Coffe and Connections

Perry County School District No. 32 Superintendent Andy Comstock stood at the microphone and began to get choked up as he talked about what the changes within the district mean to him. 

“I’m proud of the work we are doing at the school, I’m proud of the people I work with, and proud of all the students in the district,” Comstock said.  

Comstock and other administrators at St. Vincent, Saxony Lutheran, and Immanuel Lutheran spoke at the Coffee and Connections event hosted by the Perryville Area Chamber of Commerce Tuesday at the Robinson Event Center.

Before Comstock began to get emotional during his presentation about the connection he has to the growth of the district, Comstock described the developments over the past year.

The district opened the Primary Center for grades Pre-K-2 this fall and renovated parts of the elementary school, including the cafeteria. The rest of the renovations for the elementary school are scheduled to be completed in summer 2021. 

There were roadwork and infrastructure projects to prepare for the groundbreaking for the second FEMA shelter. The district received a $2.2 million grant for the construction of the shelter that will be built near the middle school.

Comstock noted that once the shelter is completed it would hold all the middle school and high school staff and students.

Comstock also described things happening inside the schools including the expansion of the gifted program, STEM programs that were added to the Primary, elementary and middle schools, and the LifeSkills Classroom where students with special needs operate a coffee cart business.

Saxony Lutheran principal Mark Ruark seconded the emotions of Comstock in his presentations.

“I know all the administrators from the schools represented here and they have great schools here because of the passion from the administrators and you saw that in Andy,” Ruark said. “This community is blessed to have high schools like Perryville and St. Vincent.” 

Ruark noted that Saxony is built on the four pillars of family, faith, academics and activities. 

“Our students support each other whether it’s the court or field or with our choir and drama performances,” Ruark said. “It’s a real family atmosphere.”

Ruark noted that that Saxony has had six National Merit Scholars in the last five years. In the last three years, the graduating senior class has earned on average of $1.4 million in scholarship money. In the activities portion, Ruark explained how Saxony had two students qualify for the state music contest, as well as the baseball team finish third in state, the program’s best finish in history.

But what Ruark is really excited about is the 20th anniversary of the school, which started in 2000.

“We started with seven students and now here we are with 230 students and a strong thriving school,” Ruark said. 

He was also proud to announce that when he spoke last year at the same event, the school was $2.4 million in debt because of some building projects on campus, and by the end of the month, the school should be debt free. 

Deacon Rob Huff of St. Vincent school shared the same excitement for his second year in Perryville. Huff started by recognizing the senior class of 2019, which had more than 5,000 hours of community service and $1.4 million in scholarships among the 38 graduates.

But most important to Huff and St. Vincent schools as a whole is the faith

“Faith is a big part of what we do at St. Vincent, whether it be in the classroom or out in the community,” Huff said.

That same sentiment was echoed by Immanuel Lutheran interim principal Velda Haertling, who described that ILS supports many charities through their youth groups. 

This year’s 8th grade class will make a trip to Washington D.C. for its field trip. The class raised all the money by last May.

“I thought that some of that fundraising would go into the summer, but they took it upon themselves to do it before last school year ended.”

Haertling said they hope it becomes an annual trip.

But Ruark put it best

“Everything we do is for the kids and their education and to make it the best experience possible,” he said.

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