As the St. Clair R-XIII School District enjoys its break for the holidays and looks ahead to 2013, a focus continues to be community involvement and communication on what goes on in the hallways and classrooms of the four schools.

Increased parental and general community participation has been encouraged by school district administrators as R-XIII continues to heal from the three tragic student deaths that took place during the fall semester. Investigations led authorities to believe that the three teenage suicides appeared not to be related or caused by any one common circumstance, but they still sent shockwaves through the high school, district and community.

Since the third suicide took place on Nov. 12, four district-sponsored community forums have taken place. The first meeting, conducted on Nov. 13, drew hundreds of individuals to the SCHS gymnasium. The other three, housed in the junior high cafeteria on Tuesdays both before and after Thanksgiving, were attended by a couple of dozen people or less outside of district personnel, Superintendent Mike Murphy told The Missourian.

The other two student suicides occurred on Sept. 28 and Nov. 2.

“Initially, we had a community outcry and concern about the tragic events that occurred,” Murphy said. “There was a large turnout for the initial forum. As we continued, attendance has been much smaller with only a few who have attended each one.

“These forums, however, have given us the opportunity to hear from a certain segment of the community.”

At the first forum, several angry adults pointed fingers at the school district and in part blamed bullying within the schools as a student problem. That outcry has since died down as Murphy continues to stress that the district and community work together to find solutions.

“Moving forward to spring, we want to develop a strategy and design a mechanism to continue to share information between the school district and parents,” Murphy said. “We want to create an environment where ideas can be shared and discussed and information can be passed along. We want parents to remain interested and continue to discuss specifics and provide information about our schools.”

Murphy said during the recent meetings, brainstorming sessions have taken place between all who attended, and ideas were shared on how the district possibly can keep improving and dealing with tragedies such as the three recent deaths as well as other things. District policies concerning students also have been shared and discussed.

Future Meetings

In January, parent advisory meetings will get under way. The gatherings have been divided into three student-age groups and will take place in building libraries starting at 6 p.m.

The first gathering is scheduled for Jan. 8 at SCHS, followed by a junior high meeting on Jan. 15 and an elementary get-together on Jan. 22 in the elementary school library.

Beginning in February, meetings will take place on the first, second and third Tuesdays of each month for high school, junior high and elementary parents.

“We will continue to be open for input but mindful as we continue to sustain a safe and orderly environment for students,” Murphy said. “We get internal input from within the district all the time. It’s important for us to hear from community members to get some external input.”

The superintendent said he hopes to maintain a balance from ideas received and what actually can be done or reviewed.

“We will continue to reflect on the effectiveness of our student programs,” he said. “There’s always an opportunity to do that through conversations with different entities.”

Murphy also said that as the new year begins, more input from students will be sought. He said additional surveys will be distributed “to keep getting a true reflection about conditions” within the school setting.

“We will continue to sustain the level of need of our students,” he said. “At the end of the day, our goal is to provide them as safe and secure an environment as we can in the educational setting.”

Individuals with questions may call the central office at 636-629-3500.