ACSD Board of Directors approves resignation of Curriculum Director due to medical reasons, hears initial report on first-ever ISASP testing

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met Monday evening, December 16 for the board’s regular monthly meeting. Several items were approved under the consent agenda as follows:

In personnel matters, the board approved hiring Julie Stemper as a substitute bus driver, Laural Gulla as a middle school paraprofessional and David Hansmeier as a volunteer wrestling coach. The board also accepted the resignation of Gretchen DeVore from her position as Curriculum Director. In an email to the board, DeVore explained that due to medical issues, she was resigning effective November 1, 2019. ACSD Superintendent Jay Mathis thanked DeVore for her years of service to the Allamakee Community School District and said that they “wish her well.”

There was some discussion between the board members and Mathis regarding how the absence of a curriculum director would affect the ACSD. Mathis explained that the building principals, himself and Board Secretary Jaime Curtin have been dividing up the curriculum director duties this first semester due to DeVore being ill, and while they will be looking to fill the position with either a full-time person or a shared individual with another district, it may be difficult to do at this time in the school year.

Sunday requests were approved for the Little Indian Cheer Camp and the Waukon Youth Wrestling Tournament. Two open enrollments out were also approved under the consent agenda.

During the communications time of the meeting, Waukon High School Principal Jennifer Garin gave a presentation to the board regarding the Iowa Statewide Assessment of Student Progress (ISASP) results. The test takes the place of the former Iowa Assessments, also formerly known as the Iowa Test of Basic Skills. The test was given in April of 2019, and this was the first year for this testing. Garin noted that changes had been made to the testing to make it align with the Standard Iowa Assessment. It was also supposed to make results available quicker, but that was not the case with this first year of these tests.

Grades 3-11 were tested in math and English language skills, with part of that English testing being written. Grades 5, 8 and 10 were also tested in science. Garin noted that when they received the results, the results were for each individual student and that with this first year of testing, there is not a way to compare.

“When we first got the results back, the AEA (Area Education Agency) said the results were bad in the state,” Garin noted. She then proceeded to show how the different grades compared to the rest of the state of Iowa. The average amount of students who were not proficient in the state of Iowa in each grade and each area were usually around 30%. Garin noted that students in the ACSD were often more proficient than the state average, but there were some areas of concern that will need to be addressed.

She did note that the ACSD will need to focus more on writing, especially in the lower grades. She also noted that prior to this testing, much of the curriculum has been focused on math and reading. “We need to do a better job to prepare students for writing,” she said.

There was also discussion on how the district will be using this information to make a plan of action to improve scores. “We are used to 80 and 90% proficiency,” Garin said. “This is a different kind of test and it will take time to get there.”

She is optimistic that through the PLC (Professional Learning Communities) work and analysis of the results, they will be able to help students increase their scores. Garin also complimented the teaching staff, noting that they “took this personally and they want to do better.”

East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith gave a report to the board regarding enrollment. He noted that enrollment is currently 1,079 and there is a projected enrollment of 1,052 in five years. Superintendent Mathis added that with this in mind, the district will need to be cautious with spending. The projected enrollment includes factors such as similar job situations in the county and the fact that Postville school district students cannot enroll out of the Postville district.

Under reports, Mathis noted in his superintendent’s report that the East Elementary project continues to move forward. During this winter weather season, they are doing their best to monitor road conditions and make the decisions to delay or cancel school for safety issues. Plans are being finalized on the West Elementary project, and they will hopefully have specifications at the January meeting. The administration and teacher leaders are planning for in-service days in January and February, and the staff is continuing to contribute ideas and show enthusiasm to improve the educational experience for students.

Garin noted that the windows and exterior doors have been added to the high school Construction class house project. The welding academy is up and running. She also noted that students have approached the administration on the possibility of having a speaker address the topic of mental health.

In his report, Waukon High School Activities Director and Assistant Principal Brian Hilsabeck gave an update on winter activities participation, which ended up being 412 students participating in girls basketball, boys basketball, bowling, cheerleading, wrestling, National Honor Society, choir, band, FFA and FBLA. Student leadership sponsored a local food drive at the Waukon vs. Caledonia girls basketball game and he thanked the custodial staff for the work they do during the winter months.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege noted that 70 wrestlers competed at a December 10 event from various schools. Middle school girls basketball will play games this week, December 17 and 19. The middle school leadership team held a holiday food drive and collected 2,044 food items. The middle school is also looking to make changes in its exploratory options in seventh and eighth grades.

East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith explained funding for the Kids Club at East and West in his report. In the past, it was funded by the 21st Century Learning Grant. He explained that in the final year of the grant, West did not qualify due to the school’s number of free and reduced lunches. The decision was ultimately made to fund the program using At-Risk Funds, which are locally controlled and have guaranteed the district to have sustainable programming as the district sees fit. November 26 was the morning that West hosted Donuts with Dudes (formerly Donuts with Dads). The name change came from the fact that many students attend with male relatives or friends of their family that are not their fathers, and they felt the name change was appropriate.

December 19 will be the day that the Visiting Nurse Association will go to East Elementary to visit with students regarding dental hygiene. Griffith also explained the policy as to whether or not children will be outside for recess during winter months, citing precipitation and temperature as factors. If students cannot go outside, the gym at East is an option. Students at West stay in their classrooms and have free time if the weather is inclement. The Goodfellas Riding Group donated to the East and West after school programs for snacks and the nurses fund that helps kids with winter clothing and other necessities.

The parent organization PSST invited and paid for Sheltered Reality, a drumming group that delivers a positive message to students, to perform for both elementary schools.

Building and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that things are progressing at East Elementary for the boilers and windows. At West, they are working with architects for the summer project. The high school gym floor will be waxed over the winter break, as well as the high school and middle school floors.

Shawn Gordon, Technology Director, noted that the filing season for ERATE has begun. There have been some issues with camera failures in the high school and middle school. They have been working with the vendors to replace some of the cameras and cabling. They are also working to update from an analog system to a cloud-based system, which would grant access to first responders in seconds.

Food Service Director Julie Magner noted that there were a few extra sack lunches for field trips and cookies for STEAM night. Otherwise, they are getting ready for the Christmas break. Transportation Director Andrew Eberling noted that they have changed the fuel blend being use in the district’s buses in order to deal with the cold weather.

Under old business, the board also approved the second reading of the following board policies: 507.9- Wellness; and 507.9R1- Wellness Regulation.

Under new business, the board appointed Ahlers law firm, based out of Des Moines, as the district’s legal counsel. The board also approved a reconfiguration of the ICN room. The following SBRC requests were approved: Increasing Enrollment - $4,171.20; Open Enrollment Out not in Fall 2018 - $38,395.20; and Modified Supplemental Amount (MSA) for At-Risk/Dropout Prevention - $296,855. The purchase of a V-plow snow plow blade from Olsgard Auto in the amount of $5,1400 was also approved. The V-shaped blade will allow for faster and more efficient removal of snow from the middle and high school parking lots.

Prior to adjournment, the board tabled a motion to approve the DERA Grant Funding Agreement. The motion to table was because the ACSD, along with several other Iowa school districts, is waiting on the Iowa Department of Transportation for its funding agreements. The funding agreement would be used towards the purchase of LP-powered school buses.

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