ACSD Board of Directors hears updates on funding for Iowa schools, questions use of new company for annual audit

by Brianne Eilers

The board members of the Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) met Monday evening, February 15 for their regular monthly meeting. ACSD Superintendent Dave Herold discussed legislation on funding for Iowa schools for the 2017-2018 school year. He noted that the State Senate would like to see four-percent funding, while the State House is pushing for two-percent funding.
Herold explained to the Board how each option could affect the school district. He briefly discussed lack of funding concerns for summer school programs, Smart Balance and the ELL (English Language Learner) programs, and that the district may have to find a way to fund these programs without money from the State. Herold also informed the Board that the time is approaching to begin the bargaining process with the Educator's Association.
Waterville Elementary School Principal Julie Askelson reported that kindergarten and pre-school round-up will be held Wednesday at Waterville. She also noted that the Waterville students are looking forward to having FFA members from the high school come to visit their classes to celebrate National FFA Week.
Joe Griffith, East and West Elementary Principal, noted that February is Heart Disease Awareness month. Some of the elementary students were able to participate in an obstacle course to learn about the circulatory system. He also noted that fourth grade students will have the opportunity to do some snowshoeing Tuesday.
Waukon Middle School Principal Jennifer Garin informed the Board that she has been meeting with students who are not passing a class or classes about every three weeks to try and determine how to help with the problem. One thing that has been noted is that some students are not completing homework assignments. Garin has been working to find a solution to that, and has decided that they will be trying something new to see if that will help the situation.
Garin explained that if a student has not done a homework assignment, the student will have to contact a parent and arrange to stay after school to make up the assignment and also be able to receive credit for the assignment. Garin also said she has spoken with some of the parents already about this, and they are receptive to the idea. She further said they will be trying this in the Middle School for the remainder of the year, and if it is successful, it could become policy in the future.
Principal Garin also noted that Shopko has donated a gift of $2,000 to the Middle School to be used for student activities. She said the money will be used to help fund next year's eighth grade field trip to Des Moines, as there will be a large eighth grade class next year. Garin thanked Shopko and community members for the gift.
Dr. Mike Hardy, Waukon High School Principal, noted that the junior and senior classes had a career day last week and were able to meet with members of various businesses. There was also a Student Leader Meeting held to start discussing Prom and graduation.
Gretchen DeVore, Curriculum Director, addressed the Board on the early literacy initiative, which will require students to be proficient in reading by the end of third grade. She said benchmarks have been set by the State, and letters will be sent home with students who didn't reach or pass those benchmarks. DeVore noted that the students are assessed three times per year by reading a passage in one minute. "Students are expected to read approximately 51 words in a minute," she explained, adding, "That is a high benchmark for a Kindergartener."
Teachers have gone through and will continue to do training to be able to give students all the tools they need to be able to complete and understand the task. DeVore also touched on the lack of State funding for summer school and ELL legislation.

In personnel matters, the Board approved staff for the 21st Century Afterschool Program. The Board also approved hiring the following individuals as volunteer coaches: Morgan McMillan as golf coach, Tyler Ronan as baseball coach, Amy Wasson as girls track coach and Brent Beyer as girls track coach. Greg Gordon was approved to be hired as a 25 hour per week custodian. The Board approved hiring Michael Shupe as assistant high school girls track coach, and also approved the hiring of Teralee Jones as a special education associate.
In other matters, the Board approved the following job descriptions for the Teacher Leadership Compensation Grant: Intervention Coach, Instructional Coach, Technology Integration Coach, Mentor Teacher and Lead Teacher (one teacher from each building and one teacher at-large). Superintendent Herold explained that the job descriptions were written in as part of the grant.
Shawn Gordon, Technology Director, discussed the bids the district had receive for a copy machine lease/purchase agreement. Three companies submitted bids, and the Board chose to go with Gordon's recommendation to accept the lease bid from Marco, Inc. for $3,273.13 per month. The Board approved a fundraiser for the FFA students to work for PlantPeddler in Cresco to help prepare planters for spring sales. The Board also approved a fundraiser for the Volleyball Club to have a food stand during the Great Eastern Iowa Tractorcade in June of this year.

The Board accepted a bid from Community CPA & Associates to do the district's financial audit for the next three years. Board Secretary Janice Rea explained to the Board that ACSD would be this company's first school audit.
Board member Patty Nordheim voiced some of the concerns of the Board about partnering with a company that had not done school district audits before. Rea said she had spoken with and corresponded with the company multiple times. She showed the Board an informational binder the company had put together, and noted that the employees of the firm have extensive backgrounds in that field. She also explained that the State of Iowa would hold the firm accountable, and Rea felt the firm would be looking to ACSD in the future for references, so she said they would be conscientious regarding deadlines. She noted that in the first year, it may take them longer to do some things, but when comparing their total cost over three years of $17,600 to the cost of the other firm, which was $28,900 for three years, Community CPA & Associates offered significant savings.
Rea also noted that Community CPA & Associates is a Targeted Small Business and based in Des Moines. She further noted that there is an option in the contract that if either party should be dissatisfied at any time during those three years, the contract can be severed.
The Board approved the At-Risk/Dropout Application. The Board also approved deleting the following Board policies: 410.6-Athletic Philosophy and 410.7-Assistant Coaches. Herold explained that these policies were being deleted because they "are more philosophies than rules." Prior to adjournment the Board approved the first reading of numerous other Board policies.