Allamakee Community School District Board of Directors hires new WHS Activities Director among number of personnel moves

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District Board of Directors met twice within the past week, including a special meeting Monday, February 9 and its regular monthly meeting Monday, February 16. Coverage of both meetings is included below.
The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met for a special meeting Monday evening, February 9 to discuss a small agenda. The Board approved bid proposals, including specifications, for computers for 2015-2016. The proposals are for the 1:1 Laptop and Imaging Solution, Projectors and Network (Wired and Wireless). Final bids will be presented to the board members during their March 16 regular meeting. The district is looking to purchase a minimum of 815 laptop computers for student use and a Deployment and Management Solution.
The Board also approved the hiring of Matt Teslow as a substitute bus driver, as well as approving a Supplemental State Aid Resolution to declare the school district's stance on education funding by the State Legislature in light of the current debate going on with used to be called the allowable growth percentage for Iowa school district funding.

During its regular board meeting, the ACSD Board heard an update from Superintendent Dave Herold regarding legislation going on at the State level, including legislation on Supplemental State Aid (formerly referred to as Allowable Growth) and the earliest start date, which has been set as August 23 for the 2015-2016 school year.
“Research shows that the longer students can be taught up to their standardized testing, the better the test scores,” Herold noted. He also noted that while school districts in Minnesota and Wisconsin don’t generally start until after Labor Day, those states also spend $2,000 more than Iowa per student. He further noted that about one-third of the school districts in Minnesota start earlier with a waiver.
Herold also informed the Board that the district has received three substantial donations. Norplex has donated $1,000, which will be used for the greenhouse. A donation of $2,000 was received from Shopko, and will be used to purchase a robot for the junior high, which students can learn to program. A grant of $13,075 was received from Farm Credit Services, and will be used for students in the Ag program to create additional gardens at the school and for other curriculum needs.
During the principals’ reports, East and West Elementary Principal Ann Hart noted that there were 71 students at the West Elementary Kindergarten Round-up, and 10 for the Bright Beginnings Program. Waukon High School Principal Dan Diercks informed the Board that the high school has used a new format for the Iowa Assessment testing this year. Instead of having tests administered over two days in the home room classes, students took the tests over five days, in the classes that corresponded with the curriculum being tested.
Diercks also said the high school's Construction Class house project is also moving along. Students have finished with the interior dry-wall and are now mudding and taping.
During the communications portion of the meeting, East Elementary instructor Joe O’Neill, along with students Madelyn Helgerson, Lincoln Snitker and Braden Hemann, gave a presentation during the meeting regarding FOSS (Full Option Science System) science kits. The kits provide educators with activities that give students a more hands-on approach to learning about the areas of physical, life and earth sciences. The kits come with supplies for various activities.
The students talked about some of the experiments they participated in and demonstrated some as well, including pendulums, catapults and airplanes, as well as what they learned from the experiments. O’Neill explained that the kits arrive at the beginning of the school year, and have about nine weeks worth of activities, which the instructors can chose to do, or not. While the kits enhance students’ learning experiences in those areas of science, O’Neill did note a few drawbacks to the kits.
He explained that sometimes the activities don’t coincide with the seasons, such as units that involve outdoor activities in the winter when the weather is not so cooperative. He noted that it can also be hard to find items to grade, but a simple solution is to have students keep science notebooks about what they learn through the experiments. He also explained that instructors have had to travel to Cedar  Rapids for training with the kits, which are also assembled in Cedar Rapids, but they are trying to be able to have training much closer to home in Elkader at the Keystone Area Education Agency.
Superintendent Herold also used the communications time to update the Board on HF 215, which is legislation that the State is enacting this year that will develop a system to evaluate and rank schools. This year, attendance centers will be ranked on two criteria: proficiency and growth toward college and career readiness. Eventually, the criteria will grow to nine areas: student proficiency; academic growth; attendance rates; parental involvement; employee turnover; community activities and involvement; closing gap scores; graduation rates; and college readiness.
In personnel matters, the Board approved 21stCentury After School Program personnel. The Board also approved hiring Eaton Cote as a substitute bus driver, pending meeting all requirements. Tyler Ronan and Jordan Wolfe were also approved as volunteer baseball coaches for the summer. The Board accepted the resignations of Jennifer Davis from her associate position at Waterville Elementary School and of Keisha Kerr from her associate position at East Elementary. Brooke Welsh was approved as eighth grade girls basketball coach, and Keri Egan was hired as assistant volleyball coach.
Amanda Oldenburg was hired as a special education associate at the high school. Brett Egan, Brent Beyer, Amy Wasson and Mike Shupe were all approved as volunteer girls’ track coaches. The resignations of Kathy Hannum and Cheryl Adam, both due to retirement, were accepted by the Board.
Brian Hilsabeck was hired as Activities Director/Administrator/Teacher. Herold noted that Hilsabeck has coaching experience, as well as experience as an activities director, in evaluations, and as an administrator from his time spent in the Eastern Allamakee and Howard-Winneshiek (Crestwood) school districts.
To accomodate the previous approval of moving sixth grade classes to the junior high school building, the Board approved the involuntary transfers of the following staff to what will be the new middle school, effective for the 2015-2016 school year: Kelly Olson from East Elementary; Tess Hawes from East Elementary; Ciara Mahr from East Elementary; and Lee Stegen from Waterville Elementary.
The Board discussed, and ultimately approved a request from Adrienne Gerst for a two-year leave of absence, so she can teach overseas. The Board approved the request, with the following stipulations. Gerst will have to provide the Board with written notice by April 1, 2015. Her leave will be granted contingent on finding a suitable replacement, and the cost of finding that replacement will be paid by Gerst. When she returns, Gerst will be guaranteed a position in the ACSD, but there is a possibility that it will not be the same position as when she left.
In other matters, the Board approved students for contracted and PSEO classes for the second semester. Herold noted that students are taking 936 credits second semester, and took 1,050 credits first semester, which saved the parents of these students $1 million compared to if students took these same classes as college courses.
The Board also approved the 2013-2014 Audit Report. Board Secretary Janice Rea noted that the district didn’t overspend and she felt, overall, it was a “good report.” Purchase orders for iPads and software were approved, to be purchased with the 2015 Microsoft Money Allocation. The Board also approved the Cooperative Swimming Contract with the Decorah school district, as they have in past years.
A Resolution of Support for the Driftless Area Visitor and Education Center, which will be located just south of Lansing in the Columbus area, was also approved. The resolution requires no funding from the school, just a show of support for this educational opportunity.

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