Caruthersville school leaders face new challenges
By: CJ Cassidy
CARUSTHERSVILLE, Mo. - As if losing your school to a tornado isn't enough of a setback, hiring teachers to fill new positions could be the latest problem for the Caruthersville school district.
They lost the battle twice to raise money for a new school building after the twister hit the old building in April 2006.
Administrators say most teachers who left did so because they were retiring or didn't want to commute because of high gas prices.
Now, they hope their success in the classroom helps convince new teachers to take a chance in Caruthersville.
Sean Burnham shows his girlfriend around the school now known as 'FEMA High.' He graduated last month; something he wasn't sure would happen after the twister hit.
"It was a new setting. Everyone had to adapt, and different people did it at different times," said Burnham.
"Everything's moving forward - it's just not quick enough for some constituents," said Asst. Superintendent Sherry Copeland. She's realized hiring staff to fill the job openings in the Caruthersville school district isn't easy either.
She chalks it up to temporary facilities.
"We were interviewing basketball coaches and teachers, and we said eventually you will have a gym. Right now you're going to have to have to share," said Copeland.
"Our dropout rate has lowered this year," said Principal Mike Wallace. "It's down somewhat our persistent to graduation rate is up."
He is hopeful student success stories convince new teachers to take on fresh challenges at FEMA High, even if they are in trailers.
"We worried after the tornado that lots of students would drop out, so we really worked hard to keep our students in school," said Wallace.
It worked with Sean Burnham. The twister left Burnham sharing a home with 16 people and he dropped out of school. But, Wallace made him come back, so he could graduate.
"I figured if I could get along with 16 people in one house, I figured I might as well go get my diploma. If I can do that, anything's possible," he said.
Sean Burnham hopes to go to college.
The future of the old high school building still hangs in the balance.