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a professional organization of educators and individuals actively engaged
in the development of literacy throughout the Greater St. Louis Area.

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Legislative Update: Nov. 2016


Legislative Update

Mary Eileen Rufkahr

Now that the dust is beginning to settle after this tumultuous political season, it is time for the politicians, both incumbents and newly elected, to begin to put into motion the reformations to educational policy they promised during the past few months.

Missouri’s newly elected governor will be the point person for school accountability, since the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, returns the power back to the states, in designing their own evaluation systems.

While many states have seen an increase in revenue since the rebound from the Great Recession, others, like Missouri, have had to make cuts to public education, as tax revenue dropped.

In Missouri, at least 15 districts have gone to four-day school weeks to save money.   Educators throughout the state have lobbied their representatives to overhaul the state’s funding formula.  A bill that would have adjusted the funding formula failed during the 2016 legislative session.

The Missouri House and Senate convened for a veto session on September 14. The legislature overrode several bills passed during the regular session and vetoed by the Governor. A recent Missouri Supreme Court ruling specifies that only bills returned by the Governor during the last week of session or after a session ends may be taken up during the veto session, while bills returned earlier must be taken up during the remainder of the regular session.

In a report issued by state auditor Nicole Galloway, school districts in Missouri need to do more to protect the data they collect from students.  Without the proper safeguards, school districts are as vulnerable as any other business against hackers.  Parents may not even be aware of the information at risk, such as authorized bank debits for a lunch plan, or health records provided to a school nurse.  The audit was part of an initiative out of Galloway’s office aimed at preventing unauthorized access to students’ records.

In 2014, the Missouri Legislature passed a bill requiring the state’s education department to put provisions in contracts that would keep student data from being sold or used to target advertisements.  Galloway’s report recommends schools establish privacy training for their employees and stricter policies for handling student information.  The audit also suggests schools appoint someone to serve as a security administrator for a district and create a plan outlining a response to any potential data breaches.

Outgoing Governor Jay Nixon has announced he is releasing $12.1 million he’d been holding after the fiscal year got off to a slow start in July.  The money includes $6 million for public schools, as well as $3 million for school transportation, which had been cut by $16.5 million.  Nixon stated September’s revenue growth, which topped 5.8 percent, gave him the flexibility to release some of the money.



READ & FEED Johnson Wabash Elementary Ferguson-Florissant Schools



Johnson Wabash Elementary

Ferguson-Florissant Schools 


Jody Rozbicki, Chair of St. Louis Suburban Council “Read & Feed” 

What a dynamic beginning for “Read & Feed”!  Our first “Read & Feed” program grant was approved for Dr. Betty Porter Walls and the Harris-Stowe State University, College of Education, to implement in the Ferguson-Florissant School District.  St. Louis Suburban Council of IRA, and Missouri State Council has spent the 2015-2016 year working with Dr. Porter Walls and Harris-Stowe State University to plan, organize, train, and implement the first “Read & Feed” event at Johnson Wabash Elementary in Ferguson-Florissant School District on June 15, 2016.  We shout words of appreciation for Dr. Betty Porter Walls, Harris-Stowe State University, and our council members willing to donate their expertise, then get-up-and-go to design a dynamic “Read & Feed” program.  Vendors at the July 2015, International Literacy Association Conference in St. Louis, donated their display books, besides Conway Elementary and Ladue Middle School from Ladue School District donated too loved books from their libraries.


We thank Glenda Nugent who supervised the organization of our warehouse space at Color Art, inventoried our collection of books, and supervised the selection of books to donate to Johnson Wabash Elementary.  We thank Dr. Sam Bommarito, Pat O’Connell, Sandi Coleman, Sandy Kettlekamp, Deb Dickerson, Tammy Rhomberg, and Dr. Betty Porter Walls for donating time for sorting books and organizing Color Art.  We thank Color Art, Dr. Sam Bommarito and Pat O’Connell for volunteering to transport donated books from Ladue Schools to Color Art and Color Art to Johnson Wabash Elementary.


 Read and feed Students


COMMENT by Adrienne Bland

Director of Elementary Education

Ferguson-Florissant School District


On behalf of Ferguson-Florissant School District, we are extremely appreciative of the partnership with Harris Stowe State University, the International Reading Association and the International Literacy Association. Because of your work today, students have four more opportunities to enjoy reading. The boys and girls were so excited about selecting books to take home. Students’ comments and excitement confirmed they were grateful for the experience. “Do I really get to take these [books] home? “Can you finish reading the book to me? I want as many books about Africa because I’m going there?” Yesterday was the beginning of personal home libraries for many of our students. Because of your commitment to Ferguson-Florissant, more of our students have books in their hands. There are 1,000 more books in the Ferguson-Florissant community!  Your team was awesome.


 Read and Feed Volunteers


We thank the St. Louis Suburban Council members, Missouri State Council members, and the faculty and scholars from Harris-Stowe State University who participated in the “Read & Feed” event at Johnson Wabash on June 15, 2016.



President’s Message by Leslie McKinstray: August 2016


St. Louis Suburban Council

of the

International Reading Accociation

Past Recipient of the Honor Council and Show Me Awards

Message from the President

August 2016

Welcome to a new school year! It is my hope that everyone had the opportunity this summer to enjoy the sun with family and friends, as well as to capture some time to REFLECT, RELAX, and READ!!!! But as we turn our attention to fall, the smell of floor wax in the school hallways, the cute kids in the back-to-school ads, the colorful displays in all the stores, these things help me get in the spirit for my next educational adventure. Whether you are beginning a new position, a new set of kiddos or a new outlook on life, it’s revitalizing to consider your fresh new start. My wish for you is that you find a comfortable balance of learning, teaching and taking great care of yourself. We’re here for you!

We have been working hard to provide you some excellent programs and resources to help you throughout the new school year. Our first program is on Sept. 8 featuring Debbie Jameson, the new Director of ELA for DESE. She will be unpacking the new MO standards.  Just what we need, right? Check out the rest of the newsletter to see the amazing programs planned, and please let us know any other suggestions for PD needs you or your school may have. We are here to be of service to you.

One of our goals is to increase membership. Please encourage your colleagues to join us. When teachers join St. Louis Suburban they gain the latest literacy information, as well as timely articles from Missouri Reading Council, not to mention numerous networking opportunities.  When you attend our meetings you will have a chance to share literacy strategies and resources with other like-minded people in the area. You’ll grow as a professional and have a great time in the process!  We are excited to serve you and I look forward to an awesome year!
Leslie McKinstray,


Officers and Board 2016-17


St. Louis Suburan Officers 2016-17

President: Leslie McKinstray, Hazelwood School District

President-Elect: Steve Baybo, Hazelwood School District

Past President: Tamara Jo Rhomberg, Education Consultant

Treasurer: Jill Lauman,  SEMO Field Ed. Supervisor

Recording &

Corresponding Secretary: Mollie Bolton,  Special School District

Historian & Publicity: Steve Baybo, Hazelwood School District

Membership:  Jody Rozbicki, Ladue School District,

Communications/ Website:  Dan Rocchio, Maryville University Emeritus

Sam Bommarito, Retired

Mollie Bolton, Special School District

Social Media: Angie Huesgen, Pattonville School


Newsletter: Tamara Jo Rhomberg. Education



St. Louis Suburban Board 2016-17

Sam Bommarito, Retired

Sandi Coleman, Retired

Sandy Kettlekamp, Affton School District

Betty Porter Walls, Harris Stowe State University


Membership Information: August 2016




Jody Rozbicki, Membership Director

 St. Louis Suburban Council of International Reading Association is a true professional learning community with 206 members in 2015-2016.  Congratulations to each of you who rushed to send your renewal membership forms this summer, recognizing the benefits of our collegial and professional organization.

Information about Membership

The Executive Board met in June 2016 and voted to raise membership dues for 2016-2017.  Many Executive Board members reached out to members about the possibility of raising dues because of rising organizational costs.  Many members responded that slightly raising dues to help with costs such as the council website and sponsoring a local literacy conference would be a good idea.

Remember that if you join as part of a team of two or more from your school building or district or university, you will be considered a Literacy Team and pay only $16.00 per person.  To be considered a Literacy Team, you need to mail the membership forms to Jody in the same envelope.  Single membership is $20.00.  If you are a full time student or retired, you may join for $10.00.  In addition, your local council membership gives you automatic membership in the Missouri State Council of International Reading Association.  You will receive their benefits of website newsletters and state journal, The Missouri Reader.  The advantage of professional networking will allow you to meet and share ideas with educators from all over the St. Louis suburban area, while developing lasting and valued friendships.

A Membership form for 2016-2017 is in the September 2016 newsletterPlease consider mailing your form in today.   Our new membership year begins July 1, 2016.   Also, membership forms may be printed from the council’s website, (www.STLSuburbanReading.org) or contact Jody at: (jrozbicki@ladueschools.net).

 See you at our September 8 meeting!



Political Connections: Election 2016


Political Connections

 by Mary Eileen Rufkahr

Although it seems to have been going on forever, the election season is just truly upon us this fall.  Whether you teach kindergarten or graduate studies, the electoral process opens up numerous cross-curricular opportunities.  While math and social studies are two of the more obvious subjects to tie to the elections, reading and language arts teachers can also use the political process in their classes as well.

When teachers click onto https://pbskids.org/democracy/parents-and-teachers/be-president/presidential-diary/ they will find a lesson based on the concept of being president for a day.  Using the many resources outlined in the unit, students will compose a diary, as president, outlining their day.  From writing letters to foreign dignitaries to drafting a speech, this site, maintained by The PBS Kids Democracy Project provides young people with an opportunity to learn more about the person who leads our country.

For the younger set, https://kids.usa.gov/index.shtml offers a Martha Washington re-enactor telling George Washington’s favorite story, the Fable of Mercury and the Woodman.  Tradition holds that Washington loved this tale most of all, as it stressed the importance of telling the truth. Go to the website below to see the full video:


The site https://www.kidsvotingusa.org/ has a dynamic lesson in community involvement for high school-aged students.  Students are encouraged to create a public performance which will educate the school community on the different perspectives which exist about a current school issue.  Students will need to employ both their critical reading skills and persuasive writing abilities for the successful completion of this project.  Check out the lesson plan at:  https://www.kidsvotingusa.org/educators/sample-curricula/6-9-12-grade-activity-creative-expressions.

The jargon that flows freely during newscasts, debates and in newspapers can leave even the most politically savvy adult scratching their head wondering “what did they just say?”  Scholastic offers teachers a way to help students learn the common (and not so common) vocabulary words that pop up during election cycles.  Visit https://election.scholastic.com/election-central/vocabulary/ and help students learn valuable terms for understanding the dialogue this election season.


Legislative Update: Dyslexia


Legislative Update

Mary Eileen Rufkahr

Missouri House Bill 2379 is of particular note to educators.  The bill, which went to Governor Jay Nixon on May 25th and was signed by him on June 22nd, specifies that public schools shall screen students for dyslexia and related disorders and establishes a task force on dyslexia.

The Missouri House voted on the final version of the bill on May 13th, with a final vote of 141 in favor of the measure and 7 against.  In the Missouri Senate, on the same day, 145 approved the final document, with 6 voting against it.

The bill was sponsored by Kathryn Swan (R)  District 147.

This bill requires each public school to screen students for dyslexia and related disorders at appropriate times in accordance with rules established by the State Board of Education.  The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) must develop guidelines for the appropriate screening of students and the necessary classroom supports.  The requirements and guidelines must be consistent with the findings and recommendations of the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia, which is also created by this bill.

The school board of each district and governing board of each charter school must provide reasonable support consistent with the guidelines developed by DESE.  “Related disorders” are defined as disorders similar to or related to dyslexia, such as developmental auditory imperception, dysphasia, specific developmental dysgraphia, and developmental spelling disability.

Beginning in the 2018-2019 school year, practicing teacher assistance programs will include two hours of in-service training regarding dyslexia and related disorders.

This bill establishes the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia.  The task force consists of 21 specified members including two members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and two members appointed by the President Pro Tem of the Senate.  The task force must meet quarterly and make recommendations to the Governor, the Joint Committee on Education, and specified state agencies.  The task force will make recommendations for a statewide system for identification, intervention and delivery of supports for students with dyslexia including the development of resources, materials, professional development activities and proposed legislation.

The task force authorized under these provisions will expire on August 31, 2018.

The full version of the final, perfected bill, can be found at:  https://house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills161/billpdf/truly/HB2379T.PDF.


President’s Message 3.16.16


President’s Message
Facebook, the Web, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat – so many ways to get connected today BUT ask yourself, “What is missing?” The answer is simple – face to face contact. We all love (and depend on) our technology. It even permeates our literacy instruction. The January/February publication of Literacy Today devoted five articles to the issue of digital skills and digital literacy. A most interesting component that surfaced was the vital role that a teacher played in the instruction of technology.

Thinking of how important this human contact is made me think of the value St. Louis Suburban Council has played during my career. It has created a professional and social network of educational colleagues, offered a host of professional development opportunities, and provided ongoing contact to current literacy resources – all of which have enhanced my professional growth. If you are reading this newsletter, you have already made a commitment to joining a professional organization and recognize its many benefits. So I now encourage you to reach out to your friends and colleagues asking them to become a member and experience for themselves the benefits of St. Louis Suburban Council.

Following the theme of technology integration, our April 13th spring banquet features Kelli Westmoreland (sponsored by Booksource) whose topic is – Integrating Digital Literacies: A Lens for Critical Thinking. This is a great opportunity for you to make plans to attend the banquet and to bring a colleague.

Be sure to follow St. Louis Suburban Council at https://stlsuburbanreading.org

Tamara Rhomberg

Write to Learn 3.16.16


Write to Learn Conference 2016
by Betty Porter Walls, Ph.D.

Nearly one thousand educators gathered at Tan-Tar-A Resort in Osage Beach, MO for the 2016 Write to Learn Conference (WTL) on February 25-27. Every room at the resort was occupied; hallways were crowded between sessions; long lines waited to get books autographed by authors who were keynote and featured speakers; the vibrant sound of adult engagement and learning permeated the resort; exhibits were plentiful and teachers shopped and wished for funds to purchase new, creative resources. The weather at the lake was beautiful and the conference was full of exuberance.

Keynote speakers challenged everyone’s thoughts. Taylor Mali reminded us why we do what we do – teach. Author Tanny McGregor stressed the power of the reflective practitioner. Adam Gidwitz fascinated everyone with the well-known Grimm’s Fairy Tales currently retold in a terrifyingly humorous manner; perhaps there’s a new genre of literature. Ron Clark lifted our spirits, made us laugh as he acknowledged the differences educators make in the lives of our students as we ‘teach through adversity’ and face continuing challenges. So great was the caliber and commitment that one speaker, Kate Messner, who was snowed in on the east coast, Skyped her full-day pre-conference workshop.

This year’s WTL offered a plethora of inviting sessions. Two of our own St. Louis Suburban Council International Reading Association (IRA) board members conducted sessions. Both President Tamara Rhomberg and Betty Porter Walls had more than one hundred twenty (120) teachers in our workshops. Tammy’s workshop title was “Making the Most of Writer’s Workshop: Mini-Lessons that Enhance Author Crafts. Betty’s title was “Creating a Culture of Writing Right in the Classroom: The Teacher Makes the Difference.” Board member Tom Cornell also attended the WTL. We all helped at the exhibition booth for the Missouri State Council of the International Reading Association (MSC-IRA) which recruited a number of new members.

Fun, engaging and creative activities were featured for educators during the WTL; these included a ‘magnetic poetry contest’ for spontaneous compositions, the ‘micro-essay contest’ with the sentence stem, ’Teachers make a difference because …. ,’ and the ’mad libs’ contest for creative and humorous writers. As prizes
were announced, it was pure joy to observe the surprise and sheer pleasure of the winners. The ‘Open Mic’ allowed budding writers, poets, musicians, and artists an opportunity to showcase their talents. Students in grades PK– 12 who were winners of the ‘2016 Missouri Writing Awards Contest’ showed great excitement when receiving their awards while their parents and teachers beamed with pride.

The WTL Conference was quite an enjoyable professional development event and I look forward to attending next year. Mark your calendars for February 16-18, 2017.

Top 5 Benefits of IRA Membership


Top 5 Benefits of IRA Membership
* Practical teaching tools you can use in the classroom
* Access to top-rated journals, innovative research, and best practices
* Being part of a community of reading professionals
* Discounts on IRA publications and other professional development resources
* Reduced conference registration rates
* Information on IRA membership (https://www.reading.org)