ACSD Board of Directors hears presentation on solar options for electrical system, holds work session regarding capital funding

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors first met Tuesday, January 15 for a work session with Travis Squires, Managing Director of Piper Jaffray & Co., regarding funding options for capital projects. Squires said that updated estimates for the East and West Elementary HVAC projects are available. He also noted that the taxable valuations for the upcoming budget year have been set and presented funding options to the board.

The board directed Squires to put together a financing package to be considered at a later date. The board also decided to move up its March meeting to March 11 and April meeting to April 8 in order to meet bidding deadlines and FY2020 budget deadlines.

The board also met for its regular monthly meeting Monday, January 21. Under the consent agenda, the board approved staff for after school programming, and approved spring driver education instructors Ken West and Marlene Ahouse, as well as approving Kendra Vix as a Special Education/Title I teacher.

Two open enrollments were approved, as were Sunday requests for the Waukon Youth Wrestling Tournament and the varsity boys basketball team. An out-of-state field trip for the Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) Career Learning Link to La Crosse, WI was also approved.

Under Communications, the board received the mileage report for four suburbans, a van and a car from July 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018. Total mileage was 18,884 miles for the first semester. The board then watched a video presentation put together by fifth grade teacher Jani Promnitz and fourth grade teacher Laurie Adrian. Students from grades third, fourth and fifth briefly spoke about their science units, which involve observing live crayfish, meal worms and red worms, respectively.

Superintendent Jay Mathis reported that teacher contract negotiations will begin in March or April. He also reported that Alliant was performing energy audits to qualify the district for more rebates and that he is hoping by March the board should be able to approve plans and specifications and consider bids for the HVAC project at East and West Elementary schools.

Mathis also noted that Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds gave her address and the legislative session has begun. He is hoping for a good State Supplemental Aid increase and an extension of the Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) sales tax. Mathis also noted in his report that the district saved $40,456.71 during the 2017-2018 school year through AEA purchasing.

Mathis also invited John Neilsen of Perry Novak Electric to speak to the board regarding solar energy. Neilsen explained that he had looked at the district’s electric usage. He noted that while usage had gone down, the price had gone up due to energy rates. He explained that if the district decided to go with solar electricity, he would prefer to have the solar panels installed on the ground as opposed to a roof. He noted that an investor would own the system and the district would buy electricity from the investor at a rate cheaper than Alliant’s. He also noted that there would be two battery systems installed to defer demand charges. He explained that if the district would go with a solar electrical system, it would be able to eventually purchase the system, if desired, and would be looking at savings of approximately $25,000 in energy costs.

In the Principals’ Reports, Waukon High School Principal Dr. Mike Hardy noted that the student house project has a temporary furnace heating the house and all the drywall is up in the upstairs. He also noted that from August 2018 to January 2019, the district has sent out over 200 correspondences to parents regarding student academics. He also noted that the average number of students on the D/F grades list has been dropping each year.

The Success Team continues to partner with and has established new partnerships including Youth Mentoring Services, Families First, Healing Arts and the Luther College Education Department. The high school is also working on Summer 2019 Credit Recovery planning. Dr. Hardy also noted that the Waukon High School was proficient with a 57.65 out of 100 on the Iowa School Performance profile. The State average was 54.91. Results of that profile can be viewed at

Brian Hilsabeck, Waukon High School Activities Director and Assistant Principal, noted in his report that parents night for girls basketball is February 1, for boys basketball is February 5 and for Bowling is February 1. He said regional tournament play for girls basketball starts February 9 and district tournament play for boys basketball starts February 11. Wrestling sectionals are February 2 at Decorah and districts are February 9 at Independence. Bowling State qualifying is February 12.

Hilsabeck thanked the custodial staff for their work over the holiday break, saying that the gym floor looks amazing and they have received compliments from the public. He also noted that the Pixellot cameras have generated profit sharing with the booster club.

Waukon Middle School Principal Jennifer Garin noted the winners for the seventh grade Patriot’s Pen contest. She also noted that sixth grade students will complete the winter FAST reading fluency assessment January 30. Garin noted that the Middle School scored a 58.13 out of 100 on the Iowa School Performance Profile and is proficient. Middle school boys basketball is underway. The middle school play “Thirty Horrible Catastrophes of Middle School” has 30 students involved and practices are underway, with the performance scheduled for March 1.

East and West Elementary Schools Principal Joe Griffith noted that the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) testing window will be April 1-29. Teachers are working on the social skills instruction schedule for the school year. The preschool Desk Audit is complete, and there are two areas that need to be reviewed. Griffith said he has a meeting scheduled with the AEA, and ACSD did “very well”.

The After School Program is working with Kelli Olson on robotics, and she hosted kids for Wonder League, a robotics competition where students program robots to complete an obstacle course. East Elementary scored 51.93 out of 100 on the Iowa School Performance Profile and is proficient, and West Elementary was not scored.

In other reports, ACSD Curriculum Director Gretchen DeVore reported that they are working on professional development, FAST testing and the ISASP. Building and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that several smaller projects were completed over the Christmas break. He has also been working with architects and engineers regarding the East Elementary HVAC project. He also reported that they continue to discuss and work on ways to make the main entrance door at the high school less susceptible to wind. The sprinkler system had a five-year check done and everything checked out good.

Technology Director Shawn Gordon reported that the Tech Committee met January 9 and discussed 1:1 refresh and the options they have going forward. He has also been working with building principals on a software list for the next year. He also noted that anyone can sign up for the new school alert notification system on the district website,

Food Service Director Julie Magner noted that they have had a decline in the amount of local food purchased due to the Iowa Food Hub in West Union closing. She noted they are re-organizing and raising funds to launch the next phase, and she will be working with Allamakee New Beginnings to find other options. Transportation Director Andrew Eberling noted that they have not had many issues and the mild start to winter has made it easy for the drivers.

Under Old Business, the board approved the second reading of the following board policies: 401.7-Employee Travel, 712-Technology and Data Security, 712R1-Security Requirements of Third-Party Vendors Regulation, 804.2-District Emergency Operations Plan, 804.3-Bomb Threats, 502.3-Student Expression, 505.1-Student Progress Reports and Conferences, 505.2-Student Promotion-Retention-Acceleration, 505.5-Graduation Requirements, 602.1-Curriculum Development, 604.6-Instruction at a Post-Secondary Educational Institution, 604.10-Online Courses, 704.3-Investments, 705.1-Purchasing-Bidding, 710.2-Free or Reduced Price Meals Eligibility, 710.4-Meal Charges, 302.2-Superintendent Contract and Contract Nonrenewal, 400-Role of Guiding Principles for Employees, 401.4-Empolyee Complaints, 403.1-Employee Physical Examinations, 405.2-Licensed Employee Qualifications, Recruitment, Selection, 405.5-Licensed Employee Work Day, 405.6-Licensed Employee Assignment, 405.7-Licensed Employee Transfers, 405.8-Licensed Employee Evaluation, 406.5-Licensed Employee Group Benefits, 407.5-Licensed Employee Reduction in Force, 408.1-Licensed Employee Professional Development, 409.1-Licensed Employee Vacation, Holidays, Personal Leave, 409.2-Licensed Employee Personal Illness Leave, 409.3-Licensed Employee Family and Medical Leave, 409.4-Licensed Employee Bereavement Leave, 409.8-Licensed Employee Unpaid Leave, 411.1-Classified Employee Denied, 411.4-Classified Employee Licensing/Certification, 414.1-Classified Employee Vacations, Holidays, Personal Leave, 706.1-Payroll Periods.

Under New Business, the board approved a four percent tuition increase for the preschool program for the 2019-2020 school year. The preschool cost will now be $1,450. Griffith noted that rate is competitive with other preschool programs in town, but slightly higher due to additional costs. The board also approved second semester PIC and Contracted Classes.

Band Director JoAnn Sherman presented the board with an example of the proposed new marching band uniforms. She noted that the students chose the design. The board approved the purchase of 75 marching band uniforms, six drum major jackets, 45 concert gowns and 30 concert tuxedos for the band. The bid from DeMoulin in the amount of $41,867.04 was accepted, with $24,000 of that paid through fundraising and the Music Boosters. The board approved the district paying the remaining $17,867.04. Sherman also noted that these uniforms come with a snapping system that will make alterations much easier than the sewing required in the past.

The board then approved a bid from DB Acoustics Incorporated in the amount of $50,590.00 for a new sound system for the auditorium. Superintendent Mathis noted that the price tag sounds steep, but when compared to the cost of a new auditorium it is more manageable. He also noted that Dr. Richard Hermeier has generously offered to pay $20,000 of the cost for the new sound system.

Board member Eric Helgerson asked if there would be any resale value in the current equipment or if any could be re-used. Mathis said he would check and see if there was a re-sale value for the old equipment and also stated that he could see places where the equipment could be put to use within the district.

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