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Last updated: August 19. 2014 5:36PM - 978 Views
By Cory Davenport cdavenport@civitasmedia.com



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GODFREY — The Alton School District began the 2014-2015 school year with an enthusiastic breakfast at the George C. Terry Riverbend Arena at Lewis and Clark Community College.


First day of school at all districts is Wednesday, Aug. 20. Alton Superintendent Dr. Kenneth Spells was grateful for the staff of the schools as well as the community support going into what he referred to as “Team Alton.”


“I’m a very thankful man,” Dr. Spells said repeatedly through his address.


According to Dr. Spells, he had many things deserving of his gratitude. He said he was fortunate to work with such a great staff throughout the district. He took the time in his speech to recognize teachers of outstanding merit. Several teachers and administrators were awarded several distinctions from the community.


“This is a testament to the great people working in the Alton School District,” he said.


Dr. Spells then introduced new members of the staff to rounds of applause. He also took a moment to recognize those departing. Three administrators are retiring by the end of this year: Laura Munson-Dewein, the principal at Eunice Smith Elementary School, Mark Cappel, the human resources director, and Marc Lambert, the director of special education.


Dr. Spells took time to thank members of the community that have assisted the Alton School District with their Guardians of Education initiative. The initiative began in January of 2014 through the Alton Education Foundation. It relies on donations from the community to fund grants for teachers.


“The money you give goes directly to the students through the teachers,” Dr. Spells said.


He went onto say that many teachers give upwards of $1,000 of their personal money to directly benefit the students. Through the Guardians of Education initiative, however, teachers may receive assistance to give students educational materials that they may need. One such grant, given to Gilson Brown Elementary, awarded $1,700 to send children to space camp in St. Louis.


The fund this year had around $13,000 that went directly to educational programs within the district. The program has placed the traditional Redbird Raffle on hold due to the fact that the Guardians of Education. Board member, Phil Trapani said that anyone could be a Guardian of Education.


“You could donate $5 and be a Guardian of Education,” he said in a speech. “Even if you donated $1 from each paycheck, you could make a difference for these students.”


Trapani then took the time to thank members of the community that donated $1,000 or more to the fund. One of those contributors was Dale Blachford, President of Liberty Bank. Besides the donation to the fund, Blachford also gives away four scholarships to local students through Liberty Bank and is spearheading a capital campaign for the new athletic complex at Alton High School with Rob Schwartz of the Bank of Edwardsville and Larry Franklin from CNB Bank and Trust.


“We’re just getting ready to kick off the campaign,” Blachford said. “In the next week to 10 days, we’ll be making phone calls.”


The campaign needs to raise $2 million from the community to match Alton School District’s $2 million for the $4 million project.


The 2014-2015 school year will also see the last year of a three year contract.


“It will be an interesting year with the new evaluation system and contract negotiations,” Brenda Powers said.


Powers is the president of the teachers’ union as well as a language arts instructor at Alton Middle School. The new evaluation system is part of a new statewide education reform. It does not take tenure or years worked within the district into account with the new rating system.


Dr. Spells ended his address to those assembled by telling them he was “just a phone call away” if they had any questions or problems. He said this school year was full of hope, opportunity, and excitement.


Reporter Cory Davenport can be reached at (618) 208-6447


Or on Twitter: @CoryTelegraphs


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