St. James News

Jason Smith visits Meusch Farms

Monday, July 29 marked the beginning of Missouri’s 8th Congressional District Representative Jason Smith’s tour of 30 agricultural facilities across the 30 counties he represents, beginning with Meusch Farms in Rolla. Smith held an on-site tour of the farm, learned about the challenges the local farming community faces, and heard from farmer Eric Meusch, who discussed how his farm is successful.

Spirit in Disguise holds grand opening

Members of the St. James and Rolla Chamber of Commerce had a ribbon cutting on Friday for the newly opened Spirit in Disguise, a year-round costume and accessory shop. The business held a grand opening over the weekend after having a soft launch earlier this year. Owned by AJ and Patrick Prawitz, the shop hopes to be a one-stop shop for all dress up needs.

Hunter part of committee helping with school library recognition program

Lucy Wortham James Elementary Librarian Hope Hunter was one of 12 state librarians who worked with the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to write an evaluation program for exemplary school librarians over the summer. Earlier this month, DESE released the final version of the program, which Hunter said is a big step for keeping school libraries accountable and aiding students.

“Last year, I was approached by the Chair of the MASL Advocacy Committee with an invitation to sit on the committee. Part of the duties of the committee were working with DESE to write an evaluation program for exemplary school librarians in response to the passing of Senate Bill 743 last June which, in part, requires DESE to recognize exemplary school library programs,” Hunter explained. For the past several years, she added, school libraries have not had any oversight on their programs and no way for great library programs to be recognized for their efforts.

“I was one of 12 librarians throughout the state that met with Lisa Scroggs, Assistant Director of the ELA Department to work on this project. The final version was released by DESE last week, and I’m proud to say very little was changed from the original version,” Hunter said. “This is a very big deal for school libraries in our state. For the past seven years, there has been no accountability to DESE that requires schools to have library programs with trained, certified librarians. This bill shows that Missouri is once again recognizing the importance school library programs play in our children’s education,” she said.

Senate Bill 743, which was signed by Missouri Governor Mike Parson on July 7, 2018, required DESE to establish a process for recognizing library programs, including school library information and technology, requiring libraries to be staffed by certified library personnel to provide services, resources, and instruction to aid with the academic learning process. The 12 librarians working on the advocacy committee were made up of various grade levels from kindergarten through twelfth grade to assist in finalizing the evaluation program to hold school libraries accountable and to identify which libraries are exemplary.

The committee developed a rigorous scoring system, containing 21 indicators each divided into Exemplary (worth two points) and Approaching (one point). In order to receive the DESE recognition, a school library program must score at least 38 out of a possible 42 point without receiving zero on any indicator.

“This process recognizes the library program, not the librarian. It is essential to have administration support for a strong program, and several of the items on the evaluation are ultimately decided by the district administration,” Hunter explained. She said administration support is important for most school functions and libraries are no different.

She reported that the committee developed the exemplary recognition to be difficult to receive, pushing school libraries to be exceptional. “The bar is very high for this recognition, but the purpose and intent for this process is to improve Missouri school library programs. If this evaluation were easy to get, then we would ultimately be saying that the state of Missouri’s libraries is in good shape. We used research and university studies, and other state recognition programs, in addition to the national standards set by the American Association of School Librarians to design our categories and our indicators,” Hunter said.

Hunter said she and the advocacy committee feel this program will raise the bar on school libraries across the state and recognize those that are more than just a place for students to check out books. Students also, she said, use the library as a gathering spot for group projects, to use technology, to get additional resources for homework and projects, and to use many other aspects of the space that might not be apparently obvious. She hopes, when this program rolls out, to see libraries across Missouri raising their standards to be recognized as an exemplary school and to aid education in the process.

University Extension offering Cooking Matters at Country Mart

On August 13, the University of Missouri Extension office will join St. James Country Mart to offer 16 low-income residents of St. James with shopping skills to serve healthy, affordable meals on a budget to their families. Five grocery stores across Dent, Crawford, and Phelps Counties will participate in the event, helping families learn how to accurately compare prices, read food labels, and to pick out healthy meal options.