ACSD Board of Directors hires Melissa Ward as new varsity softball head coach

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting Monday night, November 19. Under personnel matters, the board approved staff for the after school programs, Melissa Ward as the head varsity softball coach, John Papp as a volunteer boys basketball coach, and Katrina McCabe and Wyllena (Billie) Ross as West Elementary paraprofessionals. The board also accepted the resignation of Jani Promnitz from her assistant varsity volleyball coaching position.

In other matters, the board approved Sunday gym usage requests for girls basketball open gyms. The board also approved two open enrollments and the Wellness Policy.

During the communications time, several FFA students reported to the board on their recent trip to the FFA National Convention. They talked about the tours, workshops, career fair, keynote speakers and activities they participated in, including a Garth Brooks concert and a trip to a rodeo. The Dairy Cattle Evaluation team placed 18th overall, with Grace Howe placing 10th individually. The Farm Business Management team placed 10th overall. Three students also received the American Degree. A total of 38 students went on the trip.

Waukon High School Principal Dr. Mike Hardy then gave a brief report on the Seal of Biliteracy. The seal will be added to diplomas of students who wish to obtain this. Students must demonstrate proficiency in two languages, with one being English. The students will pay for the testing, which Dr. Hardy said should be around $20.

Dr. Hardy noted that “this will be a great tool for students to market themselves after graduation.” Later in the meeting, the board approved the biliteracy seal and an addendum will be added to the handbook for this year.

In his Superintendent’s report, Jay Mathis noted that he is not recommending that the district offer an early retirement incentive this year. Mathis noted that the district is in a good financial position and that offering this incentive every year will decrease the effectiveness.

Mathis also noted during the East Elementary kitchen remodel project a flooring sub-contractor inadvertently sprayed acid on some of the stainless steel equipment while cleaning up the tile floor. The sub-contractor has filed a claim with their insurance company and equipment will have to be replaced.

On the East Elementary HVAC/Window project, Victor Amoroso Jr. of A&J Associates did a walkthrough to work out specifics on the project. There was asbestos testing done at East and West Elementary schools and there was some found in floor tiles and pipe joints. Mathis also noted that there is an issue with a leaky sink in one of the Administration offices that will require removal of the cabinet the sink is in. Mathis also noted that he will be beginning work on preparing for a transition to a smaller master contract with teachers.

Principal Hardy noted in his report that Caleb Ferring wrote and received a grant of $25,000 for start-up costs and mentoring for the new welding certificate program. NICC and some local businesses are also partnering with ACSD on this project. Dr. Hardy noted the Veterans Day assembly put on by the National Honor Society was successful. Veterans received quilts from the Quilts of Valor program and then the Veterans and their families were served lunch.

Board member Scott Melcher asked about the status of the student-built house project. Dr. Hardy noted that the roofing is done or nearly done and the house is mostly enclosed.

Activities Director/Assistant Principal Brian Hilsabeck noted that the fall sports have wrapped up. There was a celebration of success/pep rally held November 9 to celebrate all the achievements of many different activities. The Waukon High School girls basketball team participated in the PRIDE scrimmage in Waukon against Sumner Fredericksburg November 12. They partnered with the FBLA and canned goods were accepted for admission to the event. Over 1,760 pounds of food were donated to the local food shelf. Meet the team night for winter sports was held November 13.

Waukon Middle School Principal Jennifer Garin reported attendance results from the most recent parent/teacher conferences. A Courage Retreat was held November 7, with 96 seventh grade students and 16 11th grade students attending, as well as staff members. The Middle School students also attended the Veterans Day assembly and the Middle School band played at the elementary assembly. The winter sports season is underway at the Middle School as well.

East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith noted in his report that the elementary schools recognized Unity Day October 24 with the rest of the ACSD. Students were invited to wear orange to school and there were classroom and guidance meetings with discussions on what unity means.

The fifth grade students attended a Kindness Retreat held November 6.

Students in grades 1-5 had a vision screening done by the non-profit group Vision to Learn. The local Lions Club chapter screened the Kindergarten classes earlier this year. Griffith also noted that in mid-February they host the preschool round-up. He said in his report that he does not feel the four-year-olds need to attend the event, but that it may be more beneficial to have a parent meeting in February and a preschool open house in August.

In other reports, Curriculum Director Gretchen DeVore noted that they are working on professional development as well as CSIP/Desk auditing, Title 1 and ESSA training. She also noted in her report that the percentage of students at or above benchmarks on FAST testing has increased 2.2% from this same time last fall and ACSD is one of only five districts in their Area Education Agency to show an increase. They will also be rolling out the new Iowa Assessments, have mental health first aid training, are looking at social studies needs for the future and looking at technology integration/SAMR model.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that everything that needed to be winterized has been. The boilers have been through efficiency tests and are basically ready for winter, noting there were a couple bad seals and an impeller that had to be fixed or replaced. There have been a couple of leaks repaired on the condensate lines of the boiler system at East Elementary, and a couple of control issues with the boilers. Hennessy noted that they plan to get the system through the winter and hope not to spend any money on repairs.

He also noted that the asbestos found at East Elementary was in the floor tile, which they had suspected, and that the ceiling tiles and mastic came back as negative. He did not have results for West Elementary at the time of his report. Plans are being drawn for the East Elementary project.

Hennessy also thanked the board members for working with him when it has come to needing items and equipment for upkeep on the fields. He said they received some “very nice compliments” on the sports fields during the summer and fall seasons.

Technology Director Shawn Gordon noted that he attended the Iowa Technology & Education Connection fall conference. He said it is a good event for vendor identification and peer collaboration with technology staff from other schools. ERATE filing update trainings have started. ACSD will file its ERATE application in late December/early January. They are also continuing to work with the principals on updating the emergency operation plans for all areas of the school.

The new school alerts notification system through GovDelivery is set up. Anyone can sign up for the alerts using the “SCHOOL ALERTS SIGNUP” option on the ACSD website ( Gordon noted that they will also continue to use SNOWCAP for alerts as well for the rest of the school year.

Food Service Director Julie Magner noted in her report that after Farm to School month in October, the district is above its average cost of buying local food. The food service staff also prepared 275 sack lunches for the Kindness and Courage retreats. The food service staff also fed nearly 150 veterans and their families after the Veterans Day assembly. Magner noted this is about double from last year and that things went well and the veterans appreciate it very much. West Elementary held its Donuts for Dads event November 16.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling noted that they have been changing fuel filters, putting fuel additive in and making sure the block heaters are working on the buses. The bus bids were opened November 13. Later in the meeting, the board approved purchasing two 65-passenger buses from School Bus Sales for $179,743.

Under new business, the board also approved the following SBRC requests: Increasing Enrollment - $1,362; Open-Enrollment Out not in Fall 2017-$58,643. Superintendent Mathis explained that this is a way to help recoup some of the district’s spending authority. Three students were approved for early graduation in December, pending that they meet all requirements.

Mathis also discussed the central office cabinet project. Board members Patty Nordheim and Al Rissman asked whether or not it was necessary to replace the sink part of the project. Mathis noted that it may not be something that they have to replace. It was suggested that if everyone in the office feels having a sink in there is not necessary, just cap off the water and drain lines and replace the cabinet part of the project only.

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