ACSD Board of Directors approves compensation increases of more than four percent for district staff, sets budget hearings

by Brianne Grimstad

Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Education Negotiations Committee members Allan Rissman and Erik Helgerson, along with ACSD Superintendent Jay Mathis, met Wednesday, March 1 with members of the Allamakee Community Education Association (ACEA) Negotiations Team of Jed Hemann, Lisa Snitker and Kelly Liddiard. Hemann gave the presentation for the  ACEA for the 2023-2024 contract year. The negotiations began with the request of an increase of $1,250 in salary base to $33,685. The Association also suggested a one-year agreement on the salary schedule.

Proposals of moving the Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) advisor to Class C on the supplemental schedule and the FBLA assistant to Class E on the supplemental schedule were also discussed. A “lane change” on the nurses’ pay scale for a Master’s Degree equal to .16 more than their step payment was also proposed, as was moving the FFA advisor to Class C on the supplemental scale. The Association also asked that the current FFA advisor be allowed to remain at the $5,000 stipend until the schedule reaches that amount. The total package increase for salary and benefits proposed by the Association is estimated to be 4.93%.

In the school district’s counteroffer, Superintendent Mathis proposed an increase in the salary base of $500, bringing it to $32,885. The district also proposed a one-year agreement on salary and would also like to see adding girls wrestling coaching positions to correspond with boys wrestling. The district’s proposal is an estimated 3.38% increase for salary and benefits. The negotiations then entered into a closed session, pursuant to Iowa Code 20.17(3).

The Allamakee Community School District school board members then met Thursday evening, March 16 for their regular monthly board meeting. The board met Thursday instead of Monday, March 20 due to Parent/Teacher Conferences being held March 20 and 21 in the district. Board members Al Rissman and Brent Beyer were absent. Board member Erik Helgerson acted as chair pro-tem.

Under the consent agenda, the board approved the following personnel: Micah Decker, K-5 TAG teacher; Courtney Hirth, fourth grade teacher; Katie Hoppel, fourth grade teacher; Chris Dahlstrom and Jon Snitker as seventh and eighth grade volunteer track coaches; and Carley Sweeney as head varsity volleyball coach. The following resignations were also accepted: Ben Rausch, head girls varsity basketball coach; Jon Snitker, eighth grade girls track coach; Stacie Cooper, Social Emotional Learning PLC Leader; Jennifer Hemann, first grade PLC leader; and Meridian Snitker, paraprofessional.

There was one open-enrollment out of the district approved. The 2023-2024 Student Teacher Agreements between ACSD and both University of Northern Iowa (UNI) and Morningside University were approved. A cooperative swimming agreement with Decorah High School and a cooperative wrestling agreement with Kee High School were also approved, as was participation in the AIA Purchasing Food, Ware Wash and Small Wares cooperative.

During the Communications portion of the meeting, the board heard a presentation on the District Developed Service Delivery Plan for Special Education. Carissa Otto, Special Education Director noted the plan has to be updated every five years. She also discussed how they have been re-assessing caseloads and getting input from staff, teachers and parents.

In his report, Superintendent Mathis noted that duct and electrical work in the attic areas for the HVAC project continues. On the legislative side of things, the first funnel deadline has passed, but Mathis said there really hasn’t been much progress. He noted ACSD staff members are gearing up for ISASP testing in April. Waukon High School Principal Jennifer Garin reported that the drywalling has been completed in the student-built house. Painting is expected to be finished by mid-March, and will be followed by installation of cabinets, trim and flooring. She also gave an update on FBLA and FFA conferences and contests. The Academic Awards night and National Honor Society ceremonies were held March 14. Garin also informed the board of the upcoming ISASP testing schedule.

Waukon High School Assistant Principal/Activities Director Brian Hilsabeck  offered his congratulations to the Speech teams after very good performances. Track season was scheduled to kick off with the Northeast Iowa Conference Indoor Meet at Luther College. He also updated the board on spring extracurricular participation numbers.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege noted in his report that they had a good third quarter at the Middle School. The batting cage has been installed in the Middle School gym, and Steege thanked Zach Christensen and his crew at Christensen Electric for their work on that project. The Middle School play was held March 17. They are also getting ready for spring sports and ISASP testing.

East and West Elementary Schools Principal Samantha Thornton noted the dates for Parent Information Nights for preschool, TK and Kindergarten in the middle school/high school auditorium. April 11 will be for 4-year-Old Preschool from 4-5 p.m., and TK/Kindergarten information night will be April 19 from 4-5 p.m. Slides will be available after the meetings for families that can’t attend.

During Parent/Teacher Conferences, Bingo for Books was scheduled to be held March 20 in the East Elementary cafeteria for grades Preschool through fifth. Author Julia Cook will visit April 5. She has written many social, emotional books including “My Mouth is a Volcano”.

ACSD Curriculum Director Kelli Olson reported that they are already looking ahead to the next school year. They are also continuing work on the Portrait of an Allamakee Graduate project. They have asked student CiAnne Robinson to create a graphic of their Portrait. Olson, along with instructional coaches, attended the Authentic Student Learning Expo at Central Rivers Area Education Agency (AEA) earlier in the month.

In the Special Education report, Otto noted that they are discussing Extended School Year Services and quality IEP conversations. The focus will be on parent input about the child’s future and concerns parents may have for their child.

Building and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that his department is getting ready for outdoor spring activities. He also attended a construction meeting with the contractors for the upcoming HVAC project. Contractors are working in the attic and mechanical rooms, either in the evenings or on days when there is no school. Master Metals is doing ductwork and SEE Electric is running conduit. The ANSUL system in the kitchens at all buildings has been inspected and is in good, working order.

Technology Director Andy Reichard reported they are also getting ready for ISASP testing. Sterling is getting “back on track” with its computer repair turnaround time, and the Citrix Environment will be replaced with Itopia Virtual Learning Labs. His department is also working on new File Management software through Microsoft and they have an 18TB portable storage device that will be used to archive back-ups and stored in a fireproof safe, in order to have a back-up that shouldn’t be destroyed in the event of a major disaster.

Food Service Director Jess Keenan reported that they have received their final payment of Supply Chain Assistance, in the amount of $12,452.88. Keenan noted that this payment, along with the previous two payments, will cover most of the milk expenses for the school year. She also informed the board that they have received the guidelines for the 2023-2024 Free and Reduced meals. The income guidelines increased 8.1% for the next school year, compared to a 4% increase in 2022-2023. Keenan noted that she is hoping that with this increase, the district will be able to get a 50% free and reduced rate in at least one building and that would allow them to continue to qualify for the Summer Feeding Program and requalify for free afterschool snacks.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling reported that bus inspections have been moved to April 14 from May 15, which he said wouldn’t be an issue. He has also been working with Decorah Ford to find out why the vans that were ordered by the district are not in yet. He explained in his report that no one seems to have an answer and the order has been re-submitted as a high priority. Eberling further noted that the Ford company may have overbooked what it could build and that could be why they are behind.

There was no old business to attend to. Under the new business, the board set the 2023-2024 Budget Hearing for 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 17, with the Hearing to Amend the 2022-2023 Budget following immediately after.

The board then approved a contract settlement with the Allamakee Community Education Association. There will be a 4.07% total package increase. Superintendent Mathis noted that ACSD should be “right in line” with averages across the state of Iowa. He also noted that with increased enrollment and the 3% in Supplemental State Aid, the district should be up approximately $500,000 in new money.

The board then approved the Support Staff, Department Heads and Administrative proposed salaries for the 2023-2024 school year. Administration and Department Heads will see a 4.07% increase, and the position of Tech Assistant will have a 4.36% increase. The Patrol position will see a 4.55% increase, and all other positions will see between a 4.25% and a 4.29% increase. The approval of issuance of contracts happened later in the meeting.

The board then moved to discussion of Food Service Holiday Pay. Keenan noted in her request to the board that the Food Service workers, for whatever reason, are the only hourly-paid group of employees in the district that do not receive holiday pay. She noted that implementing holiday pay for her current staff would cost approximately $6,000 and that figure includes taxes and IPERS.

Keenan felt that with the large balance in the lunch fund and the fact that they have had the opportunity to utilize the food service secretary for some food prep, in the future the department may be able to reduce a part-time staff member as retirements happen. The savings of this would offset the cost of holiday pay, and then some. The holiday pay would also only apply to those holidays that happen during the months that the food service workers are there (Keenan gave the example of no holiday pay for Fourth of July). The board approved the holiday pay.

The board also approved the SAVE Capital Projects Fund Transfer Resolution for the HVAC project. Prior to adjournment, the board approved the purchase of a John Deere Z950M ZTrak and a 2023 John Deere X584 Select Series Tractor without a mower deck and a John Deere 54-in. Accel Deep Mower Deck for a total of $27,529.80, all from the Bodensteiner Implement Waukon location. The district will be trading in a 2022 John Deere Z950M and a 2022 John Deere X584, with a total trade-in value of $25,529.80, leaving a balance of $2,000 to be paid.