Eastern Allamakee School District Board hears presentation on fifth grade community service project

by Susan Cantine-Maxson


The Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) Board of Directors met Monday, December 15. In addition to regular business items, the Board was also treated to a presentation on highlights of the fifth grade service project conducted by New Albin Elementary School students.

Deb Masek, fifth grade teacher and librarian at New Albin Elementary, presented an overview of the fifth grade project which took place in November. For three years, fifth graders have participated in programs dealing with fish, wildlife and conservation. In the past, they banded birds under the supervision of officials from the National Fish & Wildlife Refuge. They have also learned duck calls, taught by Ann Blankenship, a National Fish & Wildlife officer. Students were also given digital cameras to shoot an alphabet pulled together from found objects in nature, and they have also participated in bird walks. Last spring students identified 14 species of birds in 20 minutes at their bird feeders.

This year, the students planted 600 Swamp Oak trees just north of New Albin in the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Refuge area. Obtained from the Wisconsin state nursery at Boscobel, WI, the Swamp Oaks were chosen because they will provide a viable replacement for the invasive canary grass, as well as food and habitat for wildlife. Masek stressed that the objective of the students’ participation was to familiarize the students with conservation and preservation, as well as learning to "pay it forward".  She said the Friends of Pool 9 and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service, as well as the County Conservation Commission, have been invaluable assets in promoting learning activities for the students, and she expressed thanks to each of the groups for their support. Masek also said that one of the officers, Dan Reburn, is a graduate of Kee High School and serves as an excellent role model for the students.



EACSD Superintendent Dr. Dale Crozier noted that in comparing the district's financial report of this year to the same time period last year, the expenditures were $31,000 less than the previous year and revenues were $68,000 less. The budget is expected to be on target.

Since there was no old business, new business was discussed which included the approval of the disposal of two older vehicles, a van and short bus. These will be taken off the district's insurance and recycled at the Clayton County Recycling center. Expected income from the recycling will be approximately $1,300, and a used bus purchased from Postville will cost $1,823.

The Board also approved a motion to modify allowable growth increase in the budget of $91,450, 75% of the budget for that item, which included funds for a drop-out prevention plan, alternative school, paraprofessionals, guidance counselor services and parts of some faculty salaries. The Alternative School at the former Middle School building has been very successful for students who are academically, socially or vocationally at risk for not graduating. The Alternative School in Lansing offers distinct advantages because it offers the students more flexibility in using their time more efficiently, rather than spending a long time on a bus ride to another district.

The Board approved an overnight trip for some vocal students to attend the Wartburg College Honor Choir Festival. Several board members and members of the administration voiced support for students participating in activities which expand their life experiences.



Kee High School Principal Mary Hogan reported that the district had been awarded a $1,700 McElroy Grant for technology which will help to buy bee-bots, a type of robotics, and scribblers. Both should enhance the program for robotics and STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) students. Faculty members Donna Thomas, Jen Servais and  Allison  Fitzwater wrote the grant. They were inspired by an in-service from Keystone Area Agency which focused on technology training. The acquisition of the grant will help students learn coding and programming as well. Plans are in progress to include a higher level of coding class in conjunction with Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) in the future.

The Iowa Tests of Basic Skills are done; in January, Principal Hogan will present the results. The National Association of Education Progress (NAEP) will come in to assess the eighth grade. Schools are randomly chosen each year, and this national test results in a federal report on the state of education.

Hogan explained about an opportunity through Keystone to participate in a cultural survey of students in sixth through eighth grades all across the United States being conducted by Harvard University. Harvard will put together the data and offer webinars and training relating to the culture of schools, especially with areas such as bullying, peer pressure and other important areas to student culture.

Hogan also said district teachers are still exploring Mac versus Chromebook as platforms for the 1:1 computer initiative. Several students and teachers visited Turkey Valley Community School District to assess its use of the 1:1 computer initiative. Decisions will not be made about what to purchase until the committee feels well-grounded in what will be the best computer to prepare students for life after graduation.

Hogan concluded her remarks with an explanation of the successes in the agriculture program; the school system has worked cooperatively with DeSoto, WI schools to share an ag teacher, Ron Von Glahn. Van Glahn taught a first and seventh hour class during first semester and took over the  FFA sponsorship at Kee, and Hogan says his enthusiasm for agriculture has energized the program. He was originally scheduled to only teach one class second semester but has agreed to teach a second class in natural resources and wildlife management. Superintendent Crozier told the Board that this would cost $3,000 for the additional class, but both Crozier and Hogan emphasized the need for keeping the ag curriculum strong for the students and also for the community.

Board member Bruce Palmborg praised Hogan and the other administrators for their creative scheduling to offer what the students need by using a flexible and pragmatic approach.

Elementary Principal Chad Steckel told the Board that the elementary has been focusing on achieving benchmarks (achievement levels) at each grade level, doing measurements three times a year. If a student is not where s/he is supposed to be and subsequently does not meet a benchmark a second time, the student will be put into an intervention group. The Early Literacy Initiative focusing on reading and writing will also lead to summer school for students who are not achieving at grade level; if students do not attend summer school they will be retained at a grade level until they achieve the benchmark.

Faculty and staff are examining the summer school option and what that involves. Students with IEPs (individual educational progress) will receive an exemption. The State is providing funding for the creation of these intervention groups and summer school. Superintendent Crozier said that the funds received so far have been set aside for future summer school costs.

Superintendent Crozier asked Board members to share experiences about their recent attendance at the school board convention. He informed Board members that training sessions and webinars are available if any of them are interested in participating.

Regarding facilities, Crozier said that the entrance to the fitness center had to be removed because of a failing brick wall. The district received one quote for rebuilding the entrance, which needs to be fixed as soon as possible. Board members encouraged him to solicit other quotes to be fair to anyone who might be interested in the project, as long as the contractor could do the job in a timely manner.

Finally, Crozier went over the minutes from the last meeting of the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) committee. Topics included Iowa Tests Scores; bullying and harassment programs; positive behavior; Keystone intervention workshops; school culture; English Language Learners; special educational delivery; talented and gifted program; and dropout prevention.

The SIAC group participated in an exercise which resulted in listing major strengths of the district: staff, teachers, culture, programs, academic rigor, fiscal responsibilities, and facilities. Two concerns that emerged were economic development and declining enrollment. Goals and desires included continuing with technology and preparing students with 21st century skills.