by Steve Peterson
About 20 members of the community came to the West Sioux School Board meeting March 18 to voice concern on a number of topics.
In addition to residents, former teachers and current staff members attended.
Resident Arlys Cauwels questioned vacation time taken by Shared Superintendent Randy Collins in early March.
Collins also serves Akron-Westfield Community School as its superintendent. This is the first year of the shared superintendency. After the meeting, Collins said he was surprised with the size of the audience.
“I am concerned about a lot of things we are hearing about at the school, wasteful actions, unprofessional behavior and using the weight room during duty time,” said Cauwels.
“I think there is a tremendous amount of concern in the community. The things we are hearing at the school. It has to do with a wide range of things: wasteful, unprofessional that do nothing for the education of students, obvious abuse by all kinds of staff — using the weight room during the school day. It does not sit well with those of us who are retired. You are hired to do a job. You come to school, and you do your job. You don’t work out. You don’t go on vacation during the school year or take five days out of your classroom. If it’s not important for you to be here, what does that say about your position?” said Cauwels. “I don’t know who is accountable for what is going on.”
“I took five days vacation in Hawaii in March. It was a once in a lifetime family trip. During the five days I communicated with the school boards of education several times, and communicated with someone from my districts each and every day. With the current technology, email, texting, cell phones, you can stay in touch,” said Collins. “If you have a concern, feel free to call the office and come in and discuss it. I try and have a presence at both districts each day.”
Collins explained both he and Grades 6-12 Principal Ryan Kramer were absent from the district March 4 – 8 as scheduled, but the district had other administrators to cover for their absences.
“We’re sensitized to the concern,” said Collins.
“We investigated to find out if there were any ‘serious incidents’ as rumored, but could not find any,” said Collins.
When Elementary Principal Carrie Thonstad took time off for maternity leave last fall everything worked out well, he added.
Collins defended the school boards’ decision to have Akron-Westfield Grades Preschool-6 Principal Cathy Bobier serve as West Sioux’s Curriculum Director for two-tenths time for the remainder of the school year.
“The State of Iowa has tried to reform the curriculum of education for about 10 years now. Bobier is well versed on Iowa Core Curriculum. I view it as another way of sharing between the two districts, not reinventing the wheel. We will reevaluate it after five months to see if it is working out well,” said Collins. “It’s not easy getting up to speed on that because expectations have been changed.”
“It’s not the entire realm of curriculum,” he said. “It is a fairly small investment for a short amount of time to see if it works for both districts.”
The number of shared positions of both districts, including food service manager, was also questioned. Collins said the food service, with increased federal reporting requirements, is going well with Akron-Westfield Food Service Manager Charlotte Anderson working for both districts.
The food service fund balance is now a $79,000 profit.
Collins said as far as other shared positions go, they will be looked at when funding expires.
“This is the last year of shared operational funding. Positions will have to be budget neutral or it goes away, or improve instruction. We will run the school like a business,” said Collins.
It was questioned that an associate’s position was really one to work at the At-Risk program. Collins said the advertising was a mistake, and admitted the current associates may not like it but salary will not impact theirs.
“I will take responsibility,” said Collins.
Also questioned by audience members was staff taking vacations during the school year.
Collins said if someone uses his or her vacation or personal time and still takes a leave, then substitutes are hired but the person may be “docked” salary.
School Board President Susan Sharpe responded, “I appreciate the audience coming in and I appreciate your comments. It’s better if you address it through channels to Mr. Collins or Mr. Kramer rather than come to a board meeting.”
“We’re glad to hear from you but we can’t act on it if it’s not on the agenda,” said Sharpe.
Fourth Grade to
One final audience concern came from resident Dean Lill, representing the Sons of the American Legion who wished to take fourth graders to the Shrine Circus in Sioux City in April. Thonstad said that will be arranged.