The South Salem community is able to become more intertwined with education through an after-school program ran by one of the local churches and highlighted during Monday’s Greenfield School Board meeting.
Buckskin Elementary Principal Mike Shumate said he was approached by a community member who asked him if he had ever considered talking to any of the three churches located near the elementary school as a way to “involve the community in the educational process.”
Shumate said when he met with some local church members he “envisioned some participation,” like church members coming to have lunch with kids, or letting students read to them. He said they were all “very receptive.” But then church member Kathy Mincey had the idea for the after school program, called After School Kids (ASK).
Every Tuesday an average of 26 kindergarten through fifth-graders in the program meet in the elementary office after school and are then escorted by church members and program volunteers for the short walk to the church. The kids have snacks, do crafts, cook, sing, play games and are offered Bible study and prayer time. The children in the program have given singing performances for special programs at the church. Mincey said some of the children participate in Sunday worship, too.
Another church member present told the board that the church has gained attendees and has been able to add a new Sunday school class. The after school program is “mutually beneficial,” he said, for the children and their families as well as the church family.
“We appreciate all that you are doing with these kids,” Shumate said, adding that a lot of the faces he saw in a video Mincey presented were the faces of children that had suffered traumas and tragedies, and those who had no father, mother or both at home.
“These are needy kids,” he said.
Shumate said that it is emphasized at Buckskin that the school is a “safe place” for the children – a place where they don’t have to think about “adult problems” like what is going on in the world or at home. And this after-school program is another aspect of that safe place.
“My plan is to go to the Buckskin community,” Shumate said. “I’d love to have the three churches working together in the building. That is my goal.”
In other business, superintendent Joe Wills introduced Master Sgt. John Wilson to board members in regard to a recent meeting Wilson had with students about a JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) program perhaps coming to Greenfield.
Wilson said 74 students indicated some level of interest in the program, a number that exceeded his expectations, he said.
The Air Force retiree met with the school board a few years ago to answer questions about the JROTC program. Wilson has headed up the Paint Valley JROTC program for 11 years.
The program reflects all military branches and is “military themed,” but it is not about military recruitment at all. In fact, he said, a very small percentage of his students go on to the military after high school. He said most of the students are bound for college and a lot go on to the workforce. A goal of the program is to give students tools they can use no matter what path they choose after high school.
The “whole idea” with the program “is to create better citizens,” Wilson said.
Time commitments outside the classroom are up to the student, he said, and the program is open to all students.
In other matters, an item on the consent agenda that was accepted was that of the resignation of Randy Closson from his position as virtual learning instructor. He resigned from the position effective at the end of this school year to become the middle school assistant principal beginning next school year, an employment recommendation that board members unanimously approved at Monday’s meeting.
“He’s been with the district a long time,” Wills said, adding that Closson has been involved in several leadership roles for students through teaching and athletics. “We are looking forward to having him on our administrative team.”
Closson thanked the board and administration for allowing him the new opportunity and said he looks forward to serving in the new administrative capacity.
Wills said current middle school assistant principal Matt Shelton will become high school assistant principal next school year as present high school assistant principal Ted Ely is retiring at the end of this school year.
Other employment recommendations approved by the board were James Washburn, certified substitute, and Donald Ary, baseball volunteer.
Board members met briefly in an executive session to discuss the purchase of property, but took no action upon resuming the open session.
The Greenfield Exempted Village Board of Education is scheduled for its next regular session meeting on May 21 at 7 p.m. in the central office boardroom. The public is welcome to attend.