SCHS staff bids farewell to class of 2011 and to the school (Update: 12:45 p.m. May 19)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
The Saline County High School class of 2011. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

Most graduations are bittersweet, the joy of starting a new stage in life muted somewhat by the need to say farewell to the previoius stage.

For staff and graduates of Saline County High School, the mixed feelings were more pronounced this year than usual. The class of 2011 is the last that will study in the strip-mall school on the west side of U.S. Highway 65 in Marshall.

SCHS Director Derek Lark did not dwell on that fact during his remarks at the graduation ceremony Wednesday, May 18, making only a brief comment at the end of the ceremony to note the passing of the school that has for a decade provided an alternative education setting for Marshall High School students, and in the past, for Sweet Springs, Slater and Malta Bend students, too.

"We're a little heavy in our hearts about the loss of Saline County High School," he said.

From left, Kyle Otken and Kylie Oltmer were named the 2011 recipients of the annual Jimmy Brock Memorial Award for Outstanding Students at Saline County High School. The award is sponsored by Bruce and Linda Brock. Bruce Brock is a former superintendent of the Marshall Public School District and is a former director of SCHS. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

But the main focus of Lark's remarks was on the value of the experience students had at SCHS and how it could serve them in the future.

He urged them to remember the three characteristics that guided them throughout their time at SCHS: acceptance, caring and respect.

"Please remember the things that made you comfortable when you came through these doors," he said. "(Those things) will help you succeed in life."

He complimented the students on making the choice to attend the school, even though it may have been a difficult decision at the time.

"I know when I came here, I didn't know what to expect," he said. "It's an unknown and unknowns scare you. But you took that step."

He also congratulated the students and staff for making the school continue to work well in spite of a dwindling staff. Due to retirements and budget cuts, the school was down to one part-time and two full-time staff members this year. They worked with as many as 70 students during the course of the school year.

Lark handed out plaques marking his appreciation for the services of the staff members -- Chris Blakely, Diana Finley and Shirley Fox -- each of whom were there for the founding of the school more than 10 years ago.

Also among the audience of friends and family members was Carol Smith, former director of SCHS and former Marshall High School principal. Smith now directs a program at the University of Central Missouri -- THRIVE -- which enables developmentally disabled students to experience college life and studies.

He urged the students to stay in touch with their teachers as they develop their careers.

"One thing that makes education worth while is seeing students later in life and hearing their stories," he said.

From left, Diana Finley, Chris Blakely and Shirley Fox were on staff when Saline County High School was created more than a decade ago, and at graduation ceremonies Wednesday, May 18, they received plaques marking their service to the school and its students. Finley, left, gets a little choked up while trying to read the inscription on the plaque. She and Fox were part of the program before it became SCHS. The school's origins were in a grant-funded alternative education program that began several years earlier. (Eric Crump/Democrat-News)

Lark also announced the recipients of the annual Jimmy Brock Memorial Award for Outstanding SCHS students: Kyle Otken and Kylie Oltmer.

He said the decision of which students to choose for the award is always a difficult one because the staff is proud of all the students who attend the school for their attempts to better themselves.

These two, Lark said, "in the process of bettering themselves, bettered the people around them."

Students who were eligible to receive SCHS certificates of completion included Taylor Ballenger, Ashley Beatty, Jennifer Castro, Joy Cloughly, Joseph Dickerson, Xavier Foster, Juan Hernandez, Michael LaTempt, Matthew Mapes, Kenneth Nease, Kyle Otken, Katelyn Phillips, Rebecca Shields, Bryan Tovar, Kari Vereyken, Zachary Vogl, Miguel Bautista, Cedrick Browder, Trent Charles, Leslie Craig, Dani Duffy, Jackson Gaddy, John James, Christian Lemus, Jonathan Najera, Kylie Oltmer, Bradley Palmer, Janette Ruiz, Taylor Simmons, Willy Trujillo and Brandon Vogel.

Contact Eric Crump at

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  • i real hate to see that school be closed, my son went there. If was for that school he wouldnt have got through school and graduate. it will be miss very much

    -- Posted by quietriver2 on Thu, May 19, 2011, at 8:33 AM
  • I think the students will be fine. I didnt go to the AE school but I knew people who did. They were able to pass at MHS they just wouldnt cause they....well im not even gonna get in to that. So this is the last graduating class of AE?

    -- Posted by EMINEMis the GREATEST EVER! on Thu, May 19, 2011, at 10:28 AM
    Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
    Yes -- at least for the foreseeable future.
  • Sad to see it go.. Many kids are gonna miss out on a positive good education. I sure hope that the kids can make it in your normal schools and not drop out cause these young children are our future.

    -- Posted by cisco1982 on Fri, May 20, 2011, at 8:51 AM
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