Prop R: Three Years Later

Prop R is improving school for Mehlville School District’s students
Posted on 06/12/2019
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In November 2015, the Mehlville School District community passed Prop R, a 49-cent tax increase to the school district’s property tax rate. Thanks to the support of voters, the district began receiving about $8 million in additional funds to support student learning in the 2016-2017 school year.

The tax increase was specifically earmarked for:

• restoring and improving funding for early interventions for struggling students;
• training and retaining quality teachers and staff;
• upgrading student and district technology;
• restoring, repairing and upgrading HVAC systems, roofing and district facilities; and
• funding ongoing operating expenses.

The funds have been used to hire 16 additional teachers since 2015, including 11 classroom interventionists and five English Language teachers. Additionally, about $1 million is now spent each year in professional development for teachers. This training helps the district keep quality teachers and improve instruction for students. 

Thanks to the tax increase, the district now provides and maintains one Chromebook for each student in kindergarten through high school. And much needed facilities improvements, like updates to HVAC systems and fire alarms, have contributed to safer and more comfortable classrooms for students and staff.

To ensure financial transparency, the Mehlville Finance Committee reviews and verifies expenditures from Prop R. This year, as it had in the year prior, the committee found the district fully complied with its promised expenditures.

“Prior to the passage of Prop R, Mehlville School District was reducing its budget due to declines in revenue, and that’s when we saw student achievement drop,” said Dr. Chris Gaines, superintendent. “Money does matter. As we’ve spent more on teachers, professional development, technology and facilities, our performance has improved. We are able to do a better job of teaching and empowering students today than we were prior to the passage of Prop R.”


Helping students make real-world connections

Helping students make real-world connections

“It can be difficult to show kids how history impacts their lives today,” said Dan Regan, social studies and English Language Arts teacher at Margaret Buerkle Middle School. However, Regan has been working with a Discovery Education coach, funded by Prop R.  The coach has helped him spark real-world connections between students and the curriculum. For example, when thinking about the skills required to colonize America, Regan encourages students to consider the workers needed to colonize our current-day frontier: Mars. “It’s an interesting way to consider future careers, and once the students researched salaries of different positions, they all wanted to be engineers. They loved this activity.”


Focusing on foundational skills for learning


Focusing on foundational skills for learning

Some of the students in Peggy Evers’ kindergarten class at Oakville Elementary came to school in August without knowing any of their letters. By May, all but one student was able to read age-appropriate books independently. A big part of this success, she says, is due to support from Laura Kadlec, the school’s reading interventionist. Kadlec was hired as an interventionist with Prop R funds. Through small group instruction, and one-to-one instruction, Kadlec works with all students in kindergarten, first and second grade to help them become stronger readers. 


Facilities improvements have made school more comfortable 


Facilities improvements have made school more comfortable HVAC work has been completed at Buerkle Middle, Mehlville High, Oakville High, Oakville Middle and Washington Middle, thanks to Prop R. Fire alarms were replaced at Bierbaum Elementary and Oakville Middle, and ceilings were replaced at Mehlville High and Washington Middle. The turf and track were replaced at Mehlville High and Oakville High. The floor was replaced in Gym A at Oakville High, and some exterior doors were replaced at Mehlville High. Asphalt maintenance was completed district-wide. Additional roofing projects have been completed with funds generated by Prop A.

“Two summers ago, Buerkle Middle School received a new HVAC system. It has definitely made a difference in the learning environment,” said Jim Kern, Buerkle principal. “It’s hard to focus when it’s hot. The part of the building with seventh-grade classrooms would sometimes get up to 80 degrees on hot days.” New HVAC controls help keep the building a consistent temperature.


New buses improve student safety, reduce repair costs 


New buses improve student safety, reduce repair costs Prior to the 2016-2017 school year, Mehlville School District was not able to replace buses on a regular basis. From fiscal year 2009 to fiscal year 2015, the district purchased just 10 new buses. Since the passage of Prop R, the district has purchased 24 new buses and has a plan to replace buses every 16 years. This improves student safety by reducing the risk of buses being stranded on the road. The district has also seen a decrease in costly repairs on aging buses.


Language support that benefits all students


Language support that benefits all studentsMore than 52 languages are spoken in Mehlville schools, and a growing number of students receive English Language (EL) services. Five additional EL teachers were hired after the passage of Prop R. In addition to increasing services for students, EL teachers like Jacqui Schilling are also exploring the best ways to deliver their instruction. Rather than pulling students out of a class to provide language services, today, many EL teachers co-teach with grade-level teachers. “In the past, students would leave during science or social studies for EL, and I would have to try to catch that student up on what they missed,” said Heather Reed, first-grade teacher at Forder Elementary who co-teaches with Schilling. “Now, students receive language instruction as part of social studies, math or science. We are working together to build the academic vocabulary that benefits all students.”

“I can see the students’ language growing from kindergarten through first and second grade,” Schilling said. “It’s amazing how fast students acquire their second or even third language.”


Nurturing young writers 

Nurturing young writers

Funds from Prop R have helped English Language Arts teacher Cheryl Ogolin improve how she teaches writing to her Mehlville High School students. Through professional development with the Gateway Writing Project, Ogolin worked with a coach who visited her class to provide feedback on her instruction and tips for reaching all of her students. “The Gateway Writing Project, and especially my coach, helped me become a more reflective practitioner,” Ogolin said. “My coach helped me strategize different ways to reach students no matter if they were remedial writers or advanced writers needing to be challenged. I believe all of my students are stronger writers because of the support I’ve received through professional development.”


More after-school activities for students 

More after-school activities for students Since Prop R passed, the number of student clubs and activities has doubled. Spending on activities has gone up from $182,000 in the 2015-2016 school year to $262,000 in the 2018-2019 school year. Students now have the opportunity to participate in additional sports at the elementary and middle school levels, like middle school cross country, pictured at left. They can explore their interests in the arts, robotics, cultures and gardening through school clubs. Clubs and activities provide kids a deeper sense of belonging and allow them to pursue areas of interest.

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