By Steve Peterson
“We’re in great shape financially,” Shared Superintendent Randy Collins told the West Sioux School Board at their Oct. 21 meeting. “There are no surprises.”
“We’re $90,000 ahead of last year in expenses, but we’ve gained grants and hired more staff,” said Collins.
Business Manager Dani Gradert presented a FY 2013 Unspent Authorized Budget Report to the school board, which ended June 30.
West Sioux had $434,989 in Allowable Growth, according to the School Budget Review Commission due to 67 new students last year. This compares to $118,201 in FY2012; and $80,752 in FY2011.
The Unspent Authorized Budget for FY2013 was $1,858,153 compared to $1,561,820 in FY2012; $1,107,996 in FY2011; $437,858 in FY2010; and minus $342,224 in FY2009.
West Sioux Community School District has $6 million in total debt. This is $2.29 million from a 1999 bond issue that expires in 2018; and $3.7 million from the 2011 bond issue for the Middle School and High School expansion.
“It’s significantly good news — the 67 students last year. The $434,889 doubled to $1 million for the district, a windfall, Now we have to make hay and have some investment,” said Collins.
The State of Iowa requires funds be set aside for the State Penny Debt and the sales tax from the state could fluctuate with the economy, said Collins.
“We have a five-year plan of (Physical Plant & Equipment Levy) tax -funded projects put together by Grades 6-12 Principal Ryan Kramer,” said Collins, cautioning that the district funds may be tight in PPEL funded projects.
In other business:
• Kramer said the Grades 9-12 Alternative Education program run by Matt DeBrick is working well. The course work is just as difficult as in the traditional classroom setting.
“This allows students to work at their own pace but online courses are just as difficult through the Edmentum system,” said Kramer. “A student may be working on a biology class and another may be working on algebra. There has been a dramatic increase nationwide in the number of courses being taken online.”
“Technology can offer an exciting future. School looks drastically different than in the past. We have many more college courses offered online. It is fully-automated classes,” said Kramer.
• Grades TK-5 Principal Carrie Thonstad told the board the “baby room” at the day care is growing in population. It’s up to 12 and the requirement is a 4:1 staff ratio.
“We would like to hire a part-time person for the day care,” said Thonstad. “We’re also looking at our day care rates for babies and also contacting parents who aren’t up-to-date with payments.”
• Thonstad gave a report on efforts at the Elementary School since it was designated as a School In Need of Improvement from the state following No Child Left Behind’s (NCLB) progress requirements.
School officials lamented that all school districts in the state will be in that situation in 2014-2015, the 10th year of this law.
“When Sioux City found that it had a mistake in its scores, we contacted the State Department of Education but they said they disagreed with Sioux City and most others,” said Kramer.
According to Collins, while most states, 42 of 50, have a waiver regarding NCLB, Iowa does not because of a disagreement about placing student achievements in negotiation for salaries.
The district will reapply for a waiver from NCLB, said Collins.
Thonstad said the efforts to boost test scores in math and reading are a two-year program, funded by the state and with Area Education Agency (AEA) staff help. She noted the procedure does not take into account growth of students and people should not “take the School In Need of Improvement too much to heart, Letters will be sent to families and a plan developed.
• Thonstad gave a report on the standards-based report cards which have been implemented now in Grades 2-5. She said the standards-based report card is a big project for staff, going from grades A, B, C, D, F to 4, 3, 2, 1 ratings if students mastered a skill or not.
Kramer said standards-based report cards are a much better indication of how a student is doing than grades.
“An ‘A’ in English tells me nothing but standards can say what a students’ strengths or weaknesses are; and we can have a much more meaningful talk with parents,” he said.
Kramer would like to see standards-based report cards for Grades 9-12 but such factors as Grade Point Averaging prevent this.
• Regarding personnel, boys and girls golf coach Brad Klarenbeek was approved for a salary adjustment for his coaching duties. The board vote was 4-0 member, Jeff Eilts was absent.
• Kathleen Knight of Akron was hired as a substitute van driver at a salary of $17.17 per hour. The board vote was 4-0.
• High school students from the newly formed Family Career Community Leaders of America were on hand and had their fund raising request granted.
• West Sioux School Board member Ken Koch questioned the school’s policy and procedure regarding faculty’s Professional Development.
“We pay them for professional development then if they get enough hours they get a step in pay as well. Isn’t that double-dipping?”
Kramer responded staff fills out a form when requesting time or pay for Professional Development, explaining how it will help them.
“It benefits their expertise in the classroom and makes them a better teacher. I’d gladly pay for that anytime,” said Kramer.
“In business a lot of companies provide training for their employees,” said Board President Gary Witt.