Eastern Allamakee School Board hears update on school finance

by Susan Cantine-Maxson


The Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) Board of Education met Monday evening, November 17. EACSD Superintendent Dr.  Dale Crozier spent the first hour of the meeting presenting a workshop on Iowa school finance and budget.

Crozier used the comparison of walls between the various areas of the budget to impress upon the Board that money in one part of the budget may not be transferred into another section. Each section of the budget has distinct uses which can be broken in to the categories of General Fund, which encompasses most instructional expenses including the salaries, administration, transportation costs, and similar costs; PPEL funds, which are for physical plant and equipment; SILO funds (state sales tax funds); and Management funds, which are used for early retirement, liability insurance for building and grounds and legal fees. There are also other specialized categories which have designated expenditures such as instructional support levy, special education, grants, etc.

In Iowa, approximately 78-83% of the General Fund goes to salaries, with 18-22% left over for fuel costs and utilities. Crozier explained that the General Fund is 87.5% equalized, which helps to keep wealthy and poorer districts on more even footing.

Crozier emphasized that while the school district is in sound financial shape, there is a pattern that is being affected by lower enrollment. From 2008 to 2014, the district lost approximately 100 students. This decline is predominantly because of smaller families. 

The district’s expenditures have averaged a three percent increase over the last eight years. In 2008, total expenditures were approximately $4.1 million. Eight years later the expenditures are approximately $4.2 million. Keeping expenditures in slow growth will be necessary as enrollment continues to decline.

In comparison with other similar-sized districts, Eastern Allamakee is in good shape, but looking to the future, the Board may need to consider more shared teachers, not filling vacancies and other measures to ensure fiscal responsibility. Crozier encouraged board members to download the Iowa Association of School Board’s school finance manual.

Jeanine Hisel, school counselor, and Donna Thomas, fourth grade teacher, presented information to the Board about the  implementation of the Expectations by Settings program or Defining Expectations Across Locations, which encourages positive behaviors by creating positive environments for learning. This research-based program will begin at the elementary level. Everyone who has contact with the students will encourage them through modeling behaviors district-wide.

Since the district mascot is the Hawks, the acronym for the behavior program will also be HAWKS: Honest, Accepting, Working hard, Kind and Safe. Areas where these types of behaviors will be encouraged beyond the classroom will include lunchroom, playground, hallways, restrooms, assemblies, gyms and recess, and bus. Keystone AEA is providing training for teachers in implementing this program. A district team has also been established to train others.

Superintendent Crozier told the Board that the School Improvement Advisory Committee had been established. The Board approved the formation of the committee, which is required by the state. The next meeting will be December 10. Members of the advisory committee include Sandy and Daryl Gruber, Val Reinke, Teresa Severson, Kathy Renk, Tracy and Darcy Dibert, Corey Winters, Jim and Barb Janett, and the administration. The committee will establish long- and short-term goals for the district as well as look at achievement scores.

Contracts were approved for a new teacher aide, Danielle Weber. She will work primarily with middle school at-risk students; and for the new head varsity baseball coach, James Mauss, who will fill the vacancy left by the retirement of legendary  coach Gene Schultz.

Administrative reports from the principals included updates on the progress of establishing a 1:1 policy for computers for students which would result in every student having a laptop to use for classwork. Teams are visiting several districts which currently are using this system to explore the best computer for the usage the students will need for the work world as well as for school.

This program will begin with the high school either next fall or the following year. Superintendent Crozier said the funds would be available if the district leased the computers for four years. In 2019, the bonds on the athletic field will be paid off, which will free up more funds for the program.

Kee High School Principal Mary Hogan explained that the new aide associate will work with middle school at-risk students so that two associates will be available during seventh hour. Homework help has also been established in an after school program Thursdays.

The Career and Technical Education Committee is working on increasing the number of concurrent classes offered through NICC as well as help for career explorations. STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) enrollment has seen an increase in enrollment, growing from 10  students two years ago  to 18. The STEM program is a two-year commitment from students who begin as juniors and the programs strive to create real life experiences in a rigorous environment. The district hopes to partner with NICC, local mentors, and area businesses to provide opportunities for these students.

New Albin Elementary School Principal Chad Steckel reported that the new report cards have been distributed and that the elementary level is done with the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills. Superintendent Crozier reported the purchase of a used mini bus from Postville and the recycling of an older mini bus and van. The recycling income will pay for a large percentage of the purchase.

The Board approved  the normal authorization reports, the addition of a name to the June 2014 minutes, an application for modified allowable growth for one open enrollment student, a contract with ICN, the purchase of  a new copier/scanner, and an overnight trip for the vocal/band students to Chicago, IL March 28-29.

Final discussion about transportation and attendance at the upcoming state School Board Association meeting in Des Moines later in the week concluded the meeting. Several board members and the Superintendent will be attending.