Start date waiver, bullying and harassment measures among the many items discussed at regular meeting of EACSD Board

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

The regular monthly meeting of the Eastern Allamakee Community School District (EACSD) Board of Directors was held Monday, February 16.
The regular business of the Board included approving a start date waiver application. Current Department of Education criteria severely limits what is acceptable for approving any waivers, excluding almost all arguments except statistical comparative data which is not readily available. It is unlikely that the waiver will be approved but  EACSD Superintendent Dr. Dale Crozier will still file it in case the Iowa Legislature approves starts earlier than September 1.
All normal consent items were approved. Superintendent Crozier outlined a few items which may still need to be finished at the softball complex, such as a concession stand. The booster club may assist with some of those items.
The Board approved numerous items in new business which included:
• a Sunday performance date of April 12, 2015 for the school play.
• Resolution of Support for the Columbus Site Interpretive Center/Driftless Area Education and Visitor Center.
• Resolution of Support for the Clear Creek Trail which would connect Clear Creek Park to the Mississippi River Trail and the Great River Road.
• Minutes of the SIAC meeting and minutes.
• Contract for teacher aide, Jennifer Davis.
• Resignation at the end of the school year for Gertrude Monat, math instructor.
• 2015-2016 Certified Budget Levy Rates.
• PPEL- .33 cents per $1000 (this remains the same as in the previous year).
• Management - .73897-cents per $1,000 (down slightly).
• Cash Reserve - $25,000 (same as previous year).
• Debt Service - $1.96784-cents per $1,000 (paying off bond issues; dropped slightly).
• Rates are based on 1.25 allowable growth; property valuation did increase 4.7 million dollars in the district.
• Budget Guarantee Resolution for 2015-2016. This is sent to the State so that the district is guaranteed at least 100% of last year’s budget, even if enrollment declines.
• The Public Hearing date of March 16 for the district’s 2015-2016 budget.
• Approved using March 13 as a make -up date because of snow cancellation. This day was built into the schedule as the first make-up date. The second make-up day is April 2 but the Board wanted to wait until March to see if any more snow days were necessary before making the final decision about that date versus adding dates to the end of the school year, which currently is scheduled for May 13.
The meeting concluded with administrative reports from Dr. Crozier and Kee High School Principal Mary Hogan. Both agreed that the last School Improvement Committee (SIAC) was well attended with excellent input from the 13 committee and staff member present. The committee reviewed concurrent course offerings, TAG programming, the Early Literacy Initiative, possible Summer School programming and the bullying/harassment school policy, especially in regards to the recent Harvard School Culture survey results. Members agreed to move forward at the next meeting April 8 with the following identified needs: marketing, technology and sustainability of current programming.
Hogan elaborated that the middle school level was working on culture survey results by working with random student focus groups led by Keystone personnel so that students felt they could express themselves freely.  The survey measured several opinions by using a spectrum ranging from one extreme to the other, for example: 0 being “I never feel safe at school” to 10 being “ I always feel totally safe at school.”  Several areas like this were measured.
Overall, the middle school students said they felt physically safe 90% of the time; 0% said they did not ever feel safe at school. More specific results included high percentages of safe feelings for hallways, classrooms and bathrooms. The lowest percentage was that only 60% of students feel safe on social media.
Hogan said one area that was identified as an area where students sometimes felt unsafe was the stairwells. To remedy that, teachers are now monitoring the landings so running, pushing and other types of behavior are discouraged. The staff felt that in general there was good feedback from students. One result of the survey was that 39 % would feel safer with a clearer discipline policy and 50% favored stronger punishments for disciplinary infractions.
Dee Blanchard from Keystone will be assisting the faculty in looking at two possible curricula which may assist with discipline and anti-bullying. One is Olweus - a respect and anti-bullying curriculum; the other is a Positive Behavior Intervention System which is currently being used in the elementary school. Both would take time for training and implementation.
Another aspect of the survey recognized the need for more student leaders. Hogan said faculty and staff are now working on an action plan which will teach students to empower themselves by practicing appropriate ways to deal with bullying by using techniques such as role playing.
Hogan continued with an explanation of several grants available to the high school students through Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC) for areas such as job shadowing, mentoring, and touring areas which show career opportunities. NICC will also connect guest speakers to groups. One successful NICC partnership is the Youth Career Learning Link which identifies juniors who are   interested in health careers and matches them with mentors.
Hogan concluded by telling the Board that March 12 NICC will hold an informational meeting for all area sophomores in Waukon on issues such as concurrent enrollment; NICC offerings; CTE - Career & Technical Education classes and other areas of interest regarding college. This meeting is for both students and parents.