ACSD Board of Directors hears updates at first meeting of the new school year

by Brianne Grimstad

The Allamakee Community School District (ACSD) School Board met for its regular monthly meeting Monday night, September 18. Board member Scott Melcher was absent. The board approved the revised meeting agenda, with the addition of item “G”: Utility Tractor Trade-In under New Business.

Under the Consent Agenda, the following personnel matters were approved (pending a satisfactory background check): staff for Kids Club; an increase in hours for Nancy Snitker; and Jay Schneider as a bus driver.

During the Communications time of the meeting, the board heard from the Second Grade Professional Learning Team (PLT). They discussed how they determine what things all students need to learn, how to gauge if the students have learned the material, how to know and handle it if the students haven’t learned the material and how to handle it if the students already know the material. They also discussed the importance of sharing materials and strategies within their group, as well as across PLT groups.

In his report, ACSD Superintendent Jay Mathis noted that September 13 was the first all-day in-service day of the new school year. Teaching staff focused on professional learning and the custodial staff worked on installing some recently arrived whiteboards. The contractors were also finishing up odds and ends on the punch list. Law enforcement officers, both local and from the Iowa State Patrol, also did a walk-through of the campus to get a better feel for the layout and suggest any security recommendations.
Mathis said Board Secretary Jaime Curtin has been busy working on the Certified Annual Report (CAR) and also working to get the auditors the information they needed for the annual audit. The two new vans ordered over a year ago by the Transportation Department are on their way, and discussion has been taking place as to which vehicles will be replaced.

Waukon High School Principal Jen Garin reported that the CTE house project has begun. The class has begun setting floor trusses. The NICC Welding Class has 15 students, including five seniors and ten juniors. There is one returning student as a teacher’s assistant. The Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) participated in several activities this summer including helping out with Memorial Day and Corn Days. They also did training and planning activities for the year.

The FFA students participated in various contests and community service activities over the summer; including assisting with the safety day camp hosted by Veterans Memorial Hospital, working at the 4-H Food Stand at the Allamakee County Fair and helping to shuck sweet corn for Corn Days. Students also met with Senator Chuck Grassley. This week is Waukon’s Homecoming Week.

Garin recognized the FBLA students for work in cleaning up after home football games. She also recognized the FFA Milk Quality Team of Ethan Gibbs, Kendra Gibbs, Caleb Helgerson and Olivia Marti, as they placed as the top team at the state level and will now move on to the national competition.

This week is Homecoming Week, so there are a lot of activities happening in the high school and all the district buildings. The “Burning of the W” pep rally will be held this Thursday night, but due to the dry conditions, they may not be able to actually burn the “W”. The Homecoming Parade will be at 2 p.m. Friday.

Waukon High School Assistant Principal/Activities Director Brian Hilsabeck reported that fall activities are in full swing and gave the board participation numbers for the various extra-curricular activities. The volleyball team hosted Charles City at home Monday night and the cross country home meet was scheduled for Tuesday night. Hilsabeck noted that Waukon will host the NEIC cross country meet at the Waukon Golf & Country Club October 10 at 4 p.m. He congratulated the Waukon FFA on its successful competitions and representing Waukon High School in a positive manner. He also thanked the FBLA for cleaning up after the home football games and keeping the school grounds looking nice.

Waukon Middle School Principal Luke Steege reported that the year is off to a great start. The team at the Waukon Middle School has been working to make the transition for students from East Elementary and St. Pat’s schools a success. FAST testing is being completed to see what gaps students may have in their learning. The new math lab times are completely implemented. Fall sports are underway at the Middle School and Steege noted that the participation numbers are good. The boys cross country team had a first-place finish at the Starmont meet.

East and West Elementary Schools Principal Sam Thornton noted that students are working on the BEE Academy for West Elementary and the PRIDE Expectations Assembly at East to help with establishing rules and expectations for students. September 11-15 was Start with Hello week, which is an initiative to promote classroom community building and encourages students to reach out to others when they see someone is alone. Elementary staff are working on finishing up FAST testing. WIN (What I Need) groups began September 18. The Elementary students are excited to share their school spirit for Homecoming Week. October is also Bullying Prevention Month. East Elementary is also working on developing a Student Council. They will be doing activities for Fire Prevention Month in October.

ACSD Curriculum Director Kelli Olson reported that they have had a very successful start to the school year and the first day of professional learning is complete. She reported a bit about how they divide the professional learning into four quadrants and explained how the development day looks.

Olson noted her department is also in the process of scheduling PK-12 curriculum meetings in the areas of ELA, math, science and social studies.

Special Education Director Carissa Otto reported on the ACHIEVE system that they are using to help with collaboration between staff and parents and families.

During their professional learning day, the Special Education teachers began learning about High Leverage Practices. She noted that the number of students in the district who have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) is at 13.58%. Otto also noted that they are waiting to hear from the Keystone Navigator Team before they schedule their Individuals with Disabilities Education Act-Differentiated Accountability. At the District level, they are working on establishing a team that will complete the data dig and help with action planning.

Buildings and Grounds Director Bill Hennessy noted that the Middle School/High School HVAC project is closing in on completion. Punch list items are being done and there are still a few items that need to be shipped. Hennessy also said his staff is working on programming and adjusting the A/C units for the construction project. Boiler servicing will be done in October.

Technology Director Andy Reichard reported that Five-Star Telecom has begun implementing security updates from the State/Federal Grant. He anticipated this would go through September. NetSupport Software did a training day during the Professional Development Day to help staff with the new interface and general usage of the software.

Food Service Director Jess Keenan reported that ACSD has received $8,000 in local food grants. Funds from these grants will be used to purchase items such as cabbage, apples, cucumbers, vegetables from SnoPac, cheese from WW Dairy and local ground beef. The Allamakee County Cattlemen will be grilling Friday, September 22. Keenan noted that this is always a highlight for staff and students, and they appreciate the time and effort the Cattlemen put into making the event a success.

Transportation Director Justin Piggott noted in his report that his department has been off to a good start. Drivers are learning the routes and the kids. They are still looking for a full-time driver. He noted that the vans were expected to be delivered any time now. Fall sports and activities are underway, and that keeps the sports bus drivers busy.

Under Old Business, the board approved the CAR, Special Education Supplement, and Transportation Annual Report. Under New Business, the board approved students in PICC and Contracted Classes through Northeast Iowa Community College (NICC). There are 178 students who are taking at least one class through NICC for a total of 1,276 credits. Students are enrolled in a total of 64 different classes, with 22 of those classes being concurrent (with a teacher in the classroom) and 42 classes being PICC (online classes).

The board then approved revised quotes for the two vans that had been discussed earlier in the meeting. Superintendent Mathis explained that since the vans were ordered, sometime around a year and nine months ago, the prices have increased. Mathis also said that Decorah Auto Center has been “very generous with our trade-in values” and has been working with the district to meet them with the price changes. Originally, the vans were approved at $48,420. The board approved a revised quote of $55,658 for the pair of new vans, after subtracting the value of the two trade-ins. Mathis noted that the dealership tried to absorb as much of the difference as they could.

The board also approved a service agreement with Hands Up Communications. This year, ACSD has a student who is legally deaf. Nancy Snitker has been providing assistance with communication, and this contract will allow the district to be able to call on other interpreters if she is not available or if the situation warrants that. The interpreter will be providing services remotely at the cost of $95/hour. Steege noted that the school will only be billed if the services are used. Mathis commended Steege and staff for looking into the matter thoroughly so they could provide the student with the necessary tools to be able to learn in a mainstream educational setting. The board approved an SBRC Request - Special Education Deficit - $472,079.10.

Discussion then moved to the installation of classroom projectors. Mathis noted that the projectors had already been installed, as it was going to be easier to do this project in conjunction with the drop ceilings being done. Projectors that are mounted to the ceiling have to have visible outlets. The cables to these projectors were also upgraded to HDMI cables. It was going to be easier to install those things while the ceilings were already apart. The board approved the invoice from Christensen Electric LLC for $18,750 for the installation of the classroom projectors. The board also approved a new projector for the Auditorium, which will include HDMI cables for $7,566 from Midwest Computer Products, Inc.

The final item of business was the approval of trading off the large, 3000 series John Deere tractor for a smaller, new 1025R sub-compact utility John Deere tractor. This will include a snowblower, rotary tiller, mower and a 60” heavy-duty rotary broom. The smaller size will make it better for clearing snow off of sidewalks, which was mainly what the larger tractor was used for. With the trade of the larger tractor, ACSD will have a $3,000 credit with Bodensteiner Implement that can be used towards other equipment purchases or any maintenance needed.