct. 27 - Saturday, Oct. 28.
October National WWI Museum and Memorial events
About the National WWI Museum and Memorial
The National WWI Museum and Memorial is America’s leading institution dedicated to remembering, interpreting and understanding the Great War and its enduring impact on the global community. The Museum and Memorial holds the most comprehensive collection of World War I objects and documents in the world and is the second-oldest public museum dedicated to preserving the objects, history and experiences of the war. The Museum and Memorial takes visitors of all ages on an epic journey through a transformative period and shares deeply personal stories of courage, honor, patriotism and sacrifice. Designated by Congress as America’s official World War I Museum and Memorial and located in downtown Kansas City, Mo., the National WWI Museum and Memorial inspires thought, dialogue and learning to make the experiences of the Great War era meaningful and relevant for present and future generations. To learn more, visit theworldwar.org.
by Cole Arndorfer
The Grain Valley Board of Education met on Thursday, September 21. The board began the meeting with a public hearing on the proposed tax rate for the year, led by Assistant Superintendent Dr. Nick Gooch. The board also heard Superintendent Dr. Brad Welle’s report, took action on two items of unfinished business and three items of new business, and took action on two board policies discussed in the previous month’s meeting.
In his presentation, Gooch said that the total assessed valuation for the city was $567,445,737, up over $107 million from last years assessed valuation. The proposed rate for this year is 4.4882. This number is comprised of the operating levy, which is proposed to be decreased to 2.7882, and the debt service levy, which would stay the same at 1.70. After no discussion from the board and no public comments, the public hearing was closed and the meeting was called to order.
For his report, Welle shared a few highlights from around the district. He talked about the Signs of Suicide program that high school and middle school students participated in on September 13. This program teaches students about the possible signs of suicide in their friends and classmates, as well as when to get help for themselves or others. This has been used by the district for 13 years.
Welle also said that the district is finalizing their K-8 fall benchmark assessments, consistent with the CSIP priority on literacy.
The final piece of Welle’s report was an update on construction at the high school. Welle said that walls are beginning to go up around the new gymnasium and he is excited to see it starting to take its form.
Next in the meeting was unfinished business. The first item on that list was the annual CSIP priorities. There have been no changes to these since the September workshop meeting.
“The priorities this year emphasize improving our early literacy skills, assessing the needs of our facilities throughout the district, implementing character education to address student behavior in each of our schools, developing a revised safety and security plan for each of our schools in our district, and provide competitive pay for all employees,” Welle said.
The annual priorities were passed unanimously by the board.
The last piece of unfinished business was naming the press box at the high school. Welle said that with it being the 100th season of Grain Valley football, the press box will be named after Grain Valley’s most successful head coach, Forrest Rovello. This item was also unanimously passed.
Under new business, the board took action to set the tax levy rate for 2023. The board approved the tax rate and it will be set at 4.4882 for the next year. Changes from assessed valuation appeals was a concern that was brought up by the board. The state has a process set in place in order to recoup any tax dollars that may be lost due to any appeals.
The second item was to add two additional full-time paraprofessionals. Welle said that the district does still have a few openings for paraprofessionals but there is still a need to add these extra positions. This item was approved and the budget will be amended in October to reflect these additions.
The final item was to live broadcast school board workshops. This item was put on the agenda to set the record straight and clear any confusion by board members. Some of the board members believed that when they voted to allow live broadcasts of board meetings that it also included workshops so they wanted to take a vote on specifically the workshop events.
Board Vice President, Jeff Porter, said that he thinks broadcasting the workshops is just as important, if not more important than broadcasting the monthly business meetings. He said that in order for the public to understand what the board is voting on, they must be able to see what is discussed in the workshops. This item was approved 6-1 with the lone “no” vote being from Board President Eddie Saffell.
Board policy review was the last item on the agenda. The first policy on the list was on the topic of resignation of professional staff members. This policy was amended slightly to allow the board to waive the fee the staff member must pay to resign late, and the staff member may request in writing to the board to have the fee waived. This policy was approved.
The last series of policies the board took action on was the 2023B series policies from the MSBA. No changes have been made to these policies from the previous workshop. These policies were approved.
The next board meeting will take place on October 19, at 6 pm in the Leadership Center.
Park University announces its graduates from the 2022-23 academic year. The list of graduates includes those from the University’s flagship campus in Parkville as well as its 38 additional campuses across the country and online worldwide.
The University had 2,007 students eligible to graduate — 469 students earned a master’s degree, specialist degree and/or graduate certificate, and 1,538 students received a bachelor’s degree, associate degree and/or undergraduate certificate.
Grain Valley graduates (reside in Grain Valley or attended Grain Valley schools):
LIST OF GRADUATE DEGREES CONFERRED
(Name, Degree Concentration [if applicable], Hometown and High School Attended [if provided])
Master of Business Administration
LIST OF UNDERGRADUATE DEGREES CONFERRED
(Honors designation key ([at least 30 earned credit hours prior to the last term of enrollment at Park University]):
Bachelor of Fine Arts
Bachelor of Science
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Grain Valley students visited by Million Bazillion Live! "Who wants to be a bazillionaire?" financial literary tour
On Friday, September 15, middle schoolers at Grain Valley North Middle School learned about financial literacy with Million Bazillion Live! “Who Wants to be a Bazillionaire?” Based on the Webby-winning kids’ podcast Million Bazillion from Marketplace and presented by Greenlight, Million Bazillion Live! brings financial knowledge and empowerment to middle school students.
American Public Media’s® (APM) Marketplace®, the most widely consumed business and economic news programming in the country, partnered with Greenlight® Financial Technology, Inc. (Greenlight), the fintech company on a mission to help parents raise financially smart kids, to launch this dynamic financial literacy tour, Million Bazillion Live! “Who Wants to be a Bazillionaire?”
Presented in a fun, entertaining game show format, Million Bazillion Live! is an immersive experience with personal finance trivia, challenges, and prizes. During the tour, students will cheer on their classmates while learning about real money matters such as budgeting, saving, and investing.
To learn more, visit millionbazillionlive.com.