The Boonville School District Education Foundation held its eighth annual donor dinner in the Flamingo Bay Ballroom of the Isle of Capri Hotel on the evening of Wednesday, April 4.
More than 270 Boonville School supporters, educators and administrators filled 34 tables adorned with white tablecloths, blue napkins and white and blue lily centerpieces. Twenty-three individuals and businesses sponsored tables at costs of $500 for each of the tables nearest to the podium and $250 elsewhere representing a total of $7,750.
“If it wasn’t for the things you do for these kids and these teachers, the foundation wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” espoused district Superintendent Dr. Mark Ficken in his opening remarks.
Preceded by the presentation of colors by the Boonville High School JROTC and “Star Spangled Banner” performed by Josie Johnson, Ficken introduced Dr. Sarah Marriott, his successor in the district’s highest position.
After dinner service, Boonville alum, Naval Academy graduate and retired Naval Captain Richard “Digger” Arnold delivered a keynote address emphasizing the impact of the Boonville School District upon his life.
Arnold humorously recounted his elementary education at Central Elementary and the “Four R’s” featuring “reading, writing, arithmetic and recess.” More prominent in Arnold’s memory was the dedicated work of his school speech therapist and the lifelong impact such an educational resource endorsed.
“There were only three of us (students) who attended those therapy sessions on a regular basis so I’m glad they chose me and the school district had the resources to provide such a program back in the 1960s,” said Arnold.
As a student at David Barton Elementary, Arnold realized the value of homework when his comedic writing in an assignment led teachers to ask him to read is work to three grades of classmates. Paired with a career beginning at age 14 at B and J Bowling Alley and athletic success, Arnold became an active high school student.
Mentoring from basketball coach Fred Biesemeyer and speech/biology teacher Uncas McGuire in addition to support from local legislators led to the appointment of Arnold to the U.S. Naval Academy. After his graduation as a Midshipman, Arnold’s career spanned 30 years at sea reaching the rank of Captain.
“I really lucked out in high school. All of my teachers and coaches and principal were fantastic,” explained Arnold as he recounted his time as a BHS student, “Being a Pirate is very special.”
Arnold holds a Master’s Degree from the Naval post-graduate school and complete the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard University Business School. He attributes the education he received as a student in the Boonville School District as a major impact upon his life success and the reason he and his wife Jeannette, a retired Special Education teacher, partnered with the Education Foundation to crest the Pirate Leadership Award presented to one BHS student per year.
“I have been a lucky man to have been blessed with dedicated teachers like Jeannette and throughout my life,” continued Arnold, “I am living proof that anyone can succeed if they have the right teachers, especially considering what they had to work with.”
After Arnold’s concluding remarks, Brad Wooldridge and Jennifer Wesselman of the foundation’s board awarded ten grants valued at $20,490.83 to new educational resources in the school district. The Education Foundation also awarded over $20,000 in grants to district schools in 2017. Of the 2018-2019 grant-funded projects, five will serve programs at Hannah Cole Primary School, three will serve David Barton Elementary, one will serve both and one will serve Boonville High School.
Half of the programs will focus on science and technology education, namely to increase technological skills at the elementary level while maintaining and endorsing student creativity. The additional programs will range in services from “stem” programs increasing hands-on horticultural experiences for first grade student.
“We feel hard working teachers should have the resources they need to do the job and that’s why Jeannette and I support the efforts of this education foundation,” concluded Arnold before departing the podium.
The Boonville R-1 School District Education Foundation has served the district for eight years with the goal of “endow and support educational excellence.” Donations to the foundation are welcome online at