ACSD Board hears final updates, makes final decisions as new school year approaches, sets September 10 as work session date regarding East Elementary matters

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) Board of Directors met for its regular monthly meeting Monday, August 20. Prior to the start of the meeting, a welcome reception was held for the new teachers in the district.

The recommendation to approve staff for the After School Program was approved, as was Brian Ahlstrom as a volunteer girls basketball coach and Randy Nordheim as a volunteer volleyball coach. A voluntary transfer for Lee Stegen to eighth grade girls basketball coach was approved. Sarah Prestemon was hired as a high school para-professional and the board also approved the list of Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) mentors.

Moving on from personnel matters, the board approved the Annual Treasurer Report. Gruhn Law Firm was approved as the school district’s attorney. The board also approved a Sunday request from the FFA chapter for students to travel to the State FFA Convention next April, as well as Sunday requests for the Youth Sports Foundation (YSF) fifth and sixth grade football games to be played on the high school football field.

During the communications time of the meeting, Keystone Area Education Agency (AEA) board member Dr. Bill Withers and Administrator Pat Heiderscheit were present to give an update and address questions and concerns from the board members. Heiderscheit noted that the AEA has been working on emergency plans with school districts, as well as addressing mental health and suicide prevention.

Teacher librarian Lisa Snitker gave a report on the ACSD libraries. She noted that circulation had stayed about the same at all the libraries for the 2017-2018 school years. She also updated the board on how the books from the Waterville Elementary School library were distributed. Of the 5,217 books distributed there, 516 went to Waterville students, 188 went to Waterville teachers, 411 to the Waterville Public Library and 367 books to Waterville friends.

Snitker also highlighted a few of the 2017-2018 projects, including grant writing, the Martha Speaks Reading Buddy Mentor program and Iowa Award Book reading and voting program. Author and Waterville native Mary Evanson Bleckwehl came to Waterville Elementary School and visited with students, including reading to them. One of the goals for the 2018-2019 school year is to try and get more authors to come and interact with students to promote reading for enjoyment. She also hopes to expand the Iowa Award Book voting to middle school students and continue the Yesteryear Tales App with nursing home residents.

Superintendent Jay Mathis submitted his report, including project updates. He noted the East Elementary kitchen project and West Elementary electrical project are finishing up, and the high school football practice area irrigation project is also coming along. Mathis met with Dr. Richard Hermeier and Linda DeBuhr, noting that Dr. Hermeier will continue to support athletics at the same level and wishes to expand to the fine arts programs as well. He also noted that he and ACSD Technology Director Shawn Gordon attended an emergency planning meeting with local law enforcement.

East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith reported they are getting ready for school to start, and the new Kids Club has been set up. He gave enrollment numbers for Pre-K/Early Childhood through fifth grade as of August 14 and reported the numbers to be “promising.”

Middle School Principal Jennifer Garin reported that as of August 14, 90% of the middle school students have completed registration. Fall athletic practices began Monday of this week. She noted that speaker John Derryberry will speak to grades 6-12 students about bullying September 5.

Waukon High School Assistant Principal and Activities Director Brian Hilsabeck reported fall sports participation numbers. He also noted that the new Pixellot cameras have been installed in the high school gym and at the high school football field and should save the district over $2,000.

Waukon High School Principal Dr. Mike Hardy reported that as of the time of his report, 65% of high school students were enrolled. He noted that things tend to move slower for high school students and families. He gave an update on Summer Credit Recovery, noting that the total number of credits regained was 8.5, the total number of classes completed was 17 and the total number of students completing one or more classes was 11. Dr. Hardy noted that the Financial Literacy Class piloted this past year by Mrs. Joan Schwartz was successful and they hope to be able to have that be a required class for juniors starting with the Class of 2021. They will also be exploring more options to add to Family and Consumer Sciences curriculum.

ACSD Curriculum Director Gretchen DeVore noted that staff members are gearing up for the 2018-2019 school year and will be rolling out FAST testing for math and reading. She also presented each board member with a copy of the book “Be the One For Kids” by Ryan Sheehy. She noted that the entire ACSD staff also got a copy of the book and also noted that board members will be able to get a special t-shirt that the rest of the school staff also has. The t-shirt is to emphasize that the school staff is like an extension of family and to provide unity to help do positive things for the kids in the district.

In his report, Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that the East Elementary kitchen and West Elementary electrical projects are nearly complete. He thanked his staff for their work on getting the facilities ready for the first day of school this Thursday, August 23. He noted that they received a $10,000 check from Alliant Energy for the Middle School lighting project. Hennessy also noted that Shive Hattery was in Waukon August 10 to provide information about the East Elementary heating issues. They gave several options to the district on what can be done to East Elementary to improve some of the issues they found.

In the Technology report, Director Shawn Gordon reported they had reimaged all the grades 6-12 laptops. They also cleaned and got the school computer labs ready for the new school year. This is the last year on the current 1:1 devices and the district will begin gathering a committee to start looking at new 1:1 devices.

In her Food Service report, Director Julie Magner noted that the Summer Feeding Program averaged 100 kids for breakfast and 150-200 kids for lunch during June. She noted that the numbers were lower in August, but that could be due to the fact that there was no Kids Club at East or West Elementary Schools. She also noted that she was very pleased with the results of the kitchen project at East Elementary.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling reported that the buses have been cleaned and inspected and the drivers have been coming in to learn their routes for the year. In-town bus pick-up has been extended to eight grade students and they have gotten positive feedback on that change.

In the 21st Century Report, Coordinator Barb Winters-Kelly gave some examples of things that have been going on in the before and after school programming, such as Weight Lifting club, a presentation by Alex Marti on China, gardening with Liz Happ of Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness, and a painting activity led by para-educator Tera Lee Jones. Winters-Kelly also noted that she is continuing with Federal reporting and has a new data book available.

Under new business, the board approved recommendations supporting the General Obligation Bond referendum for Northeast Iowa Community College coming up for re-election in September. The board also approved the NICC Concurrent Enrollment contract and Health Consortium contract with ACSD, North Fayette Valley, MFL/MarMac and Central Elkader school districts. The board also approved an emergency repair to the fire pump panel for $7,780.00. The quote from Olympic Fire Protection includes design, materials, fabrication, installation and tax.

The board approved the first reading of the following board policies: 406.1 - Licensed Employee Compensation, 406.2 - Licensed Employee Compensation Advancement, 406.3 - Licensed Employee Continued Education Credit, 406.4 - Licensed Employee Compensation for Extra Duty, 406.6 - Licensed Employee Tax Shelter Programs, 410.1 - Substitute Teachers, 412.4 - Classified Employee Tax Shelter Programs, 706.2 - Payroll Deductions, 604.4 - Instruction at a Post-Secondary Educational Institution, 105 - Assistance Animals, 606.3 - Animals in the Classroom, 705.1 - Purchasing-Bidding, 705.1R1 - Suspension and Debarment of Vendors and Contractors Procedure, 710.1 - School Nutrition Program, 213 - Public Participation in Board Meetings, 213R1 - General Complaints by Citizens, 213.1 - Public Complaints, 402.5 - Public Complaints about Employees.

The final matter of business was discussion on the East Elementary facility analysis and a date and time were set for an on-site work session. Hennessy noted that he felt it would be best to “sit down as a group” to determine the course of action the district may wish to take with East Elementary. Hennessy did note that the recommendation was that no matter what the district decided, they should proceed sooner rather than later. He said Shive Hattery noted that December may be a good time.

Superintendent Mathis noted that Shive Hattery did a comprehensive study on the whole building, not just focusing on the deteriorating steam pipes and heating issues. He further stated that they gave the district costs of a complete renovation versus a complete rebuild. “We got that just to know the numbers,” Mathis said. He noted that they do not want to completely rebuild East, and that the report actually had some good news regarding the condition of the building. “They said the structure was very sound,” Mathis noted. “It’s worth putting money into.” He noted that Shive Hattery also provided what he described as “an ala carte menu” of options for repairs as well.

The board decided to hold a work session at East Elementary School Monday, September 10 with Shive Hattery to discuss the district’s options. The board then adjourned and took a tour of the East Elementary kitchen remodeling project.

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