ACSD School Board accepts retirement resignation of long-time Board Secretary at special session, holds regular monthly session

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors held a pair of meetings this past week to address a variety of issues.

The Board held a special meeting Thursday morning, April 14 to hold two public hearings and take action on a handful of agenda items. Public Hearings on the proposed budget for 2016-2017 and on amending the 2015-2016 budget were held, with no written or oral objections received.

Moving on to personnel matters, the Board accepted the resignation of Janice Rea, due to retirement, from her School Board Secretary/Business Manager position effective June 30 of this year, thanking her for her service of 27 years. The recommendation to transfer Michelle Pladsen from secondary math to TLC Integrationist Teacher Coach was approved. The Board approved the involuntary transfer of Jasmine Frommelt from second grade to first grade at West Elementary School. The Board also accepted the resignation of Chris Dahlstrom from his Junior High Wrestling coaching position.

The Board approved a Curriculum Coordinator Sharing Agreement with South Winneshiek. The Board also approved the 2016-2017 budgets and amending the 2015-2016 budgets.

During the Board's regular meeting April 19, a Public Hearing was held on the 2016-2017 School Calendar. No written or oral objections were made and the hearing was closed.
During the reports time, ACSD Superintendent Dave Herold updated the Board on several legislative items that have passed. The Early Literacy Initiative (ELI) states that students who are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade will have to attend summer school and if they do not show enough improvement, they will have to be retained for another year. Herold stated that summer school program will not begin until the 2017-2018 school year.

Regarding the Iowa Assessments, no action was taken on the bill that would change the test from the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to Smarter Balance, and Herold explained that with no action taken the bill moves forward. He touched on the cost of the tests, which would rise from $3.50 per test now to $28 per test for the district. Herold noted that in the bill, there was language that the State would be “picking up the tab” on the additional costs, but since it was not acted on, districts are not sure what to expect. He said they also received word that Iowa Test of Basic Skills would be available next year to use for assessments.

Herold also discussed cuts to the Area Education Agency (AEA), which currently are set at $15 million, but he received word that there is a bill to make that amount $20 million. Herold also noted to Board members that there is some interest in changing the times of the regular Board meetings from 7 p.m. to 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m. and asked Board members to consider that. A possible special meeting could be held on the matter later this month.

During the Principals’ Reports, Julie Askelson noted that Waterville Elementary students have lots of field trips coming up. She also noted that for next year, the parent groups at East, West and Waterville Elementary Schools will be bringing in a theatre beyond audiences group for two performances, one at East and one at Waterville. East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith noted that they are also busy with field trips, many of which are coordinated with Waterville students. Muffins with Mom will be this Friday at West. The East Elementary spring concert will be May 2. FAST assessments are also underway.

Middle School Principal Jennifer Garin noted that students are also taking field trips, which are paid for using proceeds from Middle School dances. Eighth grade students recently went to Des Moines to visit the Capitol, as well as learn about the World Food Prize, meet the Governor and Senator Breitbach, and participate in activities at the Science Museum. Eighth graders also toured the Allamakee County Courthouse April 13 and 14. Seventh graders recently had an orienteering day. Sixth grade student will attend team building exercises with other schools at Village Creek Bible Camp May 3 and will attend the Conservation Day May 6 at the Waukon Park.

Brian Hilsabeck, Waukon High School Activities Director, noted that track meets are underway. He also said that the FBLA won its second consecutive title and thanked the Waukon Fire Department and Shawn Gordon for helping them celebrate the success when the students got back to town from that contest. Prom will be this Saturday, April 23, with the Grand March at 8 p.m.

Waukon High School Principal Dr. Mike Hardy gave the Board members handouts of information sent to parents and students regarding proper etiquette for the upcoming graduation ceremony. Graduation will be held May 15.

During the Curriculum Report, Director Gretchen DeVore also discussed legislative matters. She explained ELI, also known as the Third Grade Retention Law, and she also talked about universal screening and FAST assessments, which are set by the State. DeVore explained that Differentiated Accountability will be taking over the SITE visits, and the State will only physically visit a building if the students fall below the benchmarks on the universal screenings through ELI. DeVore noted that the assessments are based on three one-minute reading passages given to grades K-6. She also encouraged those in attendance to discuss the assessment by one-minute reading passages with legislators, and asked them to push for a change in the way the students are assessed.

DeVore also touched on ESSA (Every Student Succeeds Academically), and how as part of this, school districts must have an English Language Learner teacher on site. ACSD is in the process of complying with this requirement. Looking at the AYP (Annual Yearly Progress), the scores from last year will remain frozen, which means there can be no additional sanctions against schools and they can’t get further down on any lists, but they also can’t be removed from lists. DeVore also noted that the district has had its first official TLC Grant meeting and will be having its first professional development (PD) meeting next week.

In other departments, Julie Magner, Food Service Director, noted that the Allamakee County Cattlemen will be grilling May 6 for students. Barb Winters, Grant Coordinator for the 21st Century Program, noted that the district had its State visit and that Allamakee County is looked at as a model school for the program.

During the  Communications portion of the meeting, Superintendent Herold gave a presentation on Iowa Assessment test scores. Math scores were “very good” and Herold said that science scores had shown “good growth”. The reading scores were pretty good, with the data showing a need to improve some subgroups. Strengths were found in improvement over time of testing scores. The district will use professional development to increase student achievement, and Herold noted that the TLC Grant will also help with this.

Areas where improvement is needed include working with subgroups to improve scores, especially in the Middle School. Instructors will also need to emphasize and prioritize the importance of testing and students giving their best effort. The district will continue to work to align with the Iowa Core and continue to find the best data analysis.

Darla Reed-Tinderholt presented the updated SIAC (School Improvement Advisory Committee) goals. She noted that they are the same as last year, with the exception of added language to the last goal: continuing to develop 21st Century learners through digital education, addressing common Core Curriculum needs, and fostering a safe and positive learning environment during regular school hours and Community Connections expanded learning opportunities.

Under new business, the Board approved the recommendation of 21st Century staff. Madison Wagner was approved as a sixth grade teacher and head volleyball coach ($33,500 teaching and $3,690 coaching). Herold noted that Wagner has participated in State volleyball and basketball at the high school level in Wisconsin, as well as playing college basketball. The Board approved the support staff, department head and administrative salaries for 2016-2017 with the 3.97% increase. Patrick Mahr was hired as summer help at Waterville Elementary (28.75 hours/week). John Papp, Ted Snitker and Daneshia Snitker were approved as softball volunteer coaches. The Board also accepted the resignation of Donna May from her two hour per day associate position at Waterville.

An out of state field trip for the high school band and choir to go to Chanhassen May 25 was approved. This field trip is a make-up for the trip scheduled March 23 that had to be postponed due to inclement weather. The Board also approved an out of state field trip for FBLA students to attend the FBLA National Convention in Atlanta, GA, with 31 students having expressed interest in attending. FBLA Director Joan Schwartz and an additional two to three parents will chaperone. Students will be responsible for their cost, which is $900 each.

The IAEP Cooperative Purchasing Agreement was approved for the school food program. The Summer Feeding Program was approved for breakfast and lunch for preschool through high school seniors for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Friday, with no charge to the student or parents. The program will run from May 31-June 27 and August 1-12 at Waukon Middle School and Waterville Elementary to coordinate with the Grant Summer Programming and Summer Rec Programs.
The Board approved the list of graduates for 2016, pending they meet all requirements. Approval was also given to designating the school year in hours, 1,080 hours to be precise, for the next school year.

The Board also approved the purchase of new choir robes, with 100 robes being purchased in the school colors of black and orange. A total of $8,375.00 has been raised to date, with the remaining cost to be split at $4,837.50 between both the Music Boosters and ACSD. Director Ethan Adams noted that the Music Boosters had committed to their half, and the Board approved the $4,837.50 for the purchase. Adams is also researching the cost of adding a white “W” to the robes.

The Board also approved purchasing of software for the lunch program. As the district transitions to Power School for its management system, there is a need for a new way to manage the lunch program. The Board approved the purchase of eTrition software for a first-year cost of $10,750, and an annual cost of $3,750. The Board also approved the purchase of desktop, laptop and printers for Administration Office Staff and Waterville Elementary for $54,524.50 from Sterling Computers Corporation, as well as servers and SAN from Sterling Computers Corporation for $80,046.47. Technology Director Shawn Gordon noted that there will be a five-year warranty on the servers and a four-year warranty on computers. The Board also approved the Technology Plan for 2016-2017.

Looking at Board Policies, the Board approved deleting Policy 508.3 - Student Telephone Calls. Herold explained that it is somewhat obsolete as many students now have their own cell phones with them, but the office would still get messages to students or allow them to take a call in the office, if necessary. Prior to adjournment, the Board also approved the first reading of a wide variety of additional Board Policies.