Reeds Spring School District will host an event where the superintendent will discuss how the district has been spending the Prop RS tax dollars and the achievements the district has been able to accomplish.
The ‘Hangin’ with Hirschi’ event will take place Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 6 p.m. in the Reeds Spring Middle School auditorium, according to the Reeds Spring School District website.
Reeds Spring Schools encourages parents and patrons to learn more about the successes they have achieved over the last couple of years and also would like to provide an update on how Prop RS dollars are being spent.
During the event Superintendent Cody Hirschi will show that the district increased staff pay, hired additional staff, and expanded offerings at the Reeds Spring Early Education Center. There are many other district celebrations that Hirschi will highlight.
“It is crazy with COVID-19 and all the things schools are dealing with, including Reeds Spring and all the work that has been done. We have been able to keep our eyes focused on improving the quality of education for our kids,” Hirschi. “We have our vision 2025, our first round of strategic planning. We are well on our way. We passed Prop RS, in April, and the $0.55 cent tax levy helps us implement the plan.”
Hirschi said the Early Childhood Center has been a top priority for the district.
“One of the things we did with the Prop RS dollars is we hired additional Parents as Teachers staff. So we have two full time employees (in the Parents as Teachers) right now. Last year we only had one part-time position. Now we have two full time Parents as Teachers staff members, who will be able to touch at least 100 additional families this year. That is a way to get connected with the little kiddos and get the families introduced to our programs,” Hirschi said. “One of our big strategies is expanding early childhood. We gathered a bunch of data to determine how many families are out there in need of our early childhood program. We know there are more families, we don’t know about as well. We have very limited capacity, quite frankly, because of space.”
Hirschi said the tax dollars from Prop RS has already allowed the school to expand the preschool classes.
“With the tax dollars we were able to add one full day preschool classroom. So that is an additional 20 students,” Hirschi said. “With the tax dollars we were able to hire one fully certified preschool teacher, and two paraprofessionals to be able to add the additional classroom. That allows us to serve 20 more children in our Early Childhood Center, that weren’t before. We are excited about that.”
The staff of the Early Childhood Center are also planning events out in the community this year, according to Hirschi.
“Our staff at our Early Childhood Center are working on doing some pop-up preschools this year to try to get preschool out to our community in a small capacity,” Hirschi said.
Hirschi said the expansion of the Early Childhood Center is a big issue for the community.
“Since this is such a huge community goal, one of the strategies was to hire a director or grow that program and really make it big to accomplish the goal,” Hirschi said. “We hired an assistant administrator, and assistant principal, at the primary who, along with our current principal, will be working on the expansion. The final piece we jumped into already, is we have hired an architect and a construction manager to begin designing an expanded early childhood space. We are currently working on the details of that, to hopefully put a design out to our community this fall. Part of our next stage is to propose a no tax bond issue to build a new early childhood space which can accommodate all growth we are having.”
Hirschi said the district is also planning a renovation of the Primary School as part of the expansion.
Part of the Prop RS money is going to staff education and hiring new staff to support the community, according to Hirschi.
“The next thing we have done is to grow our staff and enhance the quality of education going on in the district,” Hirschi said. “We started our first 100% district paid masters program. We have 12 teachers in the program now, who are getting their master’s degree. The program is really cool. It is through Evangel University and we are able to craft it to the best practices and kind of make it our own. It has been really exciting.
“In regards to staffing, we hired two social workers to address the social and emotional needs of our students and our families. We are very blessed to have these two new employees, in positions which were not there before (Prop RS). We have also transitioned all of our K6 buildings , we did have a space where children could go and get focused, where they would sit with paraprofessionals. We have shifted those rooms to reset rooms. We have hired certified teachers and paras for those rooms, who have been trained to work as behavior interventionists. We have also hired full time instructional coaches to help grow our teachers in our buildings, which was a big add as well. Now every building in our district, including our Career Center, has an instructional coach to work with our staff.”
Hirschi said one of the best changes made with the money from the tax is the pay schedule for district teachers and staff.
“We also had the salary schedule change which impacted our salaries, which a lot of the tax dollars went to,” Hirschi said. “As of our increases, our teachers are getting paid at or above what other area schools are at. It was really a huge increase for our teachers. We really analyzed everything, first year teachers, five year teachers, teachers with master’s degrees, teachers who have been here 20 years. We went through every one of those salary schedules and made sure we were above the average. When we rolled it all out we were in or near the top with everyone of those indicators.”
Before the tax increase passed in April, Reeds Spring School District was in the lowest bracket of teacher’s pay in the area with comparable school districts, according to Branson Tri-Lakes News archives.
“We continue to focus now on the beginning salary, which is where we are just a little under, but we are still really competitive, we are just right there with it. But we are not at the top and we will be working on that this year,” Hirschi said. “When I went to the patrons and said we need this amount of money to be able to move forward, a lot of that went to the address teachers pay.”
Hirschi said the higher pay makes the school competitive with schools like Branson, Ozark and Nixa.
“The cool thing for us, we have seen in the last two years, we were never really in the game to have teachers from these other school district move to our school because it would have been a decrease in pay for them to come to our school,” Hirschi said. “Now we are competitive with them.”
Reeds Spring School District has hired several new teachers and created new positions this year.
“This year we had 45 new teachers, which is the largest hiring we have had,” Hirschi said. “Part of that is because of all the new positions. We have been able to compete with all the big school districts in the area to get those quality teachers. What is exciting about it is when there is a healthy competition between school districts, it only helps and improves the quality of learning for the kids.”
One of the other strategies the tax has helped with concerns the Career Center.
Our college and career strategy is important as well.
“We have looked at what programs we are currently off, which ones we are missing and if we have the space to accommodate them in a facility that is really outdated,” Hirschi said. “At our Career Center we teach kids from other schools in the area like Branson and Forsyth. We are working with the same designer and construction manager to design a new Career Center and Innovation Campus right next to the High School. So we will have those designs come out as well. We are really excited about these. We have to stay competitive because if we don’t have schools who want to send their kids to those programs we really can’t sustain it. We are really excited about the new designs.”
The ‘Hangin’ with Dr. Hirschi’ event can be viewed at youtube.com/c/RSWolves.