School staff takes early retirement

By Marcie Klomp
Twelve staff members. with a combined 313 years of service to Howard-Winneshiek School District opted to take voluntary early retirement and will be leaving at the end of this school year. They include PK-1 principal Shirley Sovereign (30 years at H-W); teachers Steven Anderson (24), Barbara Holstrom (28), Polly Jones (31), Debra Larson (13), Jennifer Matt (34), Gerald Mihm (21), Karen Nance (36), Pamela Spindler (34) and Jane Ullom (23); and associates Leone Ferrie (15) and Delrae Wolter (24).
The total package comes to $763,009.50, with $126,792.50 being a cash out of sick leave. This money comes out of the management fund and not the general fund, where salaries are taken from.
Supt. John Carver said, “In 33 years, I have never worked with a better bunch of people.”
This allows the district to get some new blood, some (or most) of whom will have lower salaries, which will enhance the general fund.
• In other business, Carver addressed his decision to close school on March 4 after the Cadet girls’ basketball team played at state. “I’ve had a lot of good discussion on how we celebrate kids and their accomplishments. I cancelled classes on Tuesday. I didn’t on Thursday [another game at State], and we had 1,000 in classes.
“Going forward . . . folks that qualify for state, we want folks to attend as best we can. But we have a lot of kids to educate. Going forward, it will be on a case-by-case basis.”
• Principals Sovereign and Tim Felderman, along with Carver, are going to New Hampshire at the end of the month.
Carver observed, the New England state is further along than anyone. “People there are masters of knowledge. I am convinced if you are hiring someone, they have to be able to demonstrate they can do the job.” This is in comparison to just scoring well on tests.
• With all the technology offered in the district, Carver keeps talking with legislators expressing his desire to have e-days, where students can get credit for snow days if they check in on their computers and do homework. He knows a few Catholic schools (in Philadelphia and Chicago) that have e-days. He has yet to hear about it from public schools. “I’m looking to be a pilot school in the fall.”
• Renaming the district will be looked at periodically. “We haven’t met critical mass,” the superintendent acknowledged. “But we still have an identity crisis (being called Howard-Winneshiek, Cadets, Cresco, Lime Springs). When I meet people, they ask, ‘Is that by Decorah?’ I tell them, ‘Decorah is a suburb of Howard-Winn.!’”
• Sovereign gave a presentation on Clarity, which is a way of measuring how technology is being integrated into the school. How-Winn scored a 1093 out of 1300, which she said was a good score. It put the district higher than average in the state of Iowa. The principal did say more work needed to be done in the classroom to help raise the score even more.
• Cheryl Dickman asked the district to again sponsor the Summer Feeding Program. It provides free meals to all children (in the district or not) from birth to 18 years at no cost. Grants are able to make this possible. The board agreed to allow the program again at Cresco. There is not enough participation in Lime Springs, and Elma does its own thing. The board agreed.
• The board also agreed to support e-rate, a program which allows the district to pay pennies on the dollar for some bills, such as phone and Internet. Business Manager Clint Farlinger pointed out it saves in the tens of thousands.
• The lighted sign near the entrance to the high school has not worked since the beginning of the school year. Larry Trende had quotes to have it replaced and moved closer to Highway 9. He said Scott Thompson of C US Bank offered to pay half if their name was again on the sign. That brought the cost of the sign down to around $25,000.
• Bids will be let on having vestibules, or enclosed entrances, placed at three entry points at the K-8 building. Each will cost approximately $50,000.
• A public hearing needs to be held on a piece of land in Ridgeway the school already transferred to a neighbor. The transaction was not done properly, and the hearing will make it legal.
• The board will look into having a solid policy on senior citizen activity passes. Carver will do some research and bring it to the next meeting, on April 14 at Lime Springs/Chester Elementary.


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