Social media during school? —Parent questions use of Facebook

By Marcie Klomp

Heather Knutson had requested to be on the Howard-Winneshiek School Board agenda for Oct. 13, but found out she had only three minutes to speak during open forum.

She was told her issue was not appropriate for the open meeting and should be taken up with the superintendent, John Carver, and principal, Tim Felderman, which she had previously done.
Her issue regards social media and bullying. “I feel very strongly about kids who have access to Facebook during school. They can harass, bully and make fun of other students. I have personally transferred my daughter from Crestwood. Because of negativity and being robbed of a positive high school experience, I transferred her.”

Knutson then handed out the statement she was going to read during her time to each board member.

Carver did address one question of Knutson’s. “Whose decision is it to have those privileges [social media] in school? Ultimately I’m the one who signs off on that, unless the board directs me [otherwise].” The superintendent continued, “We do have the capacity, on school-issued devices, to lock out all social media.”

Bullying is a very sensitive topic in today’s schools. Look for more on this in upcoming issues.

• In other business, Patrick Heiderscheit, Administrator for Keystone AEA (Area Education Agency), gave a presentation discussing Keystone and its partnership with school districts, including How-Winn. Also present was Jan Kreitzer, the local representative on the Keystone AEA board. She thanked board members and the general public for the vote of confidence.

He explained how his organization has been in existence for 40 years. The AEA was formed so smaller schools, such as Riceville, would have the same resources available to students as Dubuque.

H-W gets a pretty good deal. Just $275,782 in property taxes support Keystone and all its services to the district.

Heiderscheit said student population has dropped nearly in half since Keystone was developed in 1970s. At that time, there were 58,000 students in its region. In 2014, that number was 23,000.
• The decline in student population was the subject of Mr. Carver’s report to the board.

It had first been anticipated a decline of 35 students. The certified enrollment ended down 53.28. With state funding per student at $6,489 that’s nearly $350,000 less the district will be receiving than last year.

Basically, the district is losing students. Carver said Task Force Howard County met, starting in January. “We are trying to recruit families to move to the region. We’ve got a very good education system.”

Board president Scott Fortune added, “We have people driving into the county to work. Housing is critical.” He would like to see those workers find homes in Howard County.

“This year is a planning year. We are looking at the elementary and how we are structured,” Carver said.

• A recent issue that has been getting some press is the renaming of the district. Articles have appeared in local papers, along with a television station.

Board member commented, “Older people tell me, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ But I also understand that when you go to Des Moines, they don’t know who we are.”

Duane Bodermann added the majority of people fear change. “I think they want ‘Cadet’ maintained for the most part.”

The district will give residents a chance to have their voices heard. Comments can be given on the web page, during parent-teacher conferences in November, during an advisory committee meeting to be held in the near future and by students.

• Terese Jurgensen, 2-6 principal, spoke on School In Need of Assistance (SINA).

• Felderman, 7-12 principal, asked the board to approve some free science classes that became available to the students. The board voted unanimously in favor of the courses. “We can enroll students starting tomorrow,” Felderman explained.

• The board wants input from the general public and is forming a district advisory committee. “Each director needs to invite three people and call those people and then we’ll send a follow-up letter,” suggested board member Karlos McClure.
The idea is to get input from those in the district.

Member Doug Berg commented, “In the past there have been organizations and we don’t take their suggestions. If we’re going to put this together, we need to give them some sort of authority so we listen to what they have to say.”

Carver agreed, “We need to honor their views. The board has to realize there are some instances that [suggestion] may counter to what a particular group or faction would want to happen.”
The meetings would also be open to the public.

• The board decided to meet at various communities throughout the year, as it has done for a few years. The calendar is:

Nov. 10 at Elma School

Dec. 8 at Lime Springs Elementary School

Jan. 12 at Chester Community Center

Feb. 9 at High School

March 9 at Elma School

April 13 at Lime Springs Elementary School

May 11 at Chester Community Center

June 8 at High School

July 13 at High School

Aug. 10 at High School

Meetings start at 7 p.m. and everyone is encouraged to attend.

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