ACSD Board hears update on problem with new student laptops

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met for its regular board meeting Monday, July 20. Keystone Area Education Agency (AEA) Board Member Dr. Bill Withers and Keystone Administrator Patrick Heiderscheit were in attendance at the meeting to field any questions or concerns from the board members. Heiderscheit also gave a short presentation to those present, including a brief video highlighting the speech therapy service provided by Keystone AEA.
Keystone serves schools in eight counties, serving 23 districts and 28 private schools. Keystone is divided up into three sectors, with ACSD being in the northern sector, Sector 1. There are approximately 8,000 students served by Keystone in Sector 1, as well as in Sector 2. The southern-most sector, Sector 3, is made up of Dubuque and Western Dubuque school districts, and has about 16,000 students. Keystone provides support to the schools in its area in many ways, including special education services, occupational therapy services, support for educational media, support with Iowa CORE learning, and many other services.
The Iowa Area Education Agencies are celebrating 40 years this year, and Heiderscheit noted that the AEAs initially began as a special education organization but have evolved to encompass many more areas that support Iowa’s education system and educators. Allamakee  County contributes $249,145 in property tax dollars to support Keystone. ACSD Superintendent Dave Herold noted that Iowa’s AEAs have been hit hard with the reductions in education funding, and have probably been hit harder than other areas.
During his Superintendent’s Report, Herold explained to the Board that the summer projects within the district are almost completed. He also discussed legislation regarding education funding in the State. He noted that Governor Branstad vetoed the proposed $55 million one-time money for schools. Herold also explained that for the sixth year in a row, State legislators did not set the State Supplemental Aid for schools in the time-frame required by Iowa law to do so, which is ideally about 14 months prior to certification of the school district’s budget.
The State Supplemental Aid has been set at 1.25%, which Herold noted will mean the ACSD will receive less funding than last year. He further noted that the funding received is not equal to the money going out of the district, and ACSD will have to do as many other school districts have and find ways to make cuts without having a detrimental effect. Herold noted that one way the district is dealing with the cuts is to not replace teachers when someone retires from a position.
During the technology report, Technology Director Shawn Gordon updated the Board on an issue that was discovered with the 743 student computers that were received for the 1:1 Initiative. Gordon explained that there was an error made on the part of Dell when the computers were ordered, and the machines have slower processors and motherboards than what was specified. Dell and Sterling, the two companies involved in the project, will be sending representatives to the school to correct the situation, before the start of the school year. In more positive technology matters, there have been upgrades to bandwidth in the district, which Gordon said students had noticed an increase in speed, and the elementary computer labs have been looked at, diagnosed and cleaned.
The Board was also presented with information on facility usage, and Herold pointed out that the facilities are in use nearly every day. “Especially if you are around in the evenings, you’ll notice it can be very busy around here, and we like that,” he said.
In regular business, the Board approved hiring staff for the 21st Century Afterschool Program. Resignations were accepted from associates Debra McGeough, Shanna Holzwarth, Joyce Larkin and Laurie Hatlan. The Board approved the hiring of Amanda Eggerichs as a teacher at Waterville Elementary and Lexie Bieber as a volunteer cheerleading coach. The Board also approved the hiring of Shala Llewellyn as Secondary 21st Century Coordinator.
The Board also approved the student computer usage agreement. The agreement is pretty much the same as in the past, but Herold wanted to highlight in the section on accidental breakage and damage insurance for student laptops that there is coverage for “one-time” accidental damage for a 12-month period from the date of repair. The Board approved joining the Iowa Association of School Boards and the Iowa School Finance Information Service. The district utilizes the services and knowledge from both of these organizations throughout the year.
The Board also approved the Nutrition Handbook and the School Breakfast/Lunch Free & Reduced policy. Board members also voted to approve continuing the Back Pack Program, which provides students and their families who are in need with food during weekends and breaks during the school year.
Several bids were approved at the meeting. Bids were accepted for milk from WW Homestead Dairy for chocolate skim pint bottles and Prairie Farms for all the other milk that would be provided at lunches. WW Homestead Dairy did not bid for the other options. The bread bid went to Pan-O-Gold. It was noted that the district has not been receiving as many bids for items as they have in the past, and on the bid sheet, the district noted which companies they did not receive bids from on milk and bread.
The Board also approved the purchase of a new oven for East Elementary from the sole bidder on that project, Wilson Restaurant Supply of Cedar Falls. A bid from Blake Excavating to demolish a house, remove trees and other items on property next to the bus parking area on Fifth Street NW was approved. The Board also accepted a bid from Beneke Roofing to replace roofing over the district's administrative offices. A bid was also accepted from Whitetail Landscaping for snow removal for the 2015-2016, 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years.
The board members also discussed and rated what they feel are the top five legislative priorities for education in the coming year. They felt the number-one priority is finance, and supporting setting supplemental state aid (formerly referred to as allowable growth) 400 days, or 14 months, prior to the certification of the school district’s budget and at the rate of six percent, to encourage continuous school improvements and reflect the actual cost increases experienced by schools.
The second most important priority to the ACSD is supporting a mechanism for funding school districts’ transportation costs that does not directly or indirectly impact funding for the educational program. The Board also supports the use of physical plant and levy equipment (PPEL) funds for the maintenance and repair of transportation equipment that can be purchased or financed with PPEL funds. The fourth most important priority is preserving the integrity of the statewide penny sales tax for school infrastructure. Rounding out the ACSD Board’s top-five is the support for inclusion of drop-out prevention and funding for at-risk students in the foundation formula, and inclusion of socio-economic status as a factor in determining a student’s at-risk status.
An agreement with the Waukon Park and Recreation Department that will allow the high school and junior high marching bands to utilize the north soccer field as a practice field for marching band was approved. The Board also approved changes to the 28E Agreement with the City of Waukon, regarding the Waukon Wellness Center and NICC Center, and then voted to re-appoint Patty Nordheim and Joe Griffith to the Park and Rec and Wellness Board.
The final item before adjournment was the approval of a contract with Johnson Controls for fire alarm maintenance. The Board was presented with a three-year year contract, with the first year costing $6,600, the second being $6,732 and the third year being $6,867.