Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Joining Our Team & Some Board News


Some Board News...

The last two board meetings and work sessions representatives from Carl A. Nelson Group and DLR, have been present and actively participating in discussion relevant to our facility planning and anticipated projects.  Travis Squires a representative from Piper Jaffray joined us last night to discuss financing options the district can leverage. He reviewed with the Board the current state of the district's finances, the use of SAVE funds and ability to borrow against these funds, and the various scenarios of how a bond issue might affect the tax levy.  These are critical conversations in the planning process. We want to make sure that the projects we move forward are clearly needed and helpful for our students, that the district will remain in a healthy financial position, and a solid and reasonable financial plan is in place.

The natural question at this point for everyone is how much is this going to cost.  Over the last several months we have made strong progress toward developing a consensus on the project and concept drawings. Now that we are at this point, they can work on the schematic design and we will be able to develop a more concrete budget and begin the process of soliciting addition feedback on the proposed work. It is anticipated we will have a preliminary budget prepared within the next two to three weeks.

The Board also approved the consent agenda, the District's emergency operations plan, the contract with the Shenandoah Medical Center for the Wellness Plan, awarded the milk bid to Anderson Erickson and bread bid to Bimbo Bakeries, a contract with Boys Town for professional development services at our last two meetings.

The Board is doing good work by engaging in the right conversations at the right time to meet the needs of our students. I appreciate their time and effort.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

June Board News

I have been blogging for about a year now. For me, this has been a good opportunity to communicate in a more open manner and reach different stakeholder groups.  It takes some time, but I enjoy writing and communicating my thoughts on different topics.  Frequently, I write about matters in front of the Board which is what I have written about today.

The Board took action on several items this month.  The district audit report was approved, the loan to the nutrition fund from the general fund was repaid, and final edits to staff handbooks were made.  Clarification was made to definitions in the support staff handbook related to routes and activity pay for transportation.

The elementary dismissal time was changed from 3:05 PM to 3:25 PM for the 2019-2020 school year. This change was made to increase instructional and intervention time at the elementary school, to create a common schedule for staff to follow and also increase the number of instructional hours on the district calendar which helps us avoid the need to make up time for unanticipated dismissals. It is also a change that is consistent with our board goals.

The board also had a discussion about requested change orders related to the window project that is being completed.  Good questions were asked and discussed. The change orders were approved. While there is a cost associated with making changes to the project, the project remains under budget. The Board also agreed to complete some testing on our current HVAC system at the High School to consider if retro-commissioning the units is an appropriate option. This was a recommendation by the Carl A. Nelson that will help us determine to what extent corrections can be made to the current system or if it is more appropriate to redesign the system.

I would also like to share with you profiles of some of our new staff members who are joining our team for the 2019-2020 school year.  We are thrilled to have them join us! They will be fantastic additions to our staff.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

So Here It Is!

So here it is!  The weather makes it feel as if it couldn't possibly be true, but the 2018-2019 school year has officially come to an end.  It has most certainly been a good year for our students and staff. They have accomplished so much that makes us all proud. They have come to school each day, developed some great relationships, engaged in learning, participated in extracurricular events and many activities.   All in all, everyone is likely ready for some time to relax, refresh and regroup.

Even though we are on "break" there are many opportunities for your child and family to remain connected to the school and the community this summer.  Kids can participate in a wide range of summer camps this summer through the school district. There are athletic, academic, and general activity camps that provide a great avenue for kids to engage in safe activities in a supervised environment,  develop healthy habits, make friends, and generally just have a good time.  They can also eat breakfast and lunch for free at the JK-8 building. 

The District will also be serving meals at various locations June 3rd through August 2nd.  This is part of the Federal Nutrition Program that provides free meals for children ages 18 months to age 18. There is a small charge ($2.50 for Breakfast and $3.75 for Lunch) for adults age 19 and older.  It is good food, free for kids, and a good way to connect with others during the summer months.

Shenandoah High School
Breakfast  7:30 AM to 8:30 AM

Shenandoah JK-8 
Breakfast  8:00 AM to 8:30 AM
Lunch       11:00 AM to Noon

Sportsmans Park
Lunch       11:30 AM to 12:30 PM

Shenandoah Public Library
Lunch       11:30 AM to 12:30 PM

We do have several new staff members joining us this summer.   I will be sharing information about each of them this summer.  They are great educators and we are very pleased to have them joining our staff!

Friday, May 24, 2019

A Week of Good News!

Earlier this week, the Iowa Department of Education reported information about the performance of Iowa schools using an online system the Iowa School Performance Profiles.  Using this tool fulfills a federal education law requirement called the 'Every Student Succeeds Act' which is more commonly referred to as ESSA.  ESSA is the legislation that replaced 'No Child Left Behind' (NCLB).  I wrote more about the Iowa School Performance Profiles, ESSA, and NCLB in my blog this past December.  

However, there is some good news to share this week!  I am very pleased to report Shenandoah schools met or exceeded the State average performance.  Additionally, Shenandoah High School was classified as a High Performing High SchoolAdditionally, Shenandoah Middle School and Elementary School were both ranked as commendable.

You can see the District's report here.

This report is a very positive reflection on the Shenandoah Community School District  The staff has been very focused in their effort to provide high-quality instruction, participate in professional learning, and increase student achievement. I also appreciate the efforts of our staff to encourage our students and build positive relationships, support their individual learning needs, get them to school and make sure their nutritional needs are met so students can focus on learning.  I commend all of the staff for their effort to make a difference and contribute to the success of our students.  

It is always a great feeling to receive reports on the things we do well as a school system.  It is also good to recognize and acknowledge there are some areas where we can continue to grow and improve. We will continue to dig into the data that has been provided to understand more about where we can continue to make progress as a system.  We are committed to providing an excellent education for our students and in every endeavor.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Spring Board Action

May is School Board Recognition Month.  I want to take a minute to thank our Board members for their dedication to service.  They provide an important role and function within the District and make a difference for our students.

Several weeks ago I wrote about the relationship the District is forming with the Pella Corporation. Jon Finn, Jesse Van Essen, and Julie Wolf presented more about this at the Board meeting.  They are providing support for an Introduction to Manufacturing class we will be offering at the High School, sponsoring a summer "camp" for students in second through sixth grade, and also sponsoring a Teacher of the Month program for teachers in the region.  They have also created the opportunity for teachers to participate in summer externships on site at the Pella plant to help teachers develop a greater understanding of the needs of the modern day workforce.  I couldn't be more pleased with the support we are receiving and am thankful to for their leadership within the community.

Recently, Matt Sells and Ryan Spiegel from the Shenandoah Medical Center approached me about an opportunity to provide employees greater access to a more robust wellness plan. I was very pleased the Board approved the wellness plan. It is a nice benefit and a way to improve the overall health of our staff. The plan will allow district employees to complete their lab work, consult with dieticians, receive flu shots, and access to the wellness center and trainers at a reduced cost. I am very excited about this opportunity for our staff and the partnership with Shenandoah Medical Center.  

Several sharing agreements with other school districts were approved at the Board meeting. These include sharing a school business official with South Page, the health occupation courses with Fremont Mills, an ELL teacher with Clarinda, and an automotive teacher with Sidney.  Forming these agreements is consistent with our Board goal to maximize the opportunity to share programs to expand student learning opportunities and operational sharing to reduce costs.  Sharing these positions allows the District to broaden our curriculum in a cost-effective manner. This is good for all involved.

The Board approved a Return to Plan Concussion Protocol Resolution.  This is required by law but is simply the right thing to do to protect our student-athletes.

On the financial side, the Board amended the budget last year to adjust for costs related to replacing rooftop unit at the High School, additional costs for snow removal and utilities, and an additional staff position in the maintenance department.  Amending the budget is a fairly normal process, but is good to know the reason why there was a change. There was Board action to approve a transfer of funds from the General Fund to the Nutrition Department until reimbursement from the State is received. Additionally, Nolte Corman and Johnson auditing services were agreed upon for the next three years.  The contract for construction management with Carl A. Nelson and Company was also approved.

Many decisions were made last night. It was a productive meeting.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Committed to the Profession

Today is National Teacher's Day, so we took time as a staff to celebrate this morning over breakfast. We acknowledged several staff members for their years of service and also recognize staff members who are retiring at the end of the year.  

5 Years of Service

Shelly Davidson, Art Teacher 
Megan Dukes, Special Education Associate
Chris Gibson, Food Service Staff
Kelsey Heintz, Special Education Teacher
Jacquelyn Holste, 5th Grade Teacher
Hailey Johnson, Special Education Associate
Tammy Lauman, Associate in the Library
Sarah F. Martin, Agriculture Teacher
Keisha McHargue, Master Teacher
Stacy Resh, Librarian
Traci Toms, Kindergarten Teacher

10 Years of Service

Mary Karr, 3rd Grade

15 Years of Service

Sarah L. Martin, Math Teacher
Traci Regan, Kindergarten Teacher
Angie Trowbridge, Spanish Teacher
Jon Weinrich, Dean of Students and Transportation Supervisor

20 Years of Service
Sonia Leece, Home School Liaison
Hillary Rodewald, Special Education Teacher

Retiring Staff Members

Marcia Armstrong, Special Education Associate
Kelly Carey,  Talented and Gifted Teacher
Ellen Christensen, 5th Grade Teacher
Toni Graham, Preschool Associate
Marcia Johnson, 3rd Grade Teacher
Renee Kettwick, School Counselor
Cindy Novinger, Kindergarten Teacher
Dennis Rogers,  Director of Maintenance
Kent Schubert, 5th Grade Teacher
Becky Sturm, Junior Kindergarten Teacher
Kim Terry, Custodian

The students in Carleen Perry's Digital Stream Class created this video about our staff who are retiring. I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

The breakfast was a very nice way to start the day and recognize staff for their commitment to the district and calling to the profession. It was good to be able to talk with them for just a few minutes about the importance of their work and remind them that educators make a large impact on the life of our students.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Full Agenda

The campus was quite full of life last night as there was a track meet, a tennis match, and a Board meeting. We had such a gorgeous day to host these athletic events! I am so thankful for the sunshine and warmer weather.

Linda Laughlin and Kerra Ratliff gave a presentation on Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS) at the High School level.  PBIS is a great way to reinforce positive student behaviors and build a strong school climate and culture. It was good to hear about the progress they have made toward implementation. The staff is focusing on developing character through positivity, respect and responsibility, integrity, determination, and excellence (PRIDE).  They have identified being on time for class as a priority behavior to reinforce and are seeing positive results.   

A public hearing was held for the FY 20 Budgets. No public comments were made, and the board voted to approve the FY 20 Budget. I was pleased we were able to slightly reduce the tax levy to $14.60.

The consent agenda was approved. This includes items such as the standard financial report, personnel matters, fundraising requests, and out of state travel requests. Additionally, a list of graduating seniors was presented for approval.

There were a few contracts that were approved including a property damage insurance for environmental control components ($49,499), the AEA purchasing agreement for the 2019-2020 school year, and a three-year renewal contract with Timberline for Medicaid reimbursement

The Board approved a 2.58% settlement with the support staff association (SSA+) for FY 20.  Additionally, the board agreed to a multi-year contract which allows SSA+  2 years under the existing contract with the caveat that negotiations can be reopened on an annual basis to discuss base wage.
Finding bus drivers is challenging, they are in high demand.  The board voted to increase route pay for bus drivers $2.00 per route and also provide a $40 a month stipend for drivers who maintain a CDL Class A or B with Passenger/School Bus/Air Brake endorsement on their license. The Board also approved a 2.5 % base increase for administrators, supervisors, superintendent, and non-negotiated salary positions.  Central office support staff will receive a $.35 an hour increase as well.

The Parent/Student Handbook for the 2019-2020 school year was approved.

School Bus Sales was awarded two bids for buses at the meeting.  We will be purchasing a 77 passenger bus for $92,992 that will be used primarily for regular routes.  An 84 passenger rear engine bus with air conditioning will be purchased for $128,967 and will primarily be used for student activities.  These are large, expensive and important purchases which is why we requested competitive sealed bids from three different companies before making the recommendation.

The board approved the creation of two new full time driving positions. These positions will help to reduce the number of drivers that are needed for trips that occur during the day and early evening hours.

The agenda for the Board meeting was quite full, but it was not a lengthy meeting.  The Board was able to consider the information and make decisions in a reasonable amount of time.

Joining Our Team & Some Board News

 JOINING OUR TEAM! Some Board News... The last two board meetings and work sessions representatives from Carl A. Nels...