ACSD Board of Directors approves April 26 as snow make-up day, along with a variety of technology and curriculum items

by Brianne Grimstad

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) Board of Directors met Monday evening, April 17 for its regular monthly meeting. Two public hearing were held at the beginning of the meeting. The first was on the proposed budget for 2023-2024. The second public hearing was on amending the 2022-2023 budget. There were no verbal or written comments on either subject and the hearings were closed.

Under the consent agenda, several personnel were approved: Kids Club staff; part-time custodial staff; Melissa Burroughs as fourth grade PLC Teacher Leader; Carrie Niehaus as SEL PLC Teacher Leader; Amy Love as first grade PLC Teacher Leader; and Cody Snitker as eighth grade girls track coach. The following resignations were also accepted: Andrew Eberling from his position as Transportation Director; Larry Gelo from his bus driving position; Catilyn Owen from her PK-5 general music teacher position; Julie Giese from her part-time English language learner teacher position; and Sheryl Bieber from her cook position.

Five open enrollments out of the district were approved and two open enrollments in were approved. The board also approved the 2023-24 Timberline Billing Service Agreement. A construction contract and proposal between ACSD and Dwight and Michele Watkins was approved for the 2023-24 construction house project. The board also approved several 2023-24 Operational Sharing Agreements: Eastern Allamakee (Director of Transportation, Director of Buildings & Grounds); Postville (Human Resource Director), Keystone AEA (Special Education Director, Social Worker and Curriculum Director).

During the Communications time of the meeting, Kelli Olson, Michele Pladsen and Ciara Snitker gave a presentation to the board on the ACSD Teacher Leadership Compensation (TLC) program. They explained what the instructional coaches, teacher leaders and mentor teachers do. They explained how they support the staff and hold meetings and learning labs to help teachers find effective ways to reach and teach students.

In his report to the board, Superintendent Jay Mathis thanked Andrew Eberling for his time with the district as Transportation Director. He updated the board on the progress on the HVAC project and also reported that the siding on the house project is almost done, with flooring and trim coming next. The 2023-24 house project will be in the Park Place addition of Waukon. The district made $5,000 on the enclosed trailer that was sold at auction and will look for other items that can be sold in the future. Mathis also noted that when the board approved replacement of the windows as part of the HVAC project, they received a revised quote that came in slightly lower than the original.

Waukon High School Principal Jennifer Garin reported that they are finishing up the ISASP testing. Prom will be this coming weekend, with details on the Front Page of this week’s edition of The Standard. She reported that they have received over 200 prizes to give away at Post Prom, and she thanked the community for its support. Garin also congratulated the students for their hard work during this school year, and thanked the staff for all they do. Senior Awards Night is May 16, and graduation is scheduled for May 21.

Waukon High School Assistant Principal/Activities Director Brian Hilsabeck reported that the 2023 and 2024 football schedules have been released. Homecoming will be September 22 this fall. He congratulated the students and staff involved in the spring play, “Clue”, which was performed this past weekend. He also congratulated the FBLA and its sponsors for their success during the State Leadership Conference.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege reported that the orientation night for new students will be the first week in May. He thanked the custodians for the work they have been doing to keep the buildings in great condition. He also thanked his staff for their work this school year.

East and West Elementary Schools Principal Samantha Thornton reported that they received a donation of six LifeVacs from the Waterville Fire Department. Upper Explorerland donated bike helmets to second grade students who don’t have one and are teaching bicycle safety. There was also an opportunity for students to be seen during a Dental Screening and Sealant Clinic offered through I-Smile. Parent Information Nights for new Preschool and TK/Kindergarten students will be held this week.

Curriculum Director Kelli Olson noted that an annual professional learning conversation will be held with the Keystone Navigator team. They are also continuing to hold curriculum meetings in the areas of ELA, science, social studies and math. They are also working with the Keystone Navigator team to develop a solid two-year mentoring plan. Each building has received a STEM grant of some kind.

Special Education Director Carissa Otto reported that they celebrated National IEP Writing Day and National Paraprofessional Day. Special Education teachers are preparing for graduation and exits from special education when graduation criteria is met. They also continue to work on having quality IEP conversations.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that the electricians continue to run conduit and pull wires for the upcoming HVAC project. His staff is in the process of preparing equipment for spring and summer seasons, as well as preparing the softball and baseball fields. Johnson Controls has been to the school and checked battery systems for the fire alarms.

Technology Director Andy Reichard reported that ISASP testing is almost complete. He also noted that he will probably be approaching the board for faster internet for ACSD. Reichard also reported that they would like to hire a part-time student helper for summer projects, which the board approved later in the meeting. He also noted that he would be presenting to the board, later in the meeting, figures for the 1:1 computer refresh.

Food Service Director Jess Keenan reported that things have been going well in the Food Service Department. She noted that they are working on the Summer Feeding Program and should have it completed by the first part of May. Bids for milk and bread for the 2023-24 school year have been submitted and will be ready for board approval at the May meeting. They are also working on determining lunch prices for the next school year. The Allamakee County Cattlemen will be grilling burgers Friday, which Keenan noted is always a popular lunch day. The beef was purchased through the Iowa Food Hub and the cheese slices are purchased from WW Homestead Dairy.

Transportation Director Andrew Eberling noted that they had bus inspections April 14 and had a perfect score, which is extremely rare. Eberling credited that to having a good team, especially mechanic Elliott Evanson. Eberling noted that having a capable mechanic in the shop saves ACSD a lot of money and time.

Under new business, the board approved the 2023-24 budget and tax levies. The tax levy 2023-24 tax rate is at $9.95, a $0.10 increase over last year. The board also approved amending the current budget. The amendments were needed due to the 1:1 laptop purchase, the HVAC upgrade and anticipated expenditures greater than budgeted. The board also approved the District Developed Service Delivery Plan, which deals with Special Education.

The next few agenda items centered on technology. The board approved a bid for Dell laptops, Chromebooks and some accessories in the amount of $617,354 from Sterling Computers, which actually comes in cheaper than the bid for the machines and accessories in 2019 ($686,120). Part of the reason the district is able to get the cost down this year is because the Middle School students will essentially be using Chromebooks, which helps keep the cost down.

The board then approved the 2023-24 software budget, which had a grand total of $172,713.69. Mathis noted that the district continues to try and find the best deals on software. The total for the 2023-2024 school year also comes in cheaper than it was the past two years. The board approved hiring part-time summer help for the technology department.

The position will be approximately 160 hours over the summer break at a pay rate of $15.43 per hour.

Discussion then moved to whether or not ACSD should continue with the Local Government Risk Pool Agreement for purchasing LP. Superintendent Mathis explained that he and ACSD Board Secretary Jaime Curtin did some number crunching and discovered that through the agreement, the district is actually paying more for LP than they would have if they were contracting independently. After a bit of discussion, including the observation from board member Brent Beyer that with the new HVAC systems and windows at the schools heating and air conditioning systems should run more efficiently and therefore should lower the usage of LP, it was decided not to continue with the agreement.

The board approved the purchase of InquireED for social studies curriculum, in the amount of $8,175. Principal Thornton explained that this is an online curriculum that will be updated regularly, and no text books will be needed. She explained that they are asking to use the curriculum for one year before committing to multiple-year contracts with the company. Teachers who have been testing the curriculum felt it would be a good fit in the ACSD curriculum. Social studies is an area where Thornton noted they do not have a good curriculum in place in the elementary schools. The program will be for grades K-5.

The board also approved a SkillsUSA membership in order to bring the CTE programs all into compliance with the requirement they all need to have a student organization. This membership would be for students in the Industrial Arts programs. Principal Garin noted that one of the pros of SkillsUSA is that students can compete and show off their talents and accomplishments. However, the current downside is that contests and competitions are mainly around the Des Moines area and transporting welding projects and works of that nature can be difficult.

Garin said she is hoping that as more schools have these types of student organizations, there can be local or district competitions as well. She also noted that the manufacturing sector needs workers, and local businesses are excited about this venture and willing to support it and donate towards it. The group will start small and hopefully grow to whatever size is manageable for ACSD.

The final topic of discussion was to set a date for the last day of the 2022-23 school year. Monday’s snow day did throw a wrench into the plans, but it was decided that students will attend school Wednesday, April 26, which was previously going to be an in-service day, to use as one make-up day. Superintendent Mathis asked the board to consider May 26 as a second make-up day and since the district is above the required number of hours for a school year, he asked the board to waive the third make-up day.

As of right now, the last day of school for students will be Friday, May 26. The last day for teachers will be Wednesday, May 31. Mathis did note that if there are any more missed school days between now and the end of the year, this will need to be reconsidered.