ACSD Board of Directors advised of change in early start date waivers by Dept. of Education

by Brianne Eilers


The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met in regular session Monday, December 15. ACSD Superintendent Dave Herold addressed the Board regarding Section 73 of House File 215, a piece of State legislation regarding attendance center performance rankings.

Herold advised that attendance centers will receive one of six rankings: exceptional, high performing, commendable, acceptable, needs improvement, and priority. The ranking will be determined by several criteria, developed by the Department of Education, which include areas such as student performance, academic growth and attendance, among other factors. Herold explained that schools will be receiving their first rankings sometime in late winter or early spring.

Herold also spoke to the board members regarding the announcement by the Iowa Department of Education that it will no longer automatically grant waivers for an early start date. He noted that this would mean students in the ACSD will not start school until August 31, 2015 next year and the school year would definitely run into the month of June. He noted that schools will have to prove significant negative impact in order to get a waiver for an earlier start date.

Herold also noted that in the local area, there are many factors that the school districts have to contend with, that other districts further south may not. Inclement weather, district size and terrain issues can pose some problems in northeast Iowa that districts in other parts of the state do not have to deal with. Aside from causing the school year to run in to June, other areas that could be impacted by a later start date would be sporting schedules, particularly junior high sports. Junior high sports could be forced to cut out games due to the fact that students have to have practice time before their first games. “This is going to be an uphill battle,” Herold noted of the district’s future in seeking waivers to the late start.

Herold also discussed allowable growth (State-supported funding). He gave a presentation that showed there is a direct correlation between the decline in the amount of State-supported funding per student and the decline in student achievement in the state of Iowa. Schools are required to participate in the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) on a regular basis. In the ACSD, grades four, eight and 11 are tested for this assessment. Schools will be asking for a six-percent allowable growth from legislators. Herold also presented ACSD board member and president Al Rissman with a Better Boardsmanship award.

During the principals’ reports, Waterville Elementary and Waukon Junior High Principal Joe Griffith noted that junior high sports are wrapping up for the early winter seasons. East and West Elementary Principal Ann Hart said that they are getting ready for early literacy assessment and Iowa assessment testing. Waukon Senior High School Assistant Principal/Activities Director Jennifer Garin noted that semester tests will be administered Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week. She also encouraged staff members as well as community members to check the school calendar on the school district website and sign up to receive updates as the school year enters the winter months, when events might need to be postponed and rescheduled.

Curriculum Director Gretchen DeVore updated the Board on some of the CORE curriculum training she has been to, as well as the work coming along on writing the Teacher Leadership and Compensation Planning Grant.

During the Technology report, Technology Director Shawn Gordon explained to the Board how the district is using Eduvision to stream some sporting events. Currently, two basketball games and Monday evening’s wrestling meet have been broadcast. High school students are also looking at using this technology to be able to do a newscast that will be broadcast during home room time.

Gordon also noted that the district has been informed that money from Microsoft funds will be available again to the district. The funds are a part of a settlement in 2007 from a class action lawsuit. The district has received money from this in the past, and the funds will become available for use from January of 2015 to June of 2017. East and West Elementary Schools and Waterville Elementary will be getting the funding, and it will be used to purchase iPads and software.

Waukon High School instructor Mike Shupe and a few students from his Principals of Engineering class informed the Board about some of the things they have been doing in that class, which is part of Project Lead the Way. Currently, ACSD offers Principals of Engineering and Introduction to Engineering Design, which are foundation courses. Students taking these classes are also dually enrolled with Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC).

Shupe said that these classes are unique to this area, and that there aren’t any others in northeast Iowa being offered at the high school level. He describes the courses as “true STEM classes". STEM classes incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Students are faced with real-life scenarios and issues, and have to work in groups many times in order to come up with solutions to the problems. Shupe noted that this is not a class where if a student doesn’t know the answer they can just ask the instructor, but they have to really sit down and figure out how to make the challenges work.

Students deal in subjects like robotics and mechanisms. They have to learn how to compute and use simulation models. The students keep notebooks with sketches and designs, as well as portfolios, and that work has to look professional. Students demonstrated to the Board and those present some of the machines they have built in their classes, as well as examples of their work on electrical circuits and insulation testing. There are 19 students in the class this year.

In personnel matters, the Board approved personnel for the 21stCentury After School Program and also accepted the resignation of long-time East and West Elementary Principal Ann Hart, due to retirement. Hart has been the principal at both East and West Elementary Schools for the past 25 years. The Board thanked Hart for her dedication and hard work as an administrator in the ACSD.

Lacey Lloyd was hired as a three-day-per-week associate at East Elementary, and the Board accepted the resignation of Leah Stammeyer from her high school associate position. The Board also accepted the resignations of Joan Schwartz from her varsity assistant volleyball coaching position and Joey Lapel from his head eighth grade volleyball coaching position, pending finding a suitable replacement in both cases. Don Kuennen and Don Thies were hired as driver education instructors, and Frank Weymiller was approved as a volunteer wrestling coach.

In non-personnel matters, the Board approved the line item budget as a working document and also approved the Modified Supplemental Application for Dropout Prevention, which helps fund At-Risk programs. Sunday usage of the high school gym, junior high gym, high school cafeteria, and auditorium and computer lab was approved for the Youth Wrestling Tournament to be held February 1, 2015. The Board also approved the purchase of a skid loader with air conditioning unit from Reiser Implement and the purchase of a reverse tiller from Gary’s Tractor and Implement.