School Board needs strategic plan

New School Board as of September 26, 2011 include Board Secretary David Gaus, Doug Berg, Superintendent Dianne Anderson, Karlos McClure, James Kitchen, Duane Bodermann and Scott Fortune.

“(A) master plan can not be created without there first being a strategic plan which is the outcome of a unified school board vision for the future of our district.”

Jim Obermann,

Facilities Committee

By Marcie Klomp

The new school board took the oath of office at the regular Howard-Winneshiek School Board meeting on September 26. Joining current members Karlos McClure and Duane Bodermann are James Kitchen, Scott Fortune and Doug Berg.

The board voted McClure as president and Bodermann as vice-president.

As one of the first orders of business, the new board learned they have a long haul in front of them. Jim Obermann and Tom Platte, who represented the Facilities Committee, gave a final update. The committee was formed in February of 2011 to make recommendations to the board regarding funding, usage, maintenance and sustainability of facilities in the district.

Obermann told the board he found the process educational but found committee members were not qualified to make the decision the board had requested. “Our lack of qualification was not due to lack of intelligence or diligence on our part. Our realization ironically was a result of all of the information we had gleaned from this process.”

Obermann then gave reasons the committee could not follow through with the board’s request.

“The school district has no strategic plan for the short term or long term. . . Without a clear, unified vision of the Howard-Winneshiek school district in five years, 10 years and beyond, we were unsure of necessary priorities.”

He admitted members did have ideas but they were based on personal opinions and not fact.

In the past, building updates have been reactionary rather than planned.

“We truly came to understand that the school district needs a facility master plan. But that master plan can not be created without there first being a strategic plan which is the outcome of a unified school board vision for the future of our district.

“I personally do not feel qualified to recommend improvements to existing structures . . . without first knowing what the costs and benefits would be.”

He recommended the board have an energy audit of all H-W facilities and a cost-benefit analysis of all facilities in their support of teaching and learning. “It is much easier to make a conscious decision based on fact than on conjecture.”

Kitchen replied, “I like what you said, the board needs a vision.”

Platte added, “When we started, we thought we’d have something to give you.”

Fortune concluded the task was “too big of an elephant.” He thought if the board had been more specific more could have been accomplished.

Transportation

Bill Koster gave the transportation report. The district’s 18 buses travel 275,000 miles per year or 1,548 per day. “That’s down from 1,700 three years ago. They (bus drivers) don’t start picking up students until 6:50 a.m. and drop them off by 8:00 a.m. They travel approximately 85 miles.”

The buses do pick up a few students who are out of the district. “To help this district, busing is a major, major, project. The first questions parents ask is, ‘How long will my kids be on the bus.’”

Since Koster started as transportation director, he was able to get the first pick up of the day at 6:50 rather than 6:30-6:35. It makes a big difference—especially for those with elementary children.

He spoke on the cancelling of the activity bus. “At the beginning of the year there will be 24 kids on one bus and 18 on the other. Then after a couple weeks, the kids find rides somewhere else.” By terminating the activity bus, the district saved $40,000.

Koster later spoke about the purchase of diagnostic equipment.

“Wrecker bills can be $540. If we could figure it out ourselves it could save money. It can cost $100 per hour to travel plus so much per mile and then the cost of fixing it.” The equipment will come out of PPEL funds and cost around $5,392, which could be a substantial savings to the district when talking repairs.

SINA Report

Cresco Elementary Principal Shirley Sovereign said the school fell short in the No Child Left Behind program. “All schools will have to be 100 percent proficient by 2014.” Because Cresco was at 76.6 percent in reading instead of the recommended 82 percent it was listed as a SINA (School In Need of Assistance).

“We’ll take actions to improve the reading scores. The good news is we have a very positive staff. They’ve been thinking about this for a few years because they knew it was coming.

“Every school will be on the list if the law stays the way it is,” she explained. The rate is raising from 82 percent to 88 percent this year.

This only affects Cresco—not Lime Springs-Chester or Elma. Students are put into sub-groups of 30 or more and neither of the outlying centers have enough students to make the 30 required for a subgroup.

Sovereign pointed out it was just three students in the special education program who did not meet requirements. The special education students are held to the same standards as students in the regular program.

The school is getting a new literacy program, which will hopefully help reading scores but it takes time.

The drop-out rate was discussed for H-W. The district has approximately 681 students in grades 7-12 with 12 drop-outs—seven female and five male. That is a 1.76 percent drop-out rate.

Building and Grounds

Todd Knobloch said, “The cooling tower for the junior high after 18 years is very corroded. To fix it will be very labor intensive and it will need to be replaced by April.”

Another improvement being looked at is the auditorium seats. “The construction is still good from 1968, so it would cost $30-40 to replace the seat. There are about 400 seats and half of them are the older ones,” he added.

Other items discussed include the tag sale on October 8; the planters are placed at Cresco; the PATT meeting and working with Master Gardeners at Lime Springs-Chester; Elma working on its playground design; and no pets allowed signs on school property.

Kitchen asked about the playground plans in Lime Springs. Knobloch answered, “I’d like to see it done this year.” A group is working on where to put the play area.

Job Descriptions

Several job descriptions had a second reading. Fortune noted he was not happy with the way the job descriptions were written, explaining they were not uniform with each other or the other job descriptions. He suggested they should all be looked over and written in a more consistent manner in the future.

Superintendent Dianne Anderson said the job descriptions were needed for staff to do their jobs. The descriptions were approved with the ability to change them.

Annual Progress Report

To view the report, go to the school’s website at http://www.howard-winn.k12.ia.us/ and scroll to bottom. Click on Howard Winn 2010-11 Annual Progress Report.pdf

It gives goals and other information.

Other Business

Other items discussed included Comprehensive School Improvement Plan report by Anderson; putting off letting bids for the Lime Spring Learning Center/Tornado Safe Room; Field Trips; Rental agreement between H-W and Cresco Fitness Center; Assigning Bodermann to the IASB Delegate Assembly; Approving the meeting schedule for 2011-12; 28E Agreement for Teacher Associate Services (Angel Dietz) with HWCSD and Spring Ahead Preschool; Contract with Northeast Iowa Community Action Corp; and changing Michelle Bakken’s title to Data Coordinator including a pay raise.

The next meeting will be Thursday, October 20 at Elma. There will be a work session on October 17 at 6:00 in the High School Library.

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