Allamakee School District Board hears update on pending legislation

by Brianne Eilers

The regular monthly board of directors meeting for the Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) was held Monday evening, January 19. A public hearing was held on the Main Kitchen Air Conditioning Project, and no public comments were made.
During the Superintendent’s Report, ACSD Superintendent Dave Herold updated the Board on legislative items affecting education. He discussed HF13, which would eliminate school start date limitations and the related waiver and penalty provisions. If passed, individual districts would again have the option of an earlier start date for the school year than around September 1.
He also discussed financial challenges that school districts will be facing with the upcoming fiscal year, including a $15 million cut to the Area Education Association (AEA), as well as an additional $15 million cut the following year. Iowa Governor Terry Branstad will also be pushing for bills regarding anti-bullying and broadband internet to be passed.
Herold also discussed an easement with the City of Waukon regarding the West Side Development subdivision, where the high school Construction class is currently building its latest home project. The easement was passed later in the meeting. He also noted that the road is being brought to grade, which is integral to getting permanent electrical service installed.
During the principals’ reports, Waterville Elementary and Waukon Junior High Principal Joe Griffith noted that Iowa assessment tests will be starting. He also noted that LiveHealthy Iowa will be kicking off soon. Junior high boys’ basketball has begun, and the school has also had try-outs for the junior high play. Waterville Elementary students participated in the Effigy Mounds Winter Arts Festival, and exhibits included dioramas made by the first and second graders.
Ann Hart, East and West Elementary Principal, noted that kindergarten and pre-school round-ups will be taking place in February. Waterville Elementary will have its round-up February 11. In Waukon, the kindergarten and five-year-old round-up will be February 12 at West, and the session for four-year-olds will take place February 18.
Jennifer Garin, Assistant High School Principal and Activities Director, noted that this is a busy time of the year for activities. She also informed the Board that the district was hosting the NEIC Music Festival, and invited board members to attend the concert after the meeting. She also thanked the custodians, food service crew and office staff for their extra efforts during the festival.
Waukon High School Principal Dan Diercks used his time to tell board members that he felt the Waukon students who populate the student section during games are “a pretty good student section.” Diercks said that he has spoken with administrators from other districts and has received positive comments on the conduct of the Waukon students. He also informed the Board that the high school will be making a change in the way it implements Iowa assessment tests, which took up two days in the past. This year, students will have two weeks to take all the tests, and tests will be administered by the teachers who teach that particular subject matter. Diercks also spoke about recent professional development days, including Monday, January 19. He touted the fact that ACSD staff members have been able to teach other staff how to use technology.
During new business, the Board approved staff for the 21stCentury program. The Board hired Sarah Schuknecht as a teacher at Waterville Elementary. Angie Zezulka and Sheri McInnish were both hired as 5.75 hour per day associates at the high school. Lori Cahoon was hired as a 6.5 hour per day associate at East Elementary. Keri Egan was hired as assistant girls’ softball coach, pending receipt of a coaching certificate.
Kerry Wacker’s resignation from her position as eighth grade girls’ basketball coach was accepted, pending finding a suitable replacement. The Board also accepted the resignation of Linda Groe from her position as Elementary Librarian. Groe has worked in the district for 26 years, as well as volunteering on various committees. “We are a better school because of your service,” Superintendent Herold told her. The Board also hired Chad Beerman as a thrower’s coach for 7-12 boys and girls track for the 2015 season.
In other matters, the Board approved the pre-school tuition for the 2015-2016 school year. There will be a 10% increase in that tuition. Board member Thomas Baxter stated that he felt the district has an “excellent program.” He was concerned with the 10% figure in the tuition increase. Principal Hart explained that with funding cuts at the State level, 10% was the amount that is needed to cover costs. She noted that in the past, they have managed to keep increases around five percent, but with rising costs, that couldn’t be done this time. The pre-schoolers go four full school days per week. The total cost would be $2,541 per year; two of those days are funded through the State Voluntary Pre-School Grant, and parents are responsible for the other two days. The cost to parents will be $1,270.50, or $17.65 per day for 2015.
The Board also accepted a bid from Winona Controls, Inc., in the amount of $109,000 for the Main Kitchen Air Conditioning project.