R-1 board approves smart sensors for restrooms, accepts auditor’s report

This article originally appeared on Maries County Advocate. To view the original article, click here

VIENNA — The Maries R-1 Board of Education approved a service agreement for HALO Smart Sensor devices at its Dec. 19 meeting.

Superintendent Teresa Messersmith said the devices detect vapor from electronic cigarettes in addition to monitoring for other activity including aggression, tampering and loud noises. The devices can also listen for certain keywords such as “help.” They also monitor air quality factors such as levels of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, and humidity and temperature. The sensors can also detect specific substances in the air such as THC.

The district will get eight sensors. They will go in each of the middle school and high school restrooms and locker rooms. The manufacturers will install and program the units and provide training for administrators. Messersmiths said she expects “a little bit of a learning curve.”

The cost is $13,258.74 for the eight units. The funding for the equipment comes from a $50,000 state school safety grant the district received last October.

Triangle Environmental Science and Engineering tested 24 outlets in the district for lead contamination in November. Messersmith said during the Dec. 19 meeting that the results of the test came back clear. The district planned to send a letter to parents along with publishing the results on the school’s website.

Later in the meeting, the board approved the district’s audit for the 2022-23 school year. Messersmith said the audit report came back fine. She noted that the district does have a recurring concern related to staffing in the administration office.

“We have a material weakness of a segregation of duties,” she said. “This is basically because we have a limited number of personnel in our office.”

Messersmith said the district did not have a way to work around the issue and it would be a concern on the audit each year. She added that she did not think it would be an issue and that both the district and the auditors were aware of the circumstances.

Another recommendation by the auditors was to be cautious of cybersecurity threats and do anything the district can to mitigate cybersecurity risks. Messersmith said Technology Director Kevin Schwartze has been focusing on cybersecurity over the last year to comply with requirements from the Missouri United School Insurance Council.

The board officially set the 2024 graduation date for Sunday, May 12 at 2 p.m. During the November meeting, the board had discussed changing the date to avoid conflicting with Mother’s Day. However, the Friday and Saturday of that weekend would conflict with sports schedules.

The board also approved May 21 through June 20 as the summer school dates for next year.

Another vote by the board approved a memorandum of understanding with Nichols Career Center in Jefferson City. The memorandum says that Maries R-1 will cover the $3,750 cost for three students to attend this school year. The students live within the district boundaries but do not attend Maries R-1.

Board member Mike Kleffner said he would like to know more about the arrangement because he could not remember a time when the district previously paid for students to attend Nichols Career Center.

The district received its Annual Performance Report from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education a couple of days before the board meeting. Messersmith recommended that the board members read over the report before the next board meeting on Jan. 23 to prepare any questions that they might have for the administration. The administration plans to present some of the highlights of the report at that meeting.

Last year, the district scored 78.3 percent compared to 76.2 percent on this year’s report. Messersmith said that across the state, about 70 percent of schools saw their scores decrease from last year. Most schools landed in the 70 to 79 percent range. Only 6 percent of schools in the state scored an 80 percent on the report.

Messersmith told the board that this year’s reports included new components. One factor she talked about was the state’s growth formula to predict how students will perform on standardized tests. Each student has a target, and if the student does not reach their target, then the school does not get growth points.

Another reason the district lost points from last year is that not all students could be tested. Messersmith said she was unable to discuss the reason, but in one subject the school barely missed its requirement of testing 95 percent of students to receive points. The district could only test 94.6 percent of students.

Also at the meeting, the board hired Tim Simmons as the assistant junior varsity boys basketball coach.