ACSD Board of Directors hears updates on school closure due to COVID-19, approves personnel changes, staff compensation packages for upcoming year, other matters in meeting series

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors has held a series of special and regular meetings within the past couple weeks to address a variety of matters. Coverage of all meetings is published below.

The Allamakee Community School District Board met for a special meeting Friday, February 21 to discuss the upcoming HVAC upgrade and window replacement project at West Elementary School. The contract for the project was awarded to Olympic Builders for $4,639,040.00, which includes all alternates and moving and storage costs. The bid for asbestos removal was awarded to Environmental Management Services of Iowa, a base bid of $100,527 and $40 per door.

The board met for a special meeting Friday, March 6. The board accepted the resignation from East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith effective at the end of his 2019-2020 contract. Griffith has been hired as the Superintendent of Schools for the North Fayette Valley School District. The board accepted a resignation from physical education teacher Greg Criswell, effective at the end of this school year, as well as the resignation of Elizabeth Baures from her paraprofessional and West Elementary After School Programming Coordinator positions.

The board approved a voluntary transfer for Lauren Allison from first grade to transition kindergarten. A voluntary transfer was also approved for Blaine Snitker to move from 7th/8th grades math to 8th-12th grades math and NICC College Statistics. The board also approved to add a kindergarten section and reduce the number of second grade sections for the 2020-2021 school year.

The board also met for a special meeting Tuesday, March 10 to discuss contract negotiations with the Allamakee Community Education Association (ACEA). Jed Hemann represented the ACEA and presented a proposal to the board asking for an increase in the salary schedule base of $1,150 to make it $31,310. The ACEA also proposed a one-year agreement to the schedule, for the 2020-2021 school year. The total package increase, including salary and benefits, would be around 4.21%.

ACSD Superintendent Jay Mathis represented the ACSD and presented the District’s proposal of an increase to the salary schedule base of $850 to $31,010. The District also proposed a one-year agreement on salary. The District’s total package offering, including salary and benefits, would be around 3.51%.

The ACSD Board met for its regular monthly meeting  Monday, March 16. Though the Allamakee Community School District will be closed for the next four weeks due to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds’ recommendations, staff met at their respective schools that March 16  morning to receive what information the administrators could give them as well as voice their concerns and ask questions.

In personnel matters staff for After School Programming was approved. Tyler Scholl was approved as the head girls cross country coach, replacing Brett Egan. Maria Baker was approved as a paraprofessional and West Elementary After School Programming Coordinator. The board accepted a resignation from Andy Sires from his position as eighth grade boys basketball coach. Several open enrollments into the school district were approved.

A cooperative teaching agreement with the University of Northern Iowa and ACSD was approved, as well as a cooperative swimming agreement. The board also approved the Summer Feeding Program for 2020. Breakfast and lunch will be provided free of charge for children and teens 18 years of age and younger again this summer.

Meals will be served in the Middle School Cafeteria Monday through Friday, June 1 through June 26 and August 3 through August 14. The start date is contingent on the official last day of school.

The presentation from West Elementary Staff on FOSS kits and writing was tabled for a later date during the Communications time of the meeting. Shane Kelly of Access Systems briefly addressed the board regarding the bids his company submitted for the copier contract.

Waukon High School Principal Jen Garin noted that they are waiting to hear from officials at the State level if they would possibly be able to apply for a waiver regarding the ISASP testing that was scheduled for early April. She also reported that during their meetings earlier Monday, it was discussed that teachers may put activities and items online that students can choose to complete while on their break.

Garin also noted that NICC online classes will continue as scheduled, as of Monday’s meeting, and there is a possibility that the face-to-face classes could be converted to online classes. She noted that they are continuing to look for guidance from the State level on the situation and said that there will probably be more cancellations to come. She also noted in her report to the board that the interior painting of the house project was nearing completion. Several FFA students qualified for the District competition March 14.

Assistant High School Principal and Activities Director Brian Hilsabeck reported that two Waukon FFA students are moving forward in the District FFA competition for Star of Iowa and they will hopefully be competing at the end of April. He noted that Ms. Sarah Bieber took a quartet from Waukon High School to sing the National Anthem at the boys basketball State Tournament March 9.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege reported that they had 40 students participating in the Middle School play, which was held last weekend. There was a 3-on-3 March Madness tournament at the Middle School. Unfortunately, not all classes were able to get their tournaments in before school was canceled.

East and West Elementary Principal Joe Griffith noted that he had met with his staff that morning to be sure everyone knew what was going on and to look at educational opportunities moving forward. Students at West Elementary raised $1,578 for the Bell family and students at East raised $2,181 in support of the family following the Gus & Tony’s fire. The parent organization (PSST) also donated $300.

Food Service Director Julie Magner made sure to thank her staff for the work they do preparing and serving the students, as well as adapting to the situations that get thrown at them. Board member Scott Melcher asked if there would be a lot of perishable food that would go to waste, and Magner explained that there may possibly be some that goes to waste but the kitchen staff was working on cutting up items and freezing as much as possible. She also noted that they had a lot of produce and offered salads to the staff that was at school Monday.

Magner also briefly discussed how they are looking into the possibility of offering a grab-and-go meal for students during the weeks that school is canceled. Some families and students do depend on the school system for getting meals for their kids. Magner noted that there are going to be a lot of factors into figuring out how to best approach this situation and what types of meals they can offer that will work best. They are going to monitor State recommendations and will have to apply to offer the service. There will possibly have to be some special meetings called in order to approve that type of program as well.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling explained that the school buses are being cleaned and fumigated. He noted that drivers who might usually leave their school bus at home will be bringing them in to the bus barn to be cleaned and fogged. He also briefly discussed the cameras on the stop arms of the buses.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that they had purchased two foggers to fumigate the buses and small areas in order to ensure everything is cleaned and sanitized. They are continuing to scrub down all the floors, walls and lockers, in addition to the normal day-to-day cleaning that is done.

Superintendent Jay Mathis noted that there had been staff meetings at each learning center. He said they asked teachers and staff to compile questions they have about the closure and the administrators would address the questions as they get more information. He noted that there are a lot of questions and concerns in all areas.

ACSD is also looking to the AEA, the Iowa Department of Education and the ISBA for guidance on how to correctly handle the situation. He noted that certain things may require board approval and there may be some special meetings called.

“We know what our revenues are and that they will come in,” Mathis noted, adding that the school district won’t be facing a financial situation like a restaurant, for example. He also stated that their priority is to take care of the students and the staff. He handed out some suggestions from the Iowa Department of Education regarding online learning, school lunches, students with disabilities and other matters. Gov. Reynolds was expected to sign a bill that schools will not be required to make up the four weeks that are being lost in this closure.

Under old business, the board approved the second reading of the following board policies: : 710.4-Meal Charges, 710.4E1-Food Service Meal Fund Assistance Form, 104-Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment, 104.R1-Anti-Bullying/Anti-Harassment Investigation Procedures, 302.7-Superintendent Civic Activities, 401.13-Staff Technology Use/Social Networking, 401.13R1-Staff Technology Use/Social Networking Regulation, 402.2-Child Abuse Reporting, 403.6-Drug and Alcohol Testing Program, 403.6E1-Drug and Alcohol Testing Program Notice to Employees, 403.6E3-Drug and Alcohol Testing Program and Pre-Employment Testing Program Written Consent to Share Information, 303.5-Administrator Duties, 401.1-Equal Employment Opportunity, 401.2-Employee Conflict of Interest, 401.9-Employee Political Activity, 403.3-Communicable Diseases-Employees, 403.4-Hazardous Chemical Disclosure, 407.3-Licensed Employee Retirement, 200.1R1-Organizational Meeting Procedures, 404.R1-Code of Professional Conduct and Ethics Regulation.

Under new business, the board approved the Fiscal Year 2019 Audit Report. Superintendent Mathis noted that this was “the cleanest audit” he had seen in several years. The auditors did not find any areas of non-compliance or any questionable disbursements or travel expenses. He noted that they did mention segregation of duties, but Mathis said that nearly every district gets written up for that. He thanked Board Secretary Jaime Curtin for all her work.

A public hearing was set for 7 a.m. April 7 for the 2020-2021 Budget. A public hearing was also set for 7 a.m. April 7 for Amending the 2019-2020 Budget. The board then approved a contract settlement with ACEA for a total package increase of 3.89%. Mathis noted that there won’t be any language changes because they are in the second year of a two-year agreement on the language. The board then approved the support staff, department heads and administrative salaries for 2020-2021. Mathis noted that the increase in those will also be around the 3.89% mark. The board then approved the issuance of contracts for the 2020-2021 school year.

The board approved a request for proposals for the kitchen at West Elementary. Deadline for submissions will be April 7, 2020 at 1 p.m. and the notice of intent to award will be Monday, April 20, 2020. The board awarded the bid for the district copiers to Marco, who had the low bid of total cost per month of $1,420.50.

Several summer projects were also awarded. Kelly Concrete got the concrete repairs at the Middle School and East Elementary, with bids of $9,331 and $16,794, respectively. Beneke Roofing & Construction received the maintenance shed upgrade project with a bid of $25,100, and Kurth Plumbing & Heating was awarded the HVAC portion of that project with a bid of $5,022.71. The hallway painting at the high school was awarded to Tom’s Painting with a bid of $4,790 and the outside pillar painting went to Brink’s Professional Painting with a bid of $2,165.40. River City Fence Co. was awarded the electric gate at the bus barn. They will be installing an aluminum frame gate with a bid of $23,210.

The board then moved on to discussion regarding a revised Teacher Leadership Compensation Plan. Superintendent Mathis noted that the proposal was to increase the stipend for Instructional Coaches to $6,000 per year for each of the three positions and the stipends for the Teacher Leaders to $3,000 per year per position. Mathis noted that the teacher leaders “exceeded his expectations” and he felt this was appropriate to acknowledge the hard work and extra time they put into the initiative.

Board member Brent Beyer asked several questions regarding the TLC program as he is newer to the board and wasn’t quite sure how it all worked. Mathis explained that the funds for this is categorical money that has to be accounted for separately. When asked if some of the positions do not do any teaching, Mathis noted that the Instructional Coaches will do some teaching, whether its team teaching or co-teaching. Teacher Leaders also have their regular classes in addition the their TLC duties. The Instructional Coaches and Teacher Leaders organize the in-service days and plan for those, in addition to their daily planning for classes.

Board member Erik Helgerson noted that this program is something that has been recommended by the State and part of the funding the district receives from the State is specifically for this. The State recommends this program in order to encourage staff to get involved with leadership roles. The goal is to have 25% of a district’s staff involved with leadership roles. The board approved the revised plan with Beyer being the lone opposition. He stated that he didn’t feel comfortable approving an increase in funding until he better understands how the program works. It was noted that the TLC group does make a presentation to the board annually.

Prior to adjournment, the board approved a cooperative wrestling agreement between Waukon and Kee High School.

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