ACSD Board of Directors hears updates on summer preparations for upcoming school year, approves membership into Rural School Advocates of Iowa

by Brianne Eilers

The Allamakee Community School District Board of Directors held a pair of meetings thus far in the month of June, a special meeting Friday, June 4 and the board’s regular monthly meeting Monday, June 21. Coverage of both meetings appears below.

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met Friday morning, June 4 for a special meeting. The following personnel were approved for hire: Jessica Keenan as Food Service Director; Kirby Jones as School Nurse; Sarah Hagen as Assistant Musical Director; Caitlyn Owens as Elementary Vocal Music Teacher; Jason LaPage as Middle School Play Director; and Heath Kelley as Technology Director.

The board members also approved a quote from Five Star Telecommunications for an upgrade to the building access on all the buildings (East and West Elementary Schools, and Waukon Middle School/High School) for a grand total of $39,647.36. Funding for the project will come from Governors Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds.

The board also approved an ACEA/ACSD Memorandums of Understanding-Initial Employment-Placement (Nurses) involving the wages of nurses upon initial employment. The board also approved an ACEA/ACSD Memorandum of Understanding-Wages and Nurse involving the wages of the current nurse.

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met for its regular monthly meeting Monday night, June 21. Board member Erik Helgerson was absent.

Under the consent agenda, the following personnel matters were approved: Lexie Brink as assistant cheerleading coach; Karlie Fahey as third grade teacher; and staff for after school programming. The following resignations were also approved under the consent agenda: Jessica Wagner from her secretary position at West Elementary; Cortney Ryan from her paraprofessional position at the high school; Heath Kelley from his Technology Director position; and Carol Jeide from her custodian position.

The board also approved Sunday requests for the middle school football camp and the music department. The board approved a renewal of the Business Software package “Vista Iowa” through Vista Software LLC. The board also approved the renewal of the PowerSchool SIS Software through Powerschool Group LLC, as well as the Youth Frontiers Retreats for Kindness, Courage and Respect contracts.

During the public comments time, Maura Jones was present to thank the school district, the staff and the school board for all they do, especially during this past year and the challenges COVID provided. Jones explained that they had their youngest child graduate this year and she just wanted to express her own appreciation, as well as the appreciation of her family, for the education the children received in the ACSD.

In the Superintendent’s report, ACSD Superintendent Jay Mathis reported that Olympic Builders is working to finish up the punch list items from the West Elementary improvements project. He also reported that Vic Amoroso has finished the report for the West Elementary ESSER fund building project and continues to work on reports for the other buildings. Mathis also reported that the district will have to file a plan with the Iowa Department of Education on how ACSD will be spending ESSER funds. The district will also have to file a new Return to Learn Plan.

Waukon High School Principal Jennifer Garin reported that DJ Scholtes is offering a credit recovery program during the month of June. She said Industrial Technology instructors Jed Hemann and Caleb Ferring are finishing up what they can on the Construction class house project, as they are still waiting on some materials to come in. Garin also updated the board on some changes to the student handbook.

Waukon High School Assistant Principal/Activities Director Brian Hilsabeck reported that they are working on getting bids to renovate the softball and baseball dugouts in the fall. During the week of July 25 to August 1, there will be a “family week” throughout the state of Iowa where schools will not have practices, open gyms or contact with students to allow for families to plan for vacations. July 7 and July 14 will be the dates when free physical exams will be offered to students. That event will be held at the new Veterans Memorial Hospital Medical Clinic in Waukon from 5:30-8:30 p.m. those evenings.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege thanked staff members, administrators and the school board in his report for making the school year a success. He also noted that they are continuing to look at ways to improve in the next school year. Steege reported that they are looking forward to an uninterrupted fall sports season and coaches are at work on things. He is also looking forward to new staff and coaches who will be starting in the fall.

East and West Elementary Schools Principal Samantha Thornton reported that the new schedules for next year will help streamline specials (music, art, PE and library) scheduling and create common planning time for teams. Meet the Teacher Night for East and West Elementary students and families is scheduled for August 23 from 4:30-6:30 p.m. More information will be made available to parents at the end of July. Summer School and Extended School Year are currently happening at East and West Elementary Schools.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that they are working on cleaning, waxing floors and doing summer maintenance projects. In his report, he presented the board with information on the heating system for the high school and middle school. The lockers at West Elementary are being painted. Jason Dahlstrom will be taking over the West Elementary custodian position.

Technology Director Shawn Gordon thanked the board for the opportunities given to him over the last 10 years and for the board’s support of the technology department, as he will be soon be assuming a similar technology role in the Decorah School District. The ERATE networking project is scheduled to begin June 28, but some parts have arrived, and some are delayed due to microchip shortages from COVID. He expected most of the project to be completed by the end of July. The wireless part will not be completed before school starts unless one of the suppliers can find the back-ordered parts sooner. The access control system will be installed in mid-July. The PowerSchool registration software is set up and ready for the 2021-2022 registration process. Online registration for the upcoming school year will begin August 1. The end of the year computer turn-in also went well.

Food Service Director Julie Magner noted that the Summer Feeding program is going well. She noted that they are averaging 60 kids for breakfasts and 135 kids for lunches. The Middle School Summer program has been/will be taking field trips each Friday in June, and they will be providing sack breakfasts and lunches for those programs. She is working with Jessica Keenan on her transition to Food Service Director.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling reported that his department is working on cleaning up the buses and transporting the baseball and softball teams, as well as students on field trips. They have received one of the propane-powered buses and are getting it ready for service. Eberling also noted in his report that they are looking to recruit bus drivers.

Under Old Business, the board approved the second reading of a number of Board Policies. Those policies deal mainly with building administration and usage, as well as public relations and emergency situations.

Moving on to New Business, the board approved changes to the student handbooks. The board also approved the 2021-2022 fundraising calendar. A preschool agreement with the St. Patrick School Preschool Center was approved, and the board also approved a preschool agreement with Growing Bear Daycare. Superintendent Mathis noted that while Growing Bear does not currently have a preschool program, it was recommended to have an agreement with them, should they start a preschool program in the future. The board then approved a transfer from the General Fund to the Student Activity Fund for purchase of sports safety equipment, including shoulder pads and knee pads, football helmets and catcher’s gear.

Discussion then moved to a membership with the Rural School Advocates of Iowa (RSAI) organization. Mathis explained that ACSD had received an invitation to attend one of the organization’s last meetings, via Zoom, to see what the organization is about. Mathis explained that the RSAI is a lobbying and advocacy group that works for the interest of rural Iowa school districts. He explained that the larger urban districts have their own group, the Urban Eight Network (UEN).

Some of the recent achievements of the group include the Transportation Equity Program, which created the Transportation Equity Fund that has helped rural districts with extra funding for transportation costs that might exceed statewide adjusted average costs per student. Transportation funding has been an important issue in many rural districts, including ACSD. RSAI also helped to get Operational Sharing Expansion, as well as keep the program going.

The cost of a membership is $750 per district. Mathis said he would be willing to attend meetings and be an active member and he felt that it could be beneficial to the district. Board President Al Rissman noted that if they felt it wasn’t beneficial, they could always cancel the membership, and the other board members agreed it would be a good idea. The motion to join the organization was passed.

The board approved the purchase of eight lunchroom tables and five science lab tables from Value Inspired Products & Services for the low bid of $16,705. The board also approved paying bills through June 30, 2021, with Board President approval. The board then went into a recess before reconvening in a closed session for a Superintendent Evaluation.