Local districts discuss school safety and active shooters at second board academy session

O’Fallon Police Captain Jim Cavins spoke about the department’s involvement within the schools to the assembled board members at the second board academy session.
(O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Annabelle Knef)

O’FALLON – School board members, superintendents and board candidates from local districts gathered at the O’Fallon Public Safety building to discuss school safety and security with law enforcement. 

The second School Board Academy session took place on Tuesday, March 26 and included representatives from District 90, District 203, District 85 and District 104. The O’Fallon Police Department spoke to those gathered about the importance of school security in today’s national climate. 

Captain Jim Cavins first spoke at the session about the O’Fallon P.D. and its involvement within the community and schools. Cavins pointed out the mission statement: “The O’Fallon Police Department is dedicated to proactively solving problems and protecting life and property through education, prevention and enforcement.  In striving to accomplish this mission, service to community is our commitment; honor and integrity our mandate.” 

Cavins then gave general information on the police department and its divisions, programs and organizations. 

O’Fallon Township High School School Resource Officer (SRO) Brian Riggar then spoke to board academy attendees about school safety and intruder defense training. 

Riggar is an officer assigned full time to District 203 throughout the school year. He is responsible for promoting positive relationships between O’Fallon P.D. and the students, parents and staff of the high school.

 A SRO’s responsibility is to assist the professional staff with the safety of students and staff, and also to evaluate the security of the facilities. 

Riggar said the elements of the intruder defense training is: Educate, Evade, Escape and Engage. 

“This is what we teach to all schools — every school district in O’Fallon,” Riggar said.

The intruder defense training or — active shooter training — is necessary due to the steady incline of school shooters since the year 2000, Riggar said. 

Riggar said the instructional training is “not preventative, it’s saving lives.” “The goal is to save as many as we can.” 

The average response time from a police department to a school with an active shooter is three minutes, Riggar said. 

In an active shooter scenario, Riggar said your body will do one of three things: fight, flight or freeze.

Because of this, Riggar said the school community needs to be involved in training. 

Training in schools involves a powerpoint presentation for staff and then the police department will run drills recreating an active shooter scenario. 

While school lockdowns were mostly used in past active shooter situations, “it’s time to do something else, either flee or engage,” Riggar said. 

Riggar said active shooter training can be applied to multiple places like the movie theatre, restaurants, church and businesses. 

Riggar said if a staff member were to disarm an active shooter to place the weapon in a garbage can. 

According to Riggar, none of the four E’s: Educate, Evade, Escape and Engage— are more important than the other. 

Dr. Darcy Benway, OTHS District 203 superintendent, said she thinks it’s important for board members to participate in the active shooter training if they are able to. 

“I think it’s very important for board members to participate because you are a vulnerable population when you are sitting in front of the public — sometimes board members have to make very difficult situations,” Benway said. “The public can become very angry.”

Benway referenced the Kirkwood City Council shooting that took place approximately 10 years ago that left six people dead. 

“It’s important that you start training your frame of mind as a board member,” she said. “Where are you going to go should someone come to a board meeting with the intent to do harm.”

District 203 placed on the College Board’s 9th Annual AP District Honor Roll for significant gains in student access and success

O’Fallon Township High School is one of 373 school districts in the U.S. and Canada being honored by the College Board with placement on the 9th Annual AP® District Honor Roll.  To be included on the 9th Annual Honor Roll, O’Fallon Township High School, District 203, had to, since 2016, increase the number of students participating in AP while also increasing or maintaining the percentage of students earning AP Exam scores of 3 or higher. Reaching these goals shows that this district is successfully identifying motivated, academically prepared students who are ready for AP.

“We are thrilled to be recognized for this honor as it represents the hard work of our teachers, staff, students, and administration at OTHS.  Although OTHS is receiving this honor, we believe it is representative of a much larger pool of people as this success is also representative of the family partnership we are so fortunate to have in our community.  Everyone within OTHS will continue to work toward delivering the best possible education for all of our students.  We will celebrate this recognition but also recognize it is one moment in time and we must always be mindful to continue to deliver our very best every day,” Superintendent, Dr. Darcy Benway, stated upon receipt of the award. 

National data from 2018 show that among American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students with a high degree of readiness for AP, only about half are participating. The first step to getting more of these students to participate is to give them access. 

Helping more students learn at a higher level and earn higher AP scores is an objective of all members of the AP community, from AP teachers to district and school administrators to college professors. Many districts are experimenting with initiatives and strategies to see how they can expand access and improve student performance at the same time. 

“Success in Advanced Placement is a combination of students’ own motivation and the opportunities educators provide for them,” said Trevor Packer, senior vice president of AP and Instruction at the College Board. “I’m inspired by the teachers and administrators in this district who have worked to clear a path for more students of all backgrounds to earn college credit during high school.” 

In 2018, more than 4,000 colleges and universities around the world received AP scores for college credit, advanced placement, or both, and/or consideration in the admissions process. Inclusion in the 9th Annual AP District Honor Roll is based on a review of three years of AP data, from 2016 to 2018, looking across 38 AP Exams, including world language and culture. The following criteria were used.

Districts must: 

• Increase participation/access to AP by at least 4% in large districts, at least 6% in medium districts, and at least 11% in small districts; 

• Increased or maintained the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students taking exams and increased or maintained the percentage of American Indian/Alaska Native, Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander students scoring 3+ on at least one AP Exam; and

• Improve or maintain performance levels when comparing the 2018 percentage of students scoring a 3 or higher to the 2016 percentage, unless the district has already attained a performance level at which more than 70% of its AP students earn a 3 or higher. 

OTHS is one of the premier schools to have achieved these standards and is being recognized for the opportunities they create for all of their students.

OTHS celebrates 2018 graduation

Congratulations to over 615 O’Fallon Township High School (OTHS) seniors who graduated on Saturday, May 26, 2018 in the Panther Dome.  All one had to do is look at the colorful stoles that many of the graduates wore with their graduation gowns to understand that this class of young people will go far in life and do wonderful things for their communities and world.  Gold stoles designated National Honor Society members; Green stoles, Summa Cum Laude; White stoles, Magna Cum Laude; and Red stoles, Cum Laude.  

Nicholas Boone, the Class of 2018 Speaker, encouraged graduates to be kind and compassionate as they embark on the next journey in their life.  The OTHS Class of 2018 earned numerous Awards and Honors, which are listed on the OTHS website at www.oths.us.

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New state funding model allows for money to flow into local schools

O’FALLON – Illinois schools are finally being compared in an even light thanks to the new Evidence-Based Funding model that Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law last August. The model uses a formula of 26 factors to figure out where all Illinois school districts fall on an adequacy scale, with 90 percent being the current target. O’Fallon and Shiloh schools will all be getting additional funds based on the new formula. 

Adequacy in this sense means how much the districts spend per student versus how much the state thinks they should be spending, based on the calculations. Of the four local districts, District 104 has the highest adequacy percentage at 81 percent, and will be getting $15,187.69. District 90 came the next highest at 69 percent, receiving $205,749.50, Shiloh weighed in at 66 percent and will receive 47,970.52, and OTHS has an adequacy of 62 percent, receiving $442,069.14.

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Athlete Spotlight – Miller commits to Elmhurst College

BY COLTEN STEELE
WEEKLY REPORTER

O’Fallon senior, Jaysn Miller, announced his commitment to play baseball at Elmhurst College last Tuesday.

“I am extremely excited to say that I’m continuing my academic and athletic career at Elmhurst College. Thank you to everyone who has got me to this point,” Miller said.

The 5’10” pitcher will graduate this May, and take his talents to a division three school in Elmhurst and become a Bluejay.

Miller is the fifth athlete of his class to commit and the sixth on the O’Fallon baseball team.

In the 2016-17 season, Miller helped his team to an overall team record of 32 wins and just six losses. In conference, he helped the Panthers finish with a solid team record of 12-2.

Miller played in 18 games, and had 22 strikeouts with an earned run average of 2.40 according to STL high school sports.

Number 31 assisted on seven outs and also held a fielding percentage of 1.000.

The right-handed pitcher is throwing a fastball around 80 miles per hour, with a changeup and slider in his corner pocket in the 70’s, according to Prep Baseball Report.

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OTHS Board of Education approves 2017 tax levy

As Principal Rich Bickel detailed in his report to the Board of Education, a group of O’Fallon Township High School students enjoyed a holiday shopping trip at Kohl’s in Fairview Heights on December 20 thanks to the OTHS Family for Families Fund. Members of the OTHS faculty and staff, along with community members, contributed to this annual fund. The shopping trip, organized by Mr. Daniel Cox, Mrs. Caitlin Mueller, and Mr. Dave Crouthers, allowed seventeen students to shop for and purchase new coats, gloves, warm clothes, shoes, and other necessities. The faculty-donated fund also helps provide for other basic clothing needs for students throughout the school year.
Pictured, from left: Daniel Cox, Caitlin Mueller, Melissa Stewart, Tiffany Lugge, Joelle Beck, LaTisha Smith, Beth Schroeder, Megan Spears, and Richard Barlett (Submitted Photo)

New proposed legislation could cause further budget problems for OTHS, area school districts

The OTHS District 203 School Board recently passed their 2017 tax levy, which is a requested increase of 1.85 percent for a total levy of $21,314,521, at their December meeting.

District 203 held a public hearing to go over the tax levy and explain some reasons behind the increase before the board ultimately voted to pass it. Despite budget cuts, the district will be still be in deficit spending according to Superintendent Darcy Benway.

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Phantom Regiment gains O’Fallon Flavor

BY SAM SCINTA
WEEKLY REPORTER

From left: Dr. Gustafson-Hinds, Daniel Dowling, Bryson Hartmann, Claire Wilcox,
Jesse Saldana, Kevin Belobrajdic. (Submitted Photo)

In the world of the marching arts, no stage is higher than that of Drum Corps International.

DCI, as it’s more commonly known, is considered to by “Marching Music’s Major League”, a competitive circuit that travels coast to coast during the summer, culminating with the World Championships, held annually in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium.

One of those DCI groups, Phantom Regiment, will have O’Fallon to thank for much of its success this upcoming season.

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“Smitty” is a Rock in Net for the Panthers

BY SAM SCINTA
WEEKLY REPORTER

Kristen Smith

The O’Fallon Panther hockey team doesn’t need senior Kristen Smith to be one of the best goaltenders in the St. Louis area for them to contend for the MVCHA crown this season.

It’s just a plus that she is.

Smith has seen action in all but one game this season, providing a high level of consistency in keeping opponents off of the scoreboard.

“Smitty is an absolute stud,” Head Coach Jason Power said of his goaltender. “She works so hard all of the time to make sure she is always in position to make the save. It’s such a boost for our defense to know they’ve got someone so talented in net behind them.”

#41 gave her typical stalwart performance during Thursday night’s Senior Night against the Alton Redbirds, leaving in the 2nd period with an 8-0 lead to make room for senior backup Brandon Pryor to finish out the game.

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Local teachers win prestigious Emerson Award

TOP LEFT: Wendy Kassing with Shiloh Middle School Principal Darin Loepker. TOP RIGHT: Jana Vasquez with Fulton Principal Joi Wills. BOTTOM LEFT: Candace Caveny at the Emerson Award dinner. BOTTOM RIGHT: Emily Auffenberg (center) with Principal Tron Young and District 104 Superintendent Dawn Elser.

Each of the four local school districts in O’Fallon and Shiloh can take pride in being the home of an Emerson Excellence in Education Award winner. Each district’s winner is among the 100 educators in the St. Louis and Metro East region to be chosen for the honor, and was nominated by their colleagues for their commitment to excellence and passion for education.

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Athlete Spotlight – Meyer strives for success, in and out of the pool

BY COLTEN STEELE
WEEKLY REPORTER

Junior swimmer Michael Meyer hasn’t lost an event all season, and it’s something that he expects from himself. So does his coach, Kimberly Eddy.

“My favorite part about swimming would have to be the team and the atmosphere around the sport,” said Meyer.

When Meyer isn’t swimming, you can find him helping his father at Meyer contracting. Michael spends his time helping remodel houses and helping with other maintenance projects.

Michael is also the captain of an ultimate frisbee team that competes in the school club league. As well as being a captain, he is also a leader at St. Nicholas youth group, and is in his first year of student council.

Meyer started swimming at the age of seven and started swimming around 10 years old.

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Panther Hockey honors Seniors with win

BY SAM SCINTA
WEEKLY REPORTER

Graham Sudduth scores one of his three goals against Alton Thursday night. (O’Fallon Weekly Photo by Nick Miller)

The O’Fallon Panther hockey team is losing 11 seniors to graduation at the end of this season.

Thursday night at Poetker Arena against Alton, some of those seniors made sure to keep the good times rolling.

Graham Sudduth secured a hat trick and goaltender duo Kristen Smith and Brandon Pryor allowed just one Redbird shot into the net in a 13-1 win.

“We really came out with a balanced team effort,” Head Coach Jason Power told the Weekly. “Everyone wanted to honor the seniors in the right way, and you could see it in their play. It was great to see not only Graham and Jack (Wallace) get involved, but also guys like Grant Miner and Jack Gorazd finding the back of the net.”

Athlete Spotlight – Boone makes College Decision

BY SAM SCINTA
WEEKLY REPORTER

It’s basketball season for OTHS senior guard Nick Boone, but that hasn’t stopped him from thinking about his future on the baseball diamond.

This past week, Boone committed to Southeastern Community College in Burlington, Iowa to play for the Blackhawks Baseball program under head coach Justin Schulte.

Boone, an outfielder, is the latest in a long line of baseball players to come through O’Fallon who has ended up playing at a higher level, and is one of 4 seniors on this year’s team to commit during the first semester of the 2017-18 school year.

“It’s a program where I felt comfortable,” Boone said. “The coaching staff made me feel welcome, and I know they’re great coaches and can really help me take my game to the next level.”

Boone is currently ranked as the #122 prospect in the state of Illinois according to Prep Baseball Report.

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Athlete Spotlight – Tomaszewski Leads Lady Panthers to Perfect Start

BY SAM SCINTA
WEEKLY REPORTER

In a season full of expectations for the OTHS Girls Bowling team, it has been a consistent team effort that’s led the Lady Panthers to a perfect start.

But rising above the steadfast brilliance of her teammates has been junior Lauren Tomaszewski.

Tomaszewski has collected two individual tournament crowns so far this season, winning the Triad Invitational to open the season and the Abe Lincoln Invitational in Springfield, to go along with strong bowling in helping her team to an undefeated start to the year.

This past weekend, Tomaszewski finished sixth overall at the Plainfield North Strikefest, one of three Lady Panthers to finish in the top 10 while helping OTHS to the tournament team championship.

The junior rolled a 1244 series, second highest on the team behind Mary Orf’s 1252, while rolling a 255 in game five for O’Fallon’s tournament high game.

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Athlete Spotlight – Thurwalker finds success with a change in scenery

BY COLTEN STEELE
WEEKLY REPORTER

“I needed a change and I wanted to go somewhere that I felt I would be recognized and appreciated.”

The 5’11 Senior power forward, Sydney Thurwalker is a transfer from Belleville West and has been an addition that Head Coach Nick Knolhoff has been thoroughly impressed with so far this season.

Thurwalker said the bottom line was that she just needed a fresh start somewhere else.

“I felt O’Fallon would be the easiest to fit in and join because they just hired Coach Knolhoff as the head coach, and all of the other girls would have to start off fresh learning how Nick wanted to do things,” said Thurwalker.

The transfer process has been as smooth as it possibly could have been for Sydney. “From the day I registered, the staff and administration did an absolute incredible job. They made sure I was taken care of, and even the counselor made sure I was in the classes I wanted to be in and made sure I could enjoy this process with some of my friends in class as well,” Thurwalker said.

Thurwalker is averaging 12.8 points per game and just under six rebounds at 5.8 per game. Sydney was also named to the All-Tournament team at the O’Fallon Shootout.

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It’s Madrigal Madness This December

BY REBECCA BUGGER
WEEKLY REPORTER

O’FALLON  – As the 40th anniversary season of the OTHS Madrigals continues, you’ve still got a few opportunities to catch this charming group of students as they highlight some of the most treasured songs of the holiday season.

During the weekend of December 1st through 3rd, barmaids and wenches, queens and chamberlains graced the halls of the OTHS Milburn Campus.  Delicious dinners and desserts were served with a side of laughter and music.  The madrigals hosted close to two-hundred visitors at each performance and are excited to continue performing throughout the Christmas season.

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