ACSD Board advised of possible bond refinancing, data breach that may impact several past students

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District Board of Directors met Monday evening, September 21 for its regular monthly board meeting. Under the consent agenda, the board approved the following personnel items: After School Programming staff, Kirby Jones as a middle school paraprofessional, Cinnamon Blood as a substitute bus driver, and Jaelyn Strong as a West Elementary paraprofessional.

The board approved a Haunted Park clean-up for the Waukon High School Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) chapter Sunday, October 25, as well as Youth Sports Foundation (YSF) Sunday usage of the high school football field October 11 and 18. Two open enrollments for students enrolling out of the district were approved. An agreement with TASC Transition Service was approved, as was the Keystone Office Rental agreement.

During the communications time, the board members received an update on First Grade PLC (Professional Learning Communities). The presentation explained how the committee members look at data and determine what kind of learning expectations they have for their students, as well as how they will respond to students who may have trouble learning the curriculum, in addition to students who may already know the curriculum. The committee members also explained how the curriculum is planned and what resources and technology they use.

In his Superintendent’s Report, ACSD Superintendent Jay Mathis noted that there have been some positive cases in both staff and students in the district that have required quarantining of those individuals plus other individual deemed to be close contacts, and he said the district will continue to follow Public Health recommendations. He noted the West Elementary kitchen renovation has been finished and the HVAC system seems to be working well. Crews continue to finish up the outside of the building and the attic space.

He also praised teachers for providing material for students who are learning from home or who are quarantined. Mathis also thanked the First Grade PLC team for its presentation and discussed the possibility of looking into updating curriculum for all grades in the near future.

Waukon High School Principal Jennifer Garin reported that the Construction class house project is moving along, though some materials are delayed due to the Derecho storm. Homecoming was successful in the district this past week. Friday, September 18 was the initial grade check of the new school year, so the staff and students have made it one-eighth of the way through the school year with in-person learning. The high school currently has 21 students using the remote learning option, and an additional 34 students who are temporarily remote learning due to quarantine from potential COVID-19 exposure.

Assistant High School Principal/Activities Director Brian Hilsabeck reported on fall activity participation numbers for the fall activities for ninth through 12th grades. Waukon was scheduled to host its annual home cross country meet Tuesday, September 22. The junior varsity Northeast Iowa Conference volleyball tournament will also be hosted in Waukon October 8. The track project has finally been finished up with final striping as well.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege reported staff have been hard at work to help in-person and remote learners. He also updated the board on Middle School fall activities participation numbers. The Middle School students are also completing Areading and Amath testing for benchmarks. Steege thanked his school’s paraeducators, Middle School Secretary Bev Heim, kitchen staff and custodial staff for their hard work keeping areas clean and students on track. Steege also noted that they have moved their volleyball games to the high school gym, which is allowing for more room for fans to space out.

East and West Elementary Schools Principal Samantha Thornton noted that they have gotten creative with class assemblies and for Homecoming by Zooming as a school. FAST screenings for Kindergarten through fifth grades is getting underway. The elementary staff continues to evolve its procedures and mitigation based on needs of staff and students.

Dividers have been provided in areas and classrooms where they are needed to allow for proper COVID-19 mitigation. The library and other areas have had barriers added to tables as well. Students are encouraged to play new games and space out at recess to minimize conflicts.

Thornton also thanked the school board, administration and community for the support they have shown. She noted that they have 15 students who are remote learning and 38 students who are temporarily remote learning. The staff is continuing to try and meet emotional, social and educational needs of all students. She also said they hope to be able to feature a weekly video of an older student reading for the younger students regularly.

ACSD Curriculum Director Elizabeth Philpot updated the board on PD (professional development) in the district. The district has begun co-teaching training and looked at the Distance Learning Field Guide that was provided from the Area Education Agency (AEA). She noted that during the PD time, there was a lot of good discussions and sharing of ideas.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that the West Elementary project is moving along well and that the Fire Marshal was on site and said that everything looked good with the sprinkler and alarm systems. Cleaning and disinfecting continue to be a top priority and has been going well despite a few challenges. The custodial staff will begin maintenance on boilers soon.

Technology Director Shawn Gordon noted that handing out the student computers in their homerooms was fast and efficient and that is how computers will be distributed at the beginning of the year from now on. He also noted that technology usage has doubled and maybe even tripled in the past year. He also provided the board with statistics on Canvas, SeeSaw and Zoom usage in the past month.

Food Service Director Julie Magner noted in her report that they have begun serving hot meals now and student numbers have increased. They do approximately 50 meals per week for remote learners with the Grab-n-Go breakfasts and lunches. She thanked the administration and staff for their help in serving and cleaning and for the West Elementary kitchen update.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling reported that bus inspections were conducted September 8, and things went well. The LP buses have been working out well for the district and run a week on a full tank of fuel. Waukon Feed Ranch schedules a day to come and fill the buses. Bus evacuation drills will be coming up in the near future.

Under new business, the board approved the purchase of a new 2020 John Deere 3046R Compact Utility Tractor from Waukon Implement for $3,000 after the trade-in value of a 2018 John Deere 3046R.

The board then set a Resolution Fixing Date for a Hearing on the Proposed Issuance of Approximately $5,300,000 School Infrastructure Sales, Services and Use Tax Revenue Refunding Bonds. The hearing will be set for the next regular board meeting, October 19. Superintendent Mathis explained that the district’s financial advisor told the district that they should look into refinancing its bonds with interest rates dropping. According to the financial advisor, the district could potentially save up to $25,000 per year. Mathis thought it would be prudent to get bids and see if there were savings to be made.

The final item of business was to approve a service agreement between ACSD and Wilson Elser Moskovitz Edelman and Dicker LLP. Board Secretary Jaime Curtin explained that the district had received a letter stating that there had been a data breach in the district affecting several past students. Mathis noted that to their knowledge no Social Security numbers had been compromised. The district’s insurance company recommended this firm because they are experts in dealing with situations like this and would make sure proper notices and other legal aspects would be done to inform anyone affected by the breach. The firm would be paid by the insurance company, as the district does have a policy to cover cyber liability. The board approved the agreement.

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