Education Commissioner Visits Rural Schools Projects

The CFO was honored to host Dr. Chris Nicastro, Commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, for visits to Rural Schools Partnership projects in Purdy and Aurora on Wednesday, Sept. 1.

Dr. Nicastro came to the Ozarks to learn about the CFO’s rural schools initiatives as well as meet with leaders from Missouri State about alternative-education programs at its West Plains campus. Drury University hosted a dinner to discuss its educational administration curriculum with Dr. Nicastro, who was named the DESE Commissioner a year ago.

“I’m here to learn about the programs you’re working on to strengthen Missouri’s rural schools and communities,” she said.

After a brief overview in Springfield, the first stop was at Purdy High School, which received a $16,000 Coover Place-Based Education grant for its full-service, student-run industrial recycling program that serves both the school and the community.

The project is run by the school’s Spanish class and club, which is advised by teacher Gerry Wass.

“We were a new club and we had a lot of clubs already out fundraising in our community,” he said. “We needed a new idea.

“This recycling project also has the effect of showing some of the flow of money out of our community from trash,” he said.

The group then traveled to Aurora so Dr. Nicastro could see the High School’s award-winning solar-car project. Aurora received a $19,325 grant to purchase additional alternative-energy modules. The students also are studying how to build a LEED-certified, solar-energy Habitat for Humanity home in the community.

“We’ve got some really neat things going on here with some bright kids,” teacher and advisor Brad Boettler said.

The grants are made possible through the Louis L. and Julia Dorothy Coover Charitable Foundation Regional Grantmaking program, a partnership between the Community Foundation of the Ozarks and Commerce Trust Company.

The deadline for the 2011 Coover Place-Based Education grant program is April 11, 2011.