By Julie Ann Madden
Akron-Westfield School Board members didn’t unanimously agree to sharing Preschool-Grade 6 Principal Cathy Bobier with West Sioux School District as a curriculum director.
At their March 11 meeting, the vote was 5-1 with Board Member Roger Oetken dissenting and Board Member Phil Parks absent.
Per the agreement, which went into effect Feb. 1, Akron-Westfield will “sell” 20 percent of Bobier’s time to West Sioux School District. She will be their curriculum director for that 20 percent of time.
The other 80 percent of her week, she will continue to serve as A-W’s principal, which includes curriculum director duties in addition to elementary principal responsibilities.
The one-year agreement is to terminate June 30 of this year and/or at the end of any subsequent school year with written notice delivered by either party by Feb. 1 of that subsequent school year.
In February, West Sioux School Board agreed to this agreement which includes paying 20 percent of Bobier’s salary and benefits; however, Bobier remains an employee of the A-W School District.
At the March 11 meeting, A-W Board Member Roger Oetken asked, “How’s this really going to work?”
“We’re going to figure it out,” said Shared Superintendent Randy Collins, admitting he didn’t have it all worked out yet. “We have met as an administrative team in both districts and talked about what the priorities of the other district would be, and we’ve also agreed that the 20 percent doesn’t mean one day out of this building and in that building.”
“Cathy doesn’t necessarily need to be physically present,” he said. “A lot of this can be done off-site.”
Collins suggested the board “give this a shot, a whirl this Spring” and reevaluate this agreement in June.
“If we don’t try, we’re never going to know (if it’ll work or not),” said Collins, explaining West Sioux will pay $4,000 of Bobier’s salary and benefits the rest of this year and next year, it would mean more than $20,000 to Akron-Westfield coffers.
“It’s also a way to bring staffs together under some consistent professional development on curriculum,” he said, adding this agreement is basically just until June.
“Cathy has a strong background in curriculum, especially Iowa Core (requirements) that’s valued in the other district,” said Collins.
“How is it of value?” asked A-W Board Member Nick Schoenfelder. “How does West Sioux know they are going to get what they want out of it and how do we know we’re getting what we want?”
It’ll be through conversations with both districts’ administrators and faculties, said Bobier.
“We’ve had a lot of discussion about that,” said Collins, noting he will be doing the evaluation for both districts on this position. “So far, it looks like a good fit. Will that impact day-to-day instruction here? We’re not going to know until we try it.”
“Twenty percent of your time will be allocated to some other task,” said Board President Jim Black.
“How can that not impact instruction?” asked Oetken. “We’re going from a year ago having three full-time administrators down to 2.3 (administrators). That’s a big drop.”
“I don’t know if I’m comfortable at having her gone or having her spend 20 percent of her time outside our elementary,” said Oetken.
“Cathy doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel,” said Collins. “There is a lot she already knows and has implemented here that can be applied to the other district. It’s the efficiency of sharing.”
“We need to take a look at (Bobier’s) day-to-day stuff,” he said. “I could make some suggestions. The problem is Cathy is so dedicated she wants to do it all but maybe she doesn’t do lunch duty. Instead, she’s coordinating curriculum for two districts. Now that makes a difference in the classroom. Right now, we have Cathy doing lunch duty.”
“I choose to be out there with them for some rapport,” responded Bobier, adding it’s something that could be delegated but “I already feel bad about (not doing lunch duty).”
“We’ve identified others that maybe aren’t as critical responsibilities Cathy’s taken on,” said Collins, “and they could be delegated to others.”
“It’s taking what you’ve got and reassigning and trying to make the most of what you have,” said Collins.
“When this was first presented, I didn’t realize we were going to take from either district, someone from within, and spread them a little thinner,” said Board Member Jodi Thompson. “I don’t want to see from either district our administrators spread so thin that they become burned out or we lose them or they get lost in something that snowballs.”
“Then on the other side of my fence, I agree we shouldn’t shut our own door, we should try it,” she said. “My personal belief is always let someone else shut my door, not myself so I think it is worth a try.”
Knowing it was just until June made me a lot more comfortable with it, said Board Member Josh Martinsen. “To me the biggest evaluation tool is going to be (Cathy) whether it’s working or not — if you feel you can do your job here justice and I think that’s got to be the first priority — your staff and your students, you’ll know whether it’s working good or it’s too much.”
“(Giving up lunch duty) is not going to be 20 percent of her time though,” said Oetken.
“There is a lot of overlap in districts,” said Martinsen, explaining instead of Bobier attending curriculum trainings as A-W’s principal, she’d be attending as A-W/WS curriculum director. “It’s not going to be 20 percent more of her time because there are things she’s doing now that will count toward that.”
“How much of her time are you going to guestimate she’ll lose here?” asked Oetken.
“I won’t know until we try it,” said Bobier.
It depends on how similar the two school districts actually are, said Martinsen. “Nine weeks (from now through June) is a good trial period.”
Collins noted Bobier has connections with West Sioux as she previously taught there, and having just one person plan professional development for technology “would be powerful.”
In other business, the Board:
• Unanimously approved two bids for the installation of a new stove hood in the school kitchen. The two-part bid was for Energy Wise, $13,249, and Refrigeration Engineering, $2,500 for a total of $15,749.
• Unanimously approved a change order and final $4,467.28 payment to DeRocher Construction of Akron for the football press box renovations. The total project cost was $7,869.11.
• Unanimously approved purchasing a micro-rider floor scrubber, $11,600; lightning battery controlled burnisher, $6,900; and an all-surface cleaner, $3,300 for a total of $21,800. Maintenance Director Bob Brewington made the recommendation explaining the custodians will be able to get more work done in a shorter period of time with the new equipment.
• Unanimously approved officially appointing High School Guidance Counselor Krista Weiland as A-W’s homeless liaison. She has had these duties for several years but was not officially appointed to serve in that capacity;
• Held the first readings for policy series 100 and 200 and policies 403.1 and 705.1; and
• Set the next joint West Sioux and Akron-Westfield School Board meeting for 6:00 p.m., Monday, March 25 in the West Sioux School Library.